chapter  1
6 Pages

National pasts in Europe and East Asia

Europe and East Asia share an intermingled shift to the modern world and whilst for a short time they subsisted within a number of interlinked global colonial empires, during the twentieth century both experienced violence-suffused general crises that had profound consequences for the two regions and their peoples as the chaos of war was followed by dramatic reorganisation and sweeping programmes of reconstruction. The two areas disengaged. The polities of Europe were preoccupied with reconstruction plus unifi cation whilst East Asian peoples looked to the ordered differentiation of new states and nations. As governing elites pursued various projects, overarching regional trajectories diverged, but today after a long hiatus coloured by the cold war new relations are being formed with trade as the driver, and the two are once again interlinked, now as global players. But there are wider issues which escape the pragmatics of trading relationships for as Europe unifi es around a formal juridical/administrative apparatus, East Asian interregional networks deepen and the implications of global profi les are considered, new questions about the identities of regional polities emerge and hitherto taken for granted national pasts are open to question. Yet national pasts are subtle constructs, their revision fraught and wholly un-amenable to authoritative specifi cation: such intellectual/moral schemes comprise multiple strands and these are threaded through the institutions and ordinary routines of the community. In the case of the people of the regions of Europe and East Asia a crucial role is played by remembered war, 1 and re-imaging pasts suffused with the memories of violence will not be straightforward, yet for both peoples such intellectual and moral work will be a signifi cant part of creating plausible political routes into the twenty-fi rst century future.