Mazower Chapter 5

In chapter 5 of Mazower’s Dark Continent, he describes the various approaches and policies that Hitler implemented in an attempt to convert Europe into a functioning German empire. Many of Hitler’s policies were based upon the 25 Points of 1920 that the Nazi party created during their infancy.

Within chapter 5, Mazower used the heading “Living in Historic Times,” to emphasize the drastic changes that were taking place throughout this period. Germany had conquered an enormous land mass as a result of their revolutionary Blitzkrieg tactics. Politicians were then left with the difficult task of incorporating these diverse European populations into the “New Order.” Certain countries such as Poland and Czechoslovakia were easily incorporated into the empire because they had immediate value to Hitler and also shared a common germanic ancestry. In these countries their national identities were removed. It was banned to reference them by there former namesakes. Others locations such as France and Scandinavia were difficult to incorporate because they did not share as many commonalities with Germany. These countries were given a greater amount of sovereignty compared to other more repressed regions. Many of the ultimate fates of these provisional states were not to be determined until the end of the war because Hitler did not have a explicitly defined plan in place at the moment.

Of the 25 points, a few of them seem contradictory. Point number two calls for land and expansion, while point number seven is in an anti-foreigner clause that states that only citizens can live in Germany. If Germany is to expand its land and territory, how would they incorporate these newly conquered citizens into their ranks? Wouldn’t they be considered foreigners? Does it matter which country theses people would be coming from?

Mazower, Chapter 5

In Chapter 5 of Dark Continent, Mazower details the ideology of Hitler’s new order and the policies that were implemented to bring it about. At the beginning of the chapter, he explains the appeal of German Fascism (Nazism) to other European countries at the outbreak of World War II. He
illustrates this change in sentiment and perspective using statistics.

In one instance, Mazower uses France to explain this type of change in 1940. In June of 1940, France suffered a humiliating defeat in six-weeks at the hands of the German Army. This humiliation dramatically shifted how the French as a whole responded to the Nazi’s invasion. Mazower wanted to illustrate that the French began to support the Nazi political ideology, believing that supporting the new governments (the occupying government and Vichy France) was better than continuing the fight.

To emphasize this evolution, Mazower cites an increase in the number of students at the Berlitz in Paris studying German, and the decrease in students taking English classes. Mazower does not explain these numbers, however. There is no explanation listed for why this change in classes at university is important to the larger perspective of the war, or the political and social climates in France.

Mazower compares in the Berlitz example the number of students in German classes in 1939 and 1941. He does not offer any more information. There is no interpretation of these numbers. No possible reasons for the increase in students in these classes. Did the school pressure students to switch from English to German so that the occupying Nazis would not closely scrutinize the school and its practices? Did the students do this to avoid trouble from other students, faculty, administrators and Nazis?

It is interesting that Mazower uses this example, followed closely by an explanation about how positive attitudes towards the Nazi occupations throughout Europe were quick to disappear, including in France. He cites a radical change in perspective occurring within two to three months of the Occupation.

The issue with the argument Mazower makes using the numbers is that he does not provide enough context to explain why the number of students taking German increases. These numbers are used in isolation, with no information about how other occurrences in France affected this and no comparisons to other institutions in Paris or France.

Why would so many students (939 increased to 7,920) have decided to take German after the Invasion and Occupation of France?

The Economic Consequences of the Peace

In this section of his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, John Maynard Keynes discusses what he believes to be the failings of the Treaty of Versailles.  He believes that the treaty will cause the economic situation in Europe to worsen, as well as fail to prevent future animosity amongst the opposing countries, stating that it contains “…nothing to make defeated Central Europe into good neighbors.”  Keynes’ views appear to be more similar to those of Woodrow Wilson in his 14 Points than those expressed in the official treaty, arguing that the treaty did too much to harm Germany.

