AMERICA IN EUROPE: A History of the New World in Reverse by German Arciniegas

AMERICA IN EUROPE: A History of the New World in Reverse

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

A fresh and stimulating celebration of the New World's contributions to European culture by one of South America's most agile minds. Whereas previous scholars have almost always focused their attention on Europe's impact on the Americas, Arciniegas reverses the perspective and shows that were it not for the discovery of what was truly a ""New World,"" European progress into the modern era would have been seriously retarded. It was from across the Atlantic, for example, that Copernicus, Thomas More, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine found their intellectual stimuli. Confronting the immensity of the Western Hemisphere with its apparently limitless possibilities, its purportedly uncorrupted native populations and its infinite resources, such thinkers reevaluated the ""truths"" on which traditional European science, philosophy and society itself were based. The repercussions were felt on every level from astronomy to zoology, toppling monarchs and shattering ancient dogmas. The author supports his thesis with a fine display of erudition, leavened with a sense of ironic humor. He discusses with equal knowledgeability the operas of Vivaldi, the political alliances and misalliances of the Italian Risorgimento, the present location of the keys to the French Bastille, utopian communities, why Ferdinand and Isabella opposed slavery, and what Peru had to do with Russian Cossack dancing. Arciniegas mixes abstract ideas and colorful anecdotes with the sure hand of a cultural alchemist. The work is divided into a dozen well-organized chapters covering such general topics as ""The Noble Savage,"" ""The Invention of Independence,"" ""The Frustrated Reconquest"" (the story of Maximilian and Carlotta's disastrous Mexican venture), and ""Romanticism."" Each chapter is a model of concise exposition. The translation is smooth-flowing and refreshingly colloquial. America in Europe is certain to bolster the confidence of anyone who has ever quailed under such European jibes as ""typically American.

Pub Date: Feb. 19th, 1985
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich