A lavishly illustrated discussion of the factors that have shaped Europe's path to diversity and unity.
Europe will enter the 21st century with an unprecedented spirit of integration, though still burdened with bleak reminders of the shattering part played recently and throughout the ages by forces of division and violence (e.g., war in the former Yugoslavia; the breakup of the Soviet Union). Blockmans (Medieval and European History/Univ. of Leyden, the Netherlands) speaks directly to Europe's hopes and anxieties about what the future promises. His work of historiography also addresses the political imagination of our times with insight and alacrity. Blockmans studies the interaction of cultural, economic, and political influences on the Continent, pondering the trends and significance of various configurations of power in Europe's history. Starting with the formation of European kingdoms and frontiers, the author leads us through a millennium of eras with chapters devoted to broad themes, such as "men and resources," "cut-throat competition," and "the state apparatus." In each of his nine chapters, he emphasizes the changing distinctions separating the secular and the religious, high and low culture, and the differing roles assumed over time by members of varied social strata. But it is the cultural dimension that receives his particular attention. Most readers, seduced quickly by this handsome volume's 370 illustrations, ranging from paintings and illuminated manuscripts to sculpture, poster art, and advertisements, will readily understand and appreciate Blockmans's decision to stress the visual means by which rulers have tried to impress their heady authority on society's lower ranks. In conclusion, he notes that Europe's very wealth and attraction lie in its cultural diversity.
A history of Europe with a contemporary and political edge, this book also issues a call for diversity across social and political borders.