Achala Moulik, the eminent raconteur and prolific author has teamed up with her elder sister Aloka Moulik Chatterjee to bring out her most recent book titled The Treaty of Versailles & Remaking of the World (1919-2019). As the title suggests, it is a wide-ranging and ambitious project. A lesser scholar would not have been able to do justice to the huge spectrum and expanse of the subject. The Moulik sisters however treat the theme with rare finesse and competence. This 284-page book effortlessly scans the 100-year long period since the signing of the Treaty of Versailles after the First World War till today with exceptional insight and acuity.
The book vividly recalls the circumstances under which the First World War was fought and recounts the significant elements of the Treaty of Versailles, by which it came to an end. The Treaty and its shortcomings left an indelible imprint on developments that were to take place on the canvas of world history over the next hundred years. One of the most calamitous events was the Second World War, which took place within 20 years of the Treaty of Versailles because of the inherent flaws and deficiencies of the Treaty. The Second World War created deep fissures down the middle in the world. The world was split apart into two adversarial blocs. The emergence of two hostile groups which stayed in confrontation till disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 also traces its history to the benighted provisions of this Treaty.
Aloka and Achala have delineated the course of events with an easy flourish. This book contains a plethora of information which one would not expect to find in a volume so slim. Detailed information has been provided on the expenditure of different countries on defence and military from 1908 to 1913. This would have required extremely painstaking and dedicated research which the Moulik sisters have engaged in. All such information adds greatly to the value of the book. Anyone who was observing the rapid rise of military expenditure by Germany during the period before the First World War would have been certain that it was marching resolutely on the path to war and destruction.
The book speaks not only about the evolution, progress and growth of different countries and regions in the world over the last 100 years, but also about the rise and transformation of different thoughts, beliefs and ideologies like nationalism, liberalism, multilateralism, communism and others.
Looking at the broad scope of the book, one could be rather sceptical and think that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to capture developments of a hundred years in a book spanning less than 300 pages. The task is indeed formidable, but it comes as a pleasant surprise that the authors have managed to accomplish it most creditably. It is difficult to identify a single major event over the last 100 years that has been left out. Not a single significant region has been omitted. From Africa to Latin America, from Europe to Russia, from North America to East Asia, all regions and movements have been more than adequately covered. The Moulik sisters deserve fulsome appreciation for this achievement.
The book has been written in a brisk, racy style like an evolving story in fictional prose. People normally think that history is an unexciting subject. The Moulik sisters have proved it wrong by making the account of the last 100 years enthralling and riveting. They have transformed the narrative into something as engrossing as a fast-paced, detective tale. This has been realised without in any way diminishing the gravity of issues under discussion.
The book has been written in an eminently reader-friendly manner. The vocabulary it has employed is free of any technical, difficult to comprehend terminology. It is however thorough and rigorous in its treatment of the subject. It captures the same information and analysis as one might find in volumes much larger in size.
Achala Moulik has carved an enviable niche for herself through her writings spanning a multi-hued tapestry straddling across historical accounts and captivating novels, to literary titans, autobiographical memoirs, drama and poetry. The genres that have benefited from Achala’s pen have been truly limitless. The added advantage of the current publication is that it also includes the genius of Achala’s elder sister Aloka Moulik Chatterjee. The book has seen the light of the day after the unfortunate and untimely demise of Aloka, but the fact that it is being read and enjoyed by a large multitude of cognoscenti will, I am sure, give great joy and satisfaction to her, wherever she is.
This book is a valuable addition to the scholarship available on this momentous period in our recent history. It will be immensely beneficial for academics, research scholars, students of international affairs, as well as for the general readership that might be keen to educate itself about the ongoing, rapid changes in international affairs, but does not have the requisite information or stamina to pursue this task. I don’t have the slightest hesitation in strongly recommending this book to anyone who is interested in getting a clear, deep insight into events over the last 100 years and their continuing impact on developments today.
Ambassador Ashok Sajjanhar is President, Institute of Global Studies, Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, former Ambassador of India to Kazakhstan, Sweden and Latvia, former Secretary/Principal Executive Officer, National Foundation for Communal Harmony, Government of India.