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Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in…
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Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (original 1966; edição 2004)

por Carroll Quigley (Autor)

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283369,654 (4.5)4
"This book shows the years 1895-1950 as a period of transition from the world dominated by Europe in the nineteenth century to the world of three blocs in the twentieth century. With clarity, perspective, and cumulative impact, Professor Quigley examines the nature of that transition through two world wars and a worldwide economic depression. As an interpretative historian, he tries to show each event in the full complexity of its historical context. The result is a unique work, notable in several ways. it gives a picture of the world in terms of the influence of different cultures and outlooks upon each other; it shows, more completely than in any similar work, the influence of science and technology on human life; and it explains, with unprecedented clarity, how the intricate financial and commercial patterns of the West prior to 1914 influenced the development of today's world"--Cover page [4].… (mais)
Título:Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time
Autores:Carroll Quigley (Autor)
Informação:GSG and Associates (2004), 1348 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca

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Tragedy & Hope: A History of the World in Our Time por Carroll Quigley (1966)


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One of the best books ever.

One of the few books that everyone, really, should - really should - read. ( )
  GirlMeetsTractor | Mar 22, 2020 |

Sometimes you just know that the book you are reading is going to be one of those great reads of a lifetime. That’s what happened when I started reading Tragedy & Hope; it got added to my Top Ten list before I was even half-finished with it.

So, does anybody remember that 90’s movie "Shallow Hal", where eponymous Hal is hypnotized to only see the inner beauty of a woman, but his horrified friends can’t get past her hideous exterior? I think that’s what it’s like, loving this book, and I do love it. I want people to see what an amazing book this is, but I’m scared they’ll only see a dry tome on economics. I wrote a very long and detailed review, which was so boring, I almost put myself to sleep, editing it. I don’t think that’s the right approach. Perhaps a short list will be better, and people can expand the parts they think sound interesting. So here's what to love about Tragedy & Hope:

1) History told as an analysis of macro-trends.

Georgetown University professor Carroll Quigley has been called “the last of the macro historians”, and that seems like a fitting description for his analysis. He’s got this broad, Grand Canyon panoramic view of history, which hardly ever touches down on specific individuals and what they did, but tends to explain everything in terms of broad, centuries-long, or even millennia-long trends. In addition to social movements and technology, Quigley preoccupies himself with the effect of different currency systems on history, and for this I love him unreservedly. The first 200 pages or so contain a riveting analysis of how the material products of a culture transmit technology effectively, but not ideologies, and how this has at times been disastrous. Britain was the first nation to experience the Agricultural Revolution. In the mid 1700’s, farming techniques in England suddenly became far more efficient, when an understanding of the nitrogen cycle was applied to traditional agricultural methods. Suddenly, a piece of land could yield far more produce with far less labor. This freed labor off the farms, and made it available for other things. In Britain, it was a surge of canal building which absorbed a lot of this labor, which made communication and exchange of ideas much more efficient. Within a few decades, steam power, mechanized looms and water power coalesced, giving birth to the Industrial Revolution, which -thanks to the Agricultural Revolution- had ample labor to draw to feed it. Being the first industrial nation in the world is one of the primary factors which allowed the United Kingdom to build her global and astoundingly prosperous empire. Naturally, others wanted in on this. France, Germany and the U.S. fared pretty well, because the Agricultural Revolution had more or less reached them by the time they were actively trying to industrialize. Other nations, like Russia and China experienced a lot of calamity, as they contrived ways to drive peasant farmers off their farms and into cities, to feed massive State industrialization programs, resulting in mass-starvation (30million in Russia) and popular unrest in the rural areas. When financial strategies evolved to capitalize industry (e.g. incorporation, central banking, stock markets), this let loose another wave of progress, whose mechanisms and material artifacts diffused much more rapidly than the ideologies they reflected. Quigley shows how receiving or developing these out of their “natural” order has been catastrophic for most of the undeveloped world. It makes perfect sense, and Tragedy and Hope develops these ideas in much greater detail than I do here. It’s fascinating, and it seems to explain so much. It may not be “the” one, solitary, all-inclusive grand unifying explanation to why things are so fucked up in our world today, but I think it is definitely a part of the puzzle. Oddly, it’s a piece I’d been missing up to now, and I’m glad to have it.

