Two years after the end of the second conflict to engulf the world in twenty years, and the defeat of the Axis forces of Germany, Italy and Japan, this momentous time saw the unrolling of the Cold War between Joseph Stalin's Soviet Russia and the Western powers under the untried leadership of Harry Truman as America came to play a global role for the first time. The British Empire began its demise with the birth of the Indian and Pakistan republics with the flight of millions and wholesale slaughter as Vietnam, Indonesia and other colonies around the globe vied for freedom. 1948 also marked the creation of the state of Israel, the refugee flight of Palestinians and the first Arab-Israeli war as well as the victories of Communist armies that led to their final triumph in China, the coming of apartheid to South Africa, the division of Korea, major technological change and the rolling out of the welfare state against a backdrop of events that ensured the global order would never be the same again.
Jonathan Fenby is a former editor of the Observer, The South China Morning Post, and is a guest on many American news sites, including CNN. He is the author of several books including the acclaimed On the Brink: The Trouble with France and Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-Shek and the China He Lost.