The Europeans

The Europeans: A Geography of People, Culture, and Environment by Robert C. Ostergren and John G. Rice. New York: The Guilford Press, 2004.

It is not clear if this book is intended as a geography textbook, but in the introduction the authors describe it as a result of many years of teaching courses on the geography of Europe for undergraduates. If it were a textbook, I would expect a glossary of unfamiliar terms, of which there are many. Perhaps the expectation is that students would look up the words they don’t understand, or that the instructor would explain them in class. One word which was used so many times I had to stop and look it up was hegemony (political and/or cultural domination). The book did actually define the term Maghreb (western North Africa – Morocco, Algeria & Tunisia) which I heard for the first time on the radio the same day I learned it.

My main purpose in reading the book was to learn more about the European Union, which was created long after I finished college and thus was never covered in my schooling. I am fascinated by the idea of all those European countries, with centuries of wars between them, forming a political and economic union. This book was written in 2004, before the financial crisis that began in 2008, so it may be more optimistic than it would be if it had been written more recently.  But at least now I know what happened in the past 30 years, what the map of Europe looks like now, and what happened to all those “former Soviet” countries when the Berlin Wall came down.

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