If you’re wondering what it’s like to read history laid out in this perspective, I recommend you read Quigley’s overview of French history from 1750-1950 (pp. 500-525). This is some fascinating stuff. He convincingly links the fall of the monarchy and the beginnings of the French Revolution to the political and financial maneuverings of a small but very well-funded coterie of Protestant bankers, recently (within one generation) emigrated from Switzerland, and antagonistic towards the Catholic/Jewish dominated French banking establishment of the 18th century. The French Revolution represented a partial success for the Swiss-Protestants, in that it did not completely overthrow the old money masters, but broke their exclusive hold on French commercial banking. When the Revolution threatened to plunge France into complete anarchy, their financial support of Napoleon re-established order; and when Napoleon’s incessant military campaigns proved too disruptive to commerce, it was partially withdrawal of their support (in conjunction with funding his rivals, and funding rival nations) which brought him down. You can decide for yourself whether you choose to accept Quigley’s interpretations, but I found the text quite convincing. This is just a small taste of the overall book. Quigley examines other countries and other time periods, and patterns emerge which carry on through the ages of Commerce Capitalism (the pre-industrial period, dominated by the trade of raw materials, agricultural and crafted items), Industrial Capitalism (in which labor fabricated goods for trade), Monopoly Capitalism (which was still industrial, but whose character was dramatically altered from the early industrial period, by the rise of monopolistic practices, and the rise of cartels whose dominance over national economies overshadowed the political apparati of countries), and Financial Capitalism (in which the power of management eclipsed the power of ownership, and in which economic competition between nations centered on control of capital than technology, manufacturing capacity or ownership of resources). The real focus of the book is on the twentieth century, which Quigley demonstrates as both reflecting, and being driven by, the conflicts between Monopoly Capitalism and Financial Capitalism for primacy on the world economic stage.

2. Historical analysis framed in terms of currency creation/manipulation.

If you are part of the growing minority of people concerned about the failing worth of present-day currencies, and interested in resurrecting a commodity-backed currency, Tragedy & Hope is also relevant, perhaps even indispensable to these questions. It examines the decline and fall of the gold-backed U.S. dollar and British pound, and shows (to my surprise) how the loss of these was at first vigorously opposed by the Anglo-American banking establishment, but then later as enthusiastically embraced by the same. It also sheds light on the currency history of several other nations. For reasons I explore in my Twilight and End the Fed reviews, both nations came off the gold standard in order to pay for World War I. The initial intent of both countries was to pay their war debts and then re-establish the gold standard. They were able to do this, but only with deflation which almost crippled them. Deflating a currency means restoring value… so suddenly $1 can buy more than it could before. This is achieved by the national Treasury purchasing gold. The problems involved with this are many-fold: first, deciding how much gold to buy and how quickly (since the world’s supply of gold is very limited, a massive purchase all at once will send the price per ounce skyrocketing even beyond its fair value… a very bad deal). Secondly, managing deflation can be tricky, because it drives wages and prices down unevenly, and civil unrest may result if workers can‘t afford food and other necessities. Deflation is also a huge problem for people with long-term debt like mortgages. If a currency is deflated too quickly, a large fraction of the population can lose their homes, fueling all sorts of crimes of desperation, and causing the real estate, financial services (i.e. mortgages) and construction sectors to collapse. It also plays havoc with government revenues in the form of annual property taxes, which drop precipitously in these conditions.

These are big, complex questions, which Quigley doesn’t completely clarify, but he does a better job than any other author I’ve ever read. These are questions America and Europe may soon need to revisit, if the dollar and Euro continue their long-term downward trends. If we choose not to deflate, Quigley also shows us what we might expect from permanent massive inflation: After World War I, several smaller economies with much higher relative war debts than the US and England were forced to permanently inflate their currencies. That’s why the (pre-”Euro”) Italian Lire and French franc were denominated such that a single US dollar would trade for about 10 Francs, or 1500 Lire. Things weren’t always that way; before WWI, those currencies were all nearly-equally valued with the dollar (i.e. 1:1 ratio). In France and Italy, the decision to permanently inflate caused a massive upheaval in the financial landscape. Investors who held stocks, bonds and real estate did quite well, because those assets were revalued to fit the new currencies. Many more conservative investors, frightened by their respective stock markets’ volatility during the war, got into cash, thinking they’d reinvest when peace and stability returned. Those people were financially devastated, when the Francs and Lire permanently lost 90% (France) or 99.9% (Italy) of their purchasing power.

