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The hundred most influential books since the war

Which books defined the second half of the twentieth century?

The Times, 30/12/2008, TLS

clip_image001In a recent essay for the TLS (September 26, 2008), Ian Mortimer made reference to the paper’s list, first printed in 1995, of the 100 most influential non-fiction books published since the Second World War. The original list (with accompanying introduction) is reproduced below. Dr Mortimer discussed the relative lack of historical works on the roll-call from more recent decades. One wonders which books from all disciplines might find themselves on a similar list more than ten years on. New additions needn’t actually have been written since 1995, as some books’ stature seems to have grown so much since then that it would be inconceivable to ignore them. It is, for example, a surprise to see that Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene (1976) was not in the original line-up – a book now at least as widely referred to as Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time (which did make the cut). Another uninvited guest who continues to dominate scholarly conversation is Edward Said, whose Orientalism (1978) received the first of a promised two comprehensive broadsides from the TLS’s own Middle East Editor, Robert Irwin, in 2006 (For Lust of Knowing). As for books that the original compilers couldn’t have considered, Ian Mortimer mentioned Eamon Duffy and Orlando Figes among historians (and one might add C. A. Bayly’s The Birth of the Modern World, 2004, and Chris Wickham’s Framing the Middle Ages, 2005).

A straw poll in the TLS office yields suggestions from other disciplines, trying to fit the bill of “influence” regardless of consensus about their objective merits. The first candidate, however, Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man doesn’t count, as it was published in 1992, and could have been included in the original list (but wasn’t). The new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a possibility, an updated traditional reference work which demands to be consulted by researchers in the digital age. Another biographical contribution that might be said to have changed the way successors address their subject is Hermione Lee’s biography of Virginia Woolf (1996). But the original list was more straightforwardly academic in outlook. The history of the book is a discipline that has taken on new academic weight in the past decade: William St Clair’s The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (2004) is representative of this change. In the social sciences, Bowling Alone: The collapse and revival of American community (2000) remains a seminal study of what the TLS reviewer called the “Do your own thing” society.

Economics were strongly in evidence on the original list, but up until very recently, the heat seemed to have gone out of scholarly dispute on the biggest economic questions. Perhaps it is too early to look for the new Keynes or Friedman, but the works of Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz seem likely to be pored over meticulously in the coming months and years.

Two of our current preoccupations that were almost entirely absent from the original run-down are the dominant –isms of our time: environmentalism and terrorism. James Lovelock began his series of dire warnings about the state of the planet long before the list was published, but works such as The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is fighting back – and how we can still save humanity (2006) continue to ask some of the most urgent questions of all. As for terror, the changed political landscape after September 2001 has been addressed by writers from as distant points of the political compass as Jean Baudrillard (The Spirit of Terrorism and Other Essays, 2002) and Philip Bobbitt (Terror and Consent: The wars for the twenty-first century 2008).

These are the results of a very unscientific experiment. I’m sure our readers can make their own suggestions. I’d love to hear them.

David Horspool, TLS History Editor

This article was first published in the TLS of October 6, 1995.

Most people enjoy making lists. But who would produce a list of "A hundred books which have influenced Western public discourse since the Second World War"? A brief explanation is called for.

In 1986, a diverse group of writers and scholars came together to try to assist independent East European writers and publishers both at home and in exile. The Chairman was Lord Dahrendorf, Warden of St Antony’s College, Oxford. Other members were the French historian Francois Furet; Raymond Georis, Director of the European Cultural Foundation, Amsterdam; Laurens van Krevelen of the Dutch publishing house Meulenhoff; the Swedish writer Per Waestberg, at the time President of International PEN; the European correspondent of the New Yorker, Jane Kramer; and the historian and commentator, Timothy Garton Ash. It was envisaged that support would take two forms: first, to ensure publication in the original languages, and second, to encourage more translations.