Keynes offers many predictions as to how the treaty will throw Germany and blames the selfish wants of the leaders who drafted it for this.  He writes that the treaty has given Germany no means as to care for its people–most of the war debts have been placed upon them, making importing necessary resources from other countries near impossible.  Germany had already been weakened by the Allied Blockade during the war, making famine and death on a large scale inevitable under the conditions which the treaty created.  Immigrating out of Germany was also a challenge due to the large amounts of animosity directed toward them after the war, and the Treaty of Versailles forced them to take all blame for the war.  All of these harsh punishments both directly and indirectly imposed on Germany created a lasting bitterness which eventually led to even greater conflict.

Keynes’ views on post-war European economics are similar to those of Mark Mazower, who ascertains in Dark Continent that “Europe’s economic life was in chaos” (Mazower 104).  While Keynes focuses on Germany, he also argues that the rest of Europe is unprepared for such a great economic disaster that is to come.  His predictions that this economic turmoil will lead to even more conflict are accurate, as it allowed for the rise of vengeful leaders.  The poor economic conditions of post-war Europe are one of the greatest indirect causes of World War II.

John Maynard Keynes: The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920.

In this article, Keynes talks about the Treaty of Versailles, and it’s failure to address the economic issues of a post-Great War Europe. He states that victorious Allied powers fail to realize that the stability of Europe, and thereby the stability of both France and Britain as well, is reliant on a complicated system of continental and global trade, which the Treaty attempts to disintegrate.

He focusses on Germany and uses them as a representative of post-war Europe. He believes that the booming population levels, in relation to the rapidly increasing pre-war industrial levels, would not be able to survive with the territorial and financial sanctions the Treaty proposes. His prediction is proven by Mazower in his text “Dark Continent”. Mazower states that because the smaller Central and European nations did not have sufficient resources, they suffered in the post-Great War period. It was only with American loans were they able to initially recover, and thus through American liquidation during the Great Depression they were thrown back into economic turmoil. Alternatively, Russia was self-sufficient during the interwar period, and thus was an economic success, admittedly with a large human cost (Mazower, p.124-5). Finally, Mazower states that while autarky was a good short term plan, in the long run it was detrimental to the Russian economy (Mazower, p.119), especially in comparison to the trading-centric post-World War Two continental economies.

While Keynes’ criticisms are economically valid, he fails to address the volatile political situation of 1919. A perfect example of this revenge-based politics is the War guilt clause written into the Treaty of Versailles. This was unnecessary addition economically, but was an important political addition, especially to the democratic governments in Britain and France. In my opinion, Keynes, while economically correct, fails to acknowledge the context of the Treaty signing, and thus fails to provide viable alternative solutions.

Mazower Chapters 1-4 Review

In the first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent, Mazower brings the reader through an enlightening perspective of how fascism, communism, and liberalism molded the progression of twentieth century Europe. Mazower carefully crafts his explanation of the successes and failures of different Nations attempts to organize and modernize in an era with a newly found sense of nationalism and social hierarchy. Dark Continent extrapolates upon which economic policies and government types seemed ideal and which ones were effective for their time and place, and why.

Mazower puts a strong emphasis on the importance of fascist, socialist, and communist ideologies that were crucial for European development in the first half of the twentieth century. He explains why libertarianism, parliaments, and newfound constitutions, which seemed to be the right step forward, failed at the time. Mazower also illustrates why more seemingly primitive governmental structures prevailed. Dark Continent is the first book I have read which highlights the importance of fascism while simultaneously explaining the failures of libertarianism and capitalism.

Despite its stubborn density, the book keeps the reader entertained through a selection of commentary which ranges from legal theorists to poets which helps encapsulate the zeitgeist. The book’s sources are plentiful and legitimate. Mazower brilliantly blends primary and secondary sources in order to lay a strong historical foundation and brings it to life with outside anecdotes and remarks. For example, Mazower uses an amusing sarcastic comment from a critic of the French socialist leadership who wrote, “It was necessary to be prudent…We were not to advance towards power because that would be too dangerous; we would be crushed by the resistance of capitalism itself…We are to advance nowhere!” (p. 134). This quote enabled me to properly imagine the frustration that the French were feeling at the time. Mazower’s ability to consistently intertwine cultural emotions in a historical context is incredible.