The American Civil War was examined very thoroughly by overseas observers, because it was the first large conflict between industrialized combatants. Prussian Generals were eager to learn how new technologies like trains, telegraph, and standardized weapons would change warfare. Sixty years later, World War I represented no less important a revolution in warfare: a complete change in the way wars were funded. Between the American Civil War and World War I, the big mercantile banks of Europe and America managed to establish central banking in almost every developed nation. Suddenly a nation’s capacity to fund war was no longer a function of its wealth (in the form of gold reserves). With private banks eager to issue new fiat currencies, the nations of Europe were not limited in warfare by what they could pay for, but only by what materials and manpower they could successfully mobilize. Quigley shows convincingly that with old methods of financing, most participants would have had to drop out of World War I sometime between 1915 and 1916. With fiat funding, only Russia needed to sue for peace before 1918. It was a quiet but monumentally important watershed in military history. And something else was new too: the nations involved (victors and defeated alike) all came out of the conflict with more debt (relative to their national wealth) than any other nations in history. This is no small matter, because all the legal and financial wrangling between Britain, France, the U.S., Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan from 1919 and 1939 is driven more by concerns about how to pay back (each nation’s respective) war debts than any other factor! The only winners were the creditor central banks, and arguably even some of them suffered for this (e.g. the Rothschild-owed Austrian Anstalltsbank overextended itself and ultimately failed).

3. Historical analysis with special attention to the role of financial institutions.

Tragedy & Hope delves into the institutional history of several companies which played key roles in the twentieth century. The French iron firm Schneider was able to parlay a fortuitous war contract for cannon balls under Napoleon into such success that it was able to completely dominate the entire French iron industry from 1838 to 1940. Then there’s the German firm I.G. Farben -whose name later became synonymous with corporate complicity in the Holocaust. It started as a loose group of industrial dye companies around Berlin, but grew to become a massive chemicals monopoly which extended beyond Germany and dominated much of Europe. In chapter (~p. 520) ,Quigley demonstrates the somewhat frightening fact that World War I probably couldn’t even have been fought by either side, without the consent and participation of I.G.Farben! That sounds hyperbolic, but read this book and consider what Quigley has to say. It’s not an overstatement to call his analysis amazing.

4. You want me to be unbiased? Okay, here are a few criticisms…

So far I‘ve been gushing on Quigley, and I do give this book five stars, but there are some areas where I don‘t think I agree with him. One area which seems dubious is Quigley’s ideas about supra-national government. He develops a thesis that with a greater degree of international cooperation, the Great Depression might have been ended in the early 1930’s, and Hitler effectively opposed. Of course there was a League of Nations at the time, but it was disorganized, and had no ability to enforce its policies. Quigley spends a lot of time deriding nation-states as an antiquated and ineffective unit for global policy and economic activity. To support this, he explores the differing perspectives between France, England, Italy, Japan and the United States towards Germany, and how these differences gave Hitler the opportunity to become a threat. France, having suffered the greatest casualties at German hands in World War I, was primarily concerned with preventing future German aggression, and did everything it could to weaken German military strength. Britain, on the other hand, saw Germany as the primary bulwark against the tide of Bolshevism in the East, and wanted an economically and militarily strong Germany to oppose it. (Naturally Quigley fills in a lot of interesting details here, which make for fascinating reading.) This goes a long way toward explaining British policies of appeasement. On one hand, maybe a supra-national agency like a United Nations-controlled military force might have struck Hitler down earlier… but I don’t think I buy that. Whether they were acting as nation states or just representatives to a larger organization, I’m pretty sure the French and British would have had those opposing views of Germany. More importantly, it strikes me as very naïve to think that any supra-national organization would somehow act in a more enlightened or humane way than nations have in the past. More importantly, organization of peoples into nation-states (as opposed to one giant world government) has a very important advantage: the creation of compartments similar to the compartments which prevent fires from spreading in a building, or which contain leaks in a ship. As I watch the nightly news, I see how a debt crisis in Greece threatens the economic health of the entire European Union, and endangers the integrity of the Euro as a viable currency. Why? Because in an interconnected world without borders, it is difficult to contain problems of any kind, be it mismanagement, corruption, or plain old bad luck. This applies to political mishaps as well as economic: if the world sat under the control of single political structure, there’s nothing to guarantee it wouldn’t fall into corrupt or malevolent hands. In a world of nation-states, you at least have some firewalls to contain the spread of authoritarian rule. To me, the idea of a “world government” makes about as much sense as an ocean liner without any compartments: one iceberg and the whole thing goes down.