One of the basic tenets of this initiative, which came to be known as the Central and East European Publishing Project (CEEPP), was that the geopolitical division of Europe the Iron Curtain was then still very much a reality had interrupted the normal and healthy flow not just of people but also of books and ideas. Its aim, in the words of Ralf Dahrendorf, was to foster a "common market of the mind" throughout the whole of Europe. After 1989, CEEPP was able to expand its activities and organize workshops and in-house training for those involved in publishing, but its main concern remained to facilitate the publication of worthwhile books and journals.

At Trustees’ meetings, titles submitted by publishers for consideration were scrutinized for their quality and relevance. Not surprisingly, there were, among the Orwells, Poppers and Hannah Arendts, some very odd works, and also some strange omissions. Inspired and provoked by the perusal of these lists over the years, the Trustees decided that in their final year of activity (the Project disbanded at the end of 1994) they would respond to the challenge of producing, as a jeu d’esprit, a consciously arbitrary list of the 100 books which have been most influential in the West since 1945. (This list is included in the forthcoming book, Freedom for Publishing: Publishing for Freedom: The Central and East European Publishing Project, edited by Timothy Garton Ash. 201pp. Budapest: CEU Press; distributed in the uk by oup. 1 85866 055 6.)

An initial list was put together by a small panel consisting of Robert Cassen, Dahrendorf, Garton Ash, Michael Ignatieff, Leszek Kolakowski and Bryan Magee. It was then revised, following an extensive discussion at the last meeting of CEEPP Trustees. Works of fiction are included only when they had a wider impact. Titles are grouped in decades by the date of their first appearance. In all cases, the English title is mentioned first and the original title in brackets. Within decades the order is alphabetical.

Certain seminal works which were published before the Second World War but which have had a major influence since the war were set aside. That list would certainly include:

Karl Barth: Credo
Marc Bloch: Feudal Society (La Societe feodale)
Martin Buber: I and Thou (Ich und Du)
Norbert Elias: The Civilizing Process (Uber den Prozess der Zivilisation)
Sigmund Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents (Das Unbehagen in der Kultur)
Elie Halevy: The Era of Tyrannies: Essays on socialism and war (L’ire des tyrannies: Etudes sur le socialisme et la guerre)
Martin Heidegger: Being and Time (Sein und Zeit)
Johan Huizinga: The Waning of the Middle Ages (Herfsttij der Middeleeuwen)
Aldous Huxley: Brave New World
Franz Kafka: The Castle (Das Schloss)
John Maynard Keynes: The Economic Consequences of the Peace
John Maynard Keynes: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
Lewis Namier: The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III
Jose Ortega y Gasset: The Revolt of the Masses (La Rebelion de las masas)
Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Logik der Forschung)
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus logico-philosophicus (Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung)

The final list was:


1. Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex (Le Deuxieme Sexe)
2. Marc Bloch: The Historian’s Craft (Apologie pour l’historie, ou, Metier d’ historien)
3. Fernand Braudel: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (La Mediterranee et le monde mediterraneen a l’epoque de Philippe II)
4. James Burnham: The Managerial Revolution
5. Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe)
6. Albert Camus: The Outsider (L’Etranger)
7. R. G. Collingwood: The Idea of History
8. Erich Fromm: The Fear of Freedom (Die Furcht vor der Freiheit)
9. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno: Dialectic of Enlightenment (Dialektik der Aufklaerung)
10. Karl Jaspers: The Perennial Scope of Philosophy (Der philosophische Glaube)
11. Arthur Koestler: Darkness at Noon
12. Andre Malraux: Man’s Fate (La Condition humaine)
13. Franz Neumann: Behemoth: The structure and practice of National Socialism
14. George Orwell: Animal Farm
15. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four
16. Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation
17. Karl Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies
18. Paul Samuelson: Economics: An introductory analysis
19. Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism (L’Existentialisme est un humanisme)
20. Joseph Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
21. Martin Wright: Power Politics


