The idea of deep continuity in British history is absurd. We’ve always been in fluxRoundup
tags: British history
There is something ridiculous about Brexit Britain. It is a Carry On movie set in the past: we are living not at a historic moment but one laden with trivialised history. Boris Johnson tells us that with Brexit the nation will find its bojo as it found its mojo under Churchill. Brother JoJo tells us Brexit is the greatest failure of British statecraft since Suez; the greatest crisis since the Second World War.
Brexiters claim a deep continuity in British history betrayed by EU membership. Pro-EU people claim that the UK has never got over imperial delusions of grandeur. The reality is that both grotesquely over-egg continuity.
The problem is not just getting history wrong, but that history is invoked at all. The UK today could not dream of fighting the Second World War, or even invading Egypt. In 1940, Churchill led a great global force, second to none in the world. In 1956, Anthony Eden was at the head of the largest and richest economy in Europe with armed forces which more than matched this.
Today the UK is “just” another European power – a big Canada rather than a small United States, on a par with France and Germany, and on many measures behind them. Looking for past comparisons almost guarantees misunderstanding of this fundamental point, unless that is we look to Canadian history.
British history is one of radical discontinuity, and not quite what it is supposed to be. In 1900, the UK was a cosmopolitan place. It was full of immigrants, from Europe. Food came in from all over the world, free of tariffs too, much from Europe. British coal was vital to both Baltic and Mediterranean nations.
comments powered by Disqus
- 131-Year-Old Confederate Statue Removed From Alexandria Intersection
- All the History I Learned in my Youth Came from the American Girl Doll Books
- Is This the Worst Year in Modern American History?
- Role-Playing Games are Breathing New Life into the History Classroom
- Dallas Awarded $50,000 to Preserve Civil Rights History
- What Is Antifa, the Movement Trump Wants to Declare a Terror Group?
- Confronting the History of a Southern Asylum: An Interview With Mab Segrest
- Nazi or Hero? Historian Looks at the Stories a German Consultant Told of His Father
- History, Right Now: Echoes of 1968, and Other American Years
- Don't Assume There'll be a 'Post-COVID-19 Era' - Historian Niall Ferguson Tells World vs Virus