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240 × 163 × 35 mm
384 pages
01 Mar 2019

The Europe Illusion Britain, France, Germany and the Long History of European Integration Stuart Sweeney

In The Europe Illusion, Stuart Sweeney considers Britain’s relationships with France and Prussia-Germany since the map of Europe was redrawn at Westphalia in 1648. A timely and far-sighted study, it argues that integration in Europe has evolved through diplomatic, economic and cultural links cemented between these three states, and that – as wars became increasingly destructive and economic expectations were elevated – states struggled to survive alone. Yet it has been rare for all three to be friends at the same time.

While common trends can be seen within the European states, there is an illusion of unity, since cultural particularisms have always tempered full integration. In this broader context, setbacks like Brexit can be seen as predictable and manageable. After all, the federal project has a strong pedigree, with roots in the Holy Roman Empire, and the EU remains a formidable institution of twenty-seven states. While Britain is left to forge a role outside the EU, Sweeney identifies a familiar semi-detachment, highlighting pragmatism and historical constancy at the heart of Europe.

‘Stuart Sweeney presents a masterful account of how Europe has been shaped by the inter-twining of British, French and German interests and ambitions. He scrapes off Europe's historical layers like an archaeologist with a trowel: migration, the fumbled economics of integration, nationalism and the puzzle of pooled sovereignty, war, diplomacy and statecraft, all the bubbling crises of the moment are traced back over centuries. The continuties that he uncovers should be a revelation for those baffled, intrigued or simply anxious about Brexit. The Europe Illusion is a brisk gallop of a book. Its fluency and flashes of wit show Sweeney to be a worthy heir of the great A.J.P Taylor. It should be read by every exhausted member of parliament, everyone caught up in the complex drama of Britain’s quest for semi-detachment from Europe.’ — Roger Boyes, chief foreign affairs commentator and diplomatic editor, The Times

‘In this timely and original contribution to the arguments over Brexit, Stuart Sweeney shows how successive attempts at European integration have always turned on the often fraught triangular relationship between Britain, France and Germany. Crisply and engagingly written, and with a sophisticated grasp of the economic issues at stake, the Illusion of Europe adds much needed historical depth to our current debate.’ — John Darwin, Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and author of Unfinished Empire: The Global Expansion of Britain (2013)

‘As the United Kingdom struggles to redefine itself and to determine its future relations with Europe and the wider world, Stuart Sweeney offers a timely reminder of how far this country's fate has been tied to those of France and Germany. In their search for prestige, influence, prosperity and security, all three powers have struggled to reconcile the tensions between their desire for autonomy and their need to collaborate. A thoughtful and measured contribution to the current Brexit debate.’ — Professor Peter Wilson, Chichele Professor of the History of War, University of Oxford Fellow, All Souls College, Oxford

‘This is the timely story of the relationship between Europe’s three great powers, Britain, France and Germany. Stuart Sweeney’s engaging narrative reaches back over 370 years to demonstrate how history taught each country different lessons and shaped different attitudes towards European integration. It is essential reading for those who wish to understand the risks in Britain standing alone.’ — Gavin Hewitt, BBC’s former Europe Editor

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Stuart Sweeney is a visiting academic at the Centre for European History, University of Oxford, and has taught at Oxford and Open Universities. His first book was Financing India’s Imperial Railways (2011). He lives in Richmond, Surrey.

Introduction: Brexit, Populist Aberration or Slow Burn Revolt?

1 From Holy Roman Empire to German Empire: Wars, Politics and Diplomacy, 1648–1864
2 From Bismarck to Brexit: Wars, Politics and Diplomacy, 1864–2018
3 Cameralism to Cobden-Chevalier: Economics of European Integration, 1648–1871
4 Bismarck’s Gold Standard to emu: Economics of European Integration, 1871–2018
5 From Empire Plantations to Boers and Boxers: Empires, Migrations and Europe, 1648–1904
6 From Entente to Enlargement: Empires, Migrations and Europe, 1902–2018
7 Religion and the ‘Other’ in Europe, 1648–2018