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J M Roberts' monumental Penguin History of the World became a publishing phenomenon and sold in its hundreds of thousands. Now he has produced an equally brilliant new work, focusing solely on our own troubled and dramatic century, and it has all the breathtaking sweep and confident judgment of his previous work. Most importantly, Roberts takes a truly international view of things. The 20th century, he argues, is marked as much as anything by the decline of Europe as the world's sole arbiter and the emergence of today's cosmopolitan, global civilisation, born of decolonization, the resurgence of Islam and the vibrant, self-assured new nations of Asia and Latin America. He also examines the other two major trends of our time: the social and economic empowerment of women and the extraordinary quadrupling of the world's population, most of it in Third World countries. A challenging and exacting read.--Christopher Hart [via]