There are also some sweeping cultural generalizations which might almost be called racist, and some simple explanations for very complicated and nuanced phenomena, which I think might be just a bit too pat. One of my favorites is his analysis of the German “national character”. First of all, the whole idea of there being a “national character” is a bit dubious. Nations with tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people are perhaps too complex to be pigeonholed in this way. But let’s go with the premise for a while, to see where it leads… Quigley posits that the German national character has been ripe for takeover by a dictator since the days of the Germanic tribes waging guerilla warfare on the Roman legions. Hiding in the forests, making ineffectual assaults on the Southern invaders, Teutonic warriors were in complete awe of the effectiveness, regimentation, and blinding efficiency of the ordered Roman rank and file. They longed for such organization among their own decentralized peoples, but fate and circumstances always seemed to conspire against it. German city states and small fiefdoms watched in envy as France and England evolved into nation-states with clout and prestige on the world stage. Only with Bismarck in the late 1800’s did Germany eventually manage to congeal into a country of its own… but even then, the administration of it always seemed too haphazard. Prussians wanted to go this way; Bavarians wanted to go that; the Westphalians… well, who knows what they were up to! Where oh where was the Great Leader (hint, hint) who could direct Germanic efforts in sweet, unified harmony towards a bright and focused future?? …and “cut”. I just don’t think people sit around thinking like this. I mean, I’m sure thoughts like this may have passed through some Germans’ minds, as they no doubt pass through non-Germans’ minds… but I don’t think this is the stuff which makes one nation ripe for dictatorship more than other countries around it.
Quigley’s assessment of the Spanish national character is a variation on this theme of oversimplifying and entire people. He sees the Spanish as being particularly less tolerant than other nations (scarred by the Moorish invasion and 700 year occupation of Spain’s southern half). I also question the idea that Spanish are less accepting of authority than any other European peoples, or that Spanish men are more proud by nature than other men. There may be slivers of the truth in there, I don’t know as much about Spain, but these seem like sweeping generalizations.