22. Hannah Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism
23. Raymond Aron: The Opium of the Intellectuals (L’Opium des intellectuels)
24. Kenneth Arrow: Social Choice and Individual Values
25. Roland Barthes: Mythologies
26. Winston Churchill: The Second World War
27. Norman Cohn: The Pursuit of the Millennium
28. Milovan Djilas: The New Class: An analysis of the Communist system
29. Mircea Eliade: Images and Symbols (Images et symboles)
30. Erik Erikson: Young Man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history
31. Lucien Febvre: The Struggle for History (Combat pour l’histoire)
32. John Kenneth Galbraith: The Affluent Society
33. Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
34. Arthur Koestler and Richard Crossman (eds): The God That Failed: Six studies in Communism
35. Primo Levi: If This Is a Man (Se questo un uomo)
36. Claude Levi-Strauss: A World on the Wane (Tristes tropiques)
37. Czeslaw Milosz: The Captive Mind (Zniewolony umysl)
38. Boris Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago
39. David Riesman: The Lonely Crowd
40. Herbert Simon: Models of Man, Social and Rational
41. C. P. Snow: The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
42. Leo Strauss: Natural Right and History
43. J. L. Talmon: The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy
44. A. J. P. Taylor: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe
45. Arnold Toynbee: A Study of History
46. Karl Wittfogel: Oriental Despotism: A comparative study of total power
47. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen)


48. Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil
49. Daniel Bell: The End of Ideology
50. Isaiah Berlin: Four Essays on Liberty
51. Albert Camus: Notebooks 19351951 (Carnets)
52. Elias Canetti: Crowds and Power (Masse und Macht)
53. Robert Dahl: Who Governs?: Democracy and power in an American city
54. Mary Douglas: Purity and Danger
55. Erik Erikson: Gandhi’s Truth: On the origins of militant nonviolence
56. Michel Foucault: Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the Age of Reason (Histoire de la folie a l’age classique)
57. Milton Friedman: Capitalism and Freedom
58. Alexander Gerschenkron: Economic Backwardness in Historial Perspective
59. Antonio Gramsci: Prison Notebooks (Quaderni del carcere)
60. H. L. A. Hart: The Concept of Law
61. Friedrich von Hayek: The Constitution of Liberty (Die Verfassung der Freiheit)
62. Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities
63. Carl Gustav Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Erinnerungen, Traeume, Gedanken)
64. Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
65. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: The Peasants of Languedoc (Les Paysans de Languedoc)
66. Claude Levi-Strauss: The Savage Mind (Le Pensee sauvage)
67. Konrad Lorenz: On Aggression (Das sogenannte Boese)
68. Thomas Schelling: The Strategy of Conflict
69. Fritz Stern: The Politics of Cultural Despair
70. E. P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class


71. Daniel Bell: The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism
72. Isaiah Berlin: Russian Thinkers
73. Ronald Dworkin: Taking Rights Seriously
74. Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures
75. Albert Hirschman: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty
76. Leszek Kolakowski: Main Currents of Marxism (Glowne nurty marksizmu)
77. Hans Kueng: On Being a Christian (Christ Sein)
78. Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State and Utopia
79. John Rawls: A Theory of Justice
80. Gershom Scholem: The Messianic Idea in Judaism, and other essays on Jewish spirituality
81. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful
82. Tibor Scitovsky: The Joyless Economy
83. Quentin Skinner: The Foundations of Modern Political Thought
84. Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
85. Keith Thomas: Religion and the Decline of Magic

BOOKS OF THE 1980s and beyond

86. Raymond Aron: Memoirs (Memoires)
87. Peter Berger: The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty propositions about prosperity, equality and liberty
88. Norberto Bobbio: The Future of Democracy (Il futuro della democrazia)
89. Karl Dietrich Bracher: The Totalitarian Experience (Die totalitaere Erfahrung)
90. John Eatwell, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman (eds): The New Palgrave: The world of economics
91. Ernest Gellner: Nations and Nationalism
92. Vaclav Havel: Living in Truth
93. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time
94. Paul Kennedy: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
95. Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
96. Primo Levi: The Drowned and the Saved (I sommersi e i salvati)
97. Roger Penrose: The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning computers, minds, and the laws of physics
98. Richard Rorty: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
99. Amartya Sen: Resources, Values and Development
100. Michael Walzer: Spheres of Justice


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