The Global Age: A Comprehensive Look at Europe from 1950 to 2017

The Global Age: A Comprehensive Look at Europe from 1950 to 2017


“The Global Age” by Ian Kershaw is a part of the renowned Penguin History of Europe series. The book covers the transformative period of Europe from 1950 to 2017, focusing on significant political, economic, and social changes that took place during this time. The book is divided into 12 chapters, an introduction, and an afterword, where the author reflects on the complexity of Europe’s history during this period. In exploring various themes, including the impact of the Cold War, decolonization, economic growth, and globalisation, the book underlines the fact that Europe was no longer in charge of its own destiny. Drawing on the works of Tony Judt, Timothy Garton Ash, and a number of German historians, the book provides insight into the challenges of writing a book covering such a wide-ranging period. The concluding chapter emphasizes the importance of unity, cooperation, and consensus among Europeans in facing modern-day challenges such as climate change, demography, energy provision, mass migration, multiculturalism, the widening income gap, international security, and the dangers of global conflict.

Table of Contents

  • The Post-war Economic Boom
  • The Growth of Consumerism
  • The Advancement of the Welfare State and Social Security Systems
  • The Threat of Nuclear War
  • Youth Protests
  • The Collapse of the Soviet Union
  • Globalisation
  • Negative Consequences of Globalisation
  • Environmental Damage
  • Income Inequality
  • Mass Migration
  • The Challenges of the 21st Century


How did the welfare state and social security systems bring financial stability and security to citizens across Europe?

The welfare state and social security systems brought financial stability and security to citizens across Europe by providing them with a sense of economic stability even in times of crises. These systems expanded rapidly throughout the 1960s and 70s, as various European governments, both capitalist and communist, invested heavily in them to help unemployed and underemployed people, as well as vulnerable groups such as the elderly and disabled.

These programmes provided citizens with unemployment insurance, social assistance, and free access to basic amenities such as education and healthcare. It was believed that the growth of a welfare state would fuel long-term economic growth, improve well-being, and help to prevent social unrest.

What role did Germany play in the transformation of Europe?

As one of the major powers in Europe with a long history, Germany played a central role in the transformation of the continent. Germany was divided into two after World War II, with the Western part integrating itself with the West, and the Eastern part becoming part of the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, which was not part of the European Union.

The East German citizens, over time, became disillusioned with the government and began underground political resistance, which ultimately led to the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany. Since then, Germany has been a major economic powerhouse, and its reunification has had a significant impact on the rest of Europe, from the economy to the political landscape.

In what ways did globalization have a positive impact on Europe?

Globalisation has been a positive force for European economies. It has helped Europe integrate into the global economy, increase economic growth, and enhance cultural exchange between different European countries and with the rest of the world. This has allowed goods and people to move more freely across borders, increasing the variety, quantity, and quality of goods and services available to Europeans.

Moreover, with the emergence of the internet in the 1990s, globalisation became the catalyst for the creation of new technologies, industries, and businesses that changed the world. As globalization opened up trade and manufacturing, it provided new opportunities and jobs for people in Europe, facilitated the growth of tourism, and promoted cultural exchange that helped Europeans learn about other cultures and their people.

What has been the effect of the challenges faced by Europe in the 21st century on the continent?

Europe, like other parts of the world, has faced several challenges in the 21st century, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic being the most recent of them. The book highlights that Europe is confronted with a host of challenges such as climate change, demography, provision of energy, mass migration, tensions of multiculturalism, widening income gap, international security, and the dangers of global conflict.

These challenges have affected various aspects of European life, including politics, economics, society, and culture. They have brought greater attention to the need for cooperation and a unified stance among European states, particularly in the face of increasing political and social polarisation. They have also highlighted the importance of taking collective action to address the challenges of the 21st century, as they are too big for any individual country to solve on its own.

What is the significance of the collapse of the Soviet Union for Europe?

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a significant event in Europe’s history, and its impact was felt not only by the countries within the Soviet bloc but also by the rest of the continent. The collapse of the Soviet Union led to the end of the Cold War, which had been the defining feature of European politics since the end of World War II.

Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to the reunification of Germany, which was a significant event in Europe’s history. The collapse of the Soviet Union also marked the end of the Soviet bloc and the beginning of new political and economic realities in Eastern Europe. It paved the way for the economic and political integration of Eastern Europe into the European Union, which accelerated during the 1990s, leading to the expansion of the EU into former communist countries.


“The Global Age” provides its readers with an in-depth analysis of the complex and transformative period of European history from 1950 to 2017. Ian Kershaw offers a comprehensive overview of the significant events and changes that took place during this period while exploring several crucial themes such as the welfare state, social security systems, consumerism, globalisation, and its effects.

The author highlights that the challenges Europe faces in the 21st century are enormous, but he emphasizes that cooperation is vital in addressing them. Europe’s social, economic and political landscape has undergone tremendous changes, making it a dynamic region full of potential. “The Global Age” is an excellent read for anyone interested in understanding the significant changes in European history over the past seventy years and the challenges and opportunities facing the continent today.

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