The emergence of racial classification in conjunction with the Enlightenment Science of Man in the 18th century is a well-known chapter in the history of European ideas. Far less understood are the ways in which this scientific project carried into the 19th and 20th centuries, the investigation of which is Richard McMahon’s purpose in The Races of Europe.
In Thinking the Twentieth Century, Timothy Snyder proposes to his friend Tony Judt that the historian’s task is ‘like making paths’ through a forest by leaving signs. Judt qualifies this. ‘The first thing’, he argues, ‘is to teach people about trees. Then you teach them that lots of trees together constitute a forest.
This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.
‘Horrible, horrible, it’s horrible.’
‘Oh my! This is gorgeous.’
‘You are gonna catch a cold.’
‘Well if I stood next to her I would be the happiest man on earth.’
During the horrific famine of 1932–3, did Ukrainian peasants die because they were Ukrainians or because they were peasants?
Roaring flames, thousands of uniformed men, political speeches demanding a union of Germany and Austria, and an enthusiastic and cheering crowd of Germans and Austrians assembled together listening to the words ‘For us Germans in Austria, a powerful impulse prevails to return once again to the Reich’ is how Erin Hochman evocatively introduces readers to her book (p. 1).