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A FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR We think we know ancient Greece, the civilisation that shares the same name and gave us just about everything that defines 'western' culture today, in the arts, sciences, social sciences and politics. Yet, as Greece has been brought under repeated scrutiny during the financial crises that have convulsed the country since 2010, worldwide co A FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR We think we know ancient Greece, the civilisation that shares the same name and gave us just about everything that defines 'western' culture today, in the arts, sciences, social sciences and politics. Yet, as Greece has been brought under repeated scrutiny during the financial crises that have convulsed the country since 2010, worldwide coverage has revealed just how poorly we grasp the modern nation. This book sets out to understand the modern Greeks on their own terms. How did Greece come to be so powerfully attached to the legacy of the ancients in the first place, and then define an identity for themselves that is at once Greek and modern? This book reveals the remarkable achievement, during the last 300 years, of building a modern nation on, sometimes literally, the ruins of a vanished civilisation. This is the story of the Greek nation-state but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of the collective identity that goes with it. It is not only a history of events and high politics, it is also a history of culture, of the arts, of people and of ideas.


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A FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR We think we know ancient Greece, the civilisation that shares the same name and gave us just about everything that defines 'western' culture today, in the arts, sciences, social sciences and politics. Yet, as Greece has been brought under repeated scrutiny during the financial crises that have convulsed the country since 2010, worldwide co A FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR We think we know ancient Greece, the civilisation that shares the same name and gave us just about everything that defines 'western' culture today, in the arts, sciences, social sciences and politics. Yet, as Greece has been brought under repeated scrutiny during the financial crises that have convulsed the country since 2010, worldwide coverage has revealed just how poorly we grasp the modern nation. This book sets out to understand the modern Greeks on their own terms. How did Greece come to be so powerfully attached to the legacy of the ancients in the first place, and then define an identity for themselves that is at once Greek and modern? This book reveals the remarkable achievement, during the last 300 years, of building a modern nation on, sometimes literally, the ruins of a vanished civilisation. This is the story of the Greek nation-state but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of the collective identity that goes with it. It is not only a history of events and high politics, it is also a history of culture, of the arts, of people and of ideas.

30 review for Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation

  1. 4 out of 5

    Geevee

    Greece is defined by its ancient history: From its gods to architecture and battles to philosophy and much more besides, Ancient Greece and Greeks are one of the world's most recognised, studied and referenced civilisations and peoples. But what of modern Greece? What is modern Greece? How has Greece fared, developed and carried itself since its recent military junta in the late 20th Century? For me, I knew something if its involvement in both world wars, the bloody and entrenched rivalries with Greece is defined by its ancient history: From its gods to architecture and battles to philosophy and much more besides, Ancient Greece and Greeks are one of the world's most recognised, studied and referenced civilisations and peoples. But what of modern Greece? What is modern Greece? How has Greece fared, developed and carried itself since its recent military junta in the late 20th Century? For me, I knew something if its involvement in both world wars, the bloody and entrenched rivalries with Turkey over Cyprus, the military dictatorship, shipping tycoons, films (Zorba the Greek) and football teams and of course the Olympic Games of 2004, and latterly it's financial difficulties and bailouts by the EU/ECB and IMF. I've also holidayed there (on its islands) and so am a tourist and a grecophile having enjoyed Greece's sites, weather, countryside and hospitality. This absorbing account by Roderick Beaton fills in many gaps and shines light on areas, people and events I was not aware of. Charting the modern Greek state and Nation - there is a difference and one that comes up frequently as the nation refers to Greek (speaking) peoples - over the last 200 years, the reader is led through and bathed in a huge amount of detail and information. This ostensibly means political, military and to some extent religious history and events that lead to creation and development of the Greek state as we know it today. What is surprising at first, and less once one considers and reads of the events and periods covered, is the sheer turmoil, upset, bloodshed and change that the Greek people have endured; much through their own leaders and politicians making, but also from outsiders: Germany, Britain Russia, France, Turkey, USA, Italy and the Balkans and Balkan states. The periods and key events are well covered and described in detail that does not complicate or suppress the reader's learning and overall experience. I had wanted more on culture, social change and other aspects and whilst covered more would have been appreciated, but I recognise too the author's approach and his challenge on space and how to tell a complex and always developing story that covers some two hundred years. As a single volume history/biography of modern Greece this is a fine read and one I heartily recommend.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Georgina Koutrouditsou

