Culture & History Digital Journal, Vol 3, No 2 (2014)

Dark, bloody and savage: Twentieth-century European violence and its narratives

Javier Rodrigo
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Departament d’Història Moderna i Contemporània, Spain


This paper looks at major European twentieth-century narratives and interpretations that have seen it as an age of violence, terror and genocide. Using examples from historiographical debate and the analysis of specific historical processes (including the debates on genocide, concentrationary systems, civil wars and the Holocaust), it addresses both the characteristics of those narratives and some of their limitations and conceptual edges. Finally, the conceptual proposal put forward seeks to analyze, through historical contingency, continuities and discontinuities in the history of European collective violence.


Europe; genocide; violence; terror; historiography; political science

Full Text:



Ahonen, Pertti et al. (2008) People on the Move. Forced Population Movements in Europe in the Second World War and its Aftermath. Berg, Oxford and New York.

Akçam, Taner (2004) From Empire to Republic. Turkish Nationalism-The Armenian Genocide. Zed Books, London and New York.

Alapuro, Risto (1988) State and revolution in Finland. University of California Press, Los Angeles.

Alapuro, Risto (2002) "Violence in the Finnish Civil War of 1918 and its Legacy in a Local Perspective". In Workshop Political Violence and Civil Wars, Florence, European University Institute.

Aleksandrowicz-Pedich, Lucyna and Pakier, Malgorzata (eds.) (2012) Reconstructing Jewish Identity in Pre- and Post-Holocaust Literature and Culture. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main.

Aly, Götz (1999) Final Solution: Nazi population policy and the murder of the European Jews. Hodder Arnold, London.

Aly, Götz and Heim, Susanne (2002) Architects of annihilation: Auschwitz and the logic of destruction. Princeton University Press, Princeton. PMCid:PMC1422496

Aly, Götz (2006) La utopía nazi. Cómo Hitler compró a los alemanes. Crítica, Barcelona [2005].

Applebaum, Anne (2004) GULAG. Historia de los campos de concentración soviéticos. Debate, Barcelona.

Arendt, Hannah (1974) Los orígenes del totalitarismo. Taurus, Madrid.

Atanasoski, Neda (2013) Humanitarian Violence. The US Deployment of Diversity. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis and London.

Bacon, Edwin (1994) The gulag at war. Stalin's forced labour system in the light of the archive. Macmillan, London.

Baldissara, Luca and Pezzino, Paolo (editors) (2004) Crimini e memorie di guerra. Violenze contro le popolazioni e politiche del ricordo. L'Ancora del Mediterraneo, Napoli.

Baldissara, Luca and Pezzino, Paolo (2009) Il massacro. Guerra ai civili a Monte Sole. Il Mulino, Bologna.

Bartov, Omer, Grossmann, Atina and Nolan, Mary NOLAN (editors) (2002) Crimes of war. Guilt and Denial in the Twentieth Century. The New Press, New York.

Bartov, Omer (2008) "Eastern Europe as the Site of Genocide". The Journal of Modern History, 80: 557-593.

Battini, Michele and Pezzino, Paolo (1997) Guerra ai civili. Occupazione tedesca e politica del massacro. Toscana 1944. Marsilio, Venezia.

Becker, Annette and Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane (2000) 14-18. Retrouver la Guerre. Gallimard, Paris.

Becker, Annette, Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, Ingrao, Charles and Rousso, Henry (editors) (2002) La violence de guerre 1914-1945. Éditions Complexe, Paris.

Becker, Annette (2007) "Le deportazioni dai territori occupati", in Gabriella Gribaudi (editor), Le guerre del Novecento. Napoli, L'Ancora del Mediterraneo, Napoli: 57-66.

Biondich, Mark (2011) The Balkans: Revolution, War, and Political Violence since 1878. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Black, Jeremy (2012) War and the Cultural Turn. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Bloxham, Donald (2008) Genocide, the World Wars and the Unweaving of Europe. Mitchell and Co., Vallentine.

Bloxham, Donald and Moses, Dirk (editors) (2010) The Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies. Oxford University Press, Oxford. PMCid:PMC3041351

Bloxham, Donald and Gerwarth, Robert (editors) (2011) Political Violence in Twentieth-Century Europe. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Brovkin, Vladimir (1994) Behind the front lines of the Civil War. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Bruneteau, Bernard (2006 [2004]) El siglo de los genocidios. Violencias, masacres y procesos genocidas desde Armenia a Ruanda. Alianza, Madrid.

Capeloa Gil, Isabel and Martins, Adriana (2012) Plots of War. Modern Narratives of Conflict. De Gruyter, Berlin-Boston.

