Evolution of the European Idea, 1914-1932

Evolution of the European Idea, 1914-1932

Evolution of the European Idea, 1914-1932

Evolution of the European Idea, 1914-1932

Excerpt

My active interest in the idea of the unification of Europe goes back to the spring of 1930 when I first went to Europe for a period of study and travel. Although I had read before sailing, for Europe that the Quai d'Orsay had sent a Memorandum on the Organization of a System of European Federal Union to the governments of Europe, I was nonetheless greatly surprised during my first days in Paris to find this memorandum one of the principal topics in the press and to hear people in cafes talking about the unification of Europe and a United States of Europe. The thought had scarcely entered my mind that Europe could be anything except a continent of feuding and warring nations. I had trouble believing what I read and heard, and I soon found myself watching the daily press for articles and editorials on the French memorandum, searching bookstalls and shops for items on the European idea, and questioning French students and bookdealers about Aristide Briand, Edouard Herriot, and Alexis Léger, who most of them believed had played the key role in developing the federal project.

And while this experience sank in and remained with me, I never thought seriously of making a study of the European idea until the middle of World War II when Jan Masaryk, in a lecture at the University of North Carolina, mentioned Briand's efforts to forge a European bond and said in my office the next day that the European idea was coming to life in the French underground and that he felt it would become an important element in European politics after the war. I soon had solid evidence that the idea was being discussed in the French resistance, and indeed my first article on the idea dealt with its revival in the European resistance (Europa Archiv 7 [ Oct. 5, 1952 ]). In fact it was the writing of this article together with conversations with Henri Bonnet, then French ambassador to the United States, and Robert Marjolin, secretary general of the OEEC, that started me thinking in terms of a study of the European idea across the 1920s. Both men said -- and I was already thinking the same way -- that it was not possible to understand the revival of the idea in the European underground and its rapid growth after World War II without an understanding of what had gone on during the 1920s. Then after the European Coal and Steel Community came into full operation, I centered my research on the 1920s and early 1930s. And notwithstanding a heavy teaching and administrative load, I was able during the next fifteen years to examine a large additional body of contemporary material of every sort.

Though I have condensed greatly the original draft of the manuscript for this study, I hope it still provides a fairly complete and solid summary of what most of the more ardent and vocal apostles of the European idea said and did . . .

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