Which makes the usual starting point of the modern European narrative — the rubble of 1945 — all the more poignant. An overwhelming imperative to rebuild, augmented by the cold war, united Western Europe and pushed West Germany center stage. Europeans prospered in an increasingly common market. But the unifying element was not optimism as much as dread — fear of another war among themselves or of Soviet expansion was what spurred West Europeans to bridge differences if they developed.

After the Berlin Wall fell, Western Europe expanded east and seemed to be serenely approaching the End of History — peace, prosperity, social security, democracy, with a unifying token, the euro, from Helsinki, Finland, to Seville, Spain. For its more than 400 million people, Europe became a theme park, museum, supermarket — the EasyJet continent: efficient, fast, open to all at little cost.