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Best of Times, Worst of Times

Memoirs of a Political Education

Walter Laqueur

Publication Year: 2009

A memoir by a prominent and highly respected historian and political commentator Walter Laqueur has been writing and teaching for over six decades, primarily in the fields of twentieth century history and politics, always as a shrewd and thoughtful generalist in an age of specialization. In this engaging memoir, Laqueur focuses on the political and historical events that shaped his thinking and that have inspired his intellectual work throughout his life. He discusses living and attending school under Nazism; Marxism, the Soviet Union, and the part he played in Cold War politics; and the image his generation had of Zionism, Israel, and the Middle East. Laqueur shares his views on beltway politics and think tanks, and concludes with a look at guerrilla warfare and terrorism, and the future of Europe.

Published by: Brandeis University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

When my grandchildren were growing up I decided to write an autobiography, not because of their insatiable curiosity as far as my early life was concerned; I love them dearly but their interests are quite different from mine, ranging from . . .

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1 | A Surfeit of Politics: or, Why I Would Have Preferred the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 1-32

When Marcel Proust was a boy of thirteen, he was given a questionnaire to fill out. The questions concerned his favorite heroes in literature and real life, his favorite color, his favorite composer, and also some very . . .

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2 | Growing Up under the Nazis: or, Why One Had to Be There to Understand It

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pp. 33-58

The first major public event in the outside world I remember must have been the appearance of the dirigible Graf Zeppelin, noiselessly gliding over my hometown, light gray in color, nearly 800 feet in length. Flying was . . .

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3 | Marxism, the Soviet Union, and the Cold War: or, The Dream That Failed

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pp. 59-85

For many of my generation of young German Jews— and even more for that before us— Marxism and the Soviet Union were the dream that failed. It is not easy to understand at a distance of so many years . . .

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4 | The Downfall and Partial Resurgence of the Soviet Empire: or, The Strange Fortunes of the Congress for Cultural Freedom, “Finlandization,” and Putinism

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pp. 86-121

According to a famous French saying of the nineteenth century, “How beautiful was the republic during the days of the Empire.” In the twentieth century, in the midst of the Cold War’s tension and conflct, how . . .

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5 | A Middle East Education: or, Reflections on Arabia, Israel, Zionism, and Antisemitism

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pp. 122-148

Having left Europe in late 1938, I received my political education during the next fifteen years in the Middle East. Middle Eastern politics seemed relatively uncomplicated at the time. Of the Arab countries, only Iraq . . .

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6 | Think Tanks and Political Intelligence: or, Why It Is So Difficult to Predict

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pp. 149-170

was associated with a Washington think tank for more than thirty years, and the experience certainly broadened my horizons. One came to know many of the leading players (a term that emerged, I believe, only . . .

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7 | Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism:or, What Systematic Study and Theory Can Mean

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pp. 171-200

My first personal encounter with terrorism took place in Jerusalem not long after the end of World War II. I had visited my dentist, and in the same building, at street level, was a bank, which . . .

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8 | Europe, 1945– 2008: or, A Short Study in Hope and Frustration

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pp. 201-220

The long summer of 2007 began early in Eu rope. High temperatures were registered in April and May throughout the Continent. In June, July, and August, as the schools were closing down for holidays, many millions . . .

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pp. 221-224

Among the many proverbs we learned in fi rst- year Latin, there was one according to which one should always act prudently and consider the end. In other words, Look before you leap. It is excellent advice . . .

Works by Walter Laqueur

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pp. 225-227


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pp. 229-238

E-ISBN-13: 9781584658801
E-ISBN-10: 1584658800
Print-ISBN-13: 9781584657989
Print-ISBN-10: 1584657987

Page Count: 252
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 667077813
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Best of Times, Worst of Times

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Subject Headings

  • Laqueur, Walter, 1921-.
  • Laqueur, Walter, 1921- -- Political and social views.
  • Historians -- United States -- Biography.
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