While the celebration of the bicentennial of the start of the Greek Revolution continues with many events showcasing various aspects of the War for Greek Independence, a new book, The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe by Mark Mazower, focuses on the ways the Revolution influenced European history in particular. This impressive book was featured in an article in the Financial Times (FT) on October 28 and the Hellenic-American Cultural Foundation (HACF) presented Mazower and his book in a virtual event on November 4.
“Western European and American admiration for ancient Hellene culture played an indispensable part in ensuring that an independent Greek state emerged from the ferocious struggle against Ottoman overlordship in the 1820s,” FT reported, adding that “the Greek cause was in dire trouble until the British, French and Russians destroyed the Ottoman fleet at the battle of Navarino in 1827 ‘the last great naval battle of the age of sail,’ as Mark Mazower puts it in The Greek Revolution.”
“Each great power had its own motives but, for philhellenes everywhere, to support the Greeks was to support liberty, justice and civilization itself,” FT reported, noting that “Greek independence set a precedent that resonates across two centuries of European history up to the present day,” according to Mazower.
“From Italy and Germany in the 1860s and 1870s to Montenegro and Kosovo in the past 15 years, the formation of new nation states, big or small, has been a consistent theme of Europe’s political development,” FT reported.
Mazower, the Ira D. Wallach Professor of History at Columbia University, discussed his book in the HACF event, via Zoom, covering the challenges and complexities of writing about the subject, the current state of research, and why the events of 1821 need to be understood in both their Ottoman and international contexts. For those unable to participate live, video is available on HACF’s website about a week after the event: https://www.hacfoundation.org/videos.
The story of Greek independence may be familiar to those of us who studied the history in Greek school, but many are not aware of the Revolution in the context of European history specifically.
Mazower is the author of over a dozen works on modern Greek history, twentieth century Europe, and international organization. He has a BA and doctorate in Classics and Philosophy from the University of Oxford, as well as an MA in International Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. He lives in New York City and contributes regularly for the Financial Times and other newspapers and journals. He is the founding director of the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Public Humanities Initiative.
Combining compelling narrative and insights into the history of the Greek Revolution, Mazower’s book is a must read for anyone interested in history, especially in this historic year of the bicentennial of 1821. As Mazower notes in the book, the Greek cause revealed “for the first time in modem history the transformative international power of public opinion expressed in print and fueled through associational life.”
The author does not shy away from the atrocities committed by both sides and points out that the situation of Greek refugees at the time “transformed international affairs by bringing a new subject to the attention of the world: the suffering non-combatant.”
The plight of the refugees sparked the Philhellenic movement in the U.S. where Greek Committees raised funds for the cause but much more would be needed as in-fighting led to a civil war, prefiguring later internal conflicts which would arise in Greece in the 20th century.
“The democratic spirit was genuine among the Greeks but it made military organization impossible and led to an acute sense of rivalry that was one of the main factors in prolonging the fighting,” Mazower writes, FT reported.
Achieving independence was “the greatest miracle of all” for the Greeks, Mazower noted. It was the first successful revolution in which a people claimed liberty for themselves and overthrew an entire empire to attain it, transforming diplomatic norms and the direction of European politics forever, and inaugurating a new world of nation-states, which continues to the present day.
The Greek Revolution: 1821 and the Making of Modern Europe by Mark Mazower is set to be released on November 16.