Magazine article The Spectator

The Making of a Deadly Cocktail

Magazine article The Spectator

The Making of a Deadly Cocktail

Article excerpt

Mark Mazower's work, the first in the superb 'Universal History' series from this publisher, compresses the entire history of the Balkans into 135 pages, plus notes. The next two volumes in the series, the brilliant Islam by Karen Armstrong, and the industrious Paul Johnson's The Renaissance, achieve similar feats of density and constriction, presenting corresponding problems for the reviewer.

The author's intention is to demonstrate that life in the Balkans 'was for centuries no more violent than elsewhere...', that the old Ottoman empire ably accommodated a wide spectrum of faiths and languages. The fault lay not with John Major's alleged 'impersonal and inevitable' interior forces, but with the external insertion of Western ideas of nationalism, erupting in massacre and ethnic cleansing, organised violence by the paramilitary, representing 'the extreme force required by nationalists to break apart a society otherwise immune to divisive class and ethnicity'. …

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