Europe in Retrospect: A Brief History of the past Two Hundred Years

Europe in Retrospect: A Brief History of the past Two Hundred Years

Europe in Retrospect: A Brief History of the past Two Hundred Years

Europe in Retrospect: A Brief History of the past Two Hundred Years

Excerpt

When Rudyard Kipling jokingly commented that England was not much larger than Yellowstone National Park, he was admitting his admiration for the geographical size of the American Republic, but he was not suggesting that Great Britain had diminished in political status. Kipling recorded his remark in 1899, at the height of English power, when that nation and the several other major states of Europe formed the center of a world system.

During the ninteenth century, European supremacy seemed assured. England prided itself on being the "workshop of the world," and certainly was its financial capital. The French fancied that their culture illuminated the globe, and, indeed, they had reason to think so, for theirs was the language of diplomats as well as of polite society. Germany attracted scholars to its great universities--and exported the Ph.D. to the United States--while at the end of the century its military establishment was the envy of foreign generals. Russia, still exhibiting the appearances of feudalism although the serfs had been freed in 1861, was nonetheless regarded with respect; it was the "sleeping giant." And even the Austro-Hungarian Empire, somewhat dilapidated in political form, was considered a major power and admired for its excellent railway equipment, as well as for its pastries and music. Finally, European flags flew over territories that were thousands of miles from their capital cities: overseas empire made Timbuktu an extension of France and brought the name of the English queen, Victoria, to various cities and physical sites located in Africa, Canada, Australia, and even Hong Kong.

"Eurocentric" is the word employed by historians to describe this unusually favorable world position enjoyed by the states of Europe. And that position today invites the interpretation of nineteenth-century world history in terms of the "Rise of the West" or the "Age of European Predominance. . . ."

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