5. A fascinating, fresh look at the root causes of World War II.

One aspect of this book which will probably have broad appeal is his analysis of the period right before the onset of World War II. The appeasement policies towards Hitler, as he annexed Austria and then the Sudatenland on the boarder between Germany and Czechoslovakia, have since been held up as examples of weakness and cowardice towards a bully. That interpretation seems to fit well with the mainstream lay-narrative of history, but it just seems a bit… I dunno, simplistic. Quigley reveals so much more going on behind the scenes. There were two factors which account for appeasement much better than weakness and cowardice: (1) England’s long history of dividing European power by always supporting the weaker against the stronger Continental force; and (2) the British Foreign Office’s long-term vision to build up Germany as a bulwark against expanding Soviet bolshevism. Let’s look at item #1 first: Great Britain has the enviable position of being geographically isolated from Europe. As an island, Britain never needed to worry about Continental soldiers suddenly pouring over her boarder in the middle of the night. Prior to air travel, the only way to project power from the European mainland to England was with ships. Thus, as long as the British navy was master of the seas, the English sat safe on their island, secure from European turmoil and infighting. The British leadership could sit apart from Continental fighting, if it suited them, or they could lend support to one power or another, to gain concessions in other areas (frequently promises not to interfere with Britain growing her worldwide empire abroad). To prevent any Continental power from growing so strong that it could threaten the English position, it was a longstanding policy that Britain would always support the lesser Continental forces against the more powerful. This worked quite well for centuries, so it was not generally questioned after World War I- when Germany lay in ruins, defeated against France, Britain, and the USA- that British foreign policy would be to support Germany to rebuild and grow to become a challenging force to France. Following this logic, England supported Germany when France tried to seize the Ruhr area in the 1920‘s, as payment for war debts Germany couldn’t pay in cash. Later, the British Foreign Office did what it could to hamper a French-Czechoslovakian alliance designed to encircle potential German aggression.
Moving on to reason #2. The 1917 Russian Revolution really freaked out a lot of governments in the West. There was no telling at the time how successful the experiment of Communism would be, but it was clear that Lenin’s, and later Stalin’s- implementation of Marx’s ideology was expansionist in nature. The Foreign Office anticipated that it was only a matter of time before Russian power was projected into Eastern and Central Europe. The collectivist ideology was clearly antithetical to Britain’s rigid class and economic structure, as well as its nominal monarchy. Likewise for France, Italy, and the rest of Western Europe (minus the monarchy). These were natural enemies to Communism, so containment and ultimately defeat of the Russian system were long-term goals, long before Hitler appeared on the world stage. Quigley examines how certain factions within Chamberlain’s administration were so much more focused on building Germany up to oppose Russia, they never considered Hitler might pose a threat to England. Germany was supposed to be the one keeping Britain safe from Bolshevism! Well, obviously not. Chamberlain’s appeasement strategy didn’t work out in the end, but by letting us in on the behind-the-scenes thinking, Quigley at least makes it easier to understand why appeasement was ever even considered. Personally, I thought the battle-by-battle analysis of World War II was a bit tedious, but I don’t deny it was probably brilliant and scholarly.

6. An epic battle-by-battle analysis of World War II.

Okay, this wasn’t my favorite part. Some of the detail about tactics and individual operations was excruciating, but I must admit it was very thorough and authoritative. Anybody fascinated with World War II (I.e. fans of The History Channel) will probably enjoy this section immensely.

7. WTF, McCarthy?

For most of the book, Quigley’s tone is very methodical and objective, however around page 900, it becomes very emotional and venomous, when he starts to cover the post-WWII period of McCarthyism in the U.S. Quigley clearly has a deep personal animosity toward McCarthy, and unfortunately allows his feelings to infect his otherwise cool rationality. It is no exaggeration to say that Quigley has much more negative to say about McCarthy- both his effect on recent American history, as well as personal attacks on the man himself- than he has to say about monsters like Hitler or Stalin! I don’t have a theory for why this is so, but read the book and see if you don’t agree with me. I would love to learn on what personal level McCarthy touched Caroll Quigley. It just seems like somebody he knew must have been harrassed by the anti-Communist witch hunts.

8. The Cold War: how could something so depressing be such amazing reading?
(or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)*

The whole Cold War analysis was fascinating, just for the extent to which Quigley clarified my own hazy understanding of how Israel was founded, how Britain withdrew from the Middle East, and why Britain lost American support defending the Suez Canal- and what the significance of this was. Nuclear strategy dominates a good part of the discussion here, and it can get to be a bit of a downer. As I’ve already related to some people, there are several chapters in which Quigley details how inaccurate the first intercontinental missiles were, and how- to compensate- bomb designers on all sides (I.e. the US, USSR, France, and Britain) encouraged their scientists to maximize the deadly radioactive fallout which followed detonation. That way, even if a missile missed its target city, the population might still be wiped out, as Strontium (in particular) isotopes contaminated the water and populated its victims’ bones, emitting radioactive decay into their tissues until they became riddled with tumors and died. The entire twentieth century in fact seems to be a race by all players to continually take the horrors of war to their next shocking level, and to visit these horrors on a wider and wider circle of targets, until by the late sixties, it was generally accepted that planning for war meant planning for massive world depopulation followed by environmental catastrophe for the survivors.

