The New Edwardians

Jennifer Welsh’s The Return of History, and the limits of progress.

The title of Jennifer Welsh’s book, The Return of History: Conflict, Migration and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century, would make little sense without the lingering influence of Francis Fukuyama’s bold 1989 declaration that history had ended. In that year, Fukuyama, a political theorist, penned an essay boldly declaring that the major ideological contests of the 19th and 20th centuries were over, and liberal democracy had won:

What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

His subsequent 1991 book, The End of History and the Last Man, followed up on this controversial thesis with a call for western optimism...