The chapters are divided into subsections and occasional space breaks which helps enable the reader to switch tracks while maintaining focus. This is helpful because although it is well written, the rapid pace at which Mazower presents critical information can be daunting. The writing itself is very clear and concise, the organization of his ideas allow for a smooth read. I have yet to re-read anything under the impression that I missed something. Dark Continent is geared towards highly educated readers, and I would not recommend it to be applied to a pre-collegiate level audience. This is not a book which can be read passively.

Critical Summary of Dark Continent (Ch. 1-4) (Revision)

The opening four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent provide a thoroughly informative analysis of early twentieth-century European governments that manages to be both balanced and provocative.  By recounting the social, political, and economic climates of the continent’s constituent nations leading up to, during, and between the two world wars, Mazower examines the conditions that led to the establishment of Europe’s dominant governmental systems.  The underlying thesis of these chapters is that democracy was not, as many historiographers have claimed, a foregone conclusion for Europe.  Conversely, Mazower argues that the competing fascist and socialist efforts also vying for primacy during the interwar period seemed at times to be equally if not more viable options.

The author paints a portrait of Europe as a continent fraught with the challenge of establishing proficient governments.  Beginning with the example of the Russian revolution, “liberalism’s first wartime triumph…and most frightening defeat,” Mazower categorically breaks down his period of interest, emphasizing a different perspective in each chapter (Mazower, 11).  Chapter one discusses political theory primarily in terms of Europe’s endeavors with constitutional liberalism.  Chapter two then focuses this scope to a geopolitical evaluation of the emergence of nationalism, flowing eloquently into chapter three’s analysis of the collective ideological shift toward socialist policies after World War I.  Chapter four concludes this quartet with a survey of the role of economics in this period, particularly with regard to the various successes and failures of capitalism in dealing with postwar reconstruction.

Although these chapters do not provide comprehensive historiographical information on the subject matter, Mazower’s four-fronted approach does create a unique portrait of Europe’s “inter-war experiment with democracy” that would be an excellent introduction for a historical neophyte or a refreshing new perspective for a seasoned professional.  The author expounds on his thesis by referencing a variety of historical sources (e.g. newspaper headlines, popular pamphlets, and relevant speeches) and contemporary commentaries (e.g. academic journal articles and historical books), including a number of translations from texts published in pertinent European languages (e.g. French, German, etc.) (Mazower, 5).  While this thorough research lends credibility and color to the prose, the distribution of elements such as direct quotations and statistics is somewhat unbalanced at times, making some passages difficult to absorb in just one reading and leaving others lacking in support.  Despite this, the end (in this case, the first four chapters as a whole) justifies the means; readers will lift their heads from these sometimes challenging pages stimulated and informed, but never bored.

Collectively, Dark Continent’s first four chapters establish Mazower’s distinctive interpretation of Europe’s attempts to settle into a stable state of government during the interwar period.  They also simultaneously set the stage for the discussion of later chronological events such as the phenomenon of Nazism and the establishment of peace after World War II in subsequent chapters.  Mazower’s synthesis of a large body of information into a tight and intellectually challenging work makes Dark Continent a worthwhile read appropriate for undergraduates, enthusiasts, and researchers alike.

Mazower’s Critical Summary (Chapter 1-4)

Mark Mazower’s first four chapters in his book Dark Continent illustrate the hardships, issues, changes, and efforts that nations had to endure post the First World War. These chapters are full of information and facts creating a clear picture of the social, political, and cultural problems occurring in Europe in the 20th century. Although Mazower clearly states important information, his text does seem to be lengthy.

