What is Europe? Firstly, of course, it is a continent made up of countless disparate peoples, races and nations, and governed by different ideas, philosophies, religions and attitudes. Nonetheless, it has a common thread of history running through it, stitching the lands and peoples of its past and present together into one fabric and held together by the continents great institutions, such as the Church of Rome, the Holy Roman Empire, the European Union, individual monarchies, trade organisations and social movements. Europe, however, is also an idea. From almost the beginning of time, men have harboured aspirations to make this vast territory one. The Romans came close and a few centuries later, the foundations for a great European state were laid with the creation of the Holy Roman Empire an empire different to any other in that it enjoyed the approval of God, through the Church in Rome. Napoleon overreached himself in attempting to create a European-wide Empire - as did Adolf Hitler. Now, however, Europe is as close as it ever has been to being one entity, yet we Europeans still cling to our national independence. In A Short History of Europe Gordon Kerr provides a coherent map of the jumbled history of Europe and the European idea that has brought us to this point.

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