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Governing the World: The History of an Idea (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 4 Oct 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (4 Oct. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713996838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713996838
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.2 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Mazower is the author of Inside Hitler's Greece, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century, The Balkans, which won the Wolfson Prize for History, and Salonika: City of Ghosts, which won both the Runciman Prize and the Duff Cooper Prize. He has taught at the University of Sussex, Princeton University and Birkbeck College, University of London. He is now Professor of History at Columbia University.

Product Description


A significant contribution to historical scholarship, with the chapters on the 19th century's remarkable swirl of politics, ideas and organisations being particularly original and valuable ... Simply for giving us this lucid account, Mazower deserves our gratitude. But Governing the World is also an intriguing read because of the strong argument he places within it ... This new work certainly gave this reviewer an awful lot to think about - to an author, there may be no greater praise than that (Paul Kennedy Financial Times)

Mazower has strengthened his claim to be the preeminent historian of a generation. Combining breathtaking originality with meticulous and gloriously eclectic research, he offers the most convincing explanation yet articulated for the exaggerated, even hysterical, expectations of the 1990s and the subsequent collapse of optimism after the Millennium now translated into a fear that grips large parts of the Western world. On rare occasions, a work of history emerges that not only fundamentally refashions our understanding of the past, it enables us to reassess the present and, with luck, influence our future. I advise everyone who is concerned about our precarious situation to learn from and absorb Mazower's remarkable achievement (Misha Glenny)

Governing Europe, and then the whole world ... this idea has found its perfect chronicler in Mark Mazower, whose perceptions are cosmopolitan, humane, learned, and properly skeptical. What is more, his history is written in clear, elegant prose. Essential reading not just for historians, but anyone interested in the troubled world we live in (Ian Buruma)

Bursting with ideas about present and future as well as past (Stephen Howe Independent BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

This is a book that needed to be written ... [Governing the World] is truly illuminating ... The story is a fascinating one, and Mazower tells it with authority and verve (Adam Zamoyski Literary Review)

A prodigious work: a master historian's reconstruction of how individuals and nations since 1815 have sought to promote national interests in ever more complicated international settings. A dramatic, novel account of ideas and institutions in collision with hard realities. Indispensable also for its full and subtle account of American policies since 1917, always with a fine touch for the hitherto neglected person or little noticed moment that illuminates historic processes. Profound, relevant, and morally instructive - and a pleasure to read (Fritz Stern)

Mazower is a man of immense erudition, a real scholar ... [A] remarkable book ... Reading him is like being lectured by the best left-wing professor you'll ever have. Or like reading the best foreign affairs writer the Guardian or the Nation has to offer ... You can learn a lot from him (Standpoint)

The idea of global government has entranced the world for centuries. Mark Mazower's brilliant book shows how much effort has gone into this idea - and how futile it has mostly been in an era of individualism and growing divisiveness (Alan Brinkley)

About the Author

Mark Mazower is Ira D.Wallach Professor of World Order Studies and Professor of History Professor of History at Columbia University. He is the author of Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44, Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century, The Balkans: A Short History (which won the Wolfson Prize for History), Salonica: City of Ghosts (which won both the Duff Cooper Prize and the Runciman Award) and Hitler's Empire: Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe. He has also taught at Birkbeck College, University of London, Sussex University and Princeton. He lives in New York.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Lost John TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 7 Dec. 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
'Somewhere between world government and no government', writes Mark Mazower, 'lies a vision of organised cooperation among nations'. He goes on to credit such a vision with the inspiration of the United Nations, the EU, and other multilateral organisations. They all have in common, he asserts, the vision of a better future for mankind, one that promises our collective emancipation.

The declared aim of his book is to explore the historical evolution of such institutions, to show how some of them have shaped realities, and to ask what is left of them today. Thus he embarks on a journey that begins with the Concert of Europe, set up following the 1815 defeat of Napoleon; continues to the League of Nations, established after the First World War; The United Nations, whose genesis began even whilst the Second World War was still being fought; the European Union, begun modestly in 1956 but even then with the definite aim of making war between its founder members unthinkable; and concludes with a discussion of some of the financial, global warming and other problems with which we wrestle today that seem not to be susceptible to effective solution by the international institutions as they are at present constituted.

Mark Mazower is a historian, but his book also has a lot of content relevant to readers whose primary interest is in politics, even economics. In fact, some prior knowledge in all those areas is almost a pre-requisite to reading the book. A huge range of historical figures and events is referred to, usually with half a line of biographical or other information about the more obscure attached, but, if the great majority are entirely new to you, you are likely to find the book hard going.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Andy_atGC TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 1 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The author is using the period from 1815 to analyse the growth of Internationalism, commencing from the unification of several European countries from small princedoms and dukedoms into monarchies of which several had collapsed in the between-War years and much later the re-assembly into larger units and the current belief that changes are ahead.

The ideas, initially simple, became complex with the breakdown of several European empires, principally Austro-Hungary, Ottoman, and the French and British more recently, as well as the creation of two Eastern European states, Czechoslavakia and Jugoslavia, where differences in religion and language and where long-standing distrust of other groups was smoothed over in the hope that all would be well. That both worked for some time but eventually collapsed causing the recreation of older and smaller states was a surprise to few, despite one being relatively peaceful and the other involved in multi-level friction and states of undeclared war. The eventual collapse of the Soviet bloc and the recreation of long-forgotten national borders and identiies is another consequence.

In the most part post-WW2 associations, trading and semi-political blocs between many countries in the form of NATO, Benelux and the EEC, British Commonwealth etc and financial institutions such as the World Bank allowed their participants to enjoy the benefits of mutual support and inter-trading at preferential rates were/are typical benefits but some distrust and doubt remains. However, those organisations are also being slowly eroded from within and by external issues and new institutions may yet arise that attempt to rectify the errors of the past and present.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Pawley on 10 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Mark Mazower's study of the history of international institutions is a fascinating examination of how individuals and governments have grappled with the problems of international co-operation over the last two centuries. The book's great strength is that it draws out the complexities of the story in a readable and accessible way. The chief insight I drew from the book is that internationalism has always been an unsteady mixture of abstract concepts and concrete institutions, of grand ambitions and mundane practicalities, and - above all - of single-minded idealism and pragmatic compromise. The book does assume some basic familiarity with the international history of the last two centuries, but most people likely to read it will already have that knowledge. That granted, it deals adroitly with a large and multifarious cast of thinkers, statesmen and organizations to craft an illuminating narrative of how global institutions came to be as they are today.

As Mazower emphasizes in his conclusion, much of what the book describes has now passed - not only does the post-1945 international order look increasingly irrelevant in a post- Cold War world, but it is beset by forces it cannot hope to control (like global finance), while the Western dominance on which it was founded is beginning to appear untenable. For all that, global problems are as pressing as ever (global warming, nuclear weapons, finance...). Any hope of confronting them depends on solving many of the same intricate problems that have bedevilled and complicated international co-operation for decades; I would advise anyone seeking to understand those problems to start here.
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