Dutch historian Rietbergen (Univ. of Nijmegen) offers a broad historical summary of European societal development over the last 5000 years. Religion gets very close attention, as do certain seminal developments: printing, gunpowder, migration from country to city, and industrialization. Interspersed excerpts from primary sources (Grotius, Chaucer, Michaelangelo) add some variety to the text, though not always gravity (Iron Maiden lyrics?). The final quarter of the book, dealing with the 20th century, turns more toward sociology with less convincing results?Rietbergen's prejudices (against the European Union, for instance) show through. Hundreds of more detailed books on European culture are available; this one's value is its breadth and synthesis. It would make a good primer for undergraduates or the interested lay reader, though it does presuppose some historical knowledge.