'Combines narrative verve with wise and humane analysis. For anyone who wants to know how Europe came to be the way it is in the years since 1900, this is the work to provide the answers' -- David Cannadine, Observer, Books of the Year
'Fascinating and forceful' -- Martin Gilbert, Literary Review
'Original, thought-provoking, iconic' -- Frank McLynn, Irish Times
'They are few who can walk with A.J.P Taylor. One is Mark Mazower ... a tour de force'
-- Alex Danchev, Times Higher Education Supplement
About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Europe may seem to be a continent of old states and peoples, yet it is in many respects very new, inventing and reinventing itself over this century through often convulsive political transformation. Some nations - such as Prussia - have been wiped off the map in living memory; others - like Austria or Macedonia - are less than three generations old. When my grandmother was born in Warsaw, it was part of the Tsarist empire, Trieste belonged to the Habsburgs and Salonika to the Ottomans. The Germans ruled Poles, the English Ireland, France Algeria. The closest much of Europe came to the democratic nation-state which has become the norm today were the monarchies of the Balkans. Nowhere did adults of both sexes have the vote, and there were few countries where parliaments prevailed over kings. In short, modern democracy, like the nation-state it is so closely associated with, is basically the product of the protracted domestic and international experimentation which followed the collapse of the old European order in 1914.
The First World War mobilized sixty-five million men, killed over eight million and left another twenty-one million wounded; it swept away four of the continent's ancient empires and turned Europe into what Czech politician Thomas Masaryk described as `a laboratory atop a vast graveyard'. `The World War', wrote Russian artist El Lissitsky, `requires us to test all values.' Amid the ruins of the ancien regime - with the Kaiser exiled, the Tsar and his family shot - politicians promised the masses, enfranchised and mobilized as never before, a fairer society and a state of their own. The liberal Woodrow Wilson offered a world `safe for democracy'; Lenin a communal society emancipated from want and free of the exploitative hierarchies of the past. Hitler envisaged a warrior race, purged of alien elements, fulfilling its imperial destiny through the purity of its blood and the unity of its purpose. Each of these three rival ideologies - liberal democracy, communism, and fascism - saw itself destined to remake society, the continent and the world in a New Order for mankind. The unremitting struggle between them to define modern Europe lasted most of this century.