Continental story
Reviewed by
Charandeep Singh

Glimpses of Europe: A Crucible of Winning Ideas, Great Civilizations and Bloodiest Wars
By Bindeshwar Pathak and S. P. Singh.
Kalpaz Publications.
Pages 692. Rs 750.

EUROPE is called as "A Continent of Destiny". Why? We get an answer in this book. For an ordinary reader who is not a history student, Glimpses in Europe is a "Magna Carta" of European history. It is a compendium of sorts. All the incidents, whether major of minor, which have influenced the European history in one way or the other, are chronicled in the book. The book would be of special interest to diplomats, travelers, policy makers, speechwriters and the ones who are keen to know about Europe. Though we cannot say that Glimpses of Europe can be used as a reference book, but because of it uncomplicated style of narration, it is a refreshing historical narrative. An interesting highlight of the book is that the authors have also included the countries of the Mediterranean basin, which is apart from giving the framework for the study of a particular country to the readers in the most general way.

The book is a Euro-centric periodic piece, which helps in understanding the outstanding people of the continent, which has been the home of great artists, intellectuals, reformers revolutionaries and painters. The centre of gravity in the book is the graphic account of each European country. Even European nations like "The Principality of Liechtenstein" has been given its due, with its national indicators prominently mentioned.

The focus is largely on the 25 core countries within the Pyrenees in the west and the Elbe in the east, which make for the Europe mainland. The authors also explain with clarity as to why these 25 countries are the core focus in the book, as on the eve of World War I, Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany, which accounted for less than one per cent of world’s land surface and less than eight per cent of its population, ruled in the region of a third of the rest of the world’s area and more than a quarter of its population. All of Australasia, 90 per cent of Africa and 56 per cent of Asia were under some form of rule from these core European mainland countries.

The book has two sections: Profile of the European Continent and Profile of the Core European Countries. The first section is about the defining features and major events of the continent, while the second one is a country-specific narrative. The book starts by giving a brief about the early Europeans and how the trade wars lead to imperialism, and further developed the concept of nation state. Apart from describing geography and demography in detail, the book also describes African gold treasures and the ramifications of the disintegration of the USSR.

From the readers’ point of view, the best feature is the socio-historic commentary given by the authors, apart from giving inch-by-inch sketch of the great European personalities who changed the history of our planet as such. Like the role played by German Chancellor in World War II is known to everyone, but the intricate details mentioned about Hitler’s personality as well a peep into his thought process are there to be read. It is mentioned that every nation drew benefits from the French Revolution but France as a nation suffered. So, glancing through the book opens up another new dimension to already existing notions about a particular event.

Glimpses of Europe is written in a storytelling format. It is neither classic nor a popular narrative, nor it is about the whole of Europe, but it has the capacity to become a popular account of our time as it deals with that part of Europe which matters the most.