Rana Mit­ter

BBC History Magazine - - Books -

In Cru­cible: Thir­teen Months that Forged Our

World, Jonathan Fenby gives a truly global ac­count of a cru­cial time that has rarely been ex­am­ined in de­tail by his­to­ri­ans. The years 1947– 48 saw a whole world be­ing re­made. Fenby retells well-known episodes such as the 1948– 49 Ber­lin air­lift with a com­bi­na­tion of stylish prose and im­mense com­mand of the his­tor­i­cal de­tail. But the real eye-open­ers are the deft anal­y­ses of less fa­mil­iar crises, such as the civil wars in Greece and China, and the hor­rific af­ter­math of par­ti­tion in In­dia. Alev Scott’s Ot­toman Odyssey: Trav­els Through a Lost Em­pire is very dif­fer­ent in form, but no less grip­ping. A young Bri­tish au­thor of Turk­ish her­itage ex­plores the world that the Ot­toman em­pire made, and shows us a Europe that looks very dif­fer­ent when viewed from its south-east­ern cor­ner. As the Ot­toman legacy state of Bos­nia and Herze­gov­ina threat­ens to fall into tur­moil once more – in the wake of con­tro­ver­sial elec­tions ear­lier this year – this is a re­veal­ing and beau­ti­fully writ­ten guide to the his­tory that still sits be­low the sur­face of our con­ti­nent. A best­seller in the Chi­nese world has now fi­nally been pub­lished in English. In The Great Flow­ing River: A Mem­oir of China from Manchuria to Tai­wan, Ch’i Pang-yuan (now aged 94) tells the story of grow­ing up in the 1930s in a coun­try riven by the war with Ja­pan. Vi­gnettes of refugee life and a tragic ro­mance il­lus­trate an un­der­re­ported story – the losers from Chi­nese com­mu­nism who went to Tai­wan – in mov­ing and poignant prose. Rana Mit­ter is pro­fes­sor of the his­tory and pol­i­tics of mod­ern China at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford

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