In This Review

Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century
Dark Continent: Europe's Twentieth Century
By Mark Mazower
512 pp, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999

Mazower has written a timely book dissecting the notion of Europe" just as the EU launches its single currency. For him, this century's brutal first half -- with its bloody legacy of communism and fascism, world war, genocide, and ethnic cleansing -- defined European identity as much as postwar liberal democracy did thereafter. He reminds the reader that many countries under the Third Reich's shadow initially drew considerable popular support for Hitler's agenda. Western Europe made the postwar transition to democracy thanks primarily to widespread war-weariness and the postwar economic boom, not an idealistic commitment to liberalism. In his account of these years, Mazower deftly weaves together strands of social, political, and economic thought, including a fascinating section on how Hitler grafted Europe's legacy of imperialism on to his own vision of pan-European domination. But the book loses steam in its second half, an unexceptional treatment of postwar Europe that is more straightforward narrative than analysis. Mazower offers little to explain the phenomenon of European integration; he meekly concludes that Europe should avoid trying to find a "single workable definition" of itself. Still, the book's provocative thesis merits attention from Europhiles and Euroskeptics alike.