I Wish I'd Been There, Book Two: European History - Byron Hollinshead, Theodore K. Rabb This is a collection of 20 essays where noted historians discuss pivotal moments in European history that they would have liked to witness. Fully half, however, deal with British history and none dealt with Scandinavia, Central or Southern Europe; only one came out of Russia. And some are pretty weak; the worst being Paul Kennedy's contribution, "The Battle of the Nile," supposedly told from the point of view of an Arab Egyptian family watching the fighting from the shore.

On the plus side, there were some essays that provided a glimpse of histories I have little familiarity with - namely:

"Magna Carta and the King's Men" - Katherine Fischer Drew - The somewhat convoluted history of the charter's final form (it's from 1225 not the original one from 1215), and the role of the nameless bureaucracy in its formulation.

"Fits and Starts: The Making of Isaac Newton's Principia" - Mordechai Feingold - The machinations around Newton and his fellows in the Royal Society. Oh, how petty our heroes could be!

"Handel is Fired" - Ellen T. Harris - Complete revelation to me about the machinations around Anne Stuart's and George Hanover's negotiations around who would be ruler of England after Anne's death and the role of one of the greatest composers in musical history.

"Frederick the Great and the Propagation of Potatoes" - William H. McNeill - An essay in the tradition of showing how a humble food or practice can be the foundation of great events and movements.

"The 'Uncouth Riddle' of Edouard Manet" - Ross King - Art history, in the hands of a competent historian, always delights and amazes me (partly because I read so little of it).

"Backstage at the Ballets Russes with Picasso" - Charles A. Riley - See my comment above.

While I could have wished for a broader "Europe" than the title implies, what's here is (for the most part) interesting, and there is some guidance for further reading (the authors appear to have been limited to just three books to recommend per essay, strangely).