It might well have seemed inevitable that I would become a historian of postwar Western Europe in general and the European integration process in particular. My childhood was divided mainly between England, Italy, and Belgium, with shorter spells in France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. I was schooled in Italian, French and English. And my father had been a professional historian and then set up Brussels’ first serious think-tank in the early 1980s. I grew up in an environment where both history and the state of what was then European Community (EC) politics were constant topics of conversation, where familiarity with other European languages was assumed, and where the default method to explain most things that happened, whether world events or family developments, was to look back at the past in order to establish how we had arrived at where we were. A doctorate on some aspect of the EC’s past could only seem a logical step once I got into Oxford to read Modern History and did well enough to be able to aspire to postgraduate work.

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