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~Historian Chronicles Europe's Rebirth Since World War II~

For immediate release:
Jan. 23, 2003

Arlie Corday,

Professor William I. Hitchcock will sign copies of his book, The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945-2002, Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7:30 pm at Borders, Atrium Mall, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

WELLESLEY, Mass. - How did Europe go from the ashes of World War II to a continent richer, freer and more stable than at any time in history? William I. Hitchcock, visiting assistant professor of history at Wellesley College, answers that question in his new book, The Struggle for Europe: The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent 1945-2002 (Doubleday, January 2003). An analysis of European history over the past half century, it is a riveting account of the unlikely transformation and postwar birth of Europe.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Winston Churchill gave a speech at Zurich University in which his description of Europe captured the sense of desperation felt by many as they faced the immense task of postwar reconstruction. He asked if this were the start of a new Dark Age "with all its cruelty and squalor?"

After all, 40 million Europeans were killed between 1939 and 1945, an average of 18,500 deaths a day for six years, according to Hitchcock. Could Europe ever recover from such a horror, or were its days of vitality and civilization gone forever?

As it happened, Europe did not stay down for long. In the years since Churchill spoke, Europe has prospered beyond anyone's wildest dreams. In some ways, it is the total devastation of the continent that led to its rebirth, Hitchcock notes, since the destruction forced the modernization and reconstruction of nearly every aspect of society. It also led to the establishment of political institutions that would encourage economic growth and social stability, which eventually led to the formation of the European Union.

"This book shows that the path Europe has traveled has not been straight and easy, but a rocky, crooked and perilous one," Hitchcock says. "Since 1945, this continent has seen its share of heroes and villains, periods of high hopes and profound disillusionment, times of peace and war, of courage and cowardice, of honesty and deceit. But in the end, this is the story of a struggle against adversity and a triumph over the odds."

Churchill never doubted that outcome, telling his audience that day in Zurich to imagine a new Europe rising out of the old.

"Why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this turbulent and mighty continent, and why should it not take its rightful place with other great groupings in shaping the destinies of men?" he asked.

Hitchcock has succeeded in chronicling the vast history that has produced the new Europe. His book takes an in-depth look at history from the division of Europe in 1945 through the Iron Curtain era, the Khrushchev years, the transition to democracy for many countries, the war in Bosnia and more.

Yale historian Paul Kennedy says of The Struggle for Europe, "Two features of this book stand out: its easy, lucid style, which allows deeply-thought-out analyses to be slipped into the readable narrative; and the confident way it treats regional complexities, from Ulster to Greece, yet preserves the larger picture of Europe's remarkable transformation. This is a deft and mature work."

Hitchcock concludes his 500-page volume with a look at the European Union, the world's largest trading bloc, incorporating 15 states and 370 million people. He feels the EU holds the best hope for a united citizenship working toward a common goal, but only if Europeans accept its responsibilities as well as its benefits.

"Is Europe, after a century of war, genocide, and fascism, prepared now to advance the ideals of democracy, tolerance, equality, and unity?" he asks. "If so, then the people of this continent must be willing to fight for them, and engage themselves in this continuing struggle for Europe."

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for more than 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.


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