    Η επιστήμη του Χρόνου, η Ιστορία, θέλει μακροχρόνια μελέτη & αναζήτηση,επιμονή,κριτική και συγκριτική σκέψη,πλουραλισμό βιβλιογραφίας..με λίγα λόγια επαγγελματισμό και όχι προχειρότητα. Δεν θέλει φιλοσοφικές ή ειρωνικές εξάρσεις, δεν θέλει ακραίους και άκυρους συναισθηματισμούς και συγκρίσεις. Δεν θέλει εικασίες! Λυπάμαι πολύ που ένας τέτοιος μελετητής, με μια ενδιαφέρουσα εργογραφία στο παρελθόν,παρέδωσε μια τέτοια "βιογραφία" της Ελλάδος... Λυπάμαι που την πρότεινα σε πολλούς,χωρίς να την έχω διαβ Η επιστήμη του Χρόνου, η Ιστορία, θέλει μακροχρόνια μελέτη & αναζήτηση,επιμονή,κριτική και συγκριτική σκέψη,πλουραλισμό βιβλιογραφίας..με λίγα λόγια επαγγελματισμό και όχι προχειρότητα. Δεν θέλει φιλοσοφικές ή ειρωνικές εξάρσεις, δεν θέλει ακραίους και άκυρους συναισθηματισμούς και συγκρίσεις. Δεν θέλει εικασίες! Λυπάμαι πολύ που ένας τέτοιος μελετητής, με μια ενδιαφέρουσα εργογραφία στο παρελθόν,παρέδωσε μια τέτοια "βιογραφία" της Ελλάδος... Λυπάμαι που την πρότεινα σε πολλούς,χωρίς να την έχω διαβάσει πρώτα εγώ. Α και μια υπενθύμιση: η Ελλάδα δεν υπήρξε ποτέ Βρετανική αποικία. Η ελληνική μετάφραση είναι απαράδεχτη σε αρκετά σημεία. Αντί γι'αυτό το έργο θα πρότεινα να διαβαστούν/αναζητηθούν τα παρακάτω (τα οποία έχω διαβάσει/μελετήσει): 1)Η ιστορία των νέων Ελλήνων. Από το 1400 έως το 1820-Πέτρος Πιζάνιας 2)Από το γένος στο έθνος. Η θεμελίωση του ελληνικού κράτους 1821-1862- Στέφανος Π.Παπαγεωργίου 3)Τα κακομαθημένα παιδιά της ιστορίας. Η διαμόρφωση του νεοελληνικού κράτους 18ος-21ος αιώνας- Κώστας Κωστής 4)Ο ελληνικός 20ός αιώνας–Αντώνης Λιάκος 5)Τα πολιτικά κόμματα στην Ελλάδα-Gunnar Hering 6)Πάνω-κάτω όλα τα βιβλία από εκδόσεις Αλεξάνδρεια, Εστία, Θεμέλιο, Πανεπιστημιακές εκδόσεις Κρήτης,ΜΙΕΤ (π.χ Ριζάς, Βόγλης, Χαραλαμπίδης) 7)Και φυσικά η Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους (Εκδοτική Αθηνών) από τον τόμο ΙΑ έως ΙΣΤ (τον τελευταίο δηλαδή).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation, by Roderick Beaton, is a concise account of Greece's history from the stirrings of Greek nationalism, to the modern financial crisis. Greece as a nation is a modern concept, as Beaton points out. Ancient Greece was a collection of states and polities (Athens, Sparta, Corinth etc.) that stretched from Greece's modern borders, throughout the Mediterranean. Greek speaking peoples colonized parts of Italy, Turkey, the Levant and so on. The only times the modern Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation, by Roderick Beaton, is a concise account of Greece's history from the stirrings of Greek nationalism, to the modern financial crisis. Greece as a nation is a modern concept, as Beaton points out. Ancient Greece was a collection of states and polities (Athens, Sparta, Corinth etc.) that stretched from Greece's modern borders, throughout the Mediterranean. Greek speaking peoples colonized parts of Italy, Turkey, the Levant and so on. The only times the modern Greek boundaries were unified were under external rulers - Macedon, Rome, the Ottomans, with one exception. The one Greek speaking polity which ruled Greece (and many other places) was the continuation of the Roman Empire - sometimes called Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire. This gave Greek speaking peoples a new identity for hundreds of years - called themselves Romans, and their country Rome. This identity lasted well into the 18th century, and only began to change when Greek nationalism began to stir. At this time, Greece was a part of the Ottoman Empire - a centuries old polity that had controlled the Balkans from Serbia down to Greece, as well as large portions of the modern Middle East. Greek's and the Greek language had been a major administrative boon to the Ottomans. Greek's were staffed as high level bureaucrats and administrators in Orthodox Christian areas of the Empire. This means much of Anatolia, the Balkans and Romania had Greek speaking rulers and clergy, and close connections with Greek, even if their ethnicity and culture were different. Greece itself was broken up into different provinces, with many different ethnic groups and large populations of Muslims. The Turcocretans, for example, were Greek speaking Muslims who had lived in Crete for many years. Similar populations existed throughout Greece's mountainous territories. Greek nationalism was one of the earliest forms of nationalism to arise in Europe. Greece as a geopolitical region began to take shape after the reintroduction of Hellenistic classics to Europe. In the 18/19th centuries, Greece became a centre for tourism, especially from the United Kingdom and Germany. Philhellenism became a popular concept throughout European centers of learning, as nations like Bavaria and Britain began to covet ancient Greek philosophers in their development of enlightenment principles. These centers of learning soon began to accept Greek's into their midst, where Greek nationalism began to take shape. Even so, Greek nationalism has had a troubled history. The idea of Greece, as Beaton notes, exists in a bit of a duality. The hearkening back to both Hellenistic/Paganism times while also coveting the power of the Orthodox world, represented by the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire, is telling. Greece has often been a nation that has both been the birthplace of Western thought, and a centre of Eastern Empire. This duality spread Greeks and their ideas far beyond the modern borders of Greece as a state. It would also be the cause of much conflict. In the 19th century, Greek's began to rise up against what they deemed as oppression by the Ottoman Empire. This was not unusual - similar movements began to take shape with Vlach/Romanian speakers, Bulgarians, Serbians and Albanians, to name a few. AS the Ottoman Empire began to be challenged by Western powers like Russia and France, many of these peoples began to see opportunities to split away from the Ottoman's and form their own states. A Greek rebellion in 1821 began this process in earnest, although Greece had for many years before become home to mercenaries, bandits and rebels who had controlled their mountainous territories with impunity. Greece was able to achieve its independence not through force of arms, but through international diplomacy. Greece was granted independence by agreement with the Great Powers at the time, without consulting the Greek's themselves. Even so, the conflict had been deadly. Tit for tat reprisals had seen both pogroms and ethnic cleansing against Muslims and Bulgarians in Greece, and Greeks in the Ottoman world. These ethnic cleansings would take the lives of thousands of innocent peoples, and leave a tainted legacy of ethnic tensions that would define Greece for a century and more afterwards. Greece became independent as a rump state, with many millions of Greeks and Greek speaking people living outside its borders. The state of Greece controlled the hinterlands of the modern state - Athens, Attica, the Peloponnese (Morea) and Thessaly area. However, Macedonia, Crete, much of the Mediterranean islands, the Ionian Islands, as well as Greek populated areas like Epirus, Thrace, Smyrna, and Cyprus remained apart from the new nations, still part of the Ottoman Empire or Britain (Cyprus, Corfu) or Italy (Dodecanese Islands). This would obviously not sit well with a nation born of nationalist fury and ethnic tension. Independent Greece was forced to become a monarchy - with King Otto (a Bavarian prince) put on the throne. This would usher in a brief period of stability, but ultimately prove controversial. A few ideas were born of this time - Greek nationalism, statist Monarchy, a greater Orthodox idealism, and so on. These ideas would form a turbulent base throughout Greece's history. This, coupled with Greece's birth as a compromise between Great Powers - with Russia coveting more geopolitical influence in the Black Sea/Mediterranean, and Britain looking to counter Russian influence. These competing forces would be present throughout Greece's history, and would exploit and encourage divisions within Greek society. Greece's development was slow - Greek's were of peasant stock and largely reliant on subsistence agriculture to survive. Athens, Greece's capital city at independence, had about 12 thousand people, and was a very small, run down city. Greece's tumultuous political history - a bit too rapid and complex to note here - kept this poverty institutionalized, as money and financing often went to armed forces used to control internal dissent and protect Greece's disputed borders. Greek's fought numerous civil wars among themselves, and numerous wars externally. Territory began to change early on. Britain granted Corfu and the Ionian Islands to Greece in the late 19th century. The First Balkans War, where the Balkan league - a fractious alliance between Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro - carved up the remainder of the Ottoman's European possessions in 1913. Greece was greatly enlarged at this time, gaining possession of Macedonia, Southern Epirus, Crete, and many Mediterranean Islands, barring the Italian Dodecanese Islands, and the British in Cyprus. This only inflamed Greek nationalists to secure more territory, and would lead to numerous civil wars in the coming decades. Quickly after the end of the Balkan Wars, WWI began. Greece, with a German monarch on the throne, but with close cultural connections to Russia and Britain, was torn and would try and remain neutral throughout the war. However, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire's claims in Greece and there entry to the Central Powers, as well as the Entente's occupation of neutral Greece's strategic islands, forced Greece to side with the Entente - almost against its will. Tellingly, many Greek's were furious with this, and this would cause the beginnings of a civil war in Greece. Greece gained almost no territory after WWI - although it was at times offered Cyprus, Smyrna, Thrace, Northern Epirus (part of modern Albania) and coastal Anatolia. Greece tried to press its claims into Anatolia to much fanfare, even after WWI ended and the Turkish state was created. However, a major reversal on the battlefield in favour of the Turks saw Greece's forces shattered. Ethnic cleansing began in earnest in Anatolia, with many Greeks and Orthodox Christians forced from their homes. Reprisals took place in Greek controlled lands as well. This was a continuation of the ethnic cleansing that had been so common in Greece during its own independence. The victorious powers stepped in to calm tensions, and proposed and enacted an exchange of persons to try and calm the situation. This created an underclass in Greece that would participate closely in the decades of political turbulence to follow. Greece after WWI went through the political turmoil of a defeated nation, culminating in a brutal civil war. A communist party had emerged in Greece supporting Stalinist communism in Greece, called the KKE. This party formed an armed wing, the ELAS, which took to the mountains in traditional Greek partisan fashion. On the other side, royalists and those supporting authoritarianism fought back. This civil conflict would lead to thousands of murdered peoples either through battle or reprisals and massacres. It would also lead to the promotion of a dictator - Ioannis Metaxas, who would rule Greece with the trappings of Fascism until his overthrow by German forces in 1941. Once again, the lead up to world war exposed a divided Greece - the communists and leftists supported the Entente, as well as the more practical members of government. Metaxas privately identified with Mussolini and Hitler as dictators and fascists, but the geopolitical realities in Greece told a different story. Greece's experience in WWI, where Britain would occupy strategic points in the country without consent, as well as the territorial ambitions of Mussolini's Italy, and fascist Bulgaria, ensured Greece would align - albeit from neutrality, with Britain. Mussolini, however, would force Greece's hand, invading the country in 1940. Greece's military not only held the line, but reversed course and advanced into Italian Albania. However, the entry of Bulgaria, and Germany's rapid advance through Yugoslavia to shore up its weaker Italian ally, ensured the occupation of Greece. This would again open up rifts in Greece that led to more ethnic conflict. Communists, leftists, Jews and Romanians were rounded up and murdered or sent to German death camps. Greece's vibrant, Spanish speaking Jewish community in Salonica was decimated. This ethnic conflict would continue until 1949, setting communist rebels against monarchist and fascists. The monarchists would win out, with American backing, in 1949, cementing Greece's place as a US ally in the cold war. Greece began to develop rapidly after this, with assistance from the US Marshall Plan, with billions in aid money sent to rebuild occupied Greece. Greece found rapprochement briefly with its mortal foe in Turkey. Greece began to develop its film industry and culture along Western lines, with strong support from the US - looking to curb Greece's communist and leftist elements. This period would culminate in a junta in 1967-1974, which cracked down heavily on socialism and political freedom in Greece, and would repress the Greek state for some time. Much like other right wing dictatorships globally, Greece's Junta focused on political alignment with the West, to support its control at home. Political opposition and press freedom were banned, and life in Greece was often very dangerous. This dictatorship faced war scares with Turkey over the Cypriot issue, resulting in its downfall after a Greek backed coup in Cyprus. Parliamentary elections were held in Greece after this point, culminating in its growth as a democracy. Greece's history from 1974 onward is one of weak coalitions, and growing multilateralism. Greece would develop slowly over these years culminating in its joining of the European Union in 1981. Greece would remain a relatively poor nation in Europe. Its rapid development up to the 2009 Greek crisis, which has lasted in some form for a decade, brought greater affluence to many Greeks. Its internal politics have continued to show the rift that Greece has experienced since its birth. Nationalism and radical leftists still represent the polar opposites in Greece, with the centrists holding ground but often failing to succeed due to economic issues, international disputes (ie. Cyprus, bailout politics with the EU, rapprochement with Russia, etc.) or incompetence or corruption. Greece is a relatively stable nation within the EU, aligned to the West, but has been squeezed by years of multilateral failure, and is often in dispute between international partners, whether it is Britain and Russia in the 19th century, or France and Germany in the EU, or America and Russia during the Cold War. Greece's strategic location makes it a favoured spot to meddle, and its internal division due to historic animosity, ethnic tensions, religion and territorial disputes make it prime to take advantage of divisions, both from external and internal forces. Even so, the future for Greece remains bright. Its membership in the EU and NATO secures it from most external threats. Its solid relations with most of its neighbours is slowly changing years of conflict and tension. Its debt crisis and financial situation, while not solid, is on the mend. Hope remains, but so do tensions. Beaton has written a solid and concise history of modern Greece as a nation state, focusing on the subject of Greek nationalism over any overt references to Greece's ancient past. Beaton's analysis is solid; Greece is a modern nation state that really only formed as it currently exists in the 1820's. It's history has been marred by identity crisis'; nationalism, expansionism, defeat in war, polarized politics, and great power diplomacy. This book chronicles these all briefly. A downside to this book would be the way it glosses over certain topics; genocide of Armenians and Greeks in Turkey is well documented and studied, but Greeks were also part of this cycle of violence, killing many thousands of Turks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Romanians and so on in their own quest to conquer territory. Other than that, a solid history of Greece, and perfect for those looking for an update on modern Greek history.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Klara Sjo

