What is Europe?
When considering the question of the identity of Europe, the Christian and Islamic worlds can be viewed as a single dynamic cultural space. It is difficult not only for non-Europeans but also for Europeans themselves to clearly define Europe. In his fascinating study What is Europe?, written more than thirty years ago, Masuda Shiro stressed the importance of viewing Europe not as an aggregate of individual countries such as Britain, France and Germany but as a single historical entity. Although there a few outstanding exceptions such as Masuda, most Japanese scholars_ understanding of Europe has tended to remain at the level of focusing on each country in turn. To some extent this is a reflection of Japan_s long history of national seclusion and the resulting habit of thinking in terms of a single country, but it is also because Europeans themselves, even though they have the same Christian background, have mainly studied history at the national level, particularly after the advance of specialization following World War II.
The End of the Age of European History as _World History_
The Maastricht Treaty, which took effect on 1 November 1993, has spurred the rapid revision of the historical legacy of Europe to provide a common foundation for the political and economic association known as the European Union (EU). This movement can be seen in the publication of new textbooks emphasizing Europe_s shared history, such as The History of Europe (edited by F. Dorsch??), which has been simultaneously published in over 10 countries, and Europe, currently being published in Britain, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. However, we cannot expect these books to immediately give us a clear historical definition of Europe, just as a hundred related volumes would not provide a definite answer to the intractable problem of Japan_s identity. The continuous posing of such questions should rather be viewed as means of gradually forming a new European identity. There is a growing recognition that it was Europe as a whole that formed the national histories of countries such as Britain, France, and Germany. This trend will undoubtedly exert a significant influence on the Japanese understanding of _world history._
One thing is certain. The recent formation of the EU through the reinterpretation of Europe is just one instance of a general movement of regional reformation happening all over the world. It is linked to a worldwide trend reflected in the collapse of the former Soviet and East European communist bloc, the establishment of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA), and the emergence of the Western Pacific Economic Region. This ongoing revision of European history amid worldwide regional reorganization will surely confirm once and for all that Europe no longer represents the whole world and that the age when European history meant world history has finally come to an end.