Following on from his highly acclaimed first publication, Peter Rietbergen’s excellent second edition brings the reader up to date with Europe’s current cultural trends.
Rietbergen examines the many varied cultural building blocks of Europe, their importance in the continent’s cultural identity, and how the perception of Europe has changed over the centuries.
Working chronologically from the beginnings of agricultural society in Africa before Christ, right up to today’s mass culture, the book studies culture through the media of literature, art, science, technology and music.
With thorough revisions on the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, a wide selection of excerpts, lyrics from contemporary songs, and illustrations, this book is an excellent student resource for both historical and cultural studies.
By Rietbergen (Modem History/Univ. of Nijmegen, Netherlands), a magisterial review of Europe's cultural history from the Roman Empire to the post-WWII era. Rietbergen denies that Europe is a strictly geographical expression: instead for him, Europe is "a series of world-views, of peoples' perspectives on their reality, sometimes only dreamt or desired, sometimes experienced and realized as well." Despite the cultural diversity of Europe, the author perceives several unifying themes: one is Catholicism and its offshoots, which for centuries after the collapse of Rome defined the civilization of Europe. A modern unifying trend is the gradual evolution of many European countries toward constitutional and democratic government, which emphasizes the political and economic freedom of the individual. To present these themes historically, Rietbergen divides European history into four distinct cultural phases: the gradual emergence of a pan-European entity in the Roman Empire, which gave political unity to far-flung lands formerly dominated by Celtic and Germanic barbarians; the coalescence of a Christian Europe with a Roman character, which resulted in a uniquely European civilization in contrast to the eastern Christian and Islamic civilizations around the Mediterranean; the development of new ways of looking at man and the world with the emergence of humanism, the Renaissance, the great world explorations, and the Enlightenment; and the modem age, with its emphasis on consumption and communication, material culture and progress. The author concludes that Europe is evolving toward a future in which classical tradition, Christianity, and ethnic identity will have less culturalsignificance for Europe than in the past, but in which distinctive humane European values will continue to have an impact on the world. A thoughtful though ponderous meditation on the development of the "European idea" and its significance for the world. .