When the World Seemed New coverMore time has transpired between the fall of the Berlin Wall and today than the entire duration of that iconic Cold War barrier. Meanwhile, George H.W. Bush, the main subject of Jeffrey Engel’s When the World Seemed New, became the longest-living U.S. president, while there are undergraduates this semester who were born during the presidency of his son, George W. Bush. In short, this book can make a lot of readers feel old.

It should also makes us feel hopeful. “Tomorrow our children will go to school and study history and how plants grow,” President Bush said in his 1992 State of the Union address. “And they won’t have, as my children did, air raid drills in which they crawl under their desks and cover their heads in case of nuclear war.”[2] Scholars can forever debate the causes and consequences of the end of the Cold War, yet one ought not lose sight of the fact that good and incredible things happened.

 

 

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untitledThe mills of historical research grind slowly,” Yale historian Hajo Holborn wrote in the early 1950s. Holborn made his observations with reference to the German delegation to Versailles in 1919. While it would have been “no doubt desirable” to the Germans to have “set into motion an objective study of the causes of the world war” to help them push back against Article 231, the “war guilt” clause, there was no hope such a history could be produced in time.[1]

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The Struggle for Order coverHow should we understand the changes in East Asia over the last quarter century? The region that has undergone the most extraordinarily rapid economic transformation in modern history is the subject of fierce contestation regarding the implications of the shifting material balance between East Asia and the powers that dominated in the Cold-War era. The ‘rise of China,’ as the largest and potentially most disruptive of the East Asian countries, has captured most attention in scholarly and popular commentary. In the scholarly debate, realist accounts of power transitions dominate the field, although they do not offer a unified prediction of the consequences of rising Chinese power.[1] Evelyn Goh’s The Struggle for Order: Hegemony, Hierarchy and Transition in Post-Cold War East Asia injects a welcome note of innovation into this field. The Struggle for Order presents a compelling challenge to accounts that view the region purely in terms of the shifting material capacities of the major powers. That it does so without ignoring power asymmetries, contests, and competing conceptions of interest distinguishes it from what Andrew Hurrell in this roundtable calls the “liberal optimism” that until now represented the major alternative to realist theorizing.

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