Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Grasp of History

Brits At Their Best posts today on how little the British seem to understand their own history. One firm conclusion to which I have come, after a lifetime of studying history, is that the single most beneficial and positive force of the past millenium was Britain. If one looks at the most democratic, free and prosperous nations on this earth, they virtually all arise out of the British empire. The U.S. Bill of Rights is precious little more than a rote cataloguing of the rights of free Englishmen in 1776. And the last major Supreme Court decision turned on a legal theory, habeas corpus, that was one of those rights, originating out of the Magna Carta in 1215 A.D. Over the course of history, countless millions of people on every continent have taken up arms to defend these ideals gifted to the world by Britain.

Britain's history is a history of which the British should feel intensely proud. Yet it is a history of which few in Britain of today seem to grasp. And because of that, they are on the precipice of jettisoning it.

Brits At Their Best has an exceptional post, "An almost unfathomable ignorance of history," whose central points I could not agree with more. Indeed, as I have written before, in the post Change & The Cessation Of British History, the tragedy of the new millenium may well turn out to be the cessation of the British ideals and all it has brought to the world. Marxist theory that fully animates the British left has distored and demonized British history within Britain in itself. This in turn has allowed the left to jettison traditional anglo-saxon ideals and values and, in what can only be called a coup, the Labour government to transfer Britain's sovereignty to the anti-democratic and anti-capitalist EU. It is a tragedy of epic proportions. Here is a bit of the exceptional post at Brits At Their Best:

. . . In his book Empire, Niall Ferguson points out that the British brought interesting and valuable gifts to their empire, including -

The English language
Property rights
Scottish and English banking practices
Common law
Team sports
The limited or 'night watchman' state (and low rates of taxation)
Representative assemblies and
The idea of liberty.

Ferguson quickly adds -

I do not mean to claim that all British imperialists were liberals - far from it. But what is very striking about the history of the Empire is that whenever the British were behaving despotically, there was almost always a liberal critique of that behaviour from within British society. Indeed, so powerful and consistent was this tendency to judge Britain's imperial conduct by the yardstick of liberty that it gave the British Empire something of a self-liquidating character . .[and that] sets it apart from its continental European rivals. . .

Quite a few people around the world continue to appreciate these British gifts.

Despite losing an empire and living on ration cards for years, the British people pulled themselves together and with hard work, global trade and the ideas of a limited state, common law and liberty created the fourth-largest economy in the world with safety nets for the poor and indisposed. They made London the financial capital of the world.

India, relying on those same gifts and the ingenuity of her people, is becoming an enormous economic success.

Today the British political class is scurrying to Brussels to give away our independence, common law, limited 'night watchman' state, representative assembly, a considerable fraction of our personal income and London's prosperity in order to trade with an empire that has high trade tariffs, and is dominated by countries whose previous empires were always despotic and which have today created an undemocratic suprastate. The political class expects us to believe that if we don't submit to the European empire we won't have anyone to trade with. . . .

Read the entire post. There is an old expression, 'he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it.' That refers to repeating mistakes. The current scenario playing out in Britain is a variant, and involves dispensing with all that was good and right. He who does not know their history is doomed to throw it away. As goes Britain, so goes the largest historical repository of classical Western values, and so goes America's most important historical ally.

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