Timothy Garton Ash on the stultification of Europe:
In the great age of Renaissance Florence, diversity was indeed the dynamo of Europe’s extraordinary creativity. There’s a marvellous book called The European Miracle, by the economic historian EL Jones, that explores why Europe rather than China – scientifically and technologically more advanced than Europe in the 14th century – produced the scientific, agrarian and industrial revolutions that led the world into modernity. In brief, his answer is: Europe’s diversity.
But this was the diversity of a restless, often violent competition between cities, regions, states and empires. Florence and Siena, England and France, Christian Europe and the Ottoman empire – they did not resolve their differences by coalition agreements and endless negotiations in airless committee rooms on the Rue de la Loi in Brussels. To reverse Churchill’s post-1945 adage: they made war-war not jaw-jaw.
Many readers will remember the speech that Orson Welles put into the mouth of the gangster Harry Lime, in the film of Graham Greene’s The Third Man: “In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed – they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” Has Europe today entered its age of the cuckoo clock?
Sorry to have been so light on the posts, dear reader. I’ve been pretty busy with the magazine. Have a good holiday weekend.