poli212reading Howard TopicI.pdf

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McGill University
Canadian Studies
CANS 200
Nicholas Dew

Land of WarLand of Peaceby Michael Howardurope for most of its history has been a land of war By Europe Imean that land coextensive with what was once known as ChristenEdom the region over which for a thousand years the WesternChristian church held sway or rather whose rulers were legitimized by thesanction of that church from about the ninth century until the secularizationof European society a hundred years or so ago This Christendom was a warrior culture though it may embarrass some Christians to have to recall it Ithad to be if it was to survive The families who ruled Europe during this millennium justified their power and their privileges by their successful conduct ofwar First they defended Christendom against heathen invaders Then theyconsolidated their power against one another through the formation of stateswhich usually involved destroying the autonomy of many distinct culturesregions and communities Finally from the 15th century until the 20th theyextended European hegemony over the rest of the globeWhether this continual Hobbesian struggle for power and survival actedas a motor for European development or as a brake has been a matter ofdebate among historians but it has been an existential fact Regions suchas China where an effective central hegemony made possible eons of atleast apparent peace may have been happier as romantic WesternSinophiles like to believe but it was the bellicose and literally belligerentEuropeans who were at the cutting edge not only of military but of economic and ultimately scientific and intellectual advance Whether or notthis militarism was a necessary condition for the development of Europesmagnificent high culture as John Ruskin and others would have usbelieve may be debatable but it certainly did nothing to inhibit itThe militaristic nature of European society until at least the 18th century isthus hardly in doubt In his fascinating History of Warfare1993 John Keeganhas taken issue with Karl von Clausewitzs rationalistic definition of war as aninstrument of politics by pointing out that for many societies war has been aninnate and continuous cultural activity Europe for centuries was certainly onesuch society Until the 18th century the rulers of the continent were lookingfor excuses to fight wars rather than reasons why they should not Elizabethanaudiences surely understood and applauded Hamlet when he declaredRightly to be greatIs not to stir without great argumentBut greatly to find quarrel in a strawWhen honours at the stakeAnd why not War if successful paid off handsomely in terms of powerand territory for those who conducted it and in loot for those who fought30WQ Winter 1997
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