European Identities and Histories

My latest post at the group blog New APPS

Discussions of European identity, and the history mostly revolve round two points of reference. One goes back to the origin of modern usage of Europe and European in the eight century around the struggle between Christian Franks and Muslim Moors, and then round the Frankish king Charlemagne who received the title of Emperor of the Romans, an event which questions the claim of the eastern and Greek Roman Empire, Byzantium, to continue the legacy of Rome there is an obvious religious focus here, which is Catholic Roman Christians as against Orthodox Greek Christians, and a Christian struggle against Islam. In Charlemagne’s reign the struggle to Christianise pagans is still very much an issue in northern Europe. So this is the Europe which is Catholic Christian, Frankish, and western Roman.

The other point of reference, one thousand years later, is the Enlightenment, so an origin in cosmopolitanism, rationalism, ethical universalism, secularism, and science is suggested. The Enlightenment does have a historical and geographical location in Europe, and particular concentrations within Europe. The most important focus for the cosmopolitan rationalist understanding of Europe is Königsberg, though purely Königsberg as the city of Kant. Kant is generally understood through his links to the west, to Scottish Enlightenment, the Enlightened despotism of Frederick the Great in Berlin, the Swiss-French Rousseau, and so on. Frederick II, King of Prussia was ruing over Kant’s location in East Prussia, but from Brandenburg and within the boundaries of the new Rome (in practice the German Empire) of Charlemagne.

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