One of his five great ideas of the year:
Cambridge University\’s Brendan Simms is an extraordinary historian and his reinterpretation of British history in the 18th century is one of those sleeper ideas that, along with others, is gradually challenging know-nothing Euroscepticism. His argument in the engrossing Three Victories and a Defeat is that Britain won the military space to build an empire and industrial hegemony through consistent and deep involvement in European politics, ensuring that no one European power could ever challenge us.
It was when we followed the Eurosceptic injunction to forget Europe that we suffered ignominy and disaster, losing the war in America as united Europeans undermined our war effort and then watched Napoleon dominate Europe.
We never were, and never will be, capable of prospering without engaging in Europe. It may be wishful thinking on my part, but visceral Euroscepticism increasingly seems batty – and the planks with which it is built rotting.
He seems not to notice that this is, in fact, the Eurosceptic case: that we indeed don\’t want one dominant European power which constrains us. In the way in which the assembled European powers now make 80% of our laws, just as an example. The historic engagement with Europe was in fact to make damn certain that such a situation never arose.