Nov 7, 2011

Histoire diplomatique de 1919 a nos jours

Original Title in French: Histoire diplomatique de 1919 a nos jours (Etudes politiques, economiques et sociales)
By Jean Baptiste Duroselle (Author)
Proposed English Title: History of Diplomacy from 1919 until today.
Publisher: Dalloz; 9th edition (1985)
ISBN-13: 978-2247006458
ISBN-10: 2247006450

Book review:
In France, this was a standard of diplomatic history: it documents what presidents, dictators, and foreign ministers did from 1919 to about 1979. It is an academic text that is designed for French students who must memorize these facts for exams at the various state schools for politics and international relations, i.e. the Instituts d'Etudes Politiques (Sciences Po) in various cities and L'ENA. To understand its purpose, one must understand what these exams entail: you stand in front of a professor and get grilled about any fact (from most trivial to most important) that is in this book. If you don't know something or fail to recall it quickly enough, the examiner can press further. So the student feels compelled to know it all. As such, this book was supremely useful as a single source to prepare for these exams, no matter how dull it was to read. I know because I went through this. From what I hear, Sciences Po have changed their curricula, so this kind of book may be less relevant today than it was 30 years ago. 
Now, if you are looking for a history of international relations - a wider view that looks for causes, sociological trends, undercurrents, etc. - then you should look elsewhere. I would not recommend this for pleasure or analysis, but the facts are there if you need them, wholly without color, without characters, without fun, without style.


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