European Unity from Renaissance to Present
Having begun in the 14th century, the renaissance period is a significant period in the history of Europe because it sparked off new knowledge which posed a critical challenge on the existing European doctrines, especially in theology and science. Initially occurring in Florence, Italy, the Renaissance eventually spread to other European nations and as a result brought together the entire Europe. Though European intellectuals were immensely influenced by the rediscovery of the ancient Greek in addition to the traditional knowledge and thus linked different regions of Europe to each other, it emerges that European nations witnessed religious conflicts which resulted into war, for instance, the conflict between Spain and France. The industrial revolution was as well characterized by unity and disputes which paved the way for the formation of unions. However, it is important to note that Europes integration came to a standstill in the 20th century as the First World War saw countries align with others to enter into war. The fact that both the first and second world war led to unprecedented human as well as physical devastation prompted European nations to unite and promote lasting peace within the region. While some countries under the union have chosen to pursue parochial interests, the strength of Europe as a continent remains firm in the face of challenges such as Brexit.
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Significant Trends against European Unity from Renaissance to Present
Being a cultural movement that influenced intellectual life in Europe, the renaissance witnessed trends that divided Europe rather than unite. The religious awakening, for instance, worked against the unity of European nations. In particular, the protestant reformation which prompted the establishment of evangelical churches in European countries such as Scandinavia, England, and Germany alienated these countries from the ones that propagated Roman Catholic religious ideologies. For instance, the disregard of papal authority by German Martin Luther and the seizure of the England church by Henry viii created religious tension that eventually culminated into a war between Germany and Spain thus threatening the unity of Europe. Even though religion initially served to unite regions, it emerges that different religious ideologies divided Europe along religious lines and created conflicts that led to prolonged religious wars.
Having started in England, the coal, steam, and textile-based industrial revolution created superiority tension in Europe which led to conflict among various European nations. The significant revolutionary attempts of 1815 and 1871 though unsuccessful, sowed seeds of discord among Europeans. Britain, for instance, became the envy of other nations owing to its economic sovereignty resulting from the industrial revolution. Instead of joining forces with Britain primarily to strengthen economic ties, European countries, on the contrary, worked on their own to compete with Britain. Notably, the industrial revolution led to economic ideologies which further divided European nations. Different nations adapted the socialist ideology whereas others embraced capitalism and hence created tension in Europe. The ideological, economic divide saw countries aligned in accordance with certain doctrines as well as opposed each other primarily to propagate their preferred ideology. The Soviet Union, for example, thrived in communism and hence stood in constant opposition with European nations that operated on capitalism.
It is worth noting that the 20th century ushered in events that threatened the existence of the entire Europe. The rise of nationalism in southern Europe contributed enormously to the disintegration of European nations because great powers took sides and therefore cleared up the way for the First World War in 1914. In the same analogy, the need for European countries to remain powerful as well divided Europe through the Second World War in which nations ganged up to fight each other and hence converted Europe into a battle zone. Even though the Second World War ended with the defeat of Axis powers consequently leaving the US and the USSR as dominant forces in Europe, lack of trust among nations delayed the process of unity in the region. For example, countries like Germany which were under Hitler's Nazi regime and Italy under Mussolini could not be trusted by other European nations owing to their significant contribution to the beginning of the Second World War. Owing to the unprecedented loss of life and destruction of property, Europe remained a divided continent after wars because countries that fought each other could not be trusted and therefore could not unite easily. Germany, for instance, was isolated by the majority of European nations because it was regarded as the one who sparked off the war. In the same fashion, the infamous acts of the Nazi empire, for example, the Jewish holocaust alienated Germany from the rest of Europe hence creating more division in the continent. Altogether, the industrial revolution motivated European nations to acquire economic transformation which in turn created suspicion and mistrust that prompted war in the 20th century Europe. The 21st century has as well witnessed events that continue to divide Europe (Judt 34). The Brexit, for instance, has destabilized the European unity through the EU. Being an undisputed leader in Europe, Britain's exit from the European Union by no means negatively influences the operations of the EU. More so, Britain may serve as an example to other nations to exit the EU and hence create a divided Europe.
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Major Trends That Promoted European Unity
The spread of the Renaissance from Italy to the rest of Europe influenced various spheres of the European society such as literature, science, and religion among others. As a result, Europe was united through the significant inventions that occurred in the Renaissance. For instance, the invention of the printing press promoted literature which in turn served to create a sense of identity and thus united Europeans. In essence, European unity is an ancient ideal because it is noted that Europeans observed integration throughout their history. Though the wars led to negative consequences, it emerges that both Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte tried to unite Europe by conquest. Unfortunately, Hitler and Napoleon's idea to merge Europe by conquest did not serve its purpose but rather divided Europe because wars create hostility and mistrust throughout Europe.
After the Second World War, European nations came to terms with negative consequences of war, and as such, leaders developed strategies primarily to unite Europe. Significantly, Europeans realized that unity could be achieved through equality as opposed to domination by superpowers. Consequently, nations swallowed their pride to pave the way for unity as well as everlasting peace in Europe. To enhance trust, European leaders came under one umbrella of the European Union which is characterized by standard rules and a shared vision among European nations. Typically, the formation of the EU has immensely contributed to the unity of Europe because through the EU, Europeans share their diversity as a people endowed with a rich culture and great history. Despite the recent turn of events that has seen Britain walk out of the EU, it is noted that Europe remains united and continues to share its vision in the face of diversity.
Personal View on the Direction of European Unity
Despite the fact that Europe is currently united, there are possibilities that divisions may arise in future. The Brexit has already weakened the unity of Europe, and other countries are likely to follow suit and abandon the union. Basing on the history of Europe, it emerges that Europeans are Renaissance people with regards to numerous successive invasions that swept across Europe. Similarly, conflicts between Europe and overseas nations are enough proving that European countries can engage in unhealthy competition and hence create friction that can disrupt Europe's unity. Therefore, in my opinion, European nations are not guaranteed integration.
Based on historical facts, it is clear that Europe's success is to a large extent attributed to the continent's unity. Since renaissance to present, Europe has enjoyed integration safe for unfortunate occurrences such as world wars whereby leaders wanted to create unity through dominance. With the formation of EU, Europe operates under common policies while aiming at achieving a common goal. However, though unity prevails in Europe, it is not a guarantee that the continent will continue enjoying peaceful coexistence. Currently, Europe consists of a diverse large population that may fall apart. With Britain having dropped out of the EU, other countries can as well exit the union and operate on their own thus putting Europe's unity to the test.
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