Authors Rick Steves and Gene Openshaw overhauled the previous edition of Europe 101. It is much better (it would have to be). It does a good job relating historical chronology to travel destinations. The historical discussion is more thorough. There are gorgeous color photos of historical sites and artwork. Also valuable are the short bios of well-known artists. The authors provide good explanations and photographs of different styles in art and architecture.
The biggest improvements are the deletions. Many of the factual errors, omissions, and attempts at indoctrination in previous editions are gone. The authors removed the dreadful essay "Whose Story is History?" The authors no longer claim that Algeria had a 90 percent literacy rate before French colonization. The authors dropped the claim that slavery fueled the industrial revolution. There is no whining about Washington crossing the Delaware. The authors never responded to reviews criticizing this essay. Its removal vindicates the critics.
Unfortunately, the authors still reveal a bias towards socialism. Most of the errors are of omission. For example, the authors give socialists credit for labor unions and ending child labor. They play down the fact that socialists gave us boat people, mass starvation, the gulag, and multiple cases of genocide. The discussion of the Spanish Civil War omits the fact by the time it was over Josef Stalin entirely controlled the Republican side. The discussion of this tragic conflict is completely one sided. They should read Hugh Thomas, Stanley Payne, or George Orwell before preparing the next edition.
One inexplicable factual error is the claim that Lenin's "October Revolution" overthrew the Czar. The "February Revolution" overthrew the Czar in 1917. Lenin was in Switzerland during that time. The Czar's abdication caught Lenin completely by surprise. Repeating this error may be an act of willful ignorance.
While giving Lenin undeserved credit, the authors deny his responsibility for instituting totalitarianism in Russia, saying that Stalin instituted totalitarian's iron rule. Lenin created Russia's police state. Lenin abolished private property. Lenin ended a nascent democracy. Lenin initiated slave labor camps. Stalin expanded on what Lenin created. Leftists often blame Stalin and other rulers personally for Marxism's many disasters. They prefer not to face Marxism's inherent flaws.
The book has milder biases in favor of milder forms of socialism. The authors acknowledge that America has more income, but claim that Europe has a higher quality of life. In some areas, this is true. Europe has better mass transit; a more relaxed pace; a stronger currency; and better food. However, when it comes to overall standard of living, America ranks much higher. In 2004, Swedish researchers concluded that if the European Union were ranked as a single American state, its economic output per person would be fifth from the bottom. Only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia, and Mississippi ranked lower. The gap is growing. It is hard to believe that this wide disparity in economic production doesn't affect the relative quality of life. It is no coincidence that as America becomes more like Europe our standard of living is slipping.
This confusion applies to discussion of health care as well. The authors conflate the availability of health insurance with the quality and availability of health care. Despite having health insurance Britons often wait for months in pain for operations that are routine in America. Britain's lack of hospital beds is a frequent topic when the Prime Minister appears before Parliament. A few years ago, thousands died because the French health care system could not respond to a heat wave. A Russian male born in the year 2000 has a life expectancy of 59 years. Adjusting for gun violence and car accidents, America has the highest life expectancy.
While we should all celebrate Europe's peace and prosperity, we should keep in mind that America made it possible. America bailed out Europe in two World Wars. America provided the money to rebuild Europe. America spent a fortune and risked its survival to protect Europe during the Cold War. If Americans often take European advice with a grain of sale, it is because we remember this history. Americans also keep in mind that it was Europe that created various failed socialist ideologies such as communism and Nazism.
Europe can only fund its elaborate welfare states because America has long paid an inordinate share of Europe's defense burden. The authors write that Europe was "caught between two superpowers" with nuclear weapons during the Cold War. In fact, the Cold War started because one European country, the Soviet Union occupied Eastern Europe and threatened Western Europe. Europeans wanted American military protection (including nuclear missiles).
When it comes to the West's victory in the Cold War, the authors still refuse to give credit where it's due. Gorbachev ended the Cold War in the sense that he presided over his side's defeat. The authors' claims about Gorbachev's popularity are undermined by the fact that when he actually condescended to run for office, he received less than one percent of the vote.
Despite these and other flaws, this edition is a vast improvement over its predecessors. Again, that is not much of a compliment. It's not a Rick Steves' book without propaganda and historical errors. I hope that in future editions the authors will continue to redeem themselves.