THE SPECTER OF GENOCIDE: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective

Robert Gellately, Editor, Ben Kiernan, Editor
Robert Gellately, Editor, Ben Kiernan, Editor . Cambridge Univ. $60 (406p) ISBN 978-0-521-82063-9
Ebook - 406 pages - 978-0-511-05543-0
Open Ebook - 396 pages - 978-1-280-16256-5
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Hardcover - 408 pages - 978-0-511-06176-9
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While this is definitely a collection of distinguished scholars writing for other scholars, the editors, historians at Clark and Yale respectively, bring together a cogent group of perspectives on the history and causes of mass murder. The University of Minnesota's Eric Weitz makes a persuasive case that the peculiar 20th-century combination of mass society, technology and racist ideologies has made genocide so much easier than in previous centuries that it has become both more pervasive and more destructive, looking to those who engage in it as an easy way out. "Genocides of Indigenous People," by Claremont Graduate University's Elazar Barkan contains many insights on the question of inherited collective guilt, as well as good historical summaries. Of the less theoretical historical narratives, some cover well-trodden ground but with clarity and vigor, including studies of the Holocaust and Yugoslavia. Others present examples of genocide not commonly known, such as the Indonesian slaughter of the population of East Timor and the U.S.-backed government of Guatemala's war against its Mayan population. Particular distinction belongs to the summary of Rwanda, extraordinarily informative for its brevity. In both introduction and afterword, the editors emphasize the necessity of broad but informed definitions of genocide as essential in raising barriers against it. (June)

Forecast: While annotations and bibliography serve to guide educated lay readers to more accessible sources, this is not the place for lay readers to begin inquiries, and the book's price definitely aims it toward libraries. Still, as a distillation of the most recent thinking, it can be recommended as a companion to classic titles like Hannah Arendt's Eichmann in Jerusalem.

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