Another interesting tidbit: the Cuban Missile Crisis was the result of the technology gap between the US and the USSR. American missiles acquired intercontinental range a good five years before the Soviets, which made the USSR quite nervous. While American missiles in Kansas could feasibly hit targets in the Soviet Union, counterpart Russian missiles needed a closer range. The base in Cuba was supposed to give the Soviets the close range they needed to still be able to threaten the States to the same degree they threatened the USSR. Khrushchev always kind of knew the Americans wouldn’t tolerate nukes in Cuba, but the plan was that negotiating over withdrawal of said missiles would buy the Soviets time to perfect their own intercontinental range missiles… then, when the time came and a Cuban base wasn’t necessary, he hoped the base could be used as a bargaining chip to get an American withdrawal from Berlin.

*subtitle taken from the 1964 Stanley Kubrick movie Dr. Strangelove

9. Latin America.

Towards the end of the book, Quigley has brought us up to the mid-1960’s, and is looking to the future. He takes particular interest in the fate of Latin America, and provides a fascinating analysis of political and economic trends in this region, which seems quite sound. I guess I don’t have anything insightful to say here, but it just shows Quigley’s amazing breadth and depth of knowledge of history, the world around, it seems. Central and South America are places I don’t know much about, so it is interesting to hear about, and especially to see them integrated into a broader view of world history. He develops this off-the-wall-yet-completely-plausible idea of a Pakistani-Peruvian Axis of cultural organization… he follows certain patterns of wealth and power distribution as cultural features first seen in Muslim nations. He convincingly argues that certain of these were absorbed into Spanish culture, during their prolonged exposure/infiltration by the Moores, and argues that these have now carried on to Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere. The practical significance of all this is that Quigley summarizes the structural problems leading to poverty and political instability in Latin America as being roughly the same root causes for poverty and political instability in the Middle East. I never heard it rolled out like that, but it sounds good to a non-expert like me. More learned readers may have other opinions, and I welcome these.

10. Clash of the Titans.

I’ve always wondered why Communist China and the USSR never cooperated more. I mean, they were huge Communist societies, and at least the USSR had an eye towards eventually expanding Communism over the entire globe. So weren’t their interests aligned? Why didn’t they cooperate more? For the first time ever, I get a satisfying answer. Quigley explains first what I already knew- that China and Russia have a long history of competition, miscommunication and antagonism. Fine. But these things can be overcome, can’t they? Yes, they can. What really prevented China and the Soviet Union from forming a massive Eurasian Communist super force is that by their own understanding of Marx’s Communist dialectic, the two societies were at very different points in their great walk from capitalism to a Communist workers’ utopia. China was newly freed from capitalist forces, having had its revolution in 1948, while the USSR was nearly forty years on in age. China was going about setting up collective farms, redistributing wealth, and laying the foundations for a central planned economy… all things which required a good deal of coercive power on the masses, and things which smacked bitterly to Soviet ears of Stalinism. The Soviet Union, while certainly a police state by any measure, had just seen the death of Stalin in 1953, and despite a lot of public and official lamentation, there was a sort of collective relief at his passing. Khrushchev came out on top of a lot of competitors for power by promising an easing of Stalin’s reign of terror, and a relaxing of his heavy-handed administration of the bureaucracy. Assisting China in outwardly Stalinist endeavors such as forced mass collectivization of farms- just as the USSR was easing back from exactly such policies herself- would have compromised his credibility among the inner party. Also, acquiring the massive resources China needed was probably beyond his means in any case. The divide between China and the Soviets began in the mid 1950’s, and by 1962, China was openly calling the Soviets “traitors to the world Communist revolution”, for policies aimed at peaceful coexistence, rather than rabid antagonism towards the West. In a sense, Communism in the mid 20th century was hamstrung by factionalism and “internal contradictions”…one of the very faults Marx predicted would be the downfall of liberal democracies. Fascinating stuff.