Cattaruzza, Marina (2010) "Last stop expulsion. The minority question and forced migration in East-Central Europe: 1918-49". Nations and Nationalism, 16/1: 108-126.

Chenoweth, Erica and Lawrence, Adria (editors) (2010) Rethinking Violence. States and Non-State Actors in Conflict. The MIT Press, Cambridge and London.

Chestermans, Simon (editor) (2001) Civilians in wars. Lyne Rienner, Boulder.

Clifton Spargo, R. and Ehrenreich, Robert M. (eds.) (2010) After Representation? The Holocaust, Literature, and Culture. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London.

Collier, Paul and Sambanis, Nicholas (editors) (2005) Understanding Civil War. Evidence and Analysis. Volume 2: Europe, Asia, and Other Regions. The World Bank, Washington DC.

Dadrian, Vahakn (1995) History of the Armenian Genocide. Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to Anatolia to the Caucasus. Berghahn Books, Providence and Oxford.

Das, Veena, Kleinman, Arthur, Ramphele, Mamphela and Reynolds, Pamela (editors) (2000) Violence and Subjectivity. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London.

Das, Veena (2007) Life and Words. Violence and the descent into the ordinary. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London.

Davies, R.W. and Wheatcroft, Stephen G. (2004) The Years of Hunger. Soviet Agriculture, 1931-1933. Macmillan, London.

Deák, István, Gross, Jan T. and Judt, Tony (editors) (2000) The Politics of Retribution in Europe. World War II and its Aftermath. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Del Boca, Angelo (1988) Gli italiani in Libia. Dal fascismo a Gheddafi. Laterza, Roma-Bari.

Della Porta, Donatella (1995) Social movements, political violence and the State. A comparative analysis of Italy and Germany. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Dondi, Mirco (2004 [1999]) La lunga liberazione. Giustizia e violenza nel dopoguerra italiano. Editori Riuniti, Rome.

Dower, John W. (2010) Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor / Hiroshima / 9-11 / Iraq. WW. Norton-The New Press, New York and London.

Dwyer, Philip G. and Ryan, Lyndall (editors) (2012). Theatres of violence. Massacre, Mass Killing and Atrocity throughout History. Berghahn Books, New York and Oxford.

El Kenz, David (editor) (2005) Le massacre, object d'histoire. Gallimard, París. PMid:16454231

Faraldo, José M. (2011) La Europa clandestina. Resistencia a las ocupaciones nazi y soviética, 1938-1948. Alianza, Madrid. PMid:21948739

Feierabend, Rosalind L. (1966) "Systemic conditions of political aggression: an application of frustration-aggression theory". Journal of conflict resolution, X/3.

Figes, Orlando (2000 [1996]) La Revolución rusa (1891-1924). La tragedia de un pueblo. Edhasa, Barcelona.

Friedländer, Saul (2010) El Tercer Reich y los judíos, 2 Vols. (1933-1939) Los a-os de la persecución y (1939-1945) Los a-os del exterminio. Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona.

Fulvetti, Gianluca and Pelini, Francesca (editors) (2006) La politica del massacro. Per un atlante delle stragi naziste in Toscana. L'Ancora del Mediterraneo, Napoli.

Gellatelly, Robert and Kiernan, Ben (editors) (2003) The spectre of Genocide: Mass murder in historical perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gerlach, Christian (2010) Extremely violent societies. Mass violence in the Twentieth-Century World. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Gerolymatos, André (2004) Red Acropolis, Black Terror: The Greek 1Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry, 1943- 1949. Basic Books, New York. PMid:15497429

Goldhagen, Daniel J. (2010) Peor que la guerra. Genocidio, eliminacionismo y la continua agresión contra la humanidad. Taurus, Madrid. PMid:20333603

González Calleja, Eduardo (2013) Las guerras civiles. Perspectiva de análisis desde las ciencias sociales. Catarata, Madrid.

Gribaudi, Gabriella (editor) (2007) Le guerre del Novecento. L'Ancora del Mediterraneo, Napoli.

Gurr, Ted Robert (1972) "The calculus of Civil conflict". Journal of Social Issues, 28/1: 27-47.

Holmqvist, Caroline (2014) Policing Wars. On Military Intervention in the Twenty-First Century. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Horne, John and Kramer, Alan (2001) German atrocities, 1914. A History of Denial. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Horowitz, Irving L. (1989) Taking Lives: Genocide and State Power. Transaction, New Brunswick and London.

Jacobs, Janet (2010) Memorializing the Holocaust. Gender, Genocide and Collective Memory. IB Tauris, New York.

Jensen, Olaf and Szejnmann, Claus-Christian (editors) (2008) Ordinary People as Mass Murderers: Perpetrators in Comparative Perspectives. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Judt, Tony (2005) Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. Penguin Press, New York.

