Small Wars, Faraway Places

Small Wars, Faraway Places

Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965

Additional Formats
  • ePub
  • ISBN 9781101638033
  • 608 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many “hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire 

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal decades of 1945 to 1965 by examining the many, largely forgotten, “hot” wars fought around the world. As once-great Western colonial empires collapsed, counter-insurgencies campaigns raged in the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, and other faraway places. Dozens of new nations struggled into existence, the legacies of which are still felt today. Placing these vicious struggles alongside the period-defining United States and Soviet standoffs in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, Burleigh swerves from Algeria to Kenya, to Vietnam and Kashmir, interspersing top-level diplomatic negotiations with portraits of the charismatic local leaders. The result is a dazzling work of history, a searing analysis of the legacy of imperialism and a reminder of just how the United States became the world’s great enforcer.
Small Wars, Faraway Places

Small Wars, Faraway Places

Michael Burleigh


“A brilliant book.”—Ben Macintyre, The Times (London)
“A bold, blunt, and sometimes beautiful defense of morality in history . . . . Mr. Burleigh poses the moral questions to the people that mattered at the great turning points of a vast war.”—Timothy Snyder, The Wall Street Journal 

“Chilling. . . . A deeply researched and vividly written book.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer 

“This is a superb work of scholarship with fresh insights on nearly every page that will likely leave the reader asking hard and troubling questions long after finishing it. . . . An exceptionally important book.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“Burleigh has written a powerful, gripping book that will be essential reading for an understanding of World War II. It is worthy of anyone’s attention who is interested in that war.”—The Washington Times

“Michael Burleigh has long been one of our foremost writers on the importance of ethics in history, and in this deeply researched, closely argued and well-written analysis of the moral issues thrown up by the Second World War he has reached the zenith of his career.”—Andrew Roberts, National Review 
“An ambitious cultural history… [Burleigh] seamlessly synthesizes vast amounts of historical material and provides often-riveting accounts of terrorist atrocities and the literary and political environments where they took place.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant…. Tremendously erudite and enlightening.”—The New York Observer
“Takes everybody from Fenians and anarchists to the Red Brigades and al-Qaeda, and is written with characteristically biting flair.”—Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
“An essential, imperative read…. Panoramic in its scope… There’s a hint of Edward Gibbon about Burleigh.”—The New Criterion
“Burleigh does a marvelous job profiling colorful characters while still managing to convey the historical importance of their ideas.”—Mark Lilla, The New York Times
“Well-informed and refreshingly provocative, Earthly Powers should be required reading for anyone who understands that religion and politics, even when separate, can never be divorced.”—Chicago Tribune

“This book [is] excellent…. A vast range of material is handled in a deft, readable way.”—The Economist
“A fascinating chronicle.”—The Wall Street Journal
“One of the most important books of the decade.”—The Observer
“Beautifully written, fearlessly outspoken, full of superb portraits of heroes and monsters… an exuberant tour-de-force.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard
“Wonderful…. Trenchant…. Burleigh’s sharp judgments, which skewer many modern cultural ‘icons; bring alive his extensive research.”—Financial Times
“A powerful indictment of our uneasy times.”—JG Ballard, The Observer (London)
“A well-researched and readable account of two tumultuous decades… Burleigh has synthesized a wide range of material to create a valuable introduction to the political and military events of the early Cold War.”
New York Times Sunday Book Review
“Michael Burleigh chronicles the end of the British, French and Dutch empires in the wake of World War II and looks into what replaced them and why, a topic, he argues, that has special relevance because ‘generals and military experts have ransacked this period for “how to do it” lessons for contemporary Iraq and Afghanistan.’…. It is a rollicking journey in the company of such dynamic figures as British Gen. Gerald Templer, who won the Malayan Emergency and popularized the phrase ‘hearts and minds,’ and French President Charles de Gaulle, who lost Algeria after a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that relied heavily upon torture.”
John A. Nagl, Wall Street Journal
“Burleigh provides short accounts of subjects as far afield as the birth of Israel, the origins of the containment doctrine, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya, and the Suez Crisis. This is an enjoyable, breezy read—perfect for a lazy afternoon at the beach—and it is full of nicely evocative descriptions… Burleigh has a particularly good eye for the telling detail.”
Max Boot, National Review
“Burleigh writes with engaging wit.”
—John M. Taylor, The Washington Times
“A brilliant, complex, contradictory story, replete with character and incident, pungent and pithy and refreshingly free of preaching. . . . The author delights in the detail, the small moment illustrating a large truth.”
—Ben MacIntyre, The Times (London)
“Burleigh nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to turn the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches.”
—Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent
“The book contains a series of vivid, vigorous narratives, illuminated by telling snippets of information, compelling but rarely flattering portraits of the key characters and some trenchant judgments. Burleigh has little interest in grand theories and does not dwell on the deep, impersonal social and economic forces at work or the big ideas that gripped collective imaginations. Instead he concentrates on the choices made by flawed and fallible men (and in this book they are almost all men) in the turbulent two decades from 1945 to 1965.”
—Lawrence Freedman, The Washington Post

“With Small Wars, Faraway Places, Michael Burleigh offers a penetrating and often sardonic narrative of the struggles that formed the world as we know it. Blending engaging characters sketches and telling vignettes with geopolitical analysis, he presents the two decades after 1945 from a vantage point that provides illuminating perspective…. Burleigh’s wide-ranging account brings out the relationship between political challenge and response, along with the difficulties in understanding very different societies from the outside.”
—William Anthony Hay, The American Conservative
“Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh’s vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Burleigh is an equal opportunity moralist, not an ideologue, and he stalks his prey with feline grace. . . . This is a story of personalities as much as one of geological shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights.”
—Christopher Silvester, Financial Times
“The new book ‘Small Wars, Faraway Places’ is the vault of knowledge that followers of current events have been seeking…. From the Mau-Mau Emergency in Kenya to the Korean War… to the French misadventure in Indochina and the clash between Arab nationalism and Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine, Burleigh traces 18 distinct story lines of terrorism, counter-terrorism, intrigue, nationalism, and Cold War rivalry. With these stories, the reader can find the tangled roots on nearly all of today’s nasty hotspots; he or she can even foresee the sort of messes that modern-day conflicts are likely to create down the road, using Burleigh’s patient documentation of troubled areas like Malaya and Algeria as templates…. That ‘Small Wars’ eschews easy answers or one-size-fits-all theories about the conflicts that it documents is a tribute to its author.”
The Christian Science Monitor


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