Luuk van Middelaar is a political theorist and historian. The author of the prizewinning The Passage to Europe, he recently published Alarums and Excursions (2019), a groundbreaking account of the Union’s crisis politics.

The Passage to Europe

How a Continent Became a Union


As financial turmoil in Europe preoccupies political leaders and global markets, it becomes more important than ever to understand the forces that underpin the European Union, hold it together and drive it forward. This timely book provides a gripping account of the realities of power politics among European states and between their leaders. Drawing on long experience working behind the scenes, Luuk van Middelaar captures the dynamics and tensions shaping the European Union from its origins until today.

It is a story of unexpected events and twists of fate, bold vision and sheer necessity, told from the perspective of the keyplayers – from de Gaulle to Havel, Thatcher to Merkel. Van Middelaar cuts through the institutional complexity by exploring the unforeseen outcomes of decisive moments and focusing on the quest for public legitimacy.

As a first-hand witness to the day-to-day actions and decisions of Europe’s leaders, the author provides a vivid narrative of the crises and compromises that united a continent. By revisiting the past, he sheds fresh light on the present state of European unification and offers insights into what the future may hold.

year 2014
publisher Yale University Press
pages 372
isbn 978-0-300-20533-6
translation Liz Waters

“This insightful book, written by someone close to events, comprehends and confronts the dynamic tensions in Europe between the politicians and public opinion. A must-read for reform-minded pro-Europeans and sceptics alike.”
Peter Mandelson, House of Lords, former UK Business Secretary

“A book on European integration like no other: history, political theory, social science and constitutional law laid out in such a personal and compelling narrative that one does not perceive the depth of learning and experience underlying it. Students, politicians and anyone interested in European politics will profit from reading this book.”
Joseph Weiler, author of The Constitution of Europe: Do the New Clothes Have an Emperor?

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