Publisher: Penguin; Knopf, 1998 (September 15, 2000)
ISBN: 0691058423

Dark Continent: Europe’s Twentieth Century


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 rival political solutions that battled and sometimes triumphed in an effort to determine the course the continent would take. Mark Mazower strips away myths that have comforted us since World War II, revealing Europe as an entity constantly engaged in a bloody project of self-invention.  Here is a history not of inevitable victories and forward marches, but of narrow squeaks and unexpected twists, where townships boast a bronze of Mussolini on horseback one moment, only to melt it down and recast it as a pair of noble partisans the next.  Unflinching, intelligent, Dark Continent provides a provocative vision of Europe's past, present, and future.


"His splendid book makes a convincing case for a different version of 20th-century European history."―The New York Times Book Review, Tony Judt

“...there is much to praise in this book. Most of all, Mr. Mazower succeeds in challenging the smug assumptions of the "end of history" thesis. He reminds us that the history of Europe in our century was as dramatic as it was precisely because it was marked by a great fight for Europe's soul and self-definition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title." The Wall Street Journal, Daniel J. Mahoney

“This is a useful, important book that reminds us, at the right time, how hard it has been, and how much care must be taken to avoid the terrible old temptations. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title."The Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Flora Lewis

"If it's the business of historians to remember what others have forgotten, Mark Mazower has done his job in Dark Continent." ―Roane Carey, Newsday

"Timely, argumentative, and ultimately optimistic; Mazower is particularly good at illuminating the substance of beliefs beneath ideologies." ―The New Yorker

"A masterful account of Europe's cursed century . . . Well written, with an excellent grasp of sources in several languages, this is a landmark study for the general reader." ―Kirkus Reviews

"Magnificent . . . an elegant plea for the defence of all that is best in the European tradition, and a reminder of what can happen if that trust is broken." ―Alexandra Richie, The Observer

"Brilliant but disturbing . . . if this superb book is a frightening reminder of how fragile democracy has been, we have lived through enough events in recent years to know how precious it is too." ―Orlando Figes, The Times

"Mark Mazower has already proved that he is a historian of great gifts . . . In Dark Continent he jumps from the microscopic to the telescopic with breath-taking self-confidence. His bold leap is entirely justified by his acheivement . . . He leaves us, in this wonderful book, with an account of our century that anyone who takes an interest in Europe's present and future will enlarge their minds by reading." ―John Keegan, The Daily Telegraph

"[A] fascinating new polemic about twentieth-century Europe . . . this should be a deservedly popular book." ―Mark Archer, Financial Times

"Mark Mazower has provided a rich mixture in his highly individual and intelligent interpretation of Europe's twentieth-century history." ―Richard Crampton, The Times Literary Supplement Go to full text

"It is altogether remarkable that Mark Mazower, one of our brightest young historians, has managed to write about this subject [modern Europe] in such a way that you want to turn the pages . . . valuable and well-written." ―Norman Stone, The Guardian

"Exemplary...Written with verve and splendidly argued" ―Richard Gott, New Statesman ―Donald Sassoon,  American Historical Review, 105: 4 (Oct., 2000), 1380 Go to full text

"This brilliantly original book ..... challenging, original and beautifully written. It establishes Mark Mazower as one of the leading historians of his generation."
―Michael Howard, International Affairs, 75:1 (1999), 161 Go to full text

"Mazower shapes his well-written history of Europe's 20th century as a struggle among liberal democracy, communism and fascism. Avoiding the pitfalls of Marxist interpretation on the one hand and capitalist triumphalism on the other, he shows how the failure of liberal democracy after WWI led to the experiment with fascism, which was defeated (principally by the Communists) at an enormous cost. In the first half of this century, he writes, between 60 million and 70 million Europeans died violently in wars or civil unrest, but the figure for the period after the defeat of fascism is under one million. Mazower takes this as evidence that the Cold War was a social and economic, rather than a military, conflict. While this may be true of the Cold War in Europe, the assertion fails to take into account the proxy wars fought by the superpowers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. But this omission doesn't detract from the overall excellence of Mazower's work. The defeat of fascism and the fall of communism have left the field to liberal democracy, which is now faced with the problem it failed to solve in the beginning of the century: how to create a workable relationship between capitalism and representative government. Mazower argues that Europeans can best work this out if they realize that their national differences are greater than any common culture and that Europe has enjoyed its greatest period of peace and prosperity precisely during the period in which it has lost its primacy in world affairs. Maps. Tables not seen by PW. Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc." ―Publishers Weekly

"As the European Union introduces a common currency to world financial markets, Mark Mazower's Dark Continent critically examines the notion of "Europe." The Euro notwithstanding, Mazower argues that the "'Europe' of the European Union may be a promise or a delusion, but it is not a reality." Renouncing the notion of an essential "Europe," Mazower instead explores the conflicts which dominated the continent in the 20th century and the social value systems which informed them. Mazower orders his examination chronologically, commencing with the collapse of Europe's continental empires following World War I and the initial European experiments in democracy and national self-determination which followed. He continues with analyses of state interventions in family health and the importance of healthy progeny, the financial crisis of the 1920s, the Hitler regime, the transformed democracy that emerged following World War II, the gradual erosion of the social state in the 1980s, and, finally, the collapse of communism. He consistently displays a firm grip of European history, directing his argument to readers with a foundational knowledge of the events that shaped 20th century Europe rather than historical novices unfamiliar with the period. Provocatively insightful, Dark Continent makes a convincing argument for a European 21st century characterized by continuity and harmony through divergence. "If Europeans can give up their desperate desire to find a single, workable definition of themselves," Mazower concludes, "they may come to terms more easily with the diversity and dissension which will be as much their future as their past." Bertina Loeffler,

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