A Short History of Europe

The geographic concept of Europe is defined by the area covered by the European community of nations in the early modern epoch. But what is it that these nations have in common? And why, for all their common traits, do those deep rifts persist between Western and Eastern Europe, and even between single nations? An answer to this question can only be attempted by taking a look at Europe’s history.

Europe is based on the civilisation of Graeco-Roman antiquity, a heritage that has remained the common point of reference for national European cultures through a growing number of reiterated „Renaissances“. One such common heritage is Christianity whose Roman Catholic variant keeps alive the idea of a universal Roman Empire to this very day. But Europe is also that part of the globe where the very idea of nationhood as a community of language and tradition evolved in a long process that began in the Middle Ages. In the course of the 19th century these nations became nation states. The growing democratisation, but above all the struggle for hegemony of these national states gave rise to a violent brand of nationalism and thence to two cataclysmic World Wars which spelt doom to the Europe of yore. It remains a deleterious force to this day – and one of Europe’s most successful exports! Today Europe is no longer the hub of the universe, yet together with its former settlements in North and South America, in Northern Asia and Australia it retains a formative influence on global modern culture. Whether a union of European nations which preserves national traditions may come to set the pattern for the rest of world once more – remains to be seen.

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Edmund Jacoby

Edmund Jacoby studied history and philosophy in Tübingen and Paris. He graduated at Frankfurt University where he worked as a lecturer, before becoming reader for a publishing company and eventually starting a publishing business in his own right. He has written a number of children’s books and non-fiction books.

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