"Changed the World" is the hottest phrase in titling books these days. We have books with titles like "The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology." I'm hardly the first to notice this. Richard Adams wrote in The Guardian in 2005:
Anyone contemplating writing a book on current trends in the publishing industry might consider this as a catchy title - Book: the book about the book that changed the world about the fish that changed the world. It's the fault of American author Mark Kurlansky. In 1999 he wrote a book that set off the fashion for what Waterstone's categorises as "biographies of things", called Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world… According to the trade press, a whole army of "changed the world" titles is ready to be launched. In September we will be able to buy a book on concerts subtitled "gigs that changed the world". In June we can get our hands on a book about the sheep that changed the world. And next month there's the chance to buy a book on gunpowder, the explosive that changed the world (presumably by blowing up bits of it). The list goes on and on - anyone fancy a forthcoming text with the subtitle "the 1976 wine tasting that changed the world"?
At last, though,we have a book where the subtitled is justified: The President, the Pope, and the Prime Minister: Three Who Changed the World by John O'Sullivan, the former editor of National Review and a long time aid to the Prime Minister in the title. It's a triple biography of Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and Margaret Thatcher and how they won the Cold War, with a particular focus on Poland.
O'Sullivan pays a lot of attention to the view from within the Kremlin. I hadn't realized how early the Soviets had felt the cold wind of doom blowing over them. O'Sullivan argues that at the time of Solidarity's rise in August 1980, the Soviets believed their economy too weak to absorb the sanctions that would result from an invasion of Poland in the style of 1968 or 1956. So they bluffed the West into thinking that eventual December 1981 crushing of Solidarity by the Communist Polish general Jaruslewski was an act of forbearance by the Soviets, when in reality it was the best they could have hoped for.
There's lots more of interest in this fine, wide-ranging, quick paced book.