Kaldor, Mary (1999) New and Old Wars. Organized Violence in a Global Era. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Kallis, Aristotle (2005) Genocide and Fascism: The Eliminationist Drive in Fascist Europe. Routledge, London.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2000) "Red Terror: Leftist Violence During the Occupation". In After the War was Over: Reconstructing Family, State, and Nation in Greece, 1944-1960, edited by Mark Mazower. Princeton University Press, Princeton: 142-183.

Kalyvas, Stathis N. (2006) The Logic of Violence in Civil War. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Katz, Steven T. (1994) The Holocaust in Historical Context. Vol. I. The Holocaust and Mass Death before the Modern Age. Oxford University Press, New York and Oxford.

Kershaw, Ian (2005) "War and Political Violence in Twentieth Century Europe". Contemporary European History, 14-1: 107-123.

Kévorkian, Raymond H. (2006) Le Génocide des Arméniens. Odile Jacob, Paris.

Klinhammer, Lutz (2006 [1997]) Stragi naziste in Italia, 1943-1944. Donzelli, Rome.

Korb, Alexander (2010) "Understanding Ustaša violence". Journal of Genocide Research, 12/1-2: 1-18. PMid:20941879

Kramer, Alan (2007) Dynamic of destruction. Culture and Mass Killing in the First World War. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Labanca, Nicola (2001) "L'internamento coloniale italiano". En I campi di concentramento in Italia. Dall'internamento alla deportazione (1940-1945), edited by Costantino Di Sante, Franco Angeli, Milano: 40-67.

Lottman, Herbert (1986) The Purge: The Purification of the French Collaborators After World War II. W. Morrow, New York.

Lowe, Keith (2012) Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II. Macmillan, London.

Lüdtke, Alf and Weisbrod, Bernd (eds.) (2006) No Man's Land of Violence. Extreme Wars in the 20th Century. Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen.

MacDonough, Giles (2007) After the Reich. From the Liberation of Vienna to the Berlin Airlift. John Murray, London.

MacMillan, Margaret (2013) The War that Ended Peace. The Road to 1914. Random House, New York and London.

Maffesoli, Michel (1979) La violence totalitaire. Essai d'anthropologie politique. P.U.F., París.

Mann, Michael (2005) The Dark Side of Democracy. Explaining Ethnic Cleansing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mawdsley, Evan (1987) The Russian Civil War. Boston.

Mayda, Giuseppe (2002) Storia della Deportazione dall'Italia, 1943-1945. Bollati Boringhieri, Torino. PMid:12512230

Mayer, Arno J. (2001) The Furies: Violence and Terror in the French and Russian Revolutions . Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Mazower, Mark (1994) Inside Hitler's Greece. The Experience of Occupation, 1941-1944. Yale University Press, Yale.

Mazower, Mark (1998) Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century. Allen Lane, London.

Mazower, Mark (2002) "Violence and the State in the Twentieth Century". The American Historical Review, 107/4: 1158-1178.

Mazower, Mark (2008) Hitler's Empire. Nazi Rule in Occupied Europe. Allen Lane, London.

McFarlane, Leslie (1974) Violence and the State. Thomas Nelson & sons, London.

McPhail, Helen (1999) The Long Silence: Civilian Life under the German Occupation of Northern France, 1914-1918. I.B. Tauris, London.

Melson, Robert T. (1992) Revolution and Genocide: On the Origins of the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Michaud, Yves (1980) Violencia y política. Ruedo Ibérico, Barcelona. Midlarsky, Manus I. (2005) The Killing Trap. Genocide in the Twentieth Century. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. PMCid:PMC1043812

Millen, Rochelle L. (1996) New perspectives on the Holocaust. New York University Press, New York and London.

Mommsen, Wolfgang J. (1982) "Non-legal violence and terrorism in Western idustrial societies: an historical analysis". In Social protest, violence and terror in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Europe, edited by Id. and Gerald Hirschfeld. McMillan, London: 384-403.

Moore, Cerwyn (2010) Contemporary violence. Postmodern war in Kosovo and Chechnya. Manchester University Press, Manchester and New York.

Morton, Stephen (2013) States of Emergency. Colonialism, Literature and Law. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool.

Moses, Dirk (editor) (2010) Genocide: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, 6 vols. Routledge, Abingdon.

Moses, Dirk (2013) "Genocide". Australian Humanities Review, 55: 23-44.

Naimark, Norman M. (2010) Stalin's Genocides. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Newman, Edward (2014) Understanding Civil Wars. Continuity and Change in Intrastate Conflict. Routledge, New York.

