It is a welcome break to see Indian writers write the history of Europe and present a perspective regarding issues of our time and a history different to that of Western historians. It is a staccato rendition of European history which seeks to link the common Indians with Europe and its 2,000 years of history, marked by periods of conquest, defeats, civil wars, crusades, concentration camps, two global wars and achievements unmatched before.
Divided into two sections – ‘People of European Continent’ and the ‘Profile of Core European Countries’ – the first section of the book features major events while the latter presents country-specific narratives. The focus is largely on 25 core countries within the Pyrenees in the west and the Elbe in the east, which constitute the ‘European home’.
The first part begins with the collapse of Old European order and how after World War I ends, the German soldiers are left with the signing of the peace treaty in June 1919. Bu exactly 20 years later, in September 1939, the Germans attack Poland and start the World War II in which more than 15 million people get killed or injured. The fight covers five continents with soldiers in uniform rampaging European areas between the Pyrenees in the east and the Volga in the west.
The second part begins with Britain from the 16th to the 20th century and its involvement in conquest which makes it the most powerful nation on earth, ruling territories in every continent “and brazenly commanding all the oceans.” The industrial revolution makes Britain wealthy and an urban nation. The authors say that between the 1880s and 1980s, a relatively small number of countries govern nearly all the world and point out that on the eve of the First World War, Britain, France, Belgium Holland and Germany, who account for less than 1 per cent of the world’s land surface and less than 8 per cent of its population, rule in the region of a third of the rest of the world’s area and more than a quarter of its people. Almost all the world was ruled from Europe at one time or another in the 17th and 18h centuries. In both the north and the south, the policy of the American republics was fundamentally shaped by the colonial past.
Not only the British but also the French, Dutch, Belgian and Portuguese empires were wound up, until the last vestiges remained. These were the countries that virtually ruled over the world. They set up institutions, changed the local customs, spread their languages, lifestyle, value systems and everything else that go into the making of he modern world.
A book meant for historians and professors.
(Kalpaz Publications, C-30 Satyawati Nagar, New Delhi-110052; www.kalpazbooks.com)