This article argues that the exceptionally complex spatial organisation of integration is shaped by spatial patterns of socio-cultural difference and similarity which emerge over the course of history. I outline two interacting socio-cultural factors that help shape the spatial patterns of integration: the international relations culture of demilitarised relations between neighbouring countries and northern Euroscepticism. I show that these have different historically evolving spatial patterns, which affect how specific regions and countries engage with integration. I propose that Europe's spatially differentiated integration and weak collective identity are increasingly bringing this connection between culture, geography and politics to prominence. This is rarely noticed however, because the centrality of collective identity in defining the geography of nations has made it the main focus of academic study and political speculation. My approach makes Europe's historical geography an ‘actor’ in the spatial patterning of integration. However the complexity of interacting historical factors and continuous historical change differentiate this approach from essentialist and deterministic theories of historical continuities in the EU's geography.