Fully revised, updated and extended to include the momentous developments of 2020, this fourth edition of Peter Rietbergen's highly acclaimed Europe: A Cultural History is a major and original contribution to the study of Europe.
The book examines the structures of culture in this part of Eurasia from the beginnings of human settlement on to the genesis of agricultural society, of greater polities, of urban systems, and the slow transitions that resulted in a (post-)industrial society and the individualistic mass culture of the present. Using both economic and socio-political analytical concepts, the volume outlines cultural continuity and change in Europe through the lenses of literature, the arts, science, technology and music, to show the continent’s ever-changing identities. In a highly readable style, it expertly contextualizes such diverse and wide-ranging topics as Celtic society, the Roman legal system, the oppositions between ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ culture in pre-industrial Europe, Michelangelo’s world-view, the interaction between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, the growth of a society of time and money, the appeal of fascism and other totalitarian ideologies, and the ways the songs of Sting express late twentieth-century thinking. Structured both chronologically and thematically, the text is distinctive in the attention consistently paid to the many ways Europe has been formed through its contacts with non-European cultures, especially those of Asia and the Americas.
This edition concludes with an epilogue that discusses the ways Europe’s recent past – including the long-term efforts at further unification, and the various forms of opposition against it – has been both interpreted and misinterpreted; the importance of globalization; and the major challenges facing Europe in the present, amongst which are the consequences of the pandemic of 2020. With a wide selection of illustrations, maps, excerpts from primary sources and even lyrics from contemporary songs to support its arguments, the text remains the definitive cultural history of Europe for both the general reader and students of European history and culture.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Europe – a present with a past
Part 1: Continuity and Change: New ways of surviving
1. Before 'Europe': Towards an agricultural and sedentary society
2. Rome and its Empire: The effects and limits of cultural integration
3. An Empire Lost - An Empire Won? Christianity and the Roman Empire
Part 2: Continuity and Change: New forms of belief
4. Towards One Religion for All
5. Three Worlds around the Inner Sea: Orthodox Christendom, Islam and Catholic Christendom
6. One world, Many Traditions: Elite culture and popular cultures: cosmopolitan norms and regional variations
Part 3: Continuity and Change: New ways of looking at man and the world
7. A New Society: Europe's changing views of man
8. A New Society: Europe as a wider world
9. A New Society: Europe and the wider world since the fifteenth century
10. A New Society: Migration, travel and the diffusion and integration of culture in Europe
11. A New Society: The 'Republic of Letters' as a virtual and virtuous world against a divided world
12. A New Society: From Humanism to the Enlightenment
Part 4: Continuity and Change: New forms of consumption and communication
13. Europe's Revolutions: Freedom and Consumption for all?
14. Progress and its Discontents: Nationalism, economic growth and the question of cultural certainties
15. Europe and the Other Worlds
16. The 'Decline of the Occident' - The Loss of a Dream? From the mid-nineteenth to the early twentieth century
17. From a Dream Shattered to a Dream Revived?
Epilogue: Europe – a present with a past, a present with future?
Peter Rietbergen is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Radboud University, Nijmegen, in the Netherlands. He is author of 15 monographs, including Europe’s India (2007); Rome and the World – the World in Rome: The Politics of International Culture, 1861–2011 (2012); and the best-selling Short History of the Netherlands (1993, and ten revised editions till 2018), which has also been translated into Dutch, German and Japanese.
Praise for the previous edition:
"Europe: A Cultural History does not just provide an accessible and lively account of European cultural thought and practice from prehistory to the present; more importantly, it also offers a sustained reflection on what the idea of 'Europe' has meant to different people at different times. Peter Rietbergen's book is a superb one-volume introduction to European cultural history."
Paul Stock, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
"Peter Rietbergen’s fluently written book is an insightful account of the cultural history of Europe, its multiple cultural identities and its continuously changing webs of significance. Rietbergen draws on an impressive array of source material to examine the transformation of Europe from its earliest developments to the challenges it today confronts. Europe: A Cultural History is highly recommended reading for students and researchers of European culture and its history."
Hannu Salmi, University of Turku, Finland
"This book remains a reliable, stimulating and readable guide to many aspects of European cultural history. It is Peter Rietbergen's own idiosyncratic selection of material and ideas, and it provides us with an original and entertaining take on an immense spread of material."
Michael Wintle, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
"Nuanced, non-teleological and critically distinguishing, yet comprehensive and remarkably readable, Rietbergen’s history of European culture will be an unavoidable reference point for any serious debate on its topic for years to come."
Bertel Nygaard, Aarhus University, Denmark
"Peter Rietbergen presents a book, which is unlike the standard textbooks on the cultural history of Europe. Instead of just summing up names, dates and facts, it offers the reader a provocative personal reflection on the incredibly rich and highly varied contents of the European heritage. It will serve as an eye-opener for all those students who aspire to look beyond the main narrative into the primary sources of Western thought. Therefore, this book can be an invaluable tool in higher education."
Henk Kern, Leiden University, The Netherlands