Mazower is a very disjointed lecturer and seemed more interested in talking about his own personal connection to the topics than the actual material itself. He had these powerpoints with all of these quotes that were too small for students to read and didn't upload them until the beginning of April. Lectures were disjointed and all over the place, and if you didn't have time to read the textbook you would be completely lost in class. (Most history classes don't require a textbook and I couldn't afford to buy it, so I was screwed.) Mazower needs to refocus his lectures and focus on the important information rather than superfluous information. The class material was interesting but Mazower made the class difficult for me to stay engaged in. Lectures felt rather pointless half the time because I wasn't learning anything.
I agree wholeheartedly with the last review (June 10, 2011). The main issue I took with the class was that I never really quite understood why we were reading what we did, which was a big issue because there was a mountain of readings every week, most of them extremely boring and some just completely inane. Prof. Mazower never once tried to explain either the historical or historiographical significance of any of what we read; at times, he would even admit that what we were studying wasn't historically significant at all. E.g. there was one class on the subject of "making money/the modern economy", and the main reading for that week had to do with Russian fur trappers in Alaska. It wasn't a terrible book and made a case for its historiographical intervention, but in the grand scheme of things--when considering the history of the "modern economy"--the case of fur trappers in Alaska is hardly significant at all! That was kind of emblematic, for me, of the nature of the class as a whole. It was a huge letdown, given the exciting course title/description. In class, he did very little to facilitate discussion, which ended up more or less monopolized by two or three students. Finally, I felt that it was unfair to have literally one assessment--the 25-30 page final paper--upon which your entire grade is based. As others have mentioned, he's a hard grader, which is fine; however, what's not fine is that there's zero feedback all semester as to what he looks for in essays, or even if he thinks you're doing well. I think that if a professor is going to evaluate essays rigorously, he/she should make it clear what those rigorous standards are. Overall a frustrating experience. I definitely regret not switching out when I had the chance.
While Professor Mazower is quite possibly the nicest professor you will ever have, this class was for the most part boring and confusing. Oftentimes there would be little context to the discussion, meaning that all students had to do outside readings if they were unsure of the topic. The discussion typically involved Professor Mazower talking for half of the class and then leaving it open for a few student comments before picking up the reigns again. The topic is interesting, but Mazower admitted it himself that this is a subject he is still working on in his research so the structure of the class and what the students were supposed to get out of it was never as clear as it could have been. Additionally, as one other reviewer mentioned, Mazower is not an easy grader. He gives no indication of your final grade until the end of the semester (most of which is based off a 25-30 page term paper). So all in all, the course was at times interesting but more often than not it was frustrating.
Professor Mazower is a very nice man, but I was not a fan of this class. I still like the idea of the course, but it was structured in a way that kept me bored and left me disappointed. The biggest problem was the readings, which were either too long or just mind-numbingly boring. The discussions tended to be pretty awful, and it seemed like Professor Mazower did a lot more talking than would seem appropriate for a seminar. It seemed like we just jumped all over the place each week, and the takeaway from the course was that (a) international institutions are super complex and crazy, (b) nobody is very good at writing History about international institutions. So basically, Wikipedia 'UN' and 'World Bank' and skip the pain. The only big grade was a research paper that didn't necessarily have to do with anything learned in the course. So there was really no reward for slogging through the books and articles all semester. I'm pretty upset I bought the books. Finally, Mazower doesn't grade easily.
Professor Mazower is wonderful. If you have him, you are really lucky. Even those with major schedule conflicts with the class in the second semester decided to stay. I would try to keep this class no matter what. Instructor is really important in making your core experience great, and Professor Mazower is one of your best bet. Mark is able to synthesize and analyse material in its historical context and significance, and he charmingly brings them together with other texts we've read. Moreover, we often relate what we read to the real world, and you can expect a lively discussion that engages everyone. Also, he is really understanding that we have a lot of work to do, and he often gives us quick time in class to do close-reading. This helps a lot especially if you read the text half asleep the night before. The paper topics were mixed. Some were fun, and others were pretty standard. I enjoyed writing the papers a lot first semester. But this semester, he changed the syllabus a lot and we only have one paper for a take-home midterm... the structure seems a bit bizarre for this semester, but I am not worried too much because this class is amazing!
Mark Mazower is unbelievable. He is by far the most amazing teacher I have ever encountered. Every lecture is fascinating, and he synthesizes all of the information together so well. Take this class! - or any class with him; i'm sure they're all incredible. He is absolutely brilliant, and very passionate about his subject. I have taken European history before, but he offers a new way of looking at things and synthesizes it all together so well. The syllabus is great, too. I am continually inspired by his lectures everyday, and I've decided to major in history because of him. I can't really do him justice in this review, but he's amazing, brilliant, fascinating, incredible, inspiring...
Mazower is a brilliant professor and it's a shame he has only just joined Columbia's history department. His Balkan's class is difficult because it covers such a broad period of time concerning history one has likely never heard before, but don't let that deter you from taking this class. He does a remarkable job weaving the picture together, as well as reminding the student that history is subjective and changing. The class is really great both in the amount of knowlege and information, but also to how this subject applies to understanding history. On the personal side he was just as good: he read over all the TA's grading of his mid-term assignment and was willing to talk to me and my classmates about the paper. I have no doubt his popularity will grow over time.
Excellent Professor. One of the best lectures I've had at Columbia. He really knows his stuff and he also did extensive travel to the Balkans. Lectures are very well prepared and easy to follow. He presents in a straightforward manner with som eof his personality mixed in. Excellent course if you have even the slightest interest in the Balkans.
The new hot-shot history professor at Columbia this semester, Prof. Mazower lived up to his reputation. His lectures were consistently engaging, and often included personal anecdotes about his own experiences in the Balkans. The main flaw of the course is that it covers 200 years of history for an area that had TONS of stuff happening. However, given that the Balkans are so seldom taught at all, there is really no way around this for Prof. Mazower. He works with what he is given very well. One comes out feeling like one has a real grasp on the history of the time. He does a good job picking out the most interesting and important points, and manages to impart tons of information without ever going over time (he periodically goes under it) or simply droning on and on. Indeed, he includes a number of interesting anecdotes from history beyond the straight facts that really add some feeling of the personalities of the time. Overall, a great professor.