    I have some issues with this book, but I'm uncertain whether it is because it is not the book I want to read, or if it is the book. First of all, I'm not sure what a "biography of a nation" means, but this is a political history of Modern Greece. Almost the whole book is a story about politicians, their politics and the results thereof. So there is a lot of names, some known, and some not so known. My problem with this is that things are only seen top-down - and often just on the top and no down I have some issues with this book, but I'm uncertain whether it is because it is not the book I want to read, or if it is the book. First of all, I'm not sure what a "biography of a nation" means, but this is a political history of Modern Greece. Almost the whole book is a story about politicians, their politics and the results thereof. So there is a lot of names, some known, and some not so known. My problem with this is that things are only seen top-down - and often just on the top and no down. We rarely get glimpses of the Greek people, and how policies influence the, occasionally they get to vote, but we never get an insight into *why* they vote as they do. On some occasion, Beaton talks about the clash and breaches between the people, but again, we're never shown the people, we just hear about the politicians and the things they do, not how it influences people and how people are influenced by it. There are a couple of short asides from this. One a portrait of Athens in the twenties, then a bit about Greek film in the sixties, both very enjoyable, but still and very top down-view. Also in the film-but we get the only woman in the book, besides some short comments on queens and mistresses, namely Melina Mercouri. Should be believe this book, there is only old male politicians and Melina Mercouri in Greece. Furthermore I was wondering about his choice to only shortly, and again, a view from the politics, write about the people-exchange in 1921, both the disaster and the impact of the Greek society to suddenly get a million new inhabitants. Also I miss actually seeing the impact on the people, on the society of the civil war, as well as the Junta. All these had an impact on society and culture, and are - in my view - important for the understanding of Greek and the Greek people. As a survey of Greek politics though, the books is fairly easily read, and gives some interesting insights into earlier politics, which I was not aware of. The latter couple of chapters, on contemporary politics were also enjoyable, suddenly it seems like it is more room for people to appear. All in all, I'm a bit on the negative side. Good as political survey of the nation, not so good when talking about the people of the nation.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Λευτέρης Πετρής

