that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, its departure from
the geopolitical bloc will have seismic consequences. The concerns are
legion: Will a Brexit — as Britain's exit from Europe is called —
trigger an economic meltdown? Will Scotland choose to abandon a Britain
unshackled from Brussels? Will the rest of Europe be able to stick
last question is a real fear for some. Germany's foreign minister
warned that Brexit will put Europe's "decadeslong, successful
integration effort" at risk of "disintegration."
European Union is unique in history with its embrace of liberal,
democratic values. After centuries of wars and bloodshed, here was the
solution for a lasting, fruitful peace: a confederation of European
states, most of which would also agree to open borders and a joint
currency. That picture looks less rosy now, given the growing traction
of Euroskeptic politics in many parts of the continent, and its victory
David Runciman, a professor of politics and international studies at Cambridge and the author of The Confidence Trap: A History of Democracy in Crisis From World War I to the Present,
explained that, "I don't think you could make sense of it by thinking
it's just something going on in this country. It's being driven by a
loss of confidence among a significant portion of the voting population
in institutions, and that includes political parties. It's the kind of
political event that doesn't fit our party structure, and it also chimes
with what's been happening in America, which is that there is a feeling
that the old rules don't really apply anymore."
is hardly the first time, of course, that a great continental political
project has faltered or collapsed. Here, we chart almost two millennia
of European history through some of its most ambitious empires and
its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the windswept moors of
northern England to the desert wastes of Syria. Under the Pax Romana,
much of what's now Europe was knitted together by roads, bureaucracy and
politics. A common language — Latin — was chiseled on monuments and
temples across the realm. Cults to eastern gods — Mithras, for example,
or Isis — spread far and wide. Men born in places such as Spain and the
Balkans could aspire for glory and prominence in Rome.
empire was a continental power where before none had existed, and even
after its collapse and disarray by the 5th century A.D., its imprint had
a profound hold on the course of European history.
The kingdom of Charlemagne
the Frankish warlord Charlemagne and his Merovingian predecessors,
Western Europe saw its first marked political integration since the
waning of Rome. The Franks subdued Germanic tribes in forests east of
the Rhine and battled Muslim armies pushing north from Spain.
From his capital at Aachen, in what's now Germany, Charlemagne ruled
over a vast domain that at its peak may have encompassed 10 million to
20 million people. An intervention into papal politics saw him crowned
as "emperor of the Romans" in the Basilica
of St. Peter's on Christmas, A.D. 800 — a resurrection of the Roman
Empire in the west in title, if not practice, that lingered for 1,000
years. After Charlemagne's death in 814,
his empire would dissolve amid competing factions, but the political
geography of much of Western Europe, including the distinct kingdoms of
France and those in Germany, was set.
the power of Rome dimmed in the west, the empire's legitimacy was
preserved in the east with the Byzantines. They were at once the
paramount power in the Mediterranean, as well as the main bulwark
between lands steadily claimed by Islam and Christendom in the west. The
Byzantine capital of Constantinople, now Istanbul, was a thriving
center of art and trade and perhaps the most important bastion of
Christian rule until its fall to besieging Ottomans in 1453. Yet the
Greek-speaking and Greek Orthodox Byzantines were often at odds with the
realms to the west. In 1204, more than two centuries before the
Ottomans took Constantinople, a rampaging Crusader army sacked the city,
carrying out a brutal campaign of rape, plunder and destruction.
The Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was Europe's first embryonic attempt at a jointly policed free trade zone.
Guilds and powerful merchant families in northern Europe banded
together to form associations that linked a host of cities together,
centered around influential German ports on the Baltic Sea. In some
circumstances, they shared common laws and operated in mutual defense.
