Europe by the book

A quick post to signal the launch of the initiative ‘100 books on Europe to remember’ hosted Tuesday by our colleagues of the EP Research Service. For the occasion, the beautiful EP reading room </slight envy> was filled with EU geeks and book lovers who had come to hear which books have shaped the thinking of academics and practitioners such as EUI Director Joseph Weiler; Kevin Featherstone from the London School of Economics; Béatrice Taulègne, from the Committee of the Regions but also the author of an early thesis on the European Council; former COREPER member Philippe de Schoutheete (also a frequent writer on the #EUCO), and Luuk van Middelaar, until recently an advisor to the President of the European Council.

It is impossible to give an exhaustive account of 100 books – in passing, even EUI Director Weiler admits to having read around 50% of the titles, while our team is busy cross-checking “the List” with our own #EUCOlibrary records to see what we are missing.

Worth noting, however, that it is far from a dry set of academic references: rather, readers will find a mix of memoirs by protagonists (Adenauer, Monnet, Brandt, Delors to name but a few); classic inter-bellum visions of united Europe (Coudenhove-Kalergi, Briand), together with works on the history of Europe (Judt, Pomian), essays on European identity (Benda, Simone Veil) and, indeed, milestones in the scholarly study of EU integration, such as Haas 1958, founding the neo-functionalist approach, but also Milward’s 1992 “rescue of the nation state”.

The initiative is commendable for a number of reasons:

  • it connects the library back with the core mission of the institution, as the function and the physical space where the institution’s intellectual pantheon is constructed and preserved;
  • it tests the limits of how far libraries can go in making content available: EP librarians located the texts, often out-of-print, wrote summaries and bios, but – imagine the frustration – in many cases copyright constraints make it impossible to display the full text or indeed the book cover on the website. Incidentally, the site allows browsing, or a convenient search on author, title, language, author, year.
  • it reminds us of the collective and evolving nature of every encyclopaedic effort: already now, through hints and suggestions, the ‘100 books’ are in fact 125 books, speeches and articles, and bound to grow further. Inevitably, people have spotted real or alleged gaps: in an otherwise passably federalist selection, readers on Twitter noted the remarkable absence of the Manifesto di Ventotene. In fact, the Manifesto is there, albeit hidden inside a collection of essays on and by Spinelli. As it frequently happens, the expectation of users to find full texts at the click of a mouse conflicts with the slightly deeper searches to which library staff are used.

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