Determine the overarching theme that runs through the period of European history studied from 500 AD through the end of the 20th century.
The overarching theme most prevalent in European history is the failure of any one European power to dominate the entire continent, although many tried; as well as the acute importance of maintaining the balance of power on the continent. The last power to dominate all of Europe was the Roman Empire which ended in 476 A.D. Thereafter, Napoleon and Adolf Hitler attempted to do so, but were stopped by combined forces of other European nations. The only unifying force in Europe during this time period had been Christianity; and even that has not prevented a number of bloody European conflicts. It should be noted that Europe, unlike any other continent, has a large number of sovereign nations in close proximity to each other. The competition between these nations and the constant efforts to maintain the balance of power has made Europe the most warlike of all the continents. European nations almost by necessity developed superior nations compared to the rest of the world, again to defend against invasion from other European powers. Ultimately, Europe looked outward, and the superior technology which was developed as a defense mechanism was easily employed in European expansion. This allowed Europe to expand both its hegemony and culture throughout the world. No other nation of continent has done so; and it is doubtful that Europe would have done so were it not for the keen attempts of European nations to defend themselves from each other.