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
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
"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.