Europe is one of the most dynamic and interesting areas of the world, pioneering in the European Union a new form of governance for half a billion people, represented in the world's first directly elected transnational parliament. This book situates the European Union in a broader European, global, historical and geographical context, providing a readable presentation of the most important facts and drawing on the theoretical approaches which have transformed the study of contemporary Europe over the past two decades. The European Union is still on the road to what has been called 'an unknown destination', and this book presents its economic, political, legal and social trajectory from the middle of the last century to the present. Contemporary Europe covers some of these issues in an interdisciplinary framework, aiming to situate the development of the European Union in a broader context of pan-European and global processes.Europe has been cut down to size, but it does not have to become a global backwater, and the study of contemporary Europe's institutional reality does not have to be boring The book counter this misperception, conveying the essential facts and theories of contemporary European reality in a clear and approachable analysis. It will serve as a readable introduction both to the academic field of European studies and to contemporary Europe itself.