A thousand years ago, Europe as we know it today did not exist. Thirty million people living between the Ural and the British isles, between Scandinavia and Greece had no reason to think of themselves as a single culture or people.
The Roman empire had left only half of the continent with roads, theaters, Latin, trade networks and a collective memory, but the other half did not share this experience. The common Roman currency was gone and the monetary effort of Charlemagne did not last for long. Nothing like a centralized national state existed anywhere in Europe.
At the turn of the year 1300, the Papacy, the Byzantine emperor and the Holy Roman emperor claimed large territories, but hundreds of principalities, ecclesiastical territories, city-states and other sovereign political entities operated as free and independent authorities.
By 1490, the map of Europe had dramatically changed. The Arab empire was replaced by the Ottoman empire and Spain was Christian again, the Byzantine empire was gone and big dynastic monarchies were beginning to emerge. Hungary, Poland-Lithuania, Muscovy, France, Spain, England, Portugal and Scandinavian kingdoms and empires appeared.
The other side of the spectrum still showed many independent political entities however. New currencies and above all a banking and financial system created the conditions for an economic boom.
Although the current financial crisis puts the banking system and its actors in a negative perspective, the system proved to be irreplaceable and indispensable. Without financial and banking system, no renaissance, no humanism and no human progress.
The exchange of goods remained vital to economic growth, but the ability to use money was of fundamental significance to the creation of wealth. An adequate financial and banking system was and is the condition for economic, social and cultural progress.
In 2009, a large part of Europe is united by a single currency, hold together by the illegal and hazardous money printing press, illegal monetary, economic policies and subsidies (75% EU-budget) by the ECB and the European Commisison and appalling undemocratic and not transparent structures.
Their policies are without alternative however, so they and their patronage networks at national level claim. The eurozone and this dogma get rather close to eurocommunism.
Many small national states dominate the European map nowadays. From 1500 to 1918 states diminished in number, but increased in area. Afterwards, states grew in number, but decreased in area.
This development is still going on. On the one hand there are centralizing tendencies, for example the Euro and the European Union, on the other hand the mood is towards regionalisation.
It remains to be seen what the map of Europe will look like in 2500.One thing is sure however: the euro will be judged as a reckless, irresponsible and disastrous leap forward by this time. (source: Ch. Tilly, Coercion, Capital and European States (Maiden 1992).