    "Πριν από διακόσια χρόνια, τη δεκαετία του 1820, οι Έλληνες ήταν οι σκαπανείς οι οποίοι άνοιξαν πρώτοι τον δρόμο που θα οδηγούσε, από την παλιά Ευρώπη των μεγάλων αυτοκρατοριών, στην Ευρώπη των εθνών – κρατών την οποία γνωρίζουμε σήμερα. Κανένας δεν θα πρέπει να θεωρεί δεδομένο ότι στο μέλλον η Ελλάδα και οι Έλληνες θα συμπαρατάσσονται πάντα με τις αξίες, τις παραδόσεις και την πολιτική που τείνουμε να αποκαλούμε ‘‘δυτικές’’. Η γεωγραφία και σε κάποιο βαθμό επίσης η ιστορία μπορεί να ωθήσουν προ "Πριν από διακόσια χρόνια, τη δεκαετία του 1820, οι Έλληνες ήταν οι σκαπανείς οι οποίοι άνοιξαν πρώτοι τον δρόμο που θα οδηγούσε, από την παλιά Ευρώπη των μεγάλων αυτοκρατοριών, στην Ευρώπη των εθνών – κρατών την οποία γνωρίζουμε σήμερα. Κανένας δεν θα πρέπει να θεωρεί δεδομένο ότι στο μέλλον η Ελλάδα και οι Έλληνες θα συμπαρατάσσονται πάντα με τις αξίες, τις παραδόσεις και την πολιτική που τείνουμε να αποκαλούμε ‘‘δυτικές’’. Η γεωγραφία και σε κάποιο βαθμό επίσης η ιστορία μπορεί να ωθήσουν προς την άλλη κατεύθυνση. Όμως, καθώς οι Έλληνες προετοιμάζονται για να γιορτάσουν το 2021 τα διακοσιοστά γενέθλια του ελληνικού έθνους – κράτους, μπορούν να υπερηφανεύονται για ένα επίτευγμα που εξαρχής και από τη φύση του δεν πραγματοποιήθηκε με την απομόνωση, αλλά σε συνεργασία με άλλους Ευρωπαίους σε κάθε δύσκολο βήμα αυτού του δρόμου. Δεν θα μπορούσε να γίνει διαφορετικά. Και αυτό γιατί η ‘‘Ελλάδα’’, όπως και να την κατανοούμε ή την παρανοούμε, ήταν πάντα μέρος της σύγχρονης ταυτότητας της Ευρώπης."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Max Berendsen

