Covering around 10 million square kilometres, or just under 4 million square miles, Europe is the second smallest of the world’s seven continents. But it is number three in terms of population: over 725 million people live there, some thinly spread in the cold of the far north or the heat of the far south, but most packed closely together in towns and cities. That population density, combined with centuries of international trade and the fact that it was the home of the Industrial Revolution, has made Europe one of the richest and most powerful parts of the globe. In times past, it was also one of the most violent. Its turbulent history was crowned in the twentieth century by two world wars, after which it was divided during nearly 50 years of Cold War into the capitalist ‘West’ and the communist ‘East’. With the collapse of the latter, however, Europe now contains more genuinely democratic states than any other continent on earth. But Europe, like most continents, is not just a place, a geographical container for those states; it is also an idea and an identity (see Pagden, 2002). Indeed, because of this, it is actually quite difficult to define it as a place. Our notions of where it begins and ends are fuzzy: they change to suit our conceptions of who should be in and who should be out. The Europe covered in this book is as much of a conventional and convenient fiction as any other.
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