Paulliver (paulliver) wrote in bookish,
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“A History of England” by David Harris Willson

I was a little surprised that this textbook was written by an American, since America plays such a minor role. Granted, when it was published America was new to being a superpower, but it even makes our roles in the First and Second World Wars feel so trivial.

It was also written before professors stopping putting their own conscious opinions into the textbooks, so we get little authorial asides about which historical figures he wishes to redeem. For example, he goes out of his way to write that the appeasement of Hitler wasn’t entirely Chamberlain’s fault; English memories of WWI were still too painful and the Depression was keeping their concerns economic. The last several Prime Ministers had been trying to help Germany recover to become a market for British goods, and the Germans electing who the Brits thought at the time was just some nutter wasn’t going to stop their desperate economic policies.

The take home lesson from reading these 800+ pages was the precariousness of good government. For 2000 years, England has wavered from good to bad government, regardless of being monarchical or democratic. Power shifts that have little to do with policies and too much with politics change the government of their, and probably most, countries. It’s rather depressing to be reading about a good king or prime minister doing their best only to have it set back by a following incompetent.

And yet progress is made. England did become wealthier and more democratic, often times in spite of their leaders. Progress comes from innovators, grass roots movements, and the expansion of knowledge, while politicians play their games.
Tags: subject: history
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