(K. Brent Tomer),
Britain’s Europe: A Thousand Years of Conflict and Co-operation. By Brendan Simms. Allen Lane; 352 pages; £20.
The EU: An Obituary. By John Gillingham. Verso; 281 pages; $19.95 and £12.99.
NEXT month Britons will vote on whether to leave the European Union. In the debate, some now use history to support their view. This week the British prime minister warned that Brexit posed a threat to peace. David Cameron cited the battles of Blenheim, Trafalgar and Waterloo and even the Spanish Armada as evidence that Britain can never afford to turn its back on Europe. But Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit justice secretary, wants Britain to disentangle itself from the continent. He prefers to rely on “Our Island Story”, a children’s history book from 1905 by Henrietta Elizabeth Marshall that plays up the British Empire.
In his spirited new book, “Britain’s Europe”, Brendan Simms, a historian at Cambridge University, argues that the whole notion of an island story is wrong. Britain’s history, he says, is above all about continental Europe. This is not just…Continue reading