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Doumanis’s A History of Greece

March 22, 2010

I just finished reading Nicholas Doumanis’ A History of Greece (Palgrave Essential Histories, 2010). The book attempts to provide a history of Greece from the arrival of the first hominids up to the turn of the current millennium. To say this is a difficult task is to understate the situation, but the book faces further problems in that it weighs in at under 220 pages (not counting appendixes).

As such, much of historical importance is either glossed over or attenuated to a distressing degree. Socrates gets a single sentence. Alexander the Great a scant four pages. The Great Schism of 1054 is only mentioned in passing during the discussion of the sack of Constantinople by the the Fourth Crusade in 1204. These are not minor events on the field of history, and the brevity is alarming.

The last five hundred years receive the most attention, comprising some 40% of the book . While the time from the Fourth Crusade through the Enlightenment (i.e. 1200-1700) comprises a single chapter, there are separate chapters on 1700-1911 and the twentieth century. These are obviously the most important data for the author, as the narrative of history becomes more tightly wound with the current political situation.

On the whole, the book will be of little use for most of us studying the ancient world. However, it does make for an excellent short primer on the context of the modern nation of Greece.

(N.b. I did not receive a review copy of this book, but rather found it on the New Book shelf of my local library.)

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