(DARK CONTINENT) BY MAZOWER, MARK[ AUTHOR ]Paperback 06-1999
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Slightly incoherent, and his own political leanings contaminate the last third of the book - at least in terms of any objective analysis.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great read, interesting concepts throughout! Good for an overview history, packaging was good, arrived fast.Published 10 months ago by Sarah
This book was a gift for a family member, It is currently being well-used in a masters dissertation.Published 15 months ago by Juless
This is one of the best histories of the twentieth century. Its poise and grasp of the whole sweep of European history is remarkable and it is very well written. Read morePublished 16 months ago by The Revd Douglas Dales
Makes grim reading and not always comfortable reading but seemingly so true.Published 17 months ago by LFJ Hardwick