The Long Retreat: A History of Europe and the World Since 1900
Sean McMeekin

The Long Retreat: A History of Europe and the World Since 1900

It is 35 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, followed by the collapse of the Communist USSR, ushered in moment of Western triumphalism.  After a century marked by two terrible world wars and a Cold War which had seen the US and USSR amass nuclear arsenals capable of ending life on earth, even as the conventional forces of NATO and the Warsaw Pact stared each other down in Europe, the end of the Cold War brought a peace dividend and the binding together of NATO and Warsaw Pact countries in the new European Union.  If not quite the “End of History” Francis Fukuyama prophesied, the disintegration of the Soviet bloc provided a sharp narrative bookend to an era of often deadly Great Power conflict dating back to 1914.  The “short twentieth century” was mercifully over, and a new and better time surely beckoned for humanity.


Things look different today.  Communist China has not only endured but thrived, emerging as a superpower competitor more formidable than the Soviet Union ever was.  The US has frittered away its once imposing lead over Great Power rivals, running trade and budget deficits that have gravely eroded the dollar’s value while hemorrhaging prestige in ineffectual military interventions in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.  The undead NATO alliance, expanded rather than disbanded after the Warsaw Pact disappeared, is now waging a bloody and equally ineffectual proxy war against a resurgent Russia in Ukraine.  Americans and Europeans may have wished to put history behind them after 1989, but history had other ideas.


In The Long Retreat, the author moves beyond complacent “short 20th century” triumphalism to unveil a sobering, Gibbon-esque narrative of western civilization in decline. The book shows:


  • Just how dynamic, innovative, wealthy and free Europe and the West had become by 1900, achieving a level of material and cultural civilization never surpassed


  • How, despite moral and political challenges mounted by socialists, anarchists, and anti-colonial resistance leaders, it was only the self-immolation of the Great Powers in the world wars which eroded western dominance and toppled European empires


  • The series of eminently avoidable western blunders, from the European plunge into war in 1914 to German support for Lenin in 1917, to the needlessly harsh peace treaties of 1919, unnecessary US antagonism of Japan, the bizarre US policy of building up Stalin’s empire before mobilizing the world against it, the equally bizarre US decision to punish Russians for overthrowing Communism in 1991 and reward China for upholding it by force, and the waging of foolish proxy wars from Vietnam to Ukraine, which have accelerated the decline of European and American power


  • The “dead cat bounces” of 1989-1991 and 9/11 which gave an illusory boost to US hegemonic pretensions, only to expose the rotting core of western civilization


Blending narrative with scholarship, The Long Retreat will set a new standard in global history.


Book Details:

  • Author: Sean McMeekin
  • On Submission
  • All rights are available
Sean McMeekin

Sean McMeekin

Sean McMeekin was born in Idaho, raised in Rochester NY, and educated at Stanford and UC Berkeley.  He has been fascinated by modern history ever since playing Winston Churchill in a school reenactment of the Yalta Conference at age 15, and Joseph McCarthy in an even more outlandish reenactment of the Army-McCarthy hearings at age 17, which involved camcorders and double agents in the Russian Club. He pursued this interest into various American and European battlefields, libraries, and archives, venturing as far east as Russia, before settling down to teach for some years in Turkey, wh...
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