J. M. Roberts. A History of Europe. New York: Allen Lane the Penguin Press, 1996.


Though all Chinese students are all required to study World History in the middle school, the history of Europe has always been a myth for me. One of the reasons is that the history we have learned in China is a “revolution” history based on Marxism’s theory of class struggle. Thus all what we have learned about European history is regarding revolution and restoration. However, I always have a question in that “If western world is such a chaos, why China is not the country who leads the trend of civilization?”

I read the first half of this book with this question, from the first page to the 300th page. What I have read covers from the ancient world to the launching of modern history (1500-1800). I’m highly interested in the history of ancient Greece and the rise of Roman world because they were related to early Christian church history. They are covered in the first part of my reading. Then it introduced the rise (and fall)of Christendom. I used to have a lot of wonders in the relationship of England, France and German, and from this book I think I got some answers, though still looks very complicated for me.

I’m glad that I made a wise choice. The author also mentions the wonder of Chinese culture in the book. However he didn’t give the answer. But I think I have some clue. Greek philosophy, of course, is one of the reasons for western civilization because in eastern culture law and logic is not emphasized. I also saw another reason lies in the rise of Christendom. Though there were wars and rebellions in Europe, but they never break the progress of history because there’s always a superior order – the papacy – exists behind all states, regardless of whether it’s highly respected or ignored by secular officers. I think this is an advantage because in Chinese history, the change of dynasty is like the restarting of Microsoft Windows – everything needs to start from beginning, including the selection of officers, the technical inventions, the agricultural technologies, etc. Moreover, due that the secular emperor and his officers have both the religious power (Confucianism) and the administrative power, the freedom of individuals in China is very limited comparing to Europe.

Though it’s a high-level overview book without great details, it provided a bird’s eye view of the western civilization history and helped me a lot in understanding topics in Church history. I highly recommend this book to all International students from eastern countries.