'The persistence of empire in European history after the fall of Rome is striking: the Holy Roman Empire, the French Empire, the German Empire, and now the European Union, which some call an empire. Yet empires didn’t determine the form of Europe. Nor was European life organized mainly in city-states, though the city saw some remarkable developments in such places as Italy, Flanders, and the Rhineland. Why did Europe gradually abandon the two natural forms of human association? And why did a third form, for which there was no equivalent in the ancient world, finally prevail?'
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