Each of the four chapters depicts a different issue that occurred post WWI when Europe was trying to rebuild itself. The first chapter talks about the different forms of government, focusing on democracy. He goes into much detail about Russia and the Russian revolution. The second chapter talks about the triumph of nationalism, empires coming into action, and minorities wanting to be protected. The third chapter goes into detail about social policies and government initiatives for the populations. And finally, the fourth chapter talks about the chaos in the economy and trying to rebuild it as well as the rise of communism and issues that arose with it.

Mazower backs up all of his statements with evidence that is directly relevant to his topics. For example, when Mazower talks about the League of Nations and minorities starting to rise as a political problem since they wanted to have more power. He states: “The victor powers at Versailles tried a different approach- keeping minorities where they were, and giving them protection in international law to make sure they were properly treated so that in time they would acquire a sense of national belonging” (Mazower, 42). Mazower’s statements are clear and in order.

Throughout the four chapters Mazower text is very informative, but also extremely lengthy. For example, in chapter three, when he describes the new social policy of declining birth rates and regulating populations. From page 76-84 is his whole discussion on the issue of cutting back on the birth rate.

Overall, I believe Mark Mazower’s book Dark Continent is a very good book and is perfectly suited for a European history class. Mazower provides a lot of detail context, which makes it easy for students, especially those who aren’t history majors, to read along and understand what is going on.


Dark Continent Critical Summary

The first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent cover a vast range of topics pertaining to democracy, and general forms of leadership throughout the inter-war years.  Several countries struggled to reform their own government, while simultaneously attempting to find a system that would work for the entire continent.  According to Mazower, the inter-war period in Europe was a time of great instability, and a constant struggle between democracy and absolutism, and each country has its own specific history that ultimately impacted the continent as a whole.

Each chapter of Dark Continent has a broader theme, then Mazower provides a brief introduction, and goes on to divide the topic into sub-categories.  At the end of each chapter, he concludes the topic neatly and concisely.  This is a very useful method of depicting different events in history, because the reader is able to view the progression of a certain phenomenon while reading, and easily locate that information later.  For example, the first chapter describes the rise and fall of democracy.  Mazower takes the reader through the history middle-class reforms, the Soviet system, facism, political polarization and the eventual downfall of democracy.  Though each specific story is incredibly specific, and somewhat circuitous, Mazower manages to present the information in such a way that allows the reader to understand several different angles of one overarching topic.

Mazower also succeeds in producing a book that discusses a rare period of history in Europe: the inter-war era.  Many sources describing European history throughout the early- to mid-1900 are focus primarily on the first and second World Wars.  However, Mazower provides an invaluable glimpse into European history between the wars.  For example, instead of writing about Hitler’s Germany within the context of World War II, he described Hitlerism’s antagonistic relationship with the League of Nations, and how this impacted Europe as a whole.  The comparison between Hitlerism and the League of Nations, and many other crucial elements of European history, are not often discussed because they tend to be overshadowed by the two World Wars.

I would recommend Dark Continent to any undergraduate, graduate student, or anybody who is interested in learning about this fascinating era following World War I.  Mazower succeeds in presenting his ideas in an organized, concise and entertaining way.

Critical Summary

Mark Mazower’s text Dark Continent gives readers a panoramic view of the conflicts that Europe faced during the turbulent inter war period. The first four chapters cover a plethora of topics including racism, religion, eugenics, and many more. Mazower’s ability to tie these issues together is a testament to his skill as a writer and its what makes this book such a fascinating read. Throughout the book Mazower seems to tie all of his points to the larger idea that Europe’s inability to adapt to the idea of democracy led to the rising radicalization of almost all of Europe, with countries on the right like Germany, and Italy, or the left like Russia, and Hungry experiencing many of the same issues.

