It is not as obvious as it seems
Imagine a European country. A militarily successful one. One which, however annoying – and, oh, did it make a nuisance of itself in many varied ways – could not be ignored. One led by a self-regarding, popular leader (with a penchant for mistresses) around whom government revolved. A leader who, after a period of stasis, took action, to the delight of those around him. A leader who seemed set fair to revive the country’s fortunes.
A country which decided to revoke a Treaty which had been around for decades, entered into after a period of vicious communal in-fighting. This decision, taken in order to revive and enhance the country’s fortunes, caused consternation both inside and outside the country and damaged its reputation in the eyes of some. Other countries felt that the leadership could not be trusted. Generations who had been taught – and felt – that diverse communities could live side by side now felt unwanted and insecure. Many skilled workers left and fled to other more welcoming countries, to their enduring benefit and a loss for the country they left.
Not long after these events this country faced serious opposition from a league of other European countries. It fatally underestimated this league and what it could or would do. It imagined that its members would fall into disunity. It disregarded the ambitions and determination of a near neighbour. This underestimation has been described by historians as its greatest geopolitical failure in its history. (Strong words, indeed, when you think what happened next.)
Around the same time, a natural disaster befell this country. About 1.5 million people died of disease and starvation. Circa 600,000 died in a second wave. There was an economic crisis: few were producing, few were consuming, few were paying tax.
Over time the country fell into decline. The leadership’s natural supporters no longer felt quite so enamoured of those who governed them. When the leadership’s fall came, it was sudden and brutal. Eventually, the country was eclipsed by its close neighbour.
Go on. Admit it. You thought I was describing Brexit Britain and its future. But no. Look no further than Louis XIV, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, the flight of the Huguenots, the two Grandes Famines of the 1690’s and 1710’s and their short and long-term consequences.
Still, as the French might say: “Plus ça change…..”.