This volume of global narrative history charts the dramatic and inexorable build-up to the Second World War, in which more than 46 million people were killed, and which caused deep and lasting upheavals in the world's social, political and national parameters. As the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham said, 'When the history of the first half of this century comes to be written - properly written - it will be acknowledged the most stupid and brutal in civilisation."
Yet the attempt to preserve humane values, to maintain the rule of law and to uphold the rights and dignity of the individual are powerful themes in this volume, in which the conflicts of nations and the aspirations of their rulers served both to endanger mankind through war and civil war, and to seek to create a more decent life for hundreds of millions of people.
The story ends in 1951, with the United States and the Soviet Union - joint victors of the struggle against Germany and Japan - grappling to establish the primacy of their respective systems and when, amid the continuing conflict in Korea, the spectre of nuclear war threatened to become a terrible reality.
The chief focus of this book is the sufferings, aspirations and achievements of individuals, epic in scope but always human in sympathy.