Review On Paul Kennedys Book
The Book I am about to review “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers” is one of fourteen books written by Paul Kennedy, the author is considered an expert in the fields of Grand Strategy and International Relations, he previously studied under the famous historian AGP Taylor and this is Kennedys best known book to date; it being translated into twenty three languages, reaching no.6 in the Bestselling Hardcover Books when it was released in 1988 and also winning Kennedy the Wolfston History Prize for his work. The Book is rather long; owing to the fact it covers five hundred years of World History of the Great Powers, yet focuses largely towards European Powers, as that is where the majority of power lay until the early twentieth century. A brief knowledge of Historical events is useful when reading this book as individual Wars and Battles are not covered in too much detail because of the vast number of conflicts since the Renaissance period, however a reader with no historical background can read this book and gain a lot of knowledge, it has an easily read general textbook feel about it, and it is divided chronologically into three sections: Pre-industrial 1500 – 1800, Industrial 1800 – 1943 and Today & Tomorrow 1943 – 21st Century, which allows the book to be easily used as reference material for people interested in a particular period. A particularly interesting feature of this History book is that instead of finishing when the author wrote it, Kennedy continues and makes his predictions for the future, he accurately predicted the fall of the Soviet Union as well as the relative decline in the American economy with regards to the rise of new Powers such as China and the cooperation of the European states, which helps convince the reader in the 21st century that Kennedy is somebody who knows what he is talking about and that his arguments and predictions should be considered! The main line of the authors argument is that the Great Powers strength can only be tested against that of other Great Powers, one is by necessity always stronger than another due to factors such as the constantly differing growth rates, population and resources that each Power has. Kennedy time and again links the growth or decline of an economy with the respective Powers military capability and eventual rise or fall. Whilst reading the book, backed with the wealth of examples and evidence Kennedy cites giving tables, charts and maps; it is easy to be convinced by Kennedys arguments, after all it makes sense that the bi-polar world of the Austrians and Spanish ended as they overextended themselves, creating the multi polar eighteenth century including Britain, France, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Kennedy then states that the economical power created by the Countries that were prepared to industrialise created a new series of superpowers: The nineteenth century British Empire then the twentieth century Soviet Union and the United States, and as the growth of these states stagnates and others grow world power will become multi polar once more encompassing five more possible powers; USA, Russia, China, India and the EU. Personally I agree mostly with what Kennedy says but in my opinion there are several difficulties, firstly he argues that Europe rose to dominate the rest of the world as opposed to because of fragmented states, increasing competition and the freedom for merchants to do as they wish, yet he later cites the same reasons as factors for the decline of the Spanish Empire caused through “lack of cohesion” When I read this part for the first time, I though that this seemed like a contradiction, but on further thought could Kennedy mean however that these factors are beneficial to the rise of a power, however once they have reached a Great Power status begin to become a burden and can act as a factor in the Powers decline? I also think that an important factor which appears to be understated in the book are the...
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