Nú-ez Seixas, Xosé Manoel (2001) Entre Ginebra y Berlín. La cuestión de las minorías nacionales y la política internacional en la Europa de entreguerras, 1914-1939. Akal, Madrid.

Parsons, Talcott (1964) "Some reflections on the place of force in Social process". En Internal war: Basic Problems and Approaches, edited by Harry Eckstein, The Free Press, New York: 33-70.

Pavone, Claudio (1991) Una guerra civile. Saggio storico sulla moralità nella Resistenza. Bollati Boringhieri, Torino. PMCid:PMC1016906

Payne, Stanley G. (2011) La Europa revolucionaria. Las guerras civiles que marcaron el siglo XX. Temas de Hoy, Madrid.

Pezzino, Paolo (2007 [1997]) Anatomia di un massacro. Controversia sopra una strage nazista. Il Mulino, Bologna. PMCid:PMC2001020

Procacci, Giovanna (1999) Dalla rassegnazione alla rivolta: mentalità e comportamenti popolari nella Grande Guerra. Bulzoni, Rome.

Rieber, Alfred J. (2003) "Civil Wars in the Soviet Union". Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, 4/1: 129-162.

Rodrigo, Javier (2014) (editor) Políticas de la violencia. Europa siglo XX. Zaragoza, Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza.

Roshwald, Aviel (2001) Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires. Central Europe, Russia and the Middle East, 1914-1923. Routledge, London and New York.

Rovatti, Toni (2011) Leoni vegetariani. La violenza fascista durante la RSI. CLUEB, Bologna.

Rummel, Rudolph J. (1994) Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1900. Transaction, New Brunswick and London. PMCid:PMC45084

Sanborn, Joshua A. (2005) "Unsettling the Empire: Violent Migrations and Social Disaster in Russia during World War I". The Journal of Modern History, 77: 290-324.

Sarkin, Jeremy (2011) Germany's Genocide on the Herero: Kaiser Wilhelm II, His General, His Settlers, His Soldiers. UCT Press, New York.

Schmid, Alex P. (1991) "Repression, State Terrorism and Genocide: conceptual clarifications". In State Organized Terror. The Case of Violent Internal Repression, edited by P. Timothy Bushnell et al. Boulder, Westview Press.

Sémelin, Jacques (2007) Purify and destroy: the political uses of massacre and genocide. Columbia University Press, New York.

Shaw, Martin (2007) What is Genocide? Polity Press, Cambridge.

Shaw, Martin (2007) What is Genocide? Polity Press, Cambridge.

Slim, Hugo (2008) Killing Civilians. Method, Madness, and Morality in War. Columbia University Press, New York.

Smith, Helmut Walser (ed.) The Holocaust and Other Genocides. History, Representation, Ethics. Valderbilt University Press, Nashville.

Snyder, Timothy (2010) Bloodlands. Europe between Hitler and Stalin. Basic Books, New York.

Stannard, David E. (1992) American Holocaust. Columbus and the Conquest of the New World. Oxford University Press, Oxford. PMCid:PMC504169

Stone, Dan (editor) (2008) The Historiography of Genocide. Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Stone, Dan (editor) (2012) The Holocaust and Historical Methodology. Berghahn Books, New York and Oxford.

Swain, Geoff (1996) The Origins of the Russian Civil War. Longman, London.

Thrift, Nigel (2006) "Immaculate Warfare? The Spatial Politics of Extreme Violence". In Violent Geographies. Fear, Terror, and Political Violence, edited by Derek Gregory and Allan Pred. Routledge, New York and London: 273-294.

Tomasevich, Jozo (2001) War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration. Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Totten, Samuel and Parsons, William S. (2009) Century of Genocide. Critical Essays and Eyewitness Accounts. Routledge, London and New York.

Trifkovic, Srdja (2011) Ustaša. Croatian Fascism and European Politics, 1929-1945. The Lord Byron Foundation for Balkan Studies, Chicago.

Upton, Anthony F. (1980) The Finnish Revolution, 1917-1918. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Valentino, Benjamin A. (2004) Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.

Voglis, Polimeris (2002) Becoming a Subject: Political Prisoners during the Greek Civil War, 1945-1950. Berghahn Books, New York.

Weiss-Wendt, Anton (2008) "Problems in Comparative Genocide Scholarship". In The Historiography of Genocide, edited by Dan Stone. Palgrave Macmillan, New York: 42-70.

Wiedmer, Caroline (1999) The Claims of Memory. Representations of the Holocaust in Contemporary Germany and France. Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London. PMid:10600532

Yeomans, Rory (2013) Visions of Annihilation. The Ustasha Regime and the Cultural Politics of Fascism 1941-1945. University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.

Copyright (c) 2014 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Technical support: