Two Centuries of European Integration

Sean McGlynn puts the present-day European Union into historical perspective.

To listen to the media, one would think that a united Europe is a modern concept born from the ashes of the Second World War. Yet this is a superficial idea, for the concept of a united federal Europe is as old as Europe itself. Indeed the Roman Empire, together with its laws, was for a long time taken as a model for any future form of European imperium.

War and the search for peace

External dangers, such as the Islamic threat of the medieval and early-modern periods, have played their part in forging alliances and still closer ties between European countries, and it is no coincidence that the second half of the twentieth century has witnessed European integration reach its greatest levels, as this is the period when western, capitalist Europe was in the front line facing communist Russia during the Cold War. It is also important to appreciate that the identity of a people is often forged by the presence of outside, 'alien' threats: nationalism has frequently emerged as a product of war, and the Cold War has certainly helped to consolidate a pan-European identity.

The chicken or the egg

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