Jonathan Steinberg

The experience of a lifetime

Robert Caro, at the age of 83, continues to work full-time on his grand inquiry into the nature of political power. He has studied two figures in particular: Robert Moses and Lyndon B. Johnson. Moses — the subject of Caro’s first book The Power Broker — was the man who, over several decades, built the

Life, death and everything in between

The most striking and difficult aspect of this novel is its incredible scale. How can a reviewer best discuss an enterprise containing a vast survey of life in Germany, Britain and the United States and the transformations of these societies from the end of the 19th century to the 1980s? Two volumes cover the experience

Coming of age in Nazi Germany

The distinguished historian Konrad Jarausch’s new book is a German narrative, told through the stories of ordinary people who lived through his chosen period. Six dozen Germans — mostly from the generation born in the 1920s — testify through their memoirs to how it was to be Christian or Jewish, working-class or upper- middle-class, a

Massacre of the innocents

I thought I knew the history of the years 1914 to 1945: the first world war and the terrible casualties in the trenches; the second world war and the German conquest of Europe; day and night bombing; Stalingrad and the Holocaust. But I’m embarrassed to say that I knew nothing about the tragedy in Galicia

The appeal of mysticism

This extraordinary book has two main characters: Gershom Scholem (1897–1982), an early Zionist and the founder of the modern study of traditional Jewish mysticism, and the author George Prochnik, who was 28 when he first moved with his then wife to make a new life in Israel. Stranger in a Strange Land has as subtitle

Look back in anger | 19 January 2017

Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger wants to explain how we got to a world in ‘a pervasive panic… that anything can happen anywhere to anybody at any time’. Everything seems to be spinning out of control, and hatred, racism, violence and lies have become common currency everywhere. Facts have become irrelevant and ‘individuals with very

Two little boys, one little toy

Rose Tremain sets the true story of Police Captain Paul Grüninger, commander of the Swiss border force in Canton Saint Gallen, at the core of this powerful novel. Grüninger helped hundreds — some sources say thousands — of Austrian Jews fleeing the Nazis in 1938–1939 to enter Switzerland illegally. After a long trial he was

Wishful thinking | 19 May 2016

Deirdre McCloskey has been at work for many years on a huge project: to explain why the world has become so much richer in the past two centuries, and at an accelerating rate since 1945. This is the third and final volume in the series. In it she argues that ‘our riches were not made

No end to the Final Solution

David Cesarani, Research Professor of History at Royal Holloway University of London, died at the age of 58 on 25 October 2015. The book now appears without its author, a kind of huge mausoleum for an astonishing enterprise. Cesarani wants to change our view of the Holocaust and to close the yawning gap between popular

Charlemagne’s legacy

Last month in the Financial Times, Tony Barber closed a gloomy summary of the European Union’s future with this comparison: Like the Holy Roman Empire which lasted for 1,000 years before Napoleon put it out of its misery in 1806, the EU may not disintegrate but slip into a glacial decline, its political and bureaucratic