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Europe: A Cultural History

Europe: A Cultural History

This third, revised and augmented edition of Peter Rietbergen’s highly acclaimed Europe: A Cultural History provides a major and original contribution to the study of Europe. From ancient Babylonian law codes to Pope Urban’s call to crusade in 1095, and from Michelangelo on Italian art in 1538 to Sting’s songs in the late twentieth century, the expressions of the culture that has developed in Europe are diverse and wide-ranging. This exceptional text expertly connects this variety, explaining them to the reader in a thorough and yet highly readable style.

Presented chronologically, Europe: A Cultural History examines the many cultural building blocks of Europe, stressing their importance in the formation of the continent’s ever-changing cultural identities. Starting with the beginnings of agricultural society and ending with the mass culture of the early twenty-first century, the book uses literature, art, science, technology and music to examine Europe’s cultural history in terms of continuity and change. Rietbergen looks at how societies developed new ways of surviving, believing, consuming and communicating throughout the period. His book is distinctive in paying particular attention to the ways early Europe has been formed through the impact of a variety of cultures, from Celtic and German to Greek and Roman. The role of Christianity is stressed, but as a contested variable, as are the influences from, for example, Asia in the early modern period and from American culture and Islamic immigrants in more recent times.

Since anxieties over Europe's future mount, this third edition text has been thoroughly revised for the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Moreover, it now also includes a 'dossier' of some seventeen essay-like vignettes that highlight cultural phenomena said to be characteristic of Europe: social solidarity, capitalism, democracy and so forth. With a wide selection of illustrations, maps, excerpts of sources and even lyrics from contemporary songs to support the arguments, this book both serves the general reader as well as students of historical and cultural studies.

Prologue: Europe – a present with a past

Part One - Continuity and change: new ways of surviving

Chapter 1. Before ‘Europe’: towards an agricultural and sedentary society

Chapter 2. Rome and its empire: the effects and limits of cultural integration

Chapter 3. An empire lost – an empire won? Christianity and the Roman Empire

Part Two - Continuity and change: new forms of belief

Chapter 4. Towards one religion for all

Chapter 5. Three worlds around the Inner Sea: western Christendom, eastern Christendom and Islam

Chapter 6. One world, many traditions: elite culture and popular cultures: cosmopolitan norms and regional variations

Interlude: the worlds of Europe, c.1400–1800

Part Three - Continuity and change: new ways of looking at man and the world

Chapter 7. A new society: Europe’s changing views of man

Chapter 8. A new society: Europe as a wider world

Chapter 9. A new society: Europe and the wider world since the fifteenth century

Chapter 10. A new society: migration, travel and the diffusion and integration of culture in Europe

Chapter 11. A new society: the ‘Republic of Letters’ as a virtual and virtuous world against a divided world

Chapter 12. A new society: from Humanism to the Enlightenment

Part Four - Continuity and change: new forms of consumption and communication

Chapter 13. Europe’s revolutions: freedom and consumption for all?

Chapter 14. Progress and its discontents: nationalism, economic growth and the question of cultural certainties

Chapter 15. Europe and the other worlds

Chapter 16. The ‘Decline of the Occident’ – the loss of a dream? From the nineteenth to the twentieth century

Chapter 17. Towards a new Europe?

Epilogue: Europe – a present with a future

Notes