    "My eyes have seen no land more glorious than this small threshing-floor." - Dionysios Solomos. Whenever we think of Greece, we tend to romanticize and caricaturize the country. Oftentimes we automatically associate the country with the beautiful scenery of Santorini and the acropolis, olives, feta cheese, the mass tourist debauchery of Mykonos and of course the rich Greek mythology. Sadly this stereotyping can also take on very ugly, racist forms in which the Greek people are often portrayed as "My eyes have seen no land more glorious than this small threshing-floor." - Dionysios Solomos. Whenever we think of Greece, we tend to romanticize and caricaturize the country. Oftentimes we automatically associate the country with the beautiful scenery of Santorini and the acropolis, olives, feta cheese, the mass tourist debauchery of Mykonos and of course the rich Greek mythology. Sadly this stereotyping can also take on very ugly, racist forms in which the Greek people are often portrayed as lazy or scheming. Roderick Beaton's rich and eye-opening historical biography of Greece's modern history obliterates these stereotypes one by one. Beaton introduces the reader to a nation which throughout history (as well as today) struggles to find its own identity which is made up of many conflicting worlds. This book is a fascinating story about the how the Greek nation came to terms with on the one hand its pagan civilizational past and its Byzantine Christian heritage on the other, how it is a part of the Western European world as well belonging to the Balkan, Post-Ottoman world. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this question of identity, is how the Greeks have been able to reinvent it with every new generation and assert their place in the world. A wonderful book about a people and country we think we know all about, but which we still have a lot to learn from. Your view of the Greek nation will never be the same after reading it!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Philip Husbands

    This elegantly written book is essential reading for those who wish to understand the forces that created, influenced and continue to influence the modern Greek state. I read the Kindle version of this book while visiting Greece and have never made so many highlights and notes on a history book! The author's purpose is to take the reader from the first ground swell of Greek nationalism to Greece in 2018. This book achieves this with a fantastically written narrative free from digressions. I have This elegantly written book is essential reading for those who wish to understand the forces that created, influenced and continue to influence the modern Greek state. I read the Kindle version of this book while visiting Greece and have never made so many highlights and notes on a history book! The author's purpose is to take the reader from the first ground swell of Greek nationalism to Greece in 2018. This book achieves this with a fantastically written narrative free from digressions. I have read reviews that this book is too focused on geopolitics. I think the author is right to do so, as he shows time and time again that no other force has had a greater influence on modern Greece during its almost 200 year existence. Read this book if you want to look beyond ancient Greek history and understand Greece and its people today.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Panos Tserolas

    5/5 in storytelling - this a true page-turner, even if you know all the twists beforehand. I just couldn't stop and I'll read it again in Greek after a couple of months. 5/5 in fact-checking- this is an ambitious, up-to-date and well referenced book 3/5 in perspective - this is not really a peoples' story (often missed in history books) but rather a leaders' story. So the biography perspective is lacking a bit. The absence of the peoples' influence on state politics is better observed when post-2 5/5 in storytelling - this a true page-turner, even if you know all the twists beforehand. I just couldn't stop and I'll read it again in Greek after a couple of months. 5/5 in fact-checking- this is an ambitious, up-to-date and well referenced book 3/5 in perspective - this is not really a peoples' story (often missed in history books) but rather a leaders' story. So the biography perspective is lacking a bit. The absence of the peoples' influence on state politics is better observed when post-2004 Greece is approached. 2,5/5 in the general interpretive concept- One of the most intriguing and interesting things about Greek culture is indeed that Greece has been, throughout centuries, both a western and an eastern country (or geography, or culture, what have you). This is an important tool to understand history, choices, cultural achievements and many more, but in this one the author, caring and loving as he is with Greece, is trying to hard to wear this suit to almost everything from 1821 to 2015. It does work more often than not but especially when approaching contemporary Greece the main tool seems dated and/or insufficient. For example, there are more things in common between Greek December '08 and BLM than December '08 and guerrilla ''klefts'' in the mountains of Peloponnese. Contemporary Greece is a country that the western/eastern contradiction still exists but not predominantly. 2/5 in politics - at points things seem biased and one-sided, and not only in contemporary affairs. The Euro choice and Eurozone's current policy is key to understanding recent history and crisis but the former is presented as an almost neutral, progressive feat and the latter is not merely discussed. The Greek Civil War has Nazi-friendly associates equally to blame with patriotic freedom fighters (overtried a balance here, seems to me). The Grand Idea of the broad nation has not been analyzed geopolitically but rather sentimentally, with its clear correlation (actually, blame) with many Greek tragedies unexplored. So overall a 3+. I really enjoyed reading this and I really wanted some more in every chapter, a certain ''look'' from someone without the certain burdens of the nationalistic sentimentality and eastern/western contradictions of Greek thought. Highly recommended for the writing style and factual history, medium recommendation for the approach (biography, east/west as main tool), low recommendation on politics and the social struggles of modern Greece, not really recommended for contemporary affairs. I'd suggest this book is an exemplary ''starter's pack'' in Greek History with great references and enough insights to make it intriguing and thought-provoking.

