The University of Wisconsin Press

European History / Judaica / Philosophy / Holocaust / International Studies


A History of the Twentieth Century
from Europe's Edge
Dan Diner

George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

An innovative reading of the history of the twentieth century from the singular vantage of Europe's eastern edge

Cataclysms is a profoundly original look at the last century. Approaching twentieth-century history from the periphery rather than the centers of decision-making, the virtual narrator sits perched on the legendary stairs of Odessa and watches as events between the Baltic and the Aegean pass in review, unfolding in space and time between 1917 and 1989, while evoking the nineteenth century as an interpretative backdrop.

Influenced by continental historical, legal, and social thought, Dan Diner views the totality of world history evolving from an Eastern and Southeastern European angle. A work of great synthesis, Cataclysms chronicles twentieth century history as a "universal civil war" between a succession of conflicting dualisms such as freedom and equality, race and class, capitalism and communism, liberalism and fascism, East and West.

Diner's interpretation rotates around cataclysmic events in the transformation from multinational empires into nation states, accompanied by social revolution and "ethnic cleansing," situating the Holocaust at the core of the century's predicament. Unlike other Eurocentric interpretations of the last century, Diner also highlights the emerging pivotal importance of the United States and the impact of decolonization on the process of European integration.

"Diner, an enticingly unorthodox and persuasive historian, felicitously shuttles back and forth between philosophic-speculative analysis and a well-informed account of individual actors and events. An important work."—Fritz Stern, author of Five Germanys I Have Known

George L. Mosse logo
George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History

Dan Diner is professor of modern European history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of the Simon Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University, Germany .

  • First English-language edition
  • German edition, Das Jahrhundert Verstehen, 1999 hardcover
    Luchterhand Literaturverlag

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The cover of Cataclysms is a faded photo of the Odessa stairs.

January 2008

LC: 2007011770 D
368 pp. 6 x 9

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Cloth $35.00 a
ISBN 978-0-299-22350-2
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