Saturday, June 21, 2008

How times have changed

In his book, "The Riddle of the Modern World", Professor Alan Macfarlane, the historian and anthropologist who first traced certain social and economic developments that were unique to England in the Middle Ages, quotes from Montesquieu's "Persian Letters":
All the nations of Europe are not equally submissive to their princes: the impatient humour of the English, for instance, leaves their king hardly any time to make his authority felt. Submission and obedience are virtues upon which they flatter themselves but little.
Even allowing for a certain amount of admiring exaggeration, one cannot help feeling that Baron de Montesquieu might be turning in his rather grand grave.

These days there is a great deal of self-congratulation to be heard about the British (mostly the English) being more submissive and obedient than others, whether it is europhiliacs demanding that we become more communautaire than others or eurosceptics complaining rather proudly that the problem with the EU is that we obey the rules and others do not.

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