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(DARK CONTINENT) BY MAZOWER, MARK[ AUTHOR ]Paperback 06-1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0092GCJW0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,411,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a 58 year old Briton I learned a long time ago that the cartoon-style version of European History we were taught at school was nonsense. Representing Nazism as just collective madness or Stalin's tyranny as the product of "brain-washing" never made sense. Many of the ruling ideas of the early 20th c were followed through in all their brutal logic by those regimes.

Fantasies of racial superiority were just as popular in Britain, France and (especially) the USA. Sub-Darwinian ideas that conflict was necessary to maintain the blood-line and that poor or sub-normal people should be prevented from breeding were widespread throughout the Western world. Intellectuals of left, right and liberal tendencies were in love with dreams of the "march of progress" and historical predestination. Jews were widely despised and national purity conflicted with the problem of minorities.

Such a continent was full of dark possibilities which Mark Mazower deftly shows shaped the last century. We were not civilised by the flowering of our better nature but by exhaustion, the threat of atomic war and the partitioning of Europe by the victors of WW2.

Yet, at the end this book tastes of realism and not hopelessness. The fact that such lucid hindsight is possible and that all the fantasies of nationalism, liberalism and socialism have been found wanting suggests that Europe might find a humbler way of living with itself and the wider world.

"Dark Continent" is packed with enlightening quotations and allusions. The endnotes are comprehensive. Good value in terms of money and reading time.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent short history of Europe in the C20, which reminds us that the current general commitment to democracy in the continent is a relatively recent phenomenon. The book is particuarly strong on the failure of liberal capitalism and "narrow" parliamentary democracy in the inter-war period. I liked the prominence given to regions (Eastern and Central Europe) which, from a British perspective, are often neglected. While I felt the treatment of the boom years of the 50s and 60s was also excellent, my only complaint is that the final passages about the 80s and 90s (collapse of Communism and former Yugoslavia) feel like something of an afterthought and that not enough is done to make connections between these events and the broad themes set out earlier in the book. But vg nevertheless.
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Format: Paperback
In this fascinating history, author Mark Mazower traces this history of Europe from the end of the First World War, through to when the book was written in 1998. This is not a list of dates and battles, but so much more than that. The author traces the evolution of Europe's thought, and as such culture. It begins with the 1920s' embrace of democracy and the rise of the minorities issue, continues with the 1930s' rejection of democracy, the rise and fall of the extreme Right in the 1940s, the evolution of the two halves of divided Europe, and on to Europe's post-Communist development.
I have read many, many history books; most being the standard list of names and dates, battles and elections. But every once in a while I encounter a fascinating book that goes into depth explaining how things developed and why. This book is definitely one of the latter. I especially enjoyed the inter-war period, which explained so much that was unclear to me; things like the development of the race issue, and the reasons behind the ethnic troubles that rocked so many middle and eastern European countries in that era.
This book gave me a lot of food for thought. If you like a book that makes you think, then I highly recommend that you get this one. It is a fascinating and highly informative look at post World War One Europe.
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Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book, well worth the time. On the other hand, it is not a good introduction to 20th C. European history, it is too polemical (my copy has a blurb recommending it as survey reading for undergraduates, something which it definitely is not - the ideal reader should already have a good idea of European history before tackling this).

Bad points:

I nearly took a star off (or even two stars off) for the sentence in chapter 8 which attempts to allocate (at least part of) the blame for the Stalinisation of postwar eastern Europe to the west.

He generally seems to go easy on the excesses of communism, and Stalinism in particular: yes, there is plenty of condemnation, but also a slight impression of omelettes and broken eggs.

The discussion of the post-war west degenerates into a rant in places, where the first half of the book is a much more considered and convincing polemic. Something a little less intemperate would have made a more effective point.

It is difficult to say for certain in a book that attempts to cover so much in 400 pages, but I get the impression that Mazower's grasp of economics and economic history is not on par with his social or political history (that omelette again).

The analytic epilogue is weak.

Good points: the (resolutely pessimistic) argument for most of its course is well argued and provoking.

The discussion of the fall of communism, if isolated from the discussion of the West that came before is very good.

The central argument, which ties up with an analysis of the disaster of the collapse of Yugoslavia (where Mazower is on home ground) as the last working out of WWI is elegant and provoking.
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