The Shock of America: Europe and the Challenge of the Century

ISBN : 9780198228790

David Ellwood
608 Pages
144 x 219 mm
Pub date
Jul 2012
Oxford History of Modern Europe
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The Shock of America is based on the proposition that whenever Europeans contemplated those margins of their experience where change occurred over the last 100 years or more, there, sooner or later, they would find America. How Europeans have come to terms over the decades with this dynamic force in their midst, and what these terms were, is the story at the heart of this text. Masses of Europeans have been enthralled by the real or imaginary prospects coming out of the USA. Important minorities were at times deeply upset by them. Sometime the roles were reversed or shaken up. But no-one could be indifferent for long. Inspiration, provocation, myth, menace, model: all these categories and many more have been deployed to try to cope with the Americans. Attitudes and stereotypes have emerged, intellectual resources have been mobilised, positions and policies developed: all trying to explain and deal with the kind of radiant supremacy the Americans built in the course of the twentieth century. David Ellwood combines political, economic, and cultural themes, suggesting that American mass culture is a distinctively incisive form of American power over time. The book is structured in three parts; a separation based on the proposition that America's influence as a decisive force for or against innovation was present most conspicuously after Europe's three greatest military-political conflicts of the contemporary era: the Great War, World War II, and the Cold War. It concludes with the emotional upsurge in Europe which greeted the arrival of Obama on the world scene, suggesting that in spite of all the disappointments and frictions of the years, the US still retained its privileged place as a source of inspiration for the future across the Western world.


PART I: 1898-1939
1. How the American Century Started
2. The Roaring Twenties in Europe
3. Modernity and the European Encounter with Hollywood
4. The 1930s: Capitalism on Trial
5. New Deal America: The Flickering Beacon
PART II: 1941-1959
6. Our Destiny, Your Future
7. Responding to the World's Reformer
8. Progress Re-discovered? European Thinkers and America's Propositions in World War II
9. 'The Most Revolutionary Force': When American Armies Arrive...
10. Reflating Europe with the Marshall Plan
11. The 1950s: Going for Growth
PART III: 1989-2009
12. After the Cold War: The Age of 'Soft Power'
13. Epilogue: The End of the 'American Century'?

About the author: 

David Ellwood's first major book was Italy 1943-1945: The Politics of Liberation (1985) then came Rebuilding Europe: Western Europe, America and Postwar Reconstruction (1992). The fundamental theme of his research - the function of American power in contemporary European history - has shifted over the years to emphasise cultural power, particularly that of the American cinema industry. He was President of the International Association of Media and History 1999-2004 and a Fellow of the Rothermere America Institute, Oxford, in 2006.

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