The English language: I had known that modern English developed from Old English as enhanced by the estimated 10,000 French words brought by the Norman invaders of the 11th. century. But I hadn't known that there were two primary English dialects to start with - those of Wessex and Mercia - and that it was the more-flexible latter which won the day and which, enriched by its French additions, went on to become Middle English. As Paul Johnson writes - or as anyone who's looked at a student's Anglo-Saxon textbooks will know - Old English, as written and spoken before the Conquest, is essentially a foreign language to us; the so-called Middle English, as we read it in Chaucer, is merely an archaic version of our own. The Norman Invasion thus made a crucial contribution to the development of English as the international language of government, culture and commerce - in which role, by a supreme irony, it has decisively displaced French.
The English: Per Paul Johnson, writing in 1972 . . . English anticlericalism was, of course, merely one important branch of English xenophobia. Hostility to foreigners is one of the most deep-rooted and enduring characteristics of the English; like the national instinct for violence, it is a genuine popular force, held in check (if at all) only by the most resolute discipline imposed, against the public will, by authoritarian central government, acting out of enlightened self interest. Racialism has always flourished in England when government has been weak and the sophisticated governing minority have lacked the will to resist public clamour. . . The only difficulty is to determine precisely where English racialism begins. . . The real frontiers were fixed in the Welsh and Scottish marches. Beyond these limits even Roman military power had encountered difficulties which ultimately proved too expensive to resolve. It is true that the Romans established a form of military occupation in Wales. But the normal processes of economic colonisation could not operate there. Their tribal organisation, laws, language and customs remained intact. In Scotland, even the Roman military presence was fugitive and ineffectual. . . This pattern was repeated during Germanic settlements. . . The racial and cultural frontiers began to solidify in the 8th. century and have never changed by more than a few score miles. Thus the relationship between England and its Celtic neighbours began to assume its modern form from the beginnings of the 12th century. This relationship was, and remains today, essentially ambivalent.
Back to the Continent . . . Perish the thought but some folk believe that the outcome of last week's EU summit is exactly what Mrs Merkel and M Sarkozy wanted:-There is, of course, no veto. This is not a formal meeting, and it requires a formal intergovernmental conference to wield a veto, with a full draft of a treaty on the table – a draft which at this stage did not exist. Thus, Cameron could not stop the "colleagues" going ahead with an IGC and producing an amendment treaty for approval, if they had so wished. But, because it suited them, the "colleagues" chose to treat the Cameron intervention as a formal veto, even though it was not. It was their decision not to go ahead. Cameron was just the foil, the excuse to do what they wanted to do anyway. Thus, in what has all the makings of a theatrical coup, everybody walks away with something. Merkel and Sarkozy get the green light for an intergovernmental treaty, and Cameron gets to be a hero. And so, in the final analysis, with a gullible and ignorant media to endorse the legend, we see people fed what Peter Hitchens calls a "blatant fake". Cameron will dine out on it for a while, and he may even get away with it altogether, but it is a media-driven charade and will always be so. The Prime Minister did nothing courageous or even significant in Brussels last week, says Hitchens. But of such things is history made. Click here for more.
But that was last week. Here's the prediction of one pessimist who agrees that Cameron did Merkozy a big favour. A sample: - As for Germany, hell will freeze over before it accepts joint liability for periphery debts. You may recall that yesterday's pundit said Germany had only two choices:- 1. To accept this joint liability, or 2. To witness the death of the euro. If anyone disagrees and believes there are grounds for optimism, please say so. Moscow?
Finally, . . . Here's one of my favourite columnists on the theme of the moment. Since he says that "Anyone who claims he knows what is about to happen to Europe is a fool", I'm rather glad I admitted the other night that I hadn't the faintest idea.