Book Notes: Europa by Julio Crespo MacLennan, Chapters 1-3

Why, why did Europe come to dominate the world at the very time when competing civilizations (the Arabs and the Chinese, obviously) were more advanced, more aggressive, and more powerful?

Crespo gives the answer early in the book:

– individualism

– humanism

– a more powerful role for women than any other civilization.

Altogether, these things are called Christianity but Crespo can’t say it openly. Of course, what gave Christianity and consequently Europe this incredible strength in the past is precisely what is undermining it in the present. Individualism destroys religion, and humanism breeds guilt and self-effacement.

Europa‘s author is clearly a lot more Crespo than MacLennan, which is why he’s unapologetically proud of European achievements and of the immensity of Columbus’s discovery. Efforts to vilify Columbus and erase him from history are all about the Anglo hegemony, of course.

Crespo patiently takes apart the myths about evil Europeans who destroyed the pristine, paradisiacal existences of “noble savages” in discovered lands. The writing is so measured, calm, and well-informed that you immediately realize he’s not from this side of the Atlantic.

These opening chapters deal with the material I teach every year, and I loved Crespo’s delivery. Spain and Portugal are always marginalized in the discussions of Europe (for why see above), and it’s great to see an account not tainted by anti-Hispanic sentiments. Unfortunately, Crespo doesn’t have much knowledge of Eastern Europe, and it shows. But hey, you can’t be good at everything.