“Get Used to It Europe: Homogenous States Are a Thing of the Past” | History News Network

Lawrence Davidson prompts European nations to accept the fact that homogeneous states are no longer realistic (if they ever were!). Therefore, “from every angle, ethical as well as historical, the way to approach the present refugee crisis is to allow, in a controlled but adequately responsive way, the inflow of those now running from the ravages of invasion and civil war. In so doing we should accept the demise of the homogeneous state. Whether it is Germany, France, Hungary, Israel or Burma, the concept is historically untenable and neither raises nor even maintains our civilizational standards. Rather it grinds them down into the dust of an inhumane xenophobia.”
I agree with Davidson that ideal vision of the nation-state of the past is a fantasy and that all European nations (I would add the U.S. as well) need to step up and help these refugees. However, it’s not enough just to accept the idea that nation-states must be multi-cultural. France, for example, has been a diverse society for some time now, but that hasn’t solved the problem of creating a harmonious society. The first difficulty will be to redefine what it means to be a member of a nation. Any definition that limits inclusion to those who have the right heritage (French ancestry, for example) or religion must be abandoned in favor a more inclusive definition (all citizens are members of the nation). This will not be easy, but diversity is a reality and it can be a benefit.
What’s the alternative? Any attempt to maintain uniformity within a nation can only come at great cost.  What Jefferson claimed in reference to religious uniformity is equally applicable when it comes to attempts to maintain uniformity more broadly: “is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more than of face and stature Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum [moral censor] over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.”

History News Network | Get Used to It Europe: Homogenous States Are a Thing of the Past

The Book that Helped Bring Tolerance to Europe: “Ceremonies and Religious Customs of Various Nations” (1723)

In preparing for a lecture on the Enlightenment, I was reminded of a little known work that “Changed Europe.” (from the title of the book: The Book that Changed Europe) What makes Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations (1723) so special is its attempt to present all the world’s religions in an objective and fair way in a world that still largely believed that tolerance was a sin.

It was also a major intellectual achievement. It was written by the Huguenot (French Protestant) refugee in the relatively tolerant Dutch Republic. The project comprised seven volumes with more than 200 illustrations. The images rival the text as an intellectual achievement in its own right. (see two of the images below) Another Huguenot, Bernard Picart, designed all of the book’s illustrations.

It was a major victory for tolerance!

"Hindu deities, one holding recognisable European musical instruments."

“Hindu deities, one holding recognisable European musical instruments.”

“Marriage and divorce ceremonies of the natives of Canada. Picart used the European style rug and classical poses to make this religion seem less foreign to European readers.”

A More Complex Picture of the Fall of Rome: “The Origins of the Early Medieval State” | History Today

Why study the fall of Rome and the emerging states that arose in the aftermath?
The historian Paul Fouracre explains the problems with the mythic version of the fall of Rome and the aftermath. In conclusion, he feels the need to justify the study of this period: “Most West Europeans do live in states that had their origins in what grew out of the Roman Empire and do want to know how this came about. The task is to write about this in a clear and accessible way that comprehends the complications and avoids the crusty value judgments of old. David Rollason has shown the way forward in his recent textbook, Early Medieval Europe 300-1050 (2012), which opens with the question: ‘why study this period?’ Well, because in its complications we see how the complex world in which we live first took shape. Oh, and it is fascinating.” Rollason’s answer applies equally to all other areas of history. It’s unfortunate that we as historians feel compelled to justify what we do, but the value of history is not apparent to many people.
To read Fouracre’s article go here:

The Origins of the Early Medieval State | History Today.

The fall of Rome 476

The Sacking of Rome (5th century)

UK teaching “invented” history as EU propaganda, says Cambridge professor | Cambridge News

“David Abulafia, a professor of Mediterranean history, told the Daily Telegraph schools were ‘papering over’ past disunity on the continent to further integration under the European Union.” If true, this would unlikely lead to the desired results. The best way to promote unity is to honestly confront the past. It was not pretty and most people would not want to repeat it. Let students learn from that past. Repressing the past as a way to build unity has not been successful. This was tried and failed in the former Yugoslavia.

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada (1588)

Voltaire’s 250-year-old book on tolerance climbs French best-seller lists after terror attacks | Star Tribune

I am happy to see a renewed interest in Voltaire’s Treatise on Toleration. Although the worst of religious violence in Europe had waned by the time of Voltaire was born, he witnessed plenty of religious oppression and discrimination. We need to relearn the lessons that Enlightenment thinkers learned from the religious violence that plagued Europe in the aftermath of the Reformation and Voltaire’s book is a great place to start. Unfortunately, those who most need to learn these lessons are probably not the ones reading Voltaire.

Voltaire: “It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God?”

Voltaire’s 250-year-old book on tolerance climbs French best-seller lists after terror attacks | Star Tribune.


History News Network | Europeans Need to Reconsider the Lessons of the Great Depression

Here is another perspective on the lessons from the Great Depression, but in this case the focus is Europe. Barry Eichengreen has some great insights into the current European situation, particularly in his observation that “Across Europe, anti-system parties of Left and Right are gaining political traction. That perverse policies and economic hard times feed political extremism is another important implication of the 1930s. It is still not too late for European policy makers – and historians – to get this lesson right.”

History News Network | Europeans Need to Reconsider the Lessons of the Great Depression.

Hall of Mirrors Great Depression