I am aware of the fact that some British people speak of Europe as “somewhere else,” to which they do not belong. In my opinion, Britain is very much a part of European civilization whether they want to admit so or not, but I am willing to grant them a special place within the European tradition. There is a reason why English became the first global lingua franca. While I focus mainly on the history of science in my essays these days, let us have a brief look at some of the political ideas and concepts championed by the British in the modern era.- - - - - - - - -
England was by the seventeenth century emerging as a great power whose influence increasingly stretched far beyond Europe. It was also one of the most intellectually creative regions in the world. After Isaac Newton had published his Principia in 1687, probably the single most influential text in the history of science, the English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704), a friend of Newton, in 1690 published his An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, proclaiming the doctrine eventually known as the tabula rasa, where humans come into the world as blank slates. This was perfect for a world in which reason ruled and everything was possible. Human nature itself could be improved by applying reason, and history could take the direction of eternal progress. Locke published his Second Treatise of Government, stating that government is the servant of men, not the other way around, and that men possess natural rights, expanding on Thomas Hobbes’ concept of the social contract.
In the early 1700s, England’s combination of economic prosperity, social stability and civil liberties had no equivalent anywhere in Continental Europe, at least not among the larger states; smaller states such as Switzerland is a different matter. The French philosopher Voltaire (1694-1778) lived in England for several years in the 1720s and knew the English language well. He preferred British constitutional monarchy to French absolute monarchy. Voltaire praised England’s virtues in Letters on the English from 1734 when he returned to Paris. This caused great excitement among French intellectuals for the ideas of Newton and Locke and the plays of Shakespeare, but their own philosophies went in a different direction.
The sad part when writing this is that while Britain was once admired for its political system and was rightfully hailed as a beacon of liberty, today Britain is one of the most politically repressive countries in the Western world, which is saying a lot given how bad Politically Correct censorship is in the entire Western world these days. Britain today is a Multicultural police state where sharia, Islamic law, is quite literally treated as the law of the land. I suppose there is a strange sort of symmetry in this: Britain was one of the first countries in the West to embrace political liberty and is now among the first to leave political liberty behind.
Read the rest at Democracy Reform.