Brendan Simms

Brendan Simms’s latest book is ‘Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present’

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This week's big questions: Can Angela Merkel save the European Union? Should Turkey be allowed to join?

This week's questions answered by historian Brendan Simms

On guard: The Free Syrian Army stands its ground in Deir al-Zor

Sooner or later, we'll have to go into Syria

David Cameron makes comparisons with Iraq, but more apt is Bosnia, where Western self-interest put a stop to its inertia in the face of bloodshed

Liberators, missionaries - or imperialists? UN troops in Congo, 2010

Governing the world: the history of an idea, By Mark Mazower

Peace-makers will learn from most of this fine history – until it yields to skewed polemics

Rebuilding Europe: Refugees returning to Berlin after the Second World War

Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War Two, By Keith Lowe

In his memoir If This is a Man, the Italian writer Primo Levi recalls that the most terrifying time for him at Auschwitz was not the years of incarceration by the Nazis, when beatings, hunger, back-breaking work and the threat of murder were omnipresent. He came closest to despair during the vacuum between the flight of the guards and the arrival of the Red Army. This period, in which the prisoners were effectively left to their own devices, was characterised by a complete breakdown of all authority, however unjust, as well as the system of supply. I was reminded of these passages when reading Keith Lowe's Savage Continent: an excellent account of the two years or so between the end of hostilities in Europe with the defeat of Hitler, and the establishment of the Cold War order.

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