  9. 5 out of 5

    James Miller

    Not so much a page turner as a thorough and informative account of Greece from Ottoman occupation to today and with more wide-reaching thoughts about what Greece is: nation, state or nation-state? I learnt masses from this.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Athan Tolis

    Year 2021 will mark 200 years since my country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. I’ll be very surprised if between now and then (or, indeed, ever!) anybody manages to produce a finer tribute to modern Greece than this concise, loving and balanced account. In what must be the shortest 400 pages I’ve read in a long time, professor Roderick Beaton takes you from the first stirrings of independence all the way to the farce / tragedy of the current crisis, always with an eye to both w Year 2021 will mark 200 years since my country declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire. I’ll be very surprised if between now and then (or, indeed, ever!) anybody manages to produce a finer tribute to modern Greece than this concise, loving and balanced account. In what must be the shortest 400 pages I’ve read in a long time, professor Roderick Beaton takes you from the first stirrings of independence all the way to the farce / tragedy of the current crisis, always with an eye to both what’s remained constant and to what distinguishes the various phases of this historical progression from one another. So you’re never allowed to forget that Greece was carved out of a side of a larger empire by its protectors in London, Paris and Moscow, or of the fact that one head of the Byzantine eagle points east and the other west (my analogy, not the author’s), but you’re also steered through the rise and fall of the importance of the military (originally established by Otto's Bavarians), the rise and fall of “the Great Idea,” and the change of the grand divide among Greeks from royalist vs. liberal, to communist vs. right-wing. Additionally, the author addresses the many interpretations of what it’s meant to be Greek over the past 250 years and how that has been relevant to the modern history of the country. Inevitably, this is also the story of the leaders of the revolution, the state, its expansion, its divisions and its eventual maturing into a modern and vibrant democracy. My family moved to Greece in 1971. I was only 5 when my grandpa led the family council on how to vote on the 1973 referendum about the King and I remember it like it was yesterday. I have equally vivid memories of the uprising at the Polytechnic school, the annual demonstrations in front of the US Embassy, the rise to power of PASOK and the creation of a leviathan of a state which no government since has had an inclination to curb. So I thought I knew my country, but this book has made me understand that I was lucky enough to actually experience the most peaceful and balanced and democratic period of the whole two centuries. I do have my criticisms, of course: Melina Merkouri gets mentioned here more times than Constantine Karamanlis, for example. It is he, rather than Venizelos, who is the most important Greek politician of the 20th century, in my view. But that’s just my angle, and this is one of the best books I’ve read on any topic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gonnamakeit

    This was an interesting piece covering Greece from the early 1700s until 2018, but unfortunately the author describes the events in an excessively general way for me to get an adequate sense of how the people in the various time periods actually felt. Instead I was primarily given impressions of a few leading figures and some historians in a (mostly) post-hoc fashion which is largely unreliable. I am sure that this was a deliberate choice by the author as he attempts to cover a very large time p This was an interesting piece covering Greece from the early 1700s until 2018, but unfortunately the author describes the events in an excessively general way for me to get an adequate sense of how the people in the various time periods actually felt. Instead I was primarily given impressions of a few leading figures and some historians in a (mostly) post-hoc fashion which is largely unreliable. I am sure that this was a deliberate choice by the author as he attempts to cover a very large time period in just under 500 pages and as he notes, the amount of contemporary sources (especially in the 1700s) is very limited and usually limited to outsiders. The result is that the author makes the interpretations for you rather than allowing interpretations to be made by the reader. This is a very common method by historians which I personally dislike for the most part, but in these types of books it is usually very effective assuming the author is reliable. The generalities are also made significantly more troublesome by using political “left-right” terminology when describing political factions. For example, the author makes the ridiculous claim that the new government of 1964 was the first left-wing in its history: “Greece has never before had a government that could be called even very moderately left wing”. This is a very strange view considering that virtually all governments before this time were heavily government-directed. My problem with this approach in describing history is that the left-right divide is extremely sensitive to the writer’s perspective. In my view, every government in this book could be described as leftist as there is seemingly very limited room for individualism in Greece as elucidated by the various idealistic community-oriented views coming from Greek society throughout this time period. This issue is not helped by the general lack of depth in describing government policy aside from a few remarks given to “progressive” policies that are clearly supported by the author. Despite the problems, however, the book does give you a decent sense of how tumultuous Greece has been and the various ideals that factions in Greece has and continues to hold today in what the identity of the nation should be. It therefore serves as an adequate introduction to Greek history and culture and also helps you get a sense of the geopolitical issues that has existed and continues to exist between Greece and the countries around it. I would therefore recommend it for such purposes, but I certainly feel a need for more depth after reading it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ioannis Touras

    A great book for the modern reader of history, for international readers and for all Greeks in the world. It made me laugh, cry and ponder on the history of Greece as modern nation. 200 years of the nation's life next year, and so many things that are still going on that can link to the past. For a time of self-reflection and identity crisis, in the now post economic crisis world, the book is a good point to finally ask the questions that we the Greeks have not asked before. I didn't agree with A great book for the modern reader of history, for international readers and for all Greeks in the world. It made me laugh, cry and ponder on the history of Greece as modern nation. 200 years of the nation's life next year, and so many things that are still going on that can link to the past. For a time of self-reflection and identity crisis, in the now post economic crisis world, the book is a good point to finally ask the questions that we the Greeks have not asked before. I didn't agree with parts of it, but the thinking on my opposing views and why events happened in this 200 year strong history, proved a significant impact of the book to me, and one to explore further in the future. Thank you Roderick Beaton for this book and the journey.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Meyer

