Even the most casual of glances at the map of Eurasia reveals the smallness of that area that we call Europe, and in particular the Western Europe that has had such an outsize influence on recent history.
Indeed the Western Europe its grudgingly acknowledged cousin in the area of world affairs, which is Central Europe, are little more than a smallish protuberance; a mere peninsula on the landmass that is really more Asia if it can be called anything. It is a wonder of world-historical development that this West became so influential, but it does raise the question of what precisely do we mean by Western heritage.
In our Anglophone it is easy to ascribe all Western influence to Great Britain and her offshoot that we are pleased to style as the United States, but that would give too short a shrift to nations on whose innovations was Britain’s greatness based: the Netherlands, for instance, with her commercial and naval breakthroughs; France with her centralizing drive; the German states who later taught us all the truly massive scales that industry can reach.
It is a truism that, once free of Anglocentrism, we fall back on definition of the West as Christendom, particularly the non-Greek Christendom that prevailed in Europe’s outermost regions, forgetting how ironic such a definition really would be from a broad-enough perspective for Christianity to be the West’s defining feature for the past two hundred centuries or so, given how very profoundly Eastern that religion is at its root — not less so than its sister Abrahamids. In fact, on reflection, the only heritage that is distinctly Western is that which we inherit from Hellenes and their Mycenean and Doric predecessors. Today, of course, we are almost prepared to altogether eject Greece from the European family, to have her join her enemy and bedfellow Turkey — which herself bestrides ancestral Greek lands and still is largely populated by the Greeks’ descendants. If there be a guiding hand to history, it must surely be attached to the most ironic of postmodernists.