11. Did Somebody Say “Conspiracy”?

If you do a search of Tragedy & Hope, or if you read some of the reviews on GR (or, God forbid, Amazon), you’ll soon discover that it’s regarded as a standard-bearer of the Conspiratorial view of history. That is to say, a view that most important events in history are not the result of organic processes, but rather engineered by a few people behind the scenes. Having read the entire thing, I don’t get a feeling this was Quigley’s view at all. I think the conspiratorial reputation is merely due to the fact that he recognizes a conspiratorial element in some events. Certainly most of the political manipulations in sub-Saharan Africa during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were heavily rigged. Kingmakers like Millner and Rhodes did prop up puppets, did fight proxy wars over territories with German and French colonial powers, did rig elections, and did infiltrate and radicalize groups of indigenous resistance. Such machinations are obviously conspiratorial in nature… it’s just that we live in a cultural environment where people aren’t comfortable calling a conspiracy a conspiracy. The very idea of conspiracy is so ridiculed, it can barely be acknowledged even when all the criteria of conspiracy are in plan sight and uncontested. This sort of willful blindness to the truth is hardly Quigley’s fault though. His book is actually very non-inflammatory in tone. For example, he acknowledges, without much fanfare, how many of the political developments in the West in the 20th century reflect the undue influence of financial and industrial oligarchs. He goes so far as to say on page 324
“The powers of financial capitalism had a far-reaching plan, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole.”

Yet, doesn’t seem particularly bothered by this. It’s a sort of resigned conspiratorial view, which- if anything- isn’t nearly as alarmist as it ought to be. Perhaps if he had written this in 2012, he would inspire more concern, given the abundant evidence that this bankers’ plan is ongoing and fully operational. Where private equity influence on government has resulted in socialization of corporate losses (to the tune of $24 trillion) and privatization of profits. Where the revolving door between the highest offices of government and the boardrooms of the most powerful corporations have blurred the distinction between elected rule and plutocracy. Where privately-owned, unelected Federal Reserve-type systems dictate monetary policy for nominally democratic nations. Where laws have been written and interpreted to recognize corporate personhood, with all the rights that term implies, while simultaneously trampling (with legislation like the PATRIOT ACT and the NDAA of 2012) on the rights of individual human beings, whose rights our Constitution supposedly recognizes as God-given and inalienable. So yeah, if the term “conspiracy” makes you uncomfortable, maybe you will find something in this book objectionable. On the other hand, maybe Quigley’s heavily-cited research and scholarly tone will win you over, and cause you to reassess your worldview.


I acknowledge that reading a book like this is a huge investment of time and effort, I guess it’s fair for prospective readers to ask whether the effort is worthwhile. Unequivocally, I can say it is. In fact, Tragedy & Hope sits on a pedestal next to Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire as my two all-time favorite history books. Does this mean it’s infallible? Certainly not; there is an extensive chapter on Indochina after French rule, written in 1965, which seems to have no inkling of the incipient VietNam War. In fact, Quigley only makes a meek passing observation that Laos may be more vulnerable than her neighbors to undue Chinese communist influence. That aside, Quigley also left me with a sense that the age of finance-domination (as well as industrial-domination) had passed, and liberal democracies could turn their shining faces with confidence to the bright sun of rational rule, assured that excessive influence of financial institutions would no longer distort the democratic process. The distressed asset bailouts of 2008 suggest a return of the Age of Finance Domination, unpredicted or even warned of in Tragedy & Hope. Perhaps this is an unfair criticism, the book being now forty-seven years old, but it does remind me that even a book as insightful as this isn’t perfect. ( )
4 vote BirdBrian | Apr 3, 2013 |
A very long, but very readable book. Professor Quigley must be sufficiently confident in his reputation as a historian to have produced a book of 1,311 pages without a single footnote. His review of events in the period covered (1985-1964) is thorough and his interpretations credible. I found his predictions about major developments in United States society, especially the changes in child rearing practices, to be quite cogent. ( )
1 vote RTS1942 | Sep 14, 2010 |
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"This book shows the years 1895-1950 as a period of transition from the world dominated by Europe in the nineteenth century to the world of three blocs in the twentieth century. With clarity, perspective, and cumulative impact, Professor Quigley examines the nature of that transition through two world wars and a worldwide economic depression. As an interpretative historian, he tries to show each event in the full complexity of its historical context. The result is a unique work, notable in several ways. it gives a picture of the world in terms of the influence of different cultures and outlooks upon each other; it shows, more completely than in any similar work, the influence of science and technology on human life; and it explains, with unprecedented clarity, how the intricate financial and commercial patterns of the West prior to 1914 influenced the development of today's world"--Cover page [4].

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