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Empire of Democracy Reviews

Empire of Democracy by Simon Reid-Henry

Empire of Democracy

The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017

Simon Reid-Henry

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: John Murray Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton General Division
Publication date: 27 Jun 2019
ISBN: 9781473670556

The first panoramic history of the Western world from the 1970s to the present day: Empire of Democracy is the story for those asking how we got to where we are.

3 stars out of 5
1 Jul 2019

"a dense narrative and a wealth of examples"

The book is written for a general audience. Its breezy informality makes a nice change from the academic jargon found in the works of many young scholars, but this does not always result in concision or elegance. Sentences groan under the weight of redundant adjectives. The word ‘prioritised’ is used fourteen times – once we are told that something was not ‘as closely prioritised as it might have been’. ‘Traction’ – as in ‘Forbes’s big idea gained no little traction’ – is another favourite. Reid-Henry is often witty, but I suspect that the funniest passages of this book are unintentionally so. I particularly enjoyed the brisk ‘marks out of ten’ awarded to historical figures ranging from Solzhenitsyn, whose ‘moralism ultimately prevented him from making the proper diagnosis’, to Johnny Rotten: ‘punk … was an effort at social rebellion that in some ways peaked too early.’ There are also some gnomically brief character sketches. We learn that Herbert Gruhl, a German Christian Democrat, was ‘in some ways a forerunner of America’s Al Gore; in many ways not’, and that Bill Clinton’s wife ‘was every bit his equal, if not more so’.


2 stars out of 5
Dominic Sandbrook
16 Jun 2019

"a hugely ambitious political history"

This last sentence, a sweeping, overconfident generalisation, is typical of his style. It takes courage to cram the past half-century of western political history into a single book, and to his credit he has clearly read widely and thought deeply about everything from the intricacies of Nixon’s monetary policies and the relationship between Helmut Kohl and François Mitterrand to the growth of the human-rights industry and the consequences of the Iraq War.