Sunday, 16 October 2016

The Intelligent Man's Guide to the Post War World - G D H Cole

When I first decided to read this - on the same basis as the Henry Wade book, because G D H Cole was a founder member of the Detection Club, in which I've recently become interested - I have to admit I didn't realize it was 1092 pages long.

I'm still glad I did. Those 1092 pages take in a sweeping but detailed view of the situation in Europe, the distrust between the Soviet Union and the US, economics, health, the plans for schools in the UK and the raising of the age at which children could leave, population growth, why the US believed capitalism was not only right but in the long run a fairer system, Palestine, the colonies and their right to independence, the atom bomb, how the UNO and IMF came into being and the motivations behind them and infinitely much more.

Whatever you think of Cole's politics (which I actually broadly agree with, except I think he's a tad harsh on the US, who he seems to view as having reneged on some sort of promise to provide infinite amounts of cash without charging a cent of interest) or what he thought should happen next, it’s an incredibly solid piece of work. Cole acknowledges the help of his secretary, his son, and his wife Margaret (who also co-wrote murder mysteries with him as well as other political books and pamphlets) – but presumably the bulk of the writing and research was his own, revised as the situation changed, and it's an extraordinary achievement in what must have been quite a short space of time.

Just as astonishing is that although it would be probably be a better book to keep and dip into for reference (and I will be keeping it for that) it is actually still possible to read the thing through from cover to cover, as I did, and not be utterly overwhelmed and bored.

Part of this is due to Cole's flashes of humour, not always flattering to the nations he's talking about, part is the fact that I don't think I'd really understood how different many things were in 1947 quite apart from the needs of war, or that many of my own 'liberal' ideas were so specific to a Western European way of thinking, but most of all because it's interesting to see what has become worse and what has been improved in the last 70 years.

Despite the naysayers (of which I'm one because things could always be better) it's still incredible to read about where Germany or Poland or Japan or India (or Britain) was 70 years ago, and to compare then to now. It really brings home what can actually be achieved in times of peace if we try.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very impressed by you managing to read all of this, Victoria! I'm glad it turned out to be good, because 1000+ pages is quite the commitment.