The Dork Continent Book Review

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Upon hearing the title of the book, one might assume that it will focus on the decolonization of Africa. Africa is known as the “dark continent” because it remained a mystery to European explorers for an extensive amount of time. Instead, Mark Mazower's Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century, focuses on Europe in the 20th century, as the title notes, and provides a historical and political analysis of the modern European state from the end of the First World War up until the time of publishing the book in 1988. Mazower, a young British author and historian, has taught at the University of Sussex and Princeton, and is a prize-winning author for his book Inside Hitler's Greece: The Experience of Occupation, 1941-1944. The principal thesis of Dark Continent is that the victorious reign of democracy in Europe was not predestined, but emerged significantly from the endless struggle between ethnic groups and nations, as well as three rival theologies- Nazism, Communism, and Democracy. Mazower's thesis suggests that democracy is not the essential preferred method of political organization, even when empires were falling and nations reorganizing after the devastation of World War I. Of the three ideologies, Mazower concludes that Communism was the closest to being satisfactory in both theory and practice.

The book begins with the discussion of the rise and fall of democracy. The struggle between the three ideologies was at the core of European twentieth century history. Preceding the the first World War, Europe only had three republics; by the end of 1918 there were thirteen. Even so, democracy was unable to secure itself during inter-war years. Liberalism was “short-lived” and “democratic values disappeared as political polarization brought much of Europe to the verge of civil war. Mazower notes that in 1930, Weimar's Chancellor Hermann Muller warned that “a democracy without democrats is an internal and external danger”; but the founders of post-war...
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