Discover the history of Europe - from the Dark Ages to present day - by the author of the bestselling A Short History of England
Europe is an astonishingly successful place. But it would take volumes to tell its story, right? Wrong. From warring peoples to peace, wealth and freedom, Andrew Jenkins distils its evolution into this short, single-volume history.
From Greece and Rome, through the French Revolution to the Second World War and modern times. Taking in leaders such as Julius Caesar, Joan of Arc, Wellington and Angela Merkel.
Sharing stories of cultural figures like Aristotle, Shakespeare and Picasso.
Jenkins brings together the transformative forces and dominant eras into one chronological tale - all with his insight, colour and authority.
British historian Jenkins (A Short History of England) turns his attention to continental Europe in this swift, engaging traditional political history. The book traces "the struggle of people for power over land" and "the extraordinary role of violence, and the technology of violence, in that narrative" in page-turner fashion. (Jenkins acknowledges that famines, plagues, and assorted natural calamities have played roles as well.) Although the primary focus is the men (and rare woman) who have wielded and lost power among them Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Pope Gregory I, Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great, Napoleon, Bismarck, and Hitler Jenkins does attend to the cultural and social milieu. "Pen portraits of people and ideas that are important to that story" pepper this history; artists, (Leonardo da Vinci) philosophers (Aristotle, Hegel) and writers (Tolstoy) play their parts. Jenkins also brings in the best work of other historians, from the ancient (Herodotus, Procopius) to the modern (Daniel Boorstin, Peter Frankopan). Entertaining morsels of legend, lore, and gossip add flavor, as when he describes Peter the Great as "brash, high-living, persistently drunk." Readers of conventional histories those of the victors, rather than what Jenkins calls "the victims of power" will find this a pleasurable, erudite tour of 4,000 years of European politics.
Short and to the point
In such a short book much detail has been left out but still there is a real attempt to describe not just what happened but why, and being short the book can let us step back and see the landscape of Europe passing by.
Short, interesting, but focusing mostly on Western Europe
While I liked the book(as it is what it says on the tin after all) I couldn’t help myself but notice how much it is focused on certain areas of Europe instead of describing the whole thing. Instead, it focuses on the Mediterranean first, and Western Europe second creating an impression that everything else just doesn’t exist…
At one point the book even says this about the EU in 1995: “… the EU was now all of Europe other than the Russian federation.” which is absolutely incorrect geographically and politically as neither Belarus nor Ukraine are russian federation(nor they were in 1995).
I expected a bit more attention to such “details” from the history book…