Europe in Our Time

In EUROPE IN OUR TIME: A HISTORY 1945-1992, Laqueur takes on the daunting task of presenting a history of all of Europe (including the Eastern Bloc) in the postwar era. The first part deals with the situation in Europe in 1945. Laqueur describes how Europe’s weakness led to Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe and to reliance on American assistance in the West. He then discusses the great economic recovery which Europe enjoyed in the 1950’s and the confidence which this economic miracle engendered.

As the 1950’s rolled into the 1960’s, argues Laqueur, a renewal of East-West tensions supplanted the confidence arising from the economic boom. After two decades, this unprecedented prosperity came to an end with the oil crisis of 1973. Since then, Laqueur notes, Europe has had to deal with substantial unemployment and growing resentment against non-European immigrants, especially in Britain, Germany, and France. The book ends with an assessment of the growing forces for unity in Western Europe and a brief discussion of the fall of communism in the East in 1989-1990.

Laqueur’s book covers a wide variety of topics. He deserves credit for insightful interpretations (especially of the Cold War) and for always including the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in his narrative. EUROPE IN OUR TIME is nonetheless best for the reader who already has some knowledge of postwar Europe. While it is well written, it needs a tighter sense of chronology and tends to bring up minor topics without explaining them fully to the reader.