The league's heyday was between the 13th and 15th centuries, but its
monopoly over trade and shipbuilding in the region collapsed amid
turbulent shifts in Europe's late medieval landscape, including the Protestant Reformation and growth of rival power centers in Russia, Sweden and what's now the Netherlands.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is the largest European state that you
probably never heard of. At its peak, the bi-republic — a merging of the
Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — encompassed a vast
tract of what is now Eastern and Central Europe, spanning the Baltic
states, Poland, Belarus and Ukraine and held together, to varying
extents, between the end of the 14th century until the end of the 18th
century. It was marked by an unusual religious tolerance; for a time, 80
percent of the world's Jewry lived within its borders.
historians consider its constitution, issued in 1791, to be the first
such modern, proto-democratic document drafted in Europe. The
commonwealth was carved up and eventually subsumed by the expansion of
three rival empires at its borders: Russia, Prussia and Hapsburgs of
1683, a mighty Ottoman army was repulsed at the gates of Vienna for a
second time. The failed siege of the Austrian capital is considered a
defining moment in European history — the pivotal battle that shielded
the realms of Christendom from the advance of the Muslim Ottomans.
For centuries, though, the Ottomans were as "European" as anyone else.
Its armies and senior leadership were populated by janissary recruits
and Christian converts from across its borderlands along the
Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The attack on Vienna, moreover, had
been planned in league with the king of France — the Ottomans were
European power-brokers like any other major empire. In the centuries
that followed, Istanbul's European domains would steadily slip away
until the empire's dissolution after World War I.
Europe under Napoleon
In June 1812, Napoleon Bonaparte, the crowned French emperor, led his Grand Army on what would be doomed invasion of Russia.
The catastrophe of the expedition — which saw hundreds of thousands of
deaths — would lead to the unraveling of his conquests through much of
Europe and his brief exile to the Mediterranean isle of Elba. Before
that, though, within less than a decade, the Corsican general had won an
astonishing series of battles that brought much of Europe either under
his direct control or in alliance with his interests. Europe would not
see such a rapid, expansionist project until World War II.
Europe on the eve of World War I
War I was a conflict that followed decades of secret alliances and
scheming between the continent's great powers. The Triple Entente — a
defense pact between Britain, France and later Russia — vied against the
interests of Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Eventually, the
Ottoman Empire would enter the war against its longtime foe in Russia
and Italy, Romania and Serbia would also side with the Triple Entente
powers in a bid to take on the Austrians.
its height, the Third Reich and its Axis allies controlled a huge chunk
of Europe from France to the blood-soaked borderlands of the Soviet
Union. Nazi expansionism was fueled by Adolph Hitler's desire for lebensraum,
or living space for the Germanic race. It turned stretches of the
continent into a hideous charnel house where millions perished.
The Benelux Union
political and economic union among three relatively small, neighboring
states — Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg — the Benelux group
would join West Germany, France and Italy to form the European Coal and
Steel Community, a precursor to the organizations that would ultimately
lead to the creation of the European Union. The shared franc currency
between Belgium and Luxembourg can also be seen as a precursor to the
currency shared by the euro zone.
NATO before the fall of the USSR
the demise of the Soviet Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
was the paramount military alliance of the West. It remains so, even
after the end of the Soviet threat. Now billed as an alliance of
democracies, it initially stitched together nations that were anything
but — including 20th century anticommunist dictatorships in Spain,
Greece and Turkey. The continued prospect of NATO expansion, which
encompasses many more nations than those seen on this map, riles Moscow
to this day.
The European Union, now
Meanwhile, the European Union, officially declared in 1993, also grew, and now counts 28 states as its members. But now that Britain is leaving, that number will shrink by at least one — and maybe more to come.
Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for the Washington Post. Laris
Karklis has been working at the Washington Post since 2000.
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
DISCLAIMER - We do not own or claim any rights to the articles presented in this blog. They are for information and reference only for whatever it's worth. They are copyrighted to their rightful owners.
Please listen in to Erick San Juan's daily radio program which is aired through DWSS 1494khz AM @ 5:30pm, Mondays through Fridays, R.P. time, with broadcast title, “WHISTLEBLOWER” the broadcast tackle current issues, breaking news, commentaries and analyses of various events of political and social significance.