ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Rise and Fall of Europe

Making the European Monetary Union: The Role of the Committee of Central Bank Governors and the Origins of the European Central Bank by Harold James (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Belknap Press), 2012; pp xv + 567; $35 (cloth).

Turbulent and Mighty Continent: What Future for Europe? by Anthony Giddens (Cambridge UK: Polity), 2014; pp ix + 242, $22.95.

The two books reviewed here are concerned with the recent past and immediate future of the European Union (EU), the first at a length that should deter all but the most committed specialist, the second in a more accessible, but rather disjointed form. Both take a short-run view of history and consider Europe largely in isolation from the rest of the world. Personal names abound in their narratives, possibly because the leading actors are their intended audience. Readers of this weekly may well ask what it all has to do with them; and the answer is, a lot. For we live in a world that the Europeans made and lost. It would not be beyond them to unleash another world war or at least a collapse of global equity markets.

Harold James is an American historian specialising in international affairs; his book deals with the formation of Europe’s single currency. Anthony Giddens is Britain’s best-known sociologist and his subject here is Europe’s uncertain future. Although he largely ignores them, the world’s most serious wars and revolutions of the last 25 years have taken place on west Europe’s eastern and southern borders, with Ukraine being only the latest example. Giddens’ European vision is critical but, on balance, rosy. Yet Europe is likely to be the main and permanent loser in the current world crisis. The region is less relevant for Indians as a contemporary case study of creaking political and economic union than as a window on world history that all of us share. My aim, therefore, is to place the analyses and speculations on offer here within a global perspective that neither author attempts. Europe is once again the focus of world attention; its possible downfall has implications for all humanity.

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