cover image The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe

The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe

Mark Mazower. Penguin Press, $35 (608p) ISBN 978-1-59184-733-5

Stirring aspirations accompany a squalid reality in this sweeping history of Greece’s 1821 war of independence against the Ottoman Empire. Columbia University history professor Mazower (What You Did Not Tell) recounts the revolution’s inception among Greek emigrés with an idealistic dream of Hellenic nationalism and its actuality as a murky, eight-year struggle fought mainly by peasants and warlords who were motivated less by patriotism than by religious hatred of Muslims, factional vendettas, and mercenary self-interest. Greek military leaders collaborated with the Ottomans when convenient, Mazower notes, while the Greek navy often descended into piracy. Mazower’s narrative has heroism and grit—especially during the epic siege of the western Greek town of Mesolonghi, which captivated Europe by holding out against a large Ottoman army—along with disunion, treachery, and horrifying atrocities on both sides. His lucid, elegantly written, and often gripping account of the chaos contains hopeful developments, including the fitful growth of a constitutional Greek government and the rise of a geopolitics of national self-determination and international humanitarian intervention that led to the break-up of European empires into independent nation-states in the 19th and 20th centuries. Broad in scope and colorful in detail, this is a masterful portrait of a historic watershed. Agent: Andrew Wylie, the Wylie Agency. (Nov.)