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Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century

3.97 of 5 stars 3.97  ·  rating details  ·  1,090 ratings  ·  53 reviews
"A useful, important book that reminds us, at the right time, how hard [European unity] has been, and how much care must be taken to avoid the terrible old temptations." --Los Angeles Times

Dark Continent provides an alternative history of the twentieth century, one in which the triumph of democracy was anything but a forgone conclusion and fascism and communism provided ri
Paperback, 512 pages
Published March 14th 2000 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Andrea Giovana
O que significa e onde se situa a Europa? Essa palavrinha plurissignificativa é corriqueiramente desgastada por muitos de nós para designar um lugar idílico, no qual finalmente reina a paz e o bem estar-social após longos séculos de aprendizados através de intenso conflito e de inúmeras guerras. Mas será mesmo que a Europa é una e indivisível, quiçá uma sociedade coesa e integrada?

Mark Mazonwer, numa linguagem clara mas não acrítica, tenta "desmistificar" este pedacinho de terra que tanto atiça
Dark Continent is not an easy read, but it is a good one with numerous insights to the time between 1919 and the 1990s. Mazower describes the rise of Hitler amid a Europe fascinated by nationality and race and tired of democracy and capitalism. He offers no apologies for the Nazi movement, but describes a European context alive with racism and fear that makes Hitler an extreme example and not an otherworldly demonic force. The chapters on the haphazard operations of the Nazi conquerors and the s ...more
Jun 30, 2012 Helen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
Recommended to Helen by: From library
I thought this was a tremendously well-written historical journey through the tragic history of Europe in the 20th Century by an eminent historian. This is not a heavy historical account - instead it is suffused with clarity, wisdom, and insight. It is also a book you look forward to reading, as if you are listening to a vastly knowledgeable, erudite, yet friendly historical guide. It does take a commitment of time and intellectual effort but is well worth it. I would recommend it to anyone inte ...more
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2011-reads
I've been intending to read Mazower's book since I read Thomas Geoghegan's Were You Born on the Wrong Continent last summer. Geoghegan says Dark Continent is "maybe the best book about Europe I have ever read."

Really fascinating and well-written. Leftist perspective, scholarly, not comprehensive but didn't set out to be. A lot to grasp and study here. Inspires me to read Tony Judt.

Random notes: *Interesting that as a history of Europe's "twentieth century," Mazower in fact begins with the inter-
Absolutely excellent, engagingly written synopsis of the dynamics and currents which have shaped Europe's troubled history in the 20th century. Mazower astutely describes how a Europe dominated by expansionism and empire in the early part of the century weathered two world wars and the specters of fascism, communism and nationalism to achieve a state of unprecedented cooperation and prosperity today as part of multilateral organizations like the EU and NATO.

Much of the book will seem like revie
Lauren Albert
It took me a long time to get through this but it was worth it. I learned a lot from it. It's not so much factual (though it is loaded with facts) as "causal"--why things happened the way they did, how those things caused other things, etc. For example, he doesn't just tell you that politics changed in Europe after the Nazi defeat (and how) but why they changed the way they did and how those changes effected things later. It gives one a terrific sense of the connectedness of history. When I have ...more
Alan Gerstle
Excellent interpretation of 20th Century Europe. Clear explication regarding the rise of fascism and just what it professed.
I bought this for a dollar from the cheap rack outside the secondhand bookshop on campus, the source of so much of my reading material.

I was taken in by the promise of the cover blurb and the first few pages - that this would be a book discussing how fascism and communism were not abberations imposed on a freedom-loving Europe, but competing solutions for social and economic problems, and how many of the features we associate today with democratic Europe have their clearest precursors not in the
Robert Morris
This is a great book, but I don't think it does what it says it does. Dark Continent is billed as, or at least the reviews printed in this edition claim it is, a take down of the positive spin on Europe's 20th century history. The author places himself in opposition to the comfortable "whig history" narrative that Europe naturally chose a peaceful and democratic reaction to the 20th century's horrors, and that things have been improving since. In my opinion, the book supports that narrative quit ...more
This bird's eye view of the political history of Europe since the end of World War I had few surprising facts for me; it is more interesting as an analysis of familiar facts. Its argument is that there was nothing inevitable in Europe becoming a subcontinent of capitalist democracies. There were several schools of European political thought, like ancient China had its Confucianism and Legalism, and it was not at all clear in 1918, which one was going to prevail 80 years later. World War I led to ...more
somehow both incredibly dense and completely scattered. mazower's argument, that the failures of economic liberalism and newly-fledged democracies in the interwar period were the direct cause of wwii and the rise of fascism is interesting but not fully explored. instead, mazower takes us through a meandering study of international relations and economic history of western europe. he relies extremely heavily on quotes, which are often unattributed, to make his points, with little analysis. the mo ...more
Mike F
This book is a good general history of Europe in the 20th, with an actual point. I took from the book that its a good thing the 20th century is over in Europe (what with all the violence and war and all), and that Nazism, Communism, and Fascism were not just "flashes in the pan". They held real popular appeal in various places and times throughout the 20th century.
Gordon Howard
A broad overview of 20th century European history, written from a skeptical left-wing perspective - while Mazower is more skeptical of the right than the left (he really skewers Thatcherism), he doesn't paper over the failures on either side of the political spectrum, of which there have been MANY, in Europe.
Nov 29, 2011 Skip added it
Well written - giving you perspectives from the separate countries who became (willingly or not) "players" in WWII. Some excellent information to begin to answer the perennial question, how did it all fall apart in civilized Europe?
this is a macro-history making an argument against the romantic notion of progress -- looking at increasing genocidal violence and the complex relationships between individuals and the state
This was the set book for the final year of study on my degree. It was an excellent, thought-provoking read that provides a detailed analysis of Mazower's hypotheses for (mainly) the course and direction of Europe's political systems in the 20th century and how they contributed to the direction it took.

