Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plus ça change . . . . Embarking on Paul Johnson's book The History of the English People, I was intrigued to read that in 410 the English tribes, having seized power from the Romans, wrote to the Emperor requesting formal and legal authority for what they had done. What they sought was a written acknowledgment from the imperial power that Britain had been de-colonised without permission from the authorities. More specifically, they wanted exemption from the lex Julia de vi publica, the bedrock statute of the Roman Empire. In due course they got it. So the ancient world ended and the independent history of Britain was resumed in a thoroughly legal and constitutional manner. There was no provision in Roman Law for a territory to leave the Empire. But by an ingenious use of the lex Julia de vi publica, the British got round the difficulty and severed their links with the Continent by a process of negotiation. It was a unique event in the history of the Roman Empire. . . . For the first time a colony had regained its independence by law; and it was to remain the last occasion until, in the 20th. century, the offshore islanders began the dismantlement of their own empire.

Back to the present - if we ever left it - a survey suggests that Spanish Xmas spending will be well down on last year. 17% down, in fact. After a 10.5% fall last year and a 6% drop the previous year. Spending on lottery tickets though is 'only'14% down since 2008, with the average spend per person still up at 100 euros.

Having been into the centre of Liverpool tonight, I wouldn't be too surprised to hear that similar falls were in the offing here. Jam-packed it wasn't. But maybe it will be next week.

Just a word or two on the EU. Writing in the FT, Martin Wolf's interesting take on recent events is that they will force Germany to make a fateful choice - between a eurozone disturbingly different from the larger Germany it expected, or no eurozone at all. I recognise how much its leaders and people must hate this choice. But it is the one they face. Chancellor Angela Merkel must dare to make that choice, clearly and openly.

7 comments:

moscow said...

Hi Colin,
I haven't read the PJ book, but the general view from respected British authors is that the Romans retreated from Britain by their own volition when things started to get iffy all around, and the supply lines were far too overstretched for an already weakened empire at the beginning of the fifth century AC. It was a matter of their choice to abandon a backwater that had always been of limited interest to them. Moreover, the specialists add, the retreat was absolutely total so that no trace was left of Roman culture at all and Britain returned to its pre-roman "uncivilized" state with astonishing speed, presumably a prove that Roman presence in Britain had always been little more than testimonial. Soon after that the "savage" Saxons came and obliterated everything in their way, literally physically cleansing the islands off their original (celtic?) inhabitants.

Jimbob said...

I think the notion that the celts have been expunged from Britain,would a little surprise the Scots and Welsh. Scotland of course to the north of the Antonine Wall was never taken by the Romans. Wales was, but both the Welsh and Scots survived the invasions of the Angles Saxon and Jutes, Viking etc. Their language testifies as much. As for the English - DNA testing by companies such as Prof Brian Sykes "Oxford Ancestors" indicates that the english today are more than a little celtic in their DNA. Exactly how much they are Celtic or norse/Germanic is still a subject of some debate from what I have read.

CafeMark said...

A bit of a worrying precedent? Didn't we go into the Dark Ages for several hundred years after leaving the Roman Empire?

Candide said...

If I understand your "we" correctly, CafeMark, that was because the Romans left you, and you called in Angles and Saxons to fill the power vacuum.

Which then reopens the question who is actually "we" in the British context.

I mean, has that *ever* been successfully answered?

Jimbob said...

In the past the English used the term British with great freedom, often the context made it clear they/we (I am english) really meant english. Mistakes still occur-quite a lot. But with devolution the english are generally a little more careful when using the word British. The term British itelf simply means anyone who holds a British passport and is either english scottish or welsh- and now of course Asians, Afro
Carribeans etc and living in the island of Britain and Northern Ireland. Before Ireland gained its independence George Bernard Shaw wrote a book called "John Bulls other Island"-about Ireland of course. As an irishman he regarded himslef as irish and British. In nothern Ireland now it would depend who you were talking to, as to whether they would ragard themselves as British or not.

CafeMark said...

Well of course it would have been more correct to have stated "the inhabitants of Roman-controlled Britain", but of course I used the short form "we"! Weren't the Scots (or should I say the inhabitants of northern Britain) outside of Roman rule anyway?

Perry said...

On the last day of December 406 AD, Germanic tribes crossed the Rhine and overwhelmed Roman defences. Soldiers of the Roman province of Britannia supported revolts by Marcus 406-407 and Gratian 407, both of whom were subsequently killed by their troops. The same year, another soldier declared himself Constantine lll and crossed to Boulogne, denuding Britannia of most of its frontline troops. He established himself at Arles, being recognised as co-emperor by Honorius in 409 AD. The following year, as Saxons raided Britannia; its defenceless Roman inhabitants expelled Constantine’s officials.
Zosimus later noted “Honorius wrote letters to the cities in Britain, bidding them to guard themselves.", but that may not be accurate. Procopius later wrote, “from that time onwards Britannia remained under the rule of tyrants.".

It is important to note that by 450 AD, Northern Gaul had been abandoned to the Franks. Burgundians were settled near the Alps, the Visigoths were in Aquitane and the Vandals were in North Africa after trooping through Hispania. The Western Roman emperor Valentinian lll in Ravenna lived to see the defeat of the Huns at Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451 AD. However, Attila entered Italy the following year and Valentinian fled to Rome. Pope Leo l met Attila at the Po river and persuaded Attila to withdraw.

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