    When one thinks of "Greek History" most likely images of God's, men in white robes, philosophy, democracy, and more come to mind as Ancient Greek history. As Beaton argues in his brilliant book, this image of Greek history skews the modern country. Beaton charts the course of the modern-day nation of Greece from its blood-soaked revolution from the 1820s, its identity struggles in the 19th & early 20th centuries, the turmoil of two World Wars & a Civil War, and the emergence into the modern worl When one thinks of "Greek History" most likely images of God's, men in white robes, philosophy, democracy, and more come to mind as Ancient Greek history. As Beaton argues in his brilliant book, this image of Greek history skews the modern country. Beaton charts the course of the modern-day nation of Greece from its blood-soaked revolution from the 1820s, its identity struggles in the 19th & early 20th centuries, the turmoil of two World Wars & a Civil War, and the emergence into the modern world facing a debt crisis today. Greece was a nation which faced governmental whiplash through its 2 measly centuries as a modern nation-state. Monarchy, unstable Republics, a semi-facist dictatorship, a near-communist state, a military dictatorship, and everything in between. Overall, Beaton does an excellent job in not being lost in the gritty details of every regime change, every battle, and every personality. Thus the narrative is never lost in the drivel. What Beaton's main argument about modern Greece is throughout its short life its faced endemic identity crisies. Splits emerged from those who saw Greece as the bastion of western democracy much aligned with the Republican Regimes of France or Great Britain. While others saw Greece as a champion of autocratic Orthodoxy in the east more akin to Russia. This clash of personalities would leave Greece unstable, sometimes simmering below the surface, sometimes spilling out into open warfare. Be aware if you choose to delve into this book that about 75% of it is primarily a political narrative through modern Greece. This is understandable as the politics alone are complex enough for an entire book. However, there are sections devoted to aspects of Greek life & culture that are no less fascinating and open the world of modern Greece. Bottom line, this book is the definitive work on modern Greece. Beaton's writing style let's you go through the 200 complicated years without getting bogged down in the narrative. The character sketches are great, the culture aspects are superb. I really do not have many bad things to say about this book. For anyone looking for an introduction into modern Greece & how the country got to where its at today, there is nowhere better to start than this book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Morrissey

    Roderick Beaton brings to life the modern history of Greece in a thorough, workmanlike manner in this so-called biography of the modern nation-state. From its independence movement in 1821 through continuing, and often bloody, conflicts with the Ottoman Empire/Turkey and "Western" Europe/the EU, Greece became a forerunner of the national independence movements that were unleashed after the fall of the empires in 1918. Beaton performs well in charting the kaleidoscopic political permutations of th Roderick Beaton brings to life the modern history of Greece in a thorough, workmanlike manner in this so-called biography of the modern nation-state. From its independence movement in 1821 through continuing, and often bloody, conflicts with the Ottoman Empire/Turkey and "Western" Europe/the EU, Greece became a forerunner of the national independence movements that were unleashed after the fall of the empires in 1918. Beaton performs well in charting the kaleidoscopic political permutations of the nation-state, particularly in the 20th Century. Particularly fascinating flashpoints is Venizelos and his battle against the monarchy; the invasion of Greece by Nazi Germany; the dictatoriship of Metaxas; and the roiling years of Greece's battle against the Troika in 2010-2015. At its heart, Greece, according to Beaton, is a pioneer of European political history: not so much a poisoned canary-in-the-coalmine as a frontiersmen breaking new ground in the development of a nation-state and resolving historical tensions between East (Orthodox) and West (Catholic/Western). For those interested in a Greece without Alexander, Socrates, and Pericles, Beaton delivers a fresh new perspective on why modern Greek history is just as important, and just as messy, as its preceding centuries and millenia.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Riet

    Een interessant boek. Geeft een goed idee over hoe het in Griekenland gekomen is tot wat het nu is. Het gaat over de Griekse staat, die 200 jaar geleden tot stand kwam. Voor die tijd behoorde Griekenland tot het Ottomaanse Rijk en nog daarvoor was het een verzameling van kleine stadstaten. Dat laatste is misschien wat kort door de bocht, maar in ieder geval bestaat het koninkrijk of de republiek Griekenland pas 200 jaar. De vraag was (en is nog) steeds: is Griekenland voor alle Grieken (of Helle Een interessant boek. Geeft een goed idee over hoe het in Griekenland gekomen is tot wat het nu is. Het gaat over de Griekse staat, die 200 jaar geleden tot stand kwam. Voor die tijd behoorde Griekenland tot het Ottomaanse Rijk en nog daarvoor was het een verzameling van kleine stadstaten. Dat laatste is misschien wat kort door de bocht, maar in ieder geval bestaat het koninkrijk of de republiek Griekenland pas 200 jaar. De vraag was (en is nog) steeds: is Griekenland voor alle Grieken (of Hellenen) of is het een geografisch geheel? Uiteindelijk is het dat laatste geworden. Na de enorme volksverhuizingen van Grieken en Turken na de eerste wereldoorlog wonen er nog steeds veel Grieken buiten het land zelf. Grotendeels ook door arbeidsemigratie. Het ironische is dat er nu weer veel moslims in het land wonen. Een bevolkingsgroep, die destijds verwijderd moest worden. Het boek is goed geschreven, soms wat veel namen, maar de meeste kennen we al, omdat we de laatste ruim 50 jaar natuurlijk gewoon uit de kranten kennen.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I read a review in the WSJ on this book and was immediately intrigued, given I'm a first generation Greek American. I've heard countless stories from my parents and relatives about Greece. The book is certainly not light reading material, but none the less I wanted to know how much I'd heard over the years matched what a scholar with vast research behind him would have to say about my families homeland. I have to say for the most part what I'd heard was all familiar. The book certainly added to I read a review in the WSJ on this book and was immediately intrigued, given I'm a first generation Greek American. I've heard countless stories from my parents and relatives about Greece. The book is certainly not light reading material, but none the less I wanted to know how much I'd heard over the years matched what a scholar with vast research behind him would have to say about my families homeland. I have to say for the most part what I'd heard was all familiar. The book certainly added to the context of what I knew and gave a much more deeper understanding of Greece. A paragraph on the first page of the Introduction spoke to me, - This book begins and ends with Greek people of today. It explores the ways in which today's Greeks have become who they are, the dilemmas they and generations before them have faced, and the choices that have shaped them subsequently. Above all, this is about the evolving process of the collective "identity".

