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Non-western Perspectives

Onkar Marwah

By Sneh Mahajan
Macmillan Publishers, Delhi, 2010, pp. 365, Rs. 290.00


This volume is among the genre of narratives of major events concerning the twentieth century that have appeared in the first decade of the new century, e.g.: William R. Keylor, The Twentieth Century World and Beyond, International History since 1900; William J. Duiker, Twentieth-Century World History; and UNESCO: The Twentieth Century, History of Humanity vol.VII). Sneh Mahajan’s Issues in Twentieth-Century World History is perhaps among the first such attempts by an Indian author. On the positive side, the book is written in simple and easy language, with little embellishment or bias, and without resort to any arcane social science or historical jargon. Its readership and purpose are spelt out by Sneh Mahajan in the preface as ‘. . . the graduate and undergraduate students of various universities as well as . . . the interested reader who wants to learn about the forces shaping the twenty-first century’ (add to the preceding annual aspirants for the UPSC Civil Services Examinations in India). Those objectives are sought to be fulfilled in the fourteen sections which comprise the narrative. These are: Concepts and Definitions; Political Geography of the Globe, 1900–14; The First World War; The Russian Revolution; Political and Economic Developments, 1919–39; Rise and Fall of Fascism; The Second World War, 1939–45; The Cold War; Colonialism and Nationalism: End of European Empires; Globalisation and its Implications; Human Rights; The Feminist Movement; Ecological Changes and Movements; and Trends in Culture. An eclectic but adequate bibliography of about three hundred books is appended to a volume comprising some 350 pages. Nineteen maps relating to important events or the subjects are also provided for the benefit of the reader (these could have been drawn clearer and made visually more appealing). The topics covered in the chapters are self-explanatory and their contents evident, and therefore do not need elaboration in a review. Where the individual themes are contentious, as in the specific and wider literature relating to each of them—imperialism, nationalism, the causes of the First or Second World War, the Cold War, etc.—the author has, fairly, included the contending analyses without pushing her own advocacy of one or another viewpoint. The book is also a relief from those which only provide western-oriented analyses of these events, . . . e.g.,studies that gloss over the accommodative role of England and France towards Hitler’s Germany in the inter-war period; or, under-report the heroic and bloody sacrifices of the (then) Soviet Union and its people ...

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