Reference eReviews | Modern Genocide | April 1, 2013

Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences ABC-CLIO; free trials

Content Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences (MGUCC) offers a variety of content including: 1,200 reference items on individuals, events, organizations, and places; feature stories connecting current events with historical references; signed essays discussing such topics as the factors that precede and cause genocide; 300 primary sources about modern genocides; learning activities designed by Sara Cohan, director of the Genocide Education Project, to guide students through very sensitive material; a description of the “eight stages of genocide” framework developed by Gregory H. Stanton, president of Genocide Watch, to provide educators with a teaching tool for showing students how genocides occur and what can be done to prevent them; and a media library of photographs, maps, and videos. The ten most significant modern genocides (Armenia, Bosnia, Cambodia, Darfur, East Timor, Guatemala, Rwanda, Herero, the Holocaust, and the Kurdish Genocide) are covered in depth to illustrate repeating patterns in history.

Usability A toolbar provides buttons for switching to another of the publisher’s databases and for “Genocides,” and “Analyze,” and boxes for advanced and quick searches. Below that are three illustrated sections with links to “Explore a Genocide” (the Darfur genocide was featured), “Analyze” (with links to essays such as “Indian Wars as Genocide,” “More Responsibility for the Cambodian Genocide,” “Recognition of the Armenian Genocide,” and “German Colonialism and the Herero Genocide”), and to a Feature Story (which at the time of this review was the “Radovan Karadzic Genocide Trial,” posted January 21, 2013).

The “Explore a Genocide” link leads to a page listing the database’s ten featured events. Clicking on the Kurdish genocide, for example, provides an overview that discusses the 1988 al-Anfal Campaign of the Iraqi regime against the Kurds, the Iraqi leadership, and the use of chemical weapons. This is followed by a further-reading list, a citation for the essay (available in MLA, APA, and Chicago styles), and links to add the item to a user account, and to print, email, and cite it. At screen left is a table of contents for the in-depth study of the Kurdish genocide, including Causes, Consequences, Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders, International Reaction, Discussion Questions, Facts and Figures (Estimated Casualties and Destroyed Property during Kurdish Genocide), a Timeline, Glossary Terms, Articles, and Media & Visuals.

The essays, two to four screens in length each, do not mince words about, for instance, complicity in genocide. This depoliticized commentary, combined with the further reading suggested, will help form students’ understanding of how genocides occur even when other countries know about them—and for the many students committed to studying and doing human rights work, this material will be a godsend.

Next I took a trip through the “Analyze” section, organized by regional genocides and centered on essays addressing a key question in each area, such as, “Did the United States and most other Western countries turn a blind eye to Indonesian atrocities in East Timor from 1975 onwards?,” and “Was Adolf Hitler the primary driving force behind the Holocaust or would it have occurred even without his leadership?” The Hitler and the Holocaust question leads to a “Need to Know” section, which gives students context and background to enable them to discuss the question in an informed manner. A section named “Dilemma” outlines various perspectives on the question, providing a multifaceted view of related issues and events. In an “Investigate” area here, students are encouraged to answer the key question by “writ[ing] an alternative history of the Jewish experience in Europe during World War II had Adolf Hitler not been chancellor of Germany.” And a “Doing More” section provides suggested resources for exploring the question in greater depth (a great idea).

A Quick Search for “killing fields” returned 33 results, the first of which, for a memorial, was accompanied by a graphic image warning, and rightfully so; there are many disturbing images in the database, but they are not gratuitous. Advanced Search lets users mine the breadth of all the ABC-CLIO databases to which their library has access, and to search by categories, genocides, and regions.

Pricing The starting price of MGUCC for public libraries is $399 annually. An annual subscription for academic libraries starts at $399; specific pricing is based on FTE.

This content and the arrangement and means of accessing it combine to create a stunning product.

Cheryl LaGuardia is a Research Librarian for the Widener Library at Harvard University and author of Becoming a Library Teacher (Neal-Schuman, 2000). Readers can contact her at

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.