The inter war period was a dynamic time of extreme adjustment, controversy, and volatility throughout Europe. Issues such as the fall of the imperial powers, financial crisis, and rising nationalism, were brought to the forefront during this polarized time. Mazower theorizes that the conflicts in places such as Germany, Austria, Hungry, and Russia were not unique to each one, but rather he focused on the common fundamental issues facing these countries, organizing his text by theme rather than chronology. In all these nations existed a populous that shared the ideals of the Western powers–particularly Britain, France, the United States, and Switzerland–such as democracy and liberalism. These ideals, however, applied to a continent ravaged by war and occupied largely by a working class that preferred an increase in wages, to constitutional liberties, were ambitious and utopian. Attempting to break free from these ideals, Germany, Italy, Russia and many more countries turned to radicalism and violence to achieve there goal of dominance of there own populous and also the Europe as a whole.

At one time or another there where liberal democracies set up in all of Europe’s countries. However the failure of these democracies in countries like Russia led to a rise of radicalism, “His triumph, like Mussolini’s later from the Right, was really the consequence of liberalism’s failure” (Mazower P.11). This quote by Mazower is talking about Lenin and his success in Russia, however it can be used to describe many of the European democracies who let radicals like Lenin, Mussolini, and Hitler step into power gap’s left by these democracies. The Parliament’s of these countries where described by Mazower as so “Parliament seemed like a lens, magnifying rather than resolving the bitter social, national and economic tensions in society at large.” This view of Parliament although harsh was very true and, further illuminates the failure of “liberal democracy”.

Overall I highly recommend Mazower’s text to all who have a interest in this period. Although some of the information in this book are more for students of the undergraduate and beyond level, I cannot thing of a reason for any avid history buff to not have this text on their reading list. In one volume of around five hundred pages it is able to give a rather varied and compressive history of twentieth century Europe, a topic that could take volumes to write about.

Critical Summary of Chapters 1-4 of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent

The first four chapters of Mark Mazower’s Dark Continent proves to be both an informative and transformative excerpt from this book. The chapters clear up all misconceptions that, through a series of certain calculated events, fascism somehow prevailed over democracy and therefore World War II was inevitable. However, it is discovered that  fascism was not a dark blip in Europe’s modern history. These chapters take a thematic approach, rather than a territorial approach, to explain exactly what was happening in both Western and Eastern Europe that led to both the development and breakdown of the democratic system and the rise of authoritarian powers.

This thematic approach may prove beneficial for a reader looking for common themes across several different countries. However, it may also be very confusing especially when Mazower is talking about England in one paragraph, and Hungary in the next. Similarly, some countries such as Russia and Germany are talked about far more than others. However, due to the nature of what was happening in those territories at the time, it can be understood that the events that took place there were talked about in more detail than others since the themes talked about, such as communism or nationalism, often happened in those countries at their core. Despite Mazower’s sometimes unbalanced way of looking at certain events, I found that the most beneficial part of this book was how the content was organized within the individual themes. For example, in Chapter 3, the topic of Eugenics comes up frequently, leading to a further discussion about racism. Mazower breaks this down with how each country dealt with it. Countries such as Poland, Hungary, Germany, and Greece were hard supporters of racist ideals such as anti-semitism. However, France and Britain saw both sides of the issue. He goes on to explain exactly what this meant for country policies and the Eugenics movement at this time.

The book does an especially great job at supporting it’s thesis’ with evidence from countless outside sources. They come from everywhere; constitutions, treaties, scholars from several different countries, journalists, critics, the leaders themselves, and so on. These sources collectively support the same ideas Mazower is trying to get through to us. The main theme of the book can always be found in his supporting arguments and sources. Democracy sometimes fails.

Dark Continent was written for an audience with a basic knowledge of European history. For this reason, I can absolutely recommend this book for undergraduates. These chapters, for me, took what I learned in secondary school and added details and context to the basic facts. The most important thing these chapters can do is explain the reasons for the area in history Europe wants to so desperately forget. “The reason why ‘fascisms’ come into being, is the political and social failure of liberal democracy’. (p. 17)