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Journal of World History 12.1 (2001) 252-254

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Book Review

World Conflicts: A Comprehensive Guide to World Strife since 1945

World Conflicts: A Comprehensive Guide to World Strife since 1945. By PATRICK BROGAN. Lanham, Md.: The Scarecrow Press, 1999. Pp. xxii + 682. $49.50 (cloth).

Because our world has been free of massive global conflagrations in the past half century, one easily can forget that this does not mean the world has been peaceful. Patrick Brogan, a professional and much traveled journalist, painfully brings this fact home in this second edition of World Conflicts. If the sheer mass of the book, 682 pages, does not make an impact on the reader, the large number of separate entries, each listing where significant insurrections or violence have occurred in the last fifty years certainly will do so. The author's meticulous cataloguing and narration of so many different facets of global strife ensures that, despite a few shortcomings, this is a very good reference work for any student of the twentieth-century world.

Brogan's organization is straightforward and logical. He divides his study first into five important geographical areas--Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Latin America--and concludes with a general section on terrorism. Within each of these areas, he further breaks down his study into manageable ten-to-twenty-page entries focusing on major countries. These individual country narratives are the strong heart of this book. Brogan conveys difficult and confusing historical trends and political alignments without losing the reader in a morass of details and minutiae. In addition, he concludes each entry with a brief bibliography for further reading.

A number of topics stand out as particularly insightful. The author's thoughtful essays on modern terrorism and drug wars are noteworthy. In them he takes difficult and disturbing issues and boils them down to [End Page 252] controllable ideas. Brogan is adept at tracing the development of many Third World countries through the end of the Cold War and their transition from the realm of U.S.-Soviet conflict to nationalistic, tribal, or economic strife that in all too many cases developed out of global tension. These shifting tensions are most apparent among African states, but also, to a surprising degree, in Middle Eastern nations as well. As a finale to this compendium of knowledge, Brogan provides three detailed and useful Appendixes that list major wars, coups, and revolutions, as well as assassinations that have occurred since 1945. The length of these appendixes is in itself a disturbing fact about our world.

For all of the positive aspects of this study, there are some areas that could have been improved. Perhaps the most significant shortcoming is the lack of maps. The only map that accompanies this volume is a two-page world map with very general graphics indicating conflict locations. It is inadequate for the purposes of the book. It is difficult to read World Conflicts without an atlas at hand to keep track of all the border wars, competing capitals, and geographical issues that play into events. For instance, India has fought three wars with Pakistan and numerous smaller skirmishes with China in the last fifty years. As immense as India's borders are and as accurate as Brogan's account is, the need for a detailed map of the region is crucial. Similarly, keeping track of Moammar Khadafy's many attempts at regional interference is difficult to follow without some visual aid close at hand.

This edition could also benefit from a few entries from the first edition of this book that certainly would fall under the rubric of "world conflicts." Gone in this new edition are the sections on South Africa (where much has happened in the past decade) and nuclear conflict issues. There is no discussion on any of the disturbances of the early 1990s in Eastern Europe. More significantly, recent conflicts that have occurred in the United States have been ignored, such as the political disturbances of 1968, the civil rights movement, and the Oklahoma City bombing. As a final, but relatively minor critique, a...