Reviews of Books

Against the old clichés

Thursday 01 May 1997 The New Criterion, Anne Applebaum
Europe: A History

My introduction to European history began with a map. The peninsula of Europe lay stretched out over a blackboard; the lecturer drew an imaginary line down the center. Empires shifted, he explained, but this line had remained the same. To the west of it lay the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, the “progressive” Great Powers, and what we learned during the Cold War to call “the West.” To the east lay barbarism, feudal states, Russia and Austria-Hungary, and what was then known as “the Communist bloc.”(...)

It only takes a few swift sentences early on in his monumental Europe: A History for Norman Davies to dispense with that sort of history. After all, he notes, there are many dividing lines which shaped the history of Europe. Some of the most important—in terms of climate, culture, family structure— divide north from south rather than east from west. Some of the most permanent— like that which separates Catholic and Orthodox Christianity—have nothing to do with who is and who isn’t now in NATO, or who was or wasn’t in the Holy Roman Empire. 

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Eastward shift

Sunday 02 March 1997 BusinessWeek, Joseph Mandel

Davies contributes to the debate about Europe's identity.