The Suicide of Britain

Politics and Insights


Article from The New York Times, by Ross Douthat

FOR much of European history, empire was the normal political arrangement: Large, polyglot, multiethnic and eventually multireligious, with a monarch on top and a jostling confederation underneath.

Then came modernity, democracy and nationalism, and the “nations” of Europe – half-real, half-invented – demanded self-determination and self-rule.

Between 1914 and 1945 (with a final act in the Balkans in the 1990s), this led to world-historical disaster, mass exterminations, ruthless wars for mastery. But out of those conflicts came a new kind of hybrid order. The nations would have self-rule, within borders redrawn by war and ethnic cleansing. But they would be supervised by a kind of postmodern empire, an imperial bureaucracy without the emperor – the European Union.

The outlier, as always, was Great Britain. Like its rivals, the United Kingdom lost its overseas colonies, but it kept much of…

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