Empire of Democracy

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What to expect

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.

Half a century ago, at the height of the Cold War and amidst a world economic crisis, the Western democracies were forced to undergo a profound transformation. Against what some saw as a full-scale “crisis of democracy” – with race riots, anti-Vietnam marches and a wave of worker discontent sowing crisis from one nation to the next – a new political-economic order was devised and the postwar social contract was torn up and written anew.

In this epic narrative of the events that have shaped our own times, Simon Reid-Henry shows how liberal democracy, and Western history with it, was profoundly re-imagined when the postwar Golden Age ended. As the institutions of liberal rule were reinvented, a new generation of politicians emerged: Thatcher, Reagan, Mitterrand, Kohl. The late twentieth-century heyday they oversaw carried the Western democracies triumphantly to victory in the Cold War and into the economic boom of the 1990s. But equally it led them into the fiasco of Iraq, to the high drama of the financial crisis in 2007/8, and ultimately to the anti-liberal surge of our own times.

The present crisis of liberalism enjoins us to revisit these as yet unscripted decades. The era we have all been living through is closing out, democracy is turning on its axis once again. As this panoramic history poignantly reminds us, the choices we make going forward require us first to come to terms with where we have been.

(P)2019 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critics Review

  • Formidably ambitious… boldly attempts to paint a thematic portrait of the world’s democracies and delivers an argument that leaders grounded these political structures on free-market economics… There is much to admire in Reid-Henry’s book

    Financial Times
  • Brilliantly, Reid-Henry calls for the salvation of democracy from the choices of its own leaders – if it is to survive

    Samuel Moyn, Yale University
  • [Empire of Democracy] yields insights that help us understand our present and imagine the possibilities of our future… The frontiers of the future can sometimes be discerned by studying the plains of our past. This book allows the reader to do both.

    Sunday Business Post Ireland
  • A monumental and nuanced history of the past half-century

    Irish Times
  • Simon Reid-Henry has written a superbly informed and riveting historical analysis of our contemporary era, which opened in the 1970s and, as he brilliantly demonstrates, continues to transform the premises of Western democracies

    Charles S. Maier, Harvard University
  • Praise for Fidel and Che

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