Peter Baldwin: Europe's Long Road To Economic Ruin

Roundup: Historians' Take

Peter Baldwin is a professor of history at UCLA.

The economic crisis in Europe reached its latest crescendo last night, as Greece managed, through furious last-minute negotiations, to convince its creditors to give it some more breathing room. But if the Greeks have managed to stake off ruin for a few more minutes, nothing has essentially changed in their situation: Their economy is still in shambles.

The burning question on most observers' minds, and rightfully so, is whether the Greeks will ever manage to pay back their debts. But at this stage, it's also worth considering how we ended up on the precipice of such catastrophe at all. Here are some reflections on the long road to our present disaster — and the possible paths out of it.

The economies of Europe are vastly divergent. The EU is much more variegated than commonly realized. It spans enormous economic disparities — great enough to cause problems for its functioning as a monetary union....

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