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Last Updated on August 5, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 553

Concentrating on twentieth-century European history, Mark Mazower reaches further back to set the stage for his analysis of the major social and political conflicts that afflicted the continent. Mazower insists that Europe is at least as dark as any other continent and that the same ill-conceived policies and their application in Europe itself has not differed that greatly from imperialist practices abroad.

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One of Mazower’s main points is that extremism is not a complete aberration but grows out of related social and political currents. Efforts to explain phenomena such as Nazism as arising out of nothing will not help prevent future crises. Neither can they be set aside as the products of individual pathology.

Ideologies matter, not so much as guides to history but as vehicles for belief and political action. If the dogmas of the past no longer hold us in their grip, this does not mean they were merely grand deceptions from the start.... After 1945, fascism was explained away as a political pathology by which insane dictators led bewitched, hypnotized populations to their doom. Yet the wounds of the continent cannot be dismissed as the work of a few madmen....

Mazower urges us to confront the reality of a multi-ethnic Europe which never really retreated under the onslaught of nationalism in the early- to mid-twentieth century. He spends considerable time laying out the multi-ethnic landscape of Europe at the time the nineteenth-century empires were either disintegrating from internal pressures or challenged by incursions from more powerful neighbors. As new, individual nations were created from within those crumbling behemoths, the ethnic groups within them did not necessarily embrace their inclusion in such an entity. Among various strategies to sell inclusion, the nation might try

to win acceptance by offering the possibility of assimilation into the ruling national group, but their intrusion into traditional society, their insistence upon standardization of language and promptly paid taxes often had the undesired effect of creating a backlash and encouraging counter-nationalism.

Looking at the century’s end, Mazower discusses the break-up of the Soviet Union and its sphere of influence. Arguing that even...

(The entire section contains 553 words.)

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