P.M.H. Bell, The World Since 1945: An International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 593 pp., $80 (cloth), $29.95 (paper).
In the history of the world (and, of course, of the United States) 1945 was more of a turning point than 1918 had been. The First World War brought about the end of the European state system that had governed much of the world since the 16th century, even including the geopolitical situation of the Americas; but its worldwide consequences were not comparable to the results of the Second World War. After 1918 the colonial empires of Britain and France and of other European countries continued to exist. In 1917 the entry of the United States in, and the withdrawal of Russia from, the European War were decisive events-the first more than the second, since the Russian withdrawal from the war did not affect its course in the end, while the American entry did-but after 1918 America and Russia, albeit for very different reasons, withdrew from Europe. Again for very different reasons, both became involved in the Second World War in 1941, at the end of which they were the supreme victors. Thus 1945 marked many things: the end of the European Age; the partition of Europe and of Germany; the impending end of the colonial empires and the emergence of many dozens of new states in Asia and Africa; the primacy of the United States across the world, eventually involving the retreat of Russia and the dissolution of the Soviet Union-all of these events bearing long-range consequences. The world in 2001 is at first sight very different from the world in 1945, but one may, without much eye strain, espy its origins already at that time.