  17. 5 out of 5

    Fiona Zakka

    Finishing reading Greece : Biography of a Nation I am richer in knowledge for having read it. Being Greek and living in Greece during the last years has made us feel the need to learn our history again. Beaton’s concise book has given me a new look to our nations history. What I mean is that although we’ve been taught Greek history in school this book puts things in perspective with what was happening globally at the same time , along with hindsight very informing, something not really done in o Finishing reading Greece : Biography of a Nation I am richer in knowledge for having read it. Being Greek and living in Greece during the last years has made us feel the need to learn our history again. Beaton’s concise book has given me a new look to our nations history. What I mean is that although we’ve been taught Greek history in school this book puts things in perspective with what was happening globally at the same time , along with hindsight very informing, something not really done in our school books. And as long as the last 30 years are concerned I can see the writer has been telling things as they were and are which gives him credit for being a neutral observer and historian. The reading is riveting and absorbing. I will keep this book for my fifteen year old daughter to read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Zulu Fox

    Absolutely wonderful. For a reader like me who has no prior knowledge of Greece and no background in Hellenic studies, Beaton's book was exactly what I was looking for. Academic but still very accessible; packed with information but very readable and seldom dry; even-handed but doesn't shy away from passing judgement - I loved it. I especially enjoyed how Beaton took the time to explain some of the historiography that surrounds various episodes he narrates, and how he at times entertains counter Absolutely wonderful. For a reader like me who has no prior knowledge of Greece and no background in Hellenic studies, Beaton's book was exactly what I was looking for. Academic but still very accessible; packed with information but very readable and seldom dry; even-handed but doesn't shy away from passing judgement - I loved it. I especially enjoyed how Beaton took the time to explain some of the historiography that surrounds various episodes he narrates, and how he at times entertains counterfactuals and considers the significance of the various events he narrates. I would highly recommend this book both for someone with no prior background who just wants to learn more about modern Greece (i.e. the last 200 years) as well as for more knowledgeable readers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Dionysi Krinas

    This book essentially looks at the last 200 years of Greek history and points out that the Greeks were the pioneers who first mapped out the route that would lead from the old Europe of great empires to the Europe of nation states that we know today. The book looks at the key political leaders throughout the history of the last 200 years who have influenced the country and the impact of their policies. Clear, concise and easy to read this not only taught me a few new things about modern Greece bu This book essentially looks at the last 200 years of Greek history and points out that the Greeks were the pioneers who first mapped out the route that would lead from the old Europe of great empires to the Europe of nation states that we know today. The book looks at the key political leaders throughout the history of the last 200 years who have influenced the country and the impact of their policies. Clear, concise and easy to read this not only taught me a few new things about modern Greece but also clarified and reaffirmed some of my previous understanding.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nicholas Theodoropoulos

    An extremely detailed and well-researched biography that remains engaging throughout. The historical complexities and various characters presented are done so in a manner that never leaves you feeling confused or overly academic. Its pure brilliance is that it will appeal to someone who has no direct interest in the topic but rather a general interest in socio-political structures and European history.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Aris Catsambas

    Very well written history of modern Greece. The only reason it doesn't get five stars is that it focused slightly too much on global geo-politics, and Greece's diplomatic relations, and slightly too little on the evolution of the Greek economy, its institutions etc. Nevertheless, a must-read for Greeks, given how at school we are taught a one-sided view of our history. Very well written history of modern Greece. The only reason it doesn't get five stars is that it focused slightly too much on global geo-politics, and Greece's diplomatic relations, and slightly too little on the evolution of the Greek economy, its institutions etc. Nevertheless, a must-read for Greeks, given how at school we are taught a one-sided view of our history.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gary Rigby

    An excellent book and highly recommended for anyone interested in Greece, Greek culture and identitiy or in European culture and history more generally. Written with a wonderful lightness of touch, Roderick Beaton's prose makes this book as enjoyable as it is informative. An excellent book and highly recommended for anyone interested in Greece, Greek culture and identitiy or in European culture and history more generally. Written with a wonderful lightness of touch, Roderick Beaton's prose makes this book as enjoyable as it is informative.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Themistoklis Sardis

    Excellent book, presenting the 200 year history of modern Greece in an accessible, pleasant and un-biased way. My only complaint is that it feels that it could have been longer. Many chapters left me wanting more details and more information. Highly recommended.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ferenc Laczo

    An accessible and sober depiction of modern Greek history. Fairly conventional in its approach - mostly high politics, IR, high culture - with little on social history. Detailed and not too quick paced. The parts on the 19th century I found more illuminating.

  25. 4 out of 5

    JudithCollins

    Greeks are whiney confirmed.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amicus (David Barnett)

    Very interesting review off two hundred years of modern independent Greece's story. Very interesting review off two hundred years of modern independent Greece's story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Evan Binos

    Super!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leyla Sertel

  29. 4 out of 5

    Christina

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dylan

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