To correct the popular touristic conception of Europe as a picturesque residuum of museums, shops, and curios, this respected modern historian writes a cultural precis of the twenty independent nations composing contemporary Western Europe. Headed by the vital demographic statistics, each chapter contains a brief resume of the country's major contributions to Western civilization, its current economical and political structure, and finally, a historical synopsis. The key descriptions may seem a little pat (""Eire-Saints and Writers, Finland-Fortitude, Germany-Goliath""); but the information about political institutions (16 democracies, 4 authoritarian states, the Soviet satellites, even the miniatures--Monaco, San Marino, Andorra) is an effective preventative against the historical obsolescence afflicting so many American visitors. A concluding chapter on the prognosis for European unity places the Common Market in its continental context. Owing to the extensive coverage, generalizations abound and the history is elementary...For travel tyros only--to be read before embarkation.