We have detected that you are using an older version of Internet Explorer and to have access to all the features on this site, you will need to update your browser to Internet Explorer 8. Alternatively, download Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.

Why study history and WW2?

LAURENCE REES: Why should anybody bother to study history in general and this period in particular?

ADAM TOOZE: I don’t think there’s any question that the Europe that we still live in today is profoundly shaped by this experience. It’s not actually very long ago that this happened and shaped the contours of the Europe that we inhabit, and indeed the world that we inhabit. It’s like simply knowing where you come from and where your neighbours come from and how we all ended up in the place that we did. America’s global military power, for instance, is a direct result of their cataclysmic moment in May 1940 when Roosevelt realises that the Germans are about to overturn the balance of the power in Europe. The two things are directly connected. This is not something that is remote from us. In Asia there’s an entire history between Japan and China which we’re really only beginning to understand the significance of and will, as Chinese nationalism asserts itself more forcibly, become ever more prominent in our understanding of this period of global history. We simply can’t live intelligently in the present without understanding this very recent period of human experience.