Reflections on a Ravaged Century
by Robert Conquest
New York, 2001, W.W. Norton & Co., pp. 304 and index.
Robert Conquest has been described by Paul Johnson as “our greatest living modern historian”, and as such any new writings from him merit serious attention
In “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” the author discusses the important movements of the last century, and especially national socialism and communism, both emanations of the left, and the effects of these and other ideologies.
The author’s main analysis is particularly valuable by setting out accurately, and without sentimentality, the important facts in relation to the advance of communism and the Cold War. He comments upon the unrealistic “anti-anti-communism” that became a characteristic of the “intelligentsia” in many areas, such as universities, and its effects upon students and future leaders of public opinion.
But he also touches on a range of other issues that have had, or may yet prove to have, adverse effects upon the West: the mis-handling of the developing Third World, attempts to create an over-bearing European Union, errors in the Balkans and a general cultural deterioration in the important democracies. He succeeds in demonstrating that the gravest calamities of the past century were the consequences of the thoughts and attitudes of “intellectuals” and of those pursuing abstract theories or “ideals” not sufficiently justifiable by reference to history or human nature.
Generally, books reviewed in National Observer are reviewed because they will be thought worth acquiring, or at least perusing, by readers. “Reflections on a Ravaged Century” falls into a special class. In this reviewer’s assessment, it should be read by everyone.
National Observer No. 52 - Autumn 2002