The West is teeming with Western Europe history, from the prehistoric Cro-Magnon caves to the other-worldly passage tombs of the Greeks and Romans. From crumbling Roman bathhouses and temples to winding streets of stately cities, the continent has plenty to offer. Western Europe’s varied history is essential for a thorough appreciation of the individual nations. Here are some key points to consider.
After World War II, European statesmen worked to unite their countries peacefully and pacifically. They sought to achieve equality for their peoples, end the threat of further wars, and deter aggression. They eschewed protectionism and “beggar-my-neighbor” policies, and attempted to match the economic and political influence of the new superpowers. In addition, they sought to civilize international relations and set up European institutions to promote the common interests of the continent.
As a companion text to A Political History of Western Europe Since 1945, this book is an introductory survey of the past two centuries of European history. It covers the postwar prosperity and the move to continental integration, as well as the oil crisis, the Nordic world, and the Mediterranean south. It concludes with the consequences of the Soviet Union’s collapse, which has been a catalyst for political and economic transformations in many parts of the West.
As the Western Roman Empire fell, the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as the Greek or Byzantine Empire, arose. The Byzantine Empire became the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Eventually, the Holy Roman Empire fractured into two separate parts. The Holy Roman Empire was weakened and fragmented, and the division between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism became more important than Eastern Orthodoxy. In time, however, both Christian religions came to dominate western Europe.
The process of European integration has resulted in changes to educational systems throughout the West. At the end of the twentieth century, many countries in the region have moved toward a pan-European identity. Teachers’ conferences have emerged aimed at avoiding national stereotypes and bias in textbooks. This process is also underway in some western European countries. In a bid to establish a truly European identity, it is important to recognize that national differences are valuable.
Throughout history, Europeans have dominated much of the world. However, their history is marred by conflict and disaster. Europe was the exporter of weapons and nationalism. Europe was very close to destroying itself during the 20th century, as World War I and World War II claimed more than 8 million European lives, and an estimated thirty million lives elsewhere. And, of course, no one can forget the many battles Europe fought for its survival.
Aside from these, the history of currency in western Europe is replete with other factors. The break from the Carolingian monetary link can be explained by the debasement of coins. During the reign of Frederick II, western merchants had very little value in the merchandise they were buying in the eastern regions. And so, their ships often returned empty, leaving their western ports empty. By contrast, silver was much heavier than gold, and thus dominated the international commerce at great European fairs.