Martin Shaw

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Works in the field of genocide studies tend to fall into one of a few camps.  Some are emotional and personal.  Others are historical and narrative.  Still others are intentionally activist and aimed at changing policy or decisions.

Martin Shaw‘s works fit into a fourth category.  A historical sociologist, Shaw brings the very best of the social sciences to bear on the subject.  His work is carefully reasoned, theoretically informed and intensely analytical.  He’s driven to understand how the incidents of mass violence fit together into particular categories and into the broader context of a changing world.

His thinking about genocide studies has influenced the field immensely.  A decade ago, he began considering the question of the relationship between war and genocide.  Four years later, he provided a theoretically rich discussion of the nature of genocide as a term and as an event.

Now he moves on to consider the way in which the changes in the organization of the modern world have shaped the prevalence and nature of mass killing.  In Genocide and International Relations: Changing Patterns in the Transitions of the Late Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 2013), Shaw surveys centuries of world history to understand the patterns and relationships that drive genocide and mass violence.  Packed with observations and insight, the book demands and rewards attentive reading and reflection.  It’s a short book, but one that lingers long after you’ve finished reading.


Samuel TottenGenocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan

July 18, 2014

Most of the authors I’ve interviewed for this show have addressed episodes in the past, campaigns of mass violence that occurred long ago, often well-before the author was born. Today’s show is different. In his book Genocide by Attrition: The Nuba Mountains of Sudan (Transaction Publishers, 2012), Samuel Totten addresses the violence against the people of the Nuba Mountains [...]

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Michael BryantEyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966

July 15, 2014

My marginal comment, recorded at the end of the chapter on the Belzec trial in Michael Bryant‘s fine new book Eyewitness to Genocide: The Operation Reinhard Death Camp Trials, 1955-1966 (University of Tennessee Press, 2014), is simple:  ”!!!!”  Text speak, to be sure, but it conveys the surprise I felt. One can ask many questions about [...]

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Wendy LowerHitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields

July 7, 2014

It seems quite reasonable to wonder if there’s anything more to learn about the Holocaust.  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have been researching and writing about the subject for decades.  A simple search for “Holocaust” on Amazon turns up a stunning 27,642 results.  How can there still be uncovered terrain? Wendy Lower shows it [...]

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Benjamin LiebermanRemaking Identities: God, Nation and Race in World History

June 27, 2014

What do you say to someone who suggests that genocide is not just destructive, but constructive? This is the basic theme of Benjamin Lieberman‘s excellent new book Remaking Identities:  God, Nation and Race in World History (Rowman and Littlefield, 2013). The book surveys two thousand years of history to explain how people have used violence to reconstruct identities. [...]

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Mark LeveneThe Crisis of Genocide: 2 Vols. Devastation: The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation: The European Rimlands, 1938-1953

June 3, 2014

I imagine one of the greatest compliments an author of an historical monograph can receive is to hear that his or her book changed the way a subject is taught. I will do just that after reading Mark Levene‘s new two volume work The Crisis of Genocide (2 Vols. Devastation:  The European Rimlands, 1912-1938; Annihilation and [...]

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Susan ThomsonWhispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Postgenocide Rwanda

May 24, 2014

This spring, I taught a class loosely called “The Holocaust through Primary Sources” to a small group of selected students. I started one class by asking them the deceptively simple question “When did the Holocaust end?”  The first consensus answer was “1945.”  After some discussion, the students changed their answer.  The new consensus was simple. [...]

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Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. SchwanitzNazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East

May 11, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] This book tells a remarkable and–to me at least–little known but very important story. In Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Yale UP, 2014), Barry Rubin and Wolfgang G. Schwanitz trace the many connections between Germany–Imperial and Nazi–and the Arab world. Their particular focus is on a fellow named Amin al-Husseini, the [...]

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Richard WeikartHitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress

May 3, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in History] For many years now, historians have wondered whether Hitler had any sort of consistent ideology. His writings are rambling and confusing. His speeches are full of plain lies. His “table talk” reflects a wandering, impulsive mind distinguished by a remarkable disconnection from reality. There are obvious themes: strident German nationalism, radical [...]

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Donna-Lee FriezeTotally Unofficial: The Autobiography of Raphael Lemkin

May 1, 2014

It’s hard to overestimate the role of Raphael Lemkin in calling the world’s attention to the crime of genocide.  But for decades his name languished, as scholars and the broader public devoted their time and attention to other people and other things. In the past few years, this has changed.  We now have a greater [...]

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