Europe between the Oceans-9000 BC-AD 1000

Article excerpt

Barry Cunliffe, Europe Between the Oceans-9000 BC-AD 1000. Yale University Press, 2008.

Scholars are once again exploring why Europe, which appears to be just an insignificant geographic appendage to Asia, has risen to world dominance in the past thousand years. In the 19th century, scholars such as Arthur de Gobineau (1816-1882) took up the racial superiority theory that Aryans, speakers of Indo-European languages, were a special breed blessed with superior intelligence whose mission was to civilize the rest of the world. He added to this the physical element of pale skin. The lighter the complexions of the Aryans, the more superior they were to the darkskinned Aryans, and certainly all of them were superior in mind, morals, and talents to the other human "races."

During the first half of the 20th century, the European fascist movement, particularly Nazi Germany, cited Gobineau' s work as proof that the Germans were the epitome of Aryan purity and that it was their duty to purge "inferior races" from their midst - and from the world, if they could. They, and their racial theories, were disgraced after they lost World War II, and younger scholars launched the movement toward racially-sensitive historicity which eventually spawned a movement of studying every culture except for that of the Western world. "Western Civilization" nearly disappeared from university curricula.

Once more, the pendulum is swinging and we have such scholars as Ricardo Duchesne exploring why European (Western) civilization has had such enormous and far-reaching vitality and power. Duchesne attributes this in part to a certain "restlessness" of Indo-European peoples from their very beginnings. Certainly they have been the most mobile of all humans since at least 1 ,000 BC, as can be observed in the widespread tenure of Indo-European languages. …

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