Sunday, September 25, 2022

Geography is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History (Ian Morris)

From isolation from continental Europe to integration with it, whether it be by brute force, religious ties, or economic support, the British Isles have had a long, conflicted relationship with Europe. For those of us in America who watched Brexit take place from 3,000 miles away, the context of this struggle between England and Europe was new. However, as Ian Morris points out in his book Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year History, Britain’s relationship to Europe has been a continual ebb and flow between close ties and distance.

Morris’s book tackles England’s history to the broader world context, but the heaviest focus is on its European relationships. The author talks about the changing worldview and England’s relationship to it - from one where England was the literal edge of the known world (to Europeans), to one where they were the metaphorical center of it, to a geography where they are one of the outsized players on the world’s financial stage (albeit not *the* principal player like it once was). Morris, with brilliance and humor, explains how England evolved and its relationship to the world changed over the centuries.

In about 500 pages, Morris does a wonderful job explaining the major points of British history and its context to modern times. In many respects, what’s past is repetitive prologue in the sense that history has set the stage for the present and that it has, in some ways, repeated itself. Examples of this include England’s relationship to Scotland and Ireland or its relationship to Europe. For us in America, Geography Is Destiny is a great tool in helping us understand English history…and, as a bonus, how one historian perceives our independence in 1776.