Not one for starters - you definitely need plenty of grounding in the history and somewhat in the historiography (or like me, learn it as you go along) - but it's a very good book for all that. N
This book is very informative but not an easy read, quite dense at times.
Manos Peponakis
A great history book, well-written and thought-provoking

Written partly as a response to those who'd claim an inherently democratic Europe. Over-simplifying, perhaps, but he does spend a lot of time talking about that. I wonder though, are those who'd claim that the likes of Niall Ferguson who are amongst other things, W. European Empire apologists or ideologues who try and engineer a "clash of civilizations" in the present the only who'd make any serious attempt to claim such a thing?

Certainly, I remember (a long time before reading this
A very interesting and important book that will have to be taken into account for decades to come. It sweeps away many of the mythologies about Europe that post-WWII generations on both sides of the “pond” grew up with and brings East European countries back into European history as actors to be respected and not just as weaker cousins to be played around with by great powers. Mazower is at his best when analyzing and re-imagining Europe before WWII when the populations of the continent first em ...more
A profound work on European 20th century history which gives a lot of useful insights. Mazower is very versatile in his analysis of economic, cultural, political and military factors, and is able to grasp them all equally well. He shows the history of Europe in the 20th century as a struggle that could have gone a different way multiple times in its history, rather than a black-and-white story of progress towards "end of history" liberal democracies. As such, he gives particular attention to mod ...more
Dense but worth it.

Its connection of fascism and Nazism to the larger exhaustion of interwar democracy as well as deep seated European anti-Semitism, as opposed to facile discarding of these movements as horrifying anomalies, is as well-supported as it is disquieting.

You can feel Mazower's passion wane slightly in his review of post-World War II Europe, but still there is much to enjoy, most notably his succinct dismissal of Thatcherism as largely failing to realizing its goals (which, in turn,
Jeff Schauer
I found this to be a convincing and well-written overview of twentieth century European history, balancing coverage with discussion of themes and debates.
James Webster
Excellent review of twentieth-century Europe's history. Effective broad-brush stuff. As a Brit of a certain age, intrigued by his analysis of the failure of Thatcherism: still very relevant under her self-proclaimed heirs today (2014).
Christopher Saunders
Engrossing analytical history of Europe's 100 year political turmoil, from World War I through the fall of Communism. Mazower (Hitler's Empire) takes a macro view focusing on ideologies and socioeconomic developments rather than specific events. He's particularly good highlighting the development and failure of particular ideologies: the distinctions between Nazism and "Old Right" fascist movements, Thatcherism's disastrous overreach (and its discrediting of European neoliberalism), the USSR's s ...more
Anne H. Bakke
Great book. We had this on our curriculum for our subject "The European integration process" on NTNU. Terrifying reading that really de-establishes Europe as a safe haven for democracy; it explores the dark parts of mankind and our history.
Titus Hjelm
A solid overview that actually manages to be a centre view. In the right-wing saturated popular history market this is refreshing. Comes close to Judt's Postwar, buy is less scathing of Marxism. It would be very interesting to see how the 1997 labour victory sense that permeates the last few chapters would look like in a 2015 new edition, after the wholesale turn of 'social democracy' to neoliberalism.
A breath-taking analysis of the European family sometimes uneasy and conflicted relationship in the 20th Century. It is not always an easy read but it is enormously revealing and enlightening if you are willing to carefully work your way through it. The dense content will bring clarity to the major events of the last century. It helps the reader to make sense of how Europe was and how it is today.
A very informative and educational read, however I quickly noticed a particular bias (probably unconscious) against the French and found it very difficult to *stop* noticing it in every chapter. And while I agree with many of his points, he gets very heavy-handed in many of his theses. Again, definitely enjoyable, intelligent, and well-researched...but it is not without failings.
Jul 19, 2015 B rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: westend, own
The stuff here about Europe from 1920 to 1960 is very interesting. There are a lot of broad sweeps that I think are not readily apparent from the way history is frequently taught.

However, after 1960, Europe becomes too fragmented and the insights seem more like isolated highlights—kind of like Euro-People's History but without as clear a direction.
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Mark A. Mazower (/məˈzaʊər/; born 20 February 1958, London) is a British historian. His expertise is Greece, the Balkans and, more generally, 20th century Europe. He is currently a professor of history at Columbia University in New York City.
More about Mark Mazower...
Hitler's Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe The Balkans: A Short History (Modern Library Chronicles) Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews  1430-1950 Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-44 Governing the World: The Rise and Fall of an Idea, 1815 to the Present

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“Democracy suits Europeans today partly because it is associated with the triumph of capitalism and partly because it involves less commitment or intrusion into their lives than any of the alternatives. Europeans accept democracy because they no longer believe in politics. It is for this reason that we find both high levels of support for democracy in cross-national opinion polls and high rates of political apathy.” 4 likes
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