Europe: A History

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Europe: A History
Europe, A History.jpg
Cover of the first edition
AuthorNorman Davies
SubjectHistory of Europe
Media typePrint

Europe: A History is a 1996 narrative history book by Norman Davies.


As Davies notes in the Preface, the book contains little that is original. Primary research was rarely required. Twelve chapters span the European past from prehistory till the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The chapters contain almost three hundred so-called capsules, texts describing separate terms that often exceeds the specific time frame (e.g. Coward, Hatred, Loot or Vorkuta). In the middle part, Davies tries to avoid what he calls the bias of Western Civilization (neglect of eastern Europe), in the 20th century part he fights the Allied scheme of history. Davies notes at the end of the preface the book is "only one from an almost infinite number of histories of Europe that could be written" and that his work is "the view of one pair of eyes".


The book was on bestseller lists in London for several months,[1] but received a famously scathing review in the New York Times.[2]

In the book Davies criticized previous historians alleging that they promulgated cliches, which he calls "the Allied Scheme of History", often in strong language. Anne Applebaum in her review asserts that this may have caused equally acrimonious criticism of the book by some peers.[1]

A good deal of criticism was caused by Davies' drawing a parallel between atrocities carried out by Germans during the Holocaust (as exemplified by the case of Battalion 101 in Otwock) and Jewish postwar cooperation with Communist atrocities, accusing him of equating the two and thus downgrading the uniqueness of the Holocaust. Davies rebutted that he did not equate, just juxtaposed, to invite a comparison. Applebaum supports Davies in this respect, writing that she understood this as an example how ordinary people of any background may behave badly under certain circumstances.[1]

Davies' treatment of political repression in the Soviet Union in the book has been disputed by historian Stephen G. Wheatcroft of the University of Melbourne. In particular, Wheatcroft claims that Davies made a series of misleading statements which greatly exaggerated the scale of Stalinist repression, far beyond the estimates of Robert Conquest which Wheatcroft also considers exaggerated. Further, Davies mocked "semi-repentant 'revisionists'" while erroneously (in Wheatcroft's opinion) claiming that "the highest estimates have been vindicated" since the USSR's collapse. Wheatcroft asserts the exact opposite is true, and that the "view of the 'revisionists' has been largely substantiated" by the new data from opened Soviet archives as compared to hearsay and journalism data Conquest and Davies were basing upon.[3]



  1. ^ a b c Review of Europe: A History, by Anne Applebaum
  2. ^ Rabb, Theodore. "History in a Hurry". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Wheatcroft, Stephen G. (1999). "Victims of Stalinism and the Soviet Secret Police: The Comparability and Reliability of the Archival Data. Not the Last Word" (PDF). Europe-Asia Studies. 51 (2): 340–342. doi:10.1080/09668139999056. In his treatment of Stalinist repression Davies has been greatly misled by Conquest and others.