Mike Rossi


Actual Position

Courses » Politics of Europe

Content: Politics of Europe

Table of Contents


“Europe is not just about material results, it is about spirit. Europe is a state of mind” – Jacques Delors

“I have always found the word ‘Europe’ on the lips of those statesmen who want something from a foreign power that they would never venture to ask for in their own name.” – Otto von Bismarck

“You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's Old Europe.” – Donald Rumsfeld

“I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from” – Eddie Izzard

This course is designed to provide students a detailed comparative historical analysis of European politics and society from the social revolutions of 1848 to the present period. Because this encompasses an enormous amount of time including dozens of countries, we will be examining this period within the context of 4 broad methodologies:

  1. The development of a modern state structure within the balance of socio-cultural movements and representative institutions.
  2. The evolutionary conception of “democracy” from collective rights of a “nation” to individual rights of a “citizenry”.
  3. The waxing and waning of pan-movements that have historically comprised either social class or cultural identity and have more recently embodied trans-continental and supra-national associations.
  4. The gradual development of a “European” identity that has either worked alongside specific national aspirations or as a solution to competing national narratives.

Studies of specific countries serve to augment these themes, rather than provide a static survey of political institutions and governmental procedures at any given time. Thus, we will primarily focus on “Europe” as a relative whole, which should serve the additional purpose of placing various events and activities particular to one country or one region within a larger political, economic, social, and cultural framework. The primary objective of this approach is to show how national consciousness is influenced by, and in turn contributes to, Continental phenomena.

Target Group

This is a class that follows the curriculum originally laid out in Introduction to Comparative Politics and serves as one of two "sequels" along with Politics and Culture. It is a middle to upper level class that students interested in European studies would find useful for their studies. It is not officially cross listed with any European history course, but the material covered and the approaches used, make this class just as much a history course as a political science one, and students who are either double-majoring or minoring in political science and history have regularly enrolled.

The course is also designed for those interested in studying social revolutions, the development of collective identity, the politics of nationalism, state theory, social welfare policies, class conflict, and elite bargaining in post-conflict regions. The course can also serve as a prelude to the class I teach on the European Union.

Course Structure

Politics in Europe is a great class to teach because it fuses history and political science together in one course. I decided to start with the social revolutions of 1848 instead of where most classes would start in 1945 and conduct the class within a comparative historical framework of social and political class development. The class is divided into two sections: the development of modern Europe from 1848 to 1945, and the reconstruction of Europe and development of transnational institutions since 1945. While much of "modern" European politics does not begin until the second part, it is the first part that gives students the historical background and necessary information for understanding where and why the second half picks up.

A recurring theme throughout the class is the study of both the development of a national identity and an association with being a part of Europe, and the often conflicting and competing conditions that force one to counter the other. It also examines what I see as a recurring pattern of socio-political cleavages between liberalism and socialism on one end, institutional and cultural conservatism on the other, and the role of an emergent and active bourgeois society as the catalyst for a market economy and a democratic political society. It seeks to examine the development of Europe as a whole, but focuses on key events in specific countries like Germany, France, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, Great Britain, and Poland.

Work Material

The first half of class begins by studying the theoretical causes of democracy and authoritarianism as outlined in chapters seven and eight of Barrington Moore's Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. These two readings, which outlines the roles of the monarchy, aristocracy and peasantry vis-a-vis an emergent bourgeois class, provides the basis of comparative historical analysis for information obtained from readings by Hobsbawm, Rapport, and Evans.

The second half of class sort of "starts over" after World War II and examines the postwar social and institutional reconstruction. The main focus is the policy of state-sponsored social welfare along with the development moderate parliamentary politics. Tony Judt's Postwar functions as an unofficial textbook that gives students both the historical and political information.

Suggested readings are offered for students interested in additional information they might need for either of their writing assignments, as well as reference material for future research.

Author Bibliographic Data
Evans, Richard 
The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin Books, 2003
Fest, Joachim C. Hitler. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974 [Fes74]
Havel, Vaclav Living in Truth. London: Faber & Faber, 1987 [Hav87]
Hehn, Paul N. “The Origins of Modern Pan-Serbism – The 1844 Na?ertanije of Ilija Garašanin: An Analysis and Translation”, East European Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 2 (1975): 153 – 171 [Heh75]
Hitler, Adolf Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1971 [Hit71]
Hobsbawm, Eric The Age of Capital: 1848 – 1875. New York: Vintage Books, 1996 [Hob96]
-- The Age of Empire: 1875 – 1914. New York: Vintage Books, 1989 [Hob89]
-- The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914 – 1991. New York: Vintage Books, 1996 [Hob96]
Kalyvas, Stathis N. The Rise of Christian Democracy in Europe. Cornell University Press, 1996 [Kal96]
Judt, Tony Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. New York: Penguin Books, 2005 [Jud05]
Moore, Barrington Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press, 1966 [Moo66]
Paxton, Robert Anatomy of Fascism. New York: Vintage Books, 2004 [Pax04]
Rapport, Michael Nineteenth-Century Europe. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005 [Rap05]


©Michael Rossi – http://michael-rossi.demokratio.info