A comprehensive history of Greece from the reign of Constantine the Great to the end of the 20th century, written by former diplomat Woodhouse (The Struggle for Greece, 1941 – 1949, not reviewed).
Without falling prey to any pro- or anti-Greek political rhetoric, Woodhouse conducts an indiscriminate investigation of the factors that led first to the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 and then to the independence of Greece in the 1820s and subsequent conflicts. He demonstrates convincingly that the devastation of crusades on Constantinople contributed to long-term hostility between Eastern and Western Christendom, while the indifference of fellow Christian rulers to the destruction of
Byzantium by the Turks made the Greeks' downfall inevitable. Woodhouse debunks many a myth about the Greeks' living conditions under the Ottoman Empire. While they (like all non-Muslims) had to pay special taxes, they enjoyed considerable freedom of religion, trade, and education. In fact, some Greek communities suffered more from their own Greek administrators than from Turkish oppressors. With Greek identity hard to define after years of dispersion, Greek independence resulted largely from the struggle for domination of the Balkans among external powers—mainly Russia, Britain, Germany, and the Ottoman Empire. Left to its own devices, independent Greece often slipped into the chaos of civil wars, political instability, and corruption. Delving into the concept of enosis (union) and the present deadlock in Cyprus, Woodhouse traces the conflict to British blundering, Greek expansionist moods, the treachery of the Greek Cypriot government and a lack of good will on the part of mainland Greece and Turkey.
A solid survey of almost two millennia of Greek history, full of both aspirations for national unity and constant civil discord. The material is dense, saturated with dates and names, and will probably be a hard nut to crack for the average reader. It is also unfortunate that the author completely neglected the last decade of the 20th century, as he finishes his account with Papanderou's defeat in the 1989 elections.