Does Europe have a common culture? We occasionally ask you what it means to be “European”, and those of our readers who do feel part of a European identity (which is by no means all of you) often mention shared values, history, and culture. It’s true that we all have Beethoven and Da Vinci as reference points, but are they uniquely European? Surely great artists are part of a shared global culture, part of humanity’s common heritage? Also, modern Europeans are probably more interested in living Hollywood celebrities than in dead composers and painters.
True, we all eat Italian food, but we also eat Indian and Chinese food. Is there anything uniquely European that binds us together culturally? Or has culture gone global in the 21st Century?
We had a comment sent in on our “Suggest a Debate” page from Anonymous, who asked what European culture was.
Historically, European identity was often associated with religious identity. The name “Europe” rarely appeared on maps in the Middle Ages, with cartographers more commonly referring to the continent as “Christianitas” (Christendom). Early proposals for common European political unity (such as those of the 15th Century Bohemian King George of Poděbrady) were justified with reference to Catholicism.
Even then, however, there were Muslims in Iberia, Orthodox Christians in the East, Jews living across Europe, not to mention the Cathars and other movements considered heretical by the Church. The Protestant reformation complicated the picture even further, making it impossible to describe the continent as a united Christendom. Instead, “Europe” became a geographic (rather than religious) idea.
Today’s Europe is even more diverse in its cultures and beliefs. Ideas and fashions from across the world meet and blend together in the melting pot of modern European life. Is there any common thread running through all of that?
What is ‘European culture’? Is there anything that binds us together culturally? Or is culture global in the 21st Century? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!