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European Integration, 1950-2003: Superstate or New Market Economy?

Author(s):Gillingham, John
Reviewer(s):Barbezat, Daniel

Published by EH.NET (May 2004)

John Gillingham, European Integration, 1950-2003: Superstate or New Market Economy?. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. xx + 588 pp. $70 (hardback), ISBN: 0-521-81317-4; $25 (paperback), ISBN: 0-521-01262-7.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Daniel Barbezat, Department of Economics, Amherst College.

John Gillingham, Professor of History at the University of Missouri, has followed up his work on the early European Coal and Steel Community with an ambitious large-scale project, chronicling the history of European integration from the Marshall Plan era right through to the present. Gillingham sets his arguments on the personalities of the major figures, especially EU Presidents, woven broadly around the theme of Hayek’s liberal integration project. The book is not an economic history of the integration process, nor is it a straight history; rather, it is a detailed outline of how major figures shaped and responded to the increasing power of pan-European institutions. It is not general enough for use in a course on the European Union because it does not provide enough background and assumes a good deal of prior knowledge. However, it is also not a probing analysis of the span of European integration. As such, perhaps the book’s greatest use for economic historians is as a reference guide to key summits or the Single European Act/Maastricht Treaty period.

Gillingham is far more interested in the period after 1980 than the years before it. In fact, the book really should be thought of as an explanation of the reforms to the EU after the Single European Act than a book on the history of integration. Of course, asking one book to accomplish an overall history of European integration is far too great, but given the title of the book, Gillingham invites this expectation. In a book of over 500 pages, only about the first fifty or so pages discuss the period prior to 1965. Gillingham does not actually cover the period as much as set up some of the tensions that would play out over the next thirty years. Without prior knowledge, a reader would not understand the early years of the European Economic Community and its long and arduous transition into the European Union.

The book picks up strongly with country-by-country (Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Italy, Spain) descriptions of the crises in European nations over the 1980s. This provides a very good backdrop to the next chapter on the Maastricht Treaty. Here, Gillingham does a very nice job of analyzing the reasons behind both the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty of European Union. These treaties, of course, are the basis for most of the integration activity of the EU over the past twenty years and certainly deserve the attention Gillingham places on them. The chapters that follow examine the details over the major core European states over the 1990s with special attention paid to various scandals that destabilized governments. Gillingham spends far too much space, however, detailing the machinations within the major core countries. Ireland and Greece are barely mentioned and no mention is made of the arrangements between the EU and the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) nations. By ignoring the periphery, Gillingham does not allocate nearly enough space to agricultural issues; no real description is given of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy [CAP] (neither the MacSharry reforms nor those that followed). Given that the CAP (as Gillingham himself notes) has, since its inception, so dominated the EU budget, this is a major weakness.

As mentioned, because Gillingham largely ignores the periphery he pays no attention at all to the Greek-Turkish conflict, nor the total breakdown of European foreign policy during the Balkan crisis. (In the preface, Gillingham apologizes for not discussing Mediterranean policy (p. xvii) in detail, but “Turkey” is not even mentioned anywhere in the text of the book! Given that European integration accords with Turkey go back to the early 1960s, this is a dramatic example of how far Europe has alienated this non-Christian state.) Gillingham also only looks at the “frontrunners” of EU enlargement: Estonia, Hungary and Poland. Nothing is said about the other Eastern European countries or, for example, Malta. Since these issues comprise an important part of why the political process has been so difficult for Europe over the past two decades, their omission from the book leaves a regrettable gap in the chronicle.

Gillingham ends the book with a lengthy but interesting “Envoi.” In it, he quickly and clearly outlines the themes of the various periods. This is a very useful section, providing a quick overview of European integration. Overall, John Gillingham has written a text that could provide a good starting point for an understanding of the forces that produced the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty but I would not recommend it as a basic reference text for European integration as a whole.

Daniel Barbezat has written several articles on the European Steel industry in the inter-war period and the economics of the European Union. He is currently working on a book on public policy and a macroeconomics text.

Subject(s):International and Domestic Trade and Relations
Geographic Area(s):Europe
Time Period(s):20th Century: WWII and post-WWII