Chinese civilisation was for a long period more advanced than European. From China, Europe acquired printing, paper-making, the compass, gunpowder and locks for canals. Yet it was in Europe that steady economic growth first occurred and then the Industrial Revolution. And it was in Europe that representative government and individual rights, those other hallmarks of modernity, first developed. What is it about Europe? Historian John Hirst offers a fascinating exploration of the qualities that made Europe a world-changing civilisation. The Shortest History of Europe begins with a rapid overview of European civilisation, describing its birth from an unlikely mixture of three elements: classical learning, Christianity and German warrior culture. Over the centuries, this unstable blend produced highly distinctive characters - pious knights and belligerent popes, romantics spouting folklore and revolutionaries imitating Rome - and its coming apart provided the dynamic of European history in modern times. Meanwhile the common people were tilling the soil, until they became the first to enjoy the prosperity of an industrialised urban society. The Shortest History of Europe is a clear, humorous and thought-provoking account of a remarkable civilisation.