45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
an outstanding history,
This review is from: The Balkans (UNIVERSAL HISTORY) (Hardcover)
Its probaby best to start this review with a disclaimer. This is not an account of recent events in the Balkans. Nor is it some sort of an in-depth exploration of the reasons for its conflicts. What it is is an exercise in masterful historical writing.
The book is written with flair and ease, engaging even to those who normally shy from history books. It is certainly not a heavy tome of new research. This is not to say that it is simple-minded. Rather the depth of knowledge evident in Mr. Mazower's deft command of a wide range of both modern research and contemporary sources is remarkable. There is something here for both those looking for an introduction to the region, as well as those (like myself) with more than a passing acquaintance with its history looking for a synthesis of a wide range work.
Despite my earlier disclaimer, the book does shed light on the nationalist wars of the 90s in the region, mostly through its 'myth-busting'. Mr. Mazower puts to flight both the ultra-nationalist myths of demagogues in the region, as well as theories popularized by certain "historical" writers in the english-speaking world (a la 'Balkan Ghosts') that attempted to portray Balkan history as a series of neverending massacres by peoples instinctively given to violence. Mr. Mazower in his own quiet, and elegant manner buries such theories under the weight of evidence.
This is one of the best books Ive read on the region for ages. Both well written as well as eye-opening and mind-expanding. Perhaps Mr. Mazower's greatest gift is his ability to recreate the changing pulse of life for different groups of people over the last few hundred years throughout the region. The people he describes are never stereotypes, and finally the montage of pictures that emerge of the Balkans itself is far richer and more distinctive than the caricutured symbol for bloodshed it has been in far too much 'academic' literature in the west.