The year 1989 was one of the best in European history. Indeed, I am hard pushed to think of a better one. It was also a year in which the world looked to Europe—specifically to Central Europe, and, at the pivotal moment, to Berlin. World history—using the term in a quasi-Hegelian sense—was made in the heart of the old continent, just down the road from Hegel's old university, now called the Humboldt University. Twenty years later, I am tempted to speculate (while continuing to work with other Europeans in an endeavor to prove this hunch wrong) that this may also have been the last occasion—at least for a very long time—when world history was made in Europe. Today, world history is being made elsewhere. There is now a Café Weltgeist at the Humboldt University, but the Weltgeist itself has moved on. Of Europe's long, starring role on the world stage, future generations may yet say: nothing became her like the leaving of it.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
I'm reading Timothy Garton Ash's The Polish Revolution: Solidarity (Third Edition) - his 1983 history-and-eyewitness-report on the rise and fall of Solidarity in 1980-81. I'm preparing a lecture I need to give next month in Warsaw, but it just so happens that we're about to mark the 20th anniversary of the extraordinary events of 1989, when the Soviet Empire dissolved; since Garton Ash is such a fine historian and eye-witness, the New York Review of Books has asked him to write on those days. The first of two installments is here: