Sadly, despite the huge advances made in technology, medicine and Reality TV over the last two centuries, the years covered by this final short (although, dare I say, authoritative) record is dominated by war.
1815 A.D. – The Battle of Waterloo. Although not fought on British soil this battle marked a turning point in British history as its resolution marked the start of a prolonged period of peace in Europe. Britain, Prussia and allies fought for the preservation of sovereign state power, whilst Napoleon sought to create a single European state, which just goes to prove that long-term view doesn’t always win the day. It did, however, lead to the consolidation of The Holy Roman Empire (which was actually none of the above) into the increasingly hyper-nationalistic German Confederation – and we all know where that led. Britain gained many overseas territories from France which became strategically important naval bases in the maintenance of its Empire – so, that’s good then – although the ultimate winners were Abba. The defeat at Waterloo still rankles in France – although, if I’m honest, it’s pretty difficult to find anything that the French are not annoyed about. In modern politics, France is renowned as the most well-balanced of all Euro-powers, having a chip on both shoulders.
1914 – 1918 A.D. – The Great War (World War One) was not actually a truly global war, but like its predecessors, The Seven Year’s War and the Napoleonic Wars, it did have global consequences. It was the first truly industrialised ‘total war’ although almost all of the fighting took place in Europe between two groups of ill-trained young people who really didn’t want to be there. It is commonly known as World War One because otherwise World War Two would find itself completely out on a limb. The blindness of The League of Nations, formed in the aftermath of the war, to the rearmament of Germany in response to the punitive reparations imposed upon them contributed directly to the Second (actually first) World War in 1939. In fact many leading historians claim that the whole period from 1914 to 1945 should be seen as a single conflict with just a pause in the middle to allow for the replenishment of cannon-fodder.
!939 – 1945 A.D. (British time) The Second World War (known in America as World War II as it sounds better in films) took place between two totalitarian, expansionist regimes and the rest of the world. Ultimately Britain (with the help of its late super-sub USA) and Russia beat Nazi Germany in Europe and Robert Oppenheimer beat the Japanese. Following the war, world peace was maintained by means of the Cold War and with repeated threats from all sides to blow the hole sodding shebang to pieces. The modern world is now dominated by three military super-powers who are perpetually at odds and George Orwell is spinning in his grave.
1982 A.D. – The Falklands Conflict. This was not actually declared a War by either side (UK and Argentina) as neither was sure that the insurance was up to date. This conflict provided a shrivelled-up UK with its last opportunity to flex military muscle in order to preserve its sovereignty over a small group of islands which would almost certainly benefit from closer relationships with their geographical neighbours. The Falklands was ceded to Britain in the aftermath of Waterloo and at the time of the War (there, I said it) was home to 1,800 people. Some 900 people died in the fighting (including 5 civilians) the majority of them dying at sea. Since this conflict, the UK has managed to fight other countries only in its capacity as America’s official lap-dog.
Since 1982, of course, the world has enjoyed an uninterrupted period of peace, love and understanding, whilst England, through political stability and financial prudence, has re-established itself as the dominant global power of the age.
N.B. I can only apologise if my interpretation of events is at odds with your own. Loathe though I am to admit it, I do occasionally get things wrong.
*This is not The History of Britain because I have no desire to thoroughly piss off the people of three other nations.
I hope I will have my head in the right place to resume my normal blog next week. Thank you for sticking with it!
You can find part one here and part two here.