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historians, authorship, Europe


Two books with the same title, The Making of Europe, published sixty-one years apart, may help us assess profound shifts that have taken place in the understanding of Europe over the last two-thirds of the twentieth century. Both books were or are by master, if quite dissimilar, historians. Though the books share the same title, profound differences, perhaps the program of each author, is revealed in their subtitles. For Christopher Dawson (1889–1970), arguably the most eminent Catholic historian of the twentieth century, The Making of Europe was An Introduction to the History of European Unity (London, 1932). As a member of an interwar generation concerned about the fragility and liberal prospects of Europe, Dawson’s special interest was to trace the process by which Europe had achieved whatever hard-won cultural unity it had. For Robert Bartlett, The Making of Europe is, in fin-de-siècle language, a story of Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Change 950–1350 (Princeton, 1993). In the present essay, I would like to compare the understand- ing of “Europe” in these two books. Part of my argument is that the difference in the treatment of European identity in the two works closely tracks changes in the understanding of, and attitudes toward, Europe in the larger society. In these shifts, the argument also is, we have lost at least as much in understanding as we have gained.