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Europe: The struggle for supremacy1453 to the present-public lecture at the LSE

  • Nov 12, 2013 · 6:15 PM
  • This location is shown only to members

Speaker: Brendan Simms professor of the history of international relations at the University of Cambridge

If there is a "fundamental truth" of geopolitics, it is this: whoever controls the core of Europe controls the entire continent, and whoever controls all of Europe potentially dominates the world. Over the past five centuries, a rotating cast of kings and conquerors, presidents and dictators have set their sights on the European heartland, desperate to seize this pivotal area or at least prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. 

From Charles V and Napoleon to Bismarck and Cromwell, from Hitler and Stalin to Roosevelt, Gorbachev and the architects of the European Union nearly all the key power players of modern history have staked their titanic visions on this vital swath of land.

 

 Brendan Simms presents an authoritative account of the past half-millennium of European history, demonstrating how the battle for mastery there has shaped the modern world. Beginning in 1453, when the collapse of the Byzantine Empire laid Europe open to Ottoman incursion and prompted the attempted reform of the Holy Roman Empire, Simms leads readers through the epic struggle for the heart of Europe. Stretching from the Low Countries through Germany and into the North Italian plain, this relatively compact zone has historically been the richest and most productive on earth. For hundreds of years, its crucial strategic importance stoked a seemingly unending series of conflicts, from the English Civil War to the French Revolution to the appalling world wars of the 20th century. But when Europe is in harmony, Simms shows, the entire world benefits—a lesson that current leaders would do well to remember. 

A bold and compelling work by a renowned scholar, Simms integrates religion, politics, military strategy, and international relations to show how history—and the West itself—was forged in the crucible of Europe.

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on first come first serve basis.

We will continue the debate in a nearby pub. Please RSVP accurately, it helps us plan our events better. Our "no show" policy applies to all including this event.

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  • Liam

    I really enjoyed both the talk and the chat afterwards. As a bit of a federalist myself I enjoyed hearing some cogent historical arguments from Prof Simms for a united states of Europe, although i would have liked to hear more about the Holy Roman Empire, which may have failed but still managed to last several hundred years. I think it was provocative to label the federalist approach Anglo-American, if anything slightly unfair to the Americans- the UK is a bit of an ad hoc sort of federation with many undemocratic features and huge inequalities between its regions. Modern Germany, it might be argued, is a much more democratic version of the model and discussing it might have been a more appropriate and appealing, if less controversial, way of looking at how the model might apply to a more united Europe.

    But the only real solution of course is to make Canberra capital of Europe and strine (Aussie English) the official language ;-)

    November 13, 2013

    • Maja

      With Liam for president!

      November 13, 2013

  • Susana F.

    To be honest, disappointing.

    November 13, 2013

  • Maja

    I have enjoyed the evening but only because of the post lecture chat. If I had gone to this lecture by myself I would have gone home hugely frustrated and fuming. Professor Simms is an advocate of the "England can do it alone" and "our system is the best" theories and I find that an immature approach to the issues of European geopolitics. On top of that interepreting current affairs through picking and choosing from historic events is not the best way to either talk about historic or current matters. So I beg to differ on most of the points he made :-)

    November 12, 2013

    • Aindriú Ó C.

      I'm sorry I couldn't make it to the pub after. But I think to state "Professor Simms is an advocate of the England can do it alone" is misleading. Surely his involvement with Declan Ganley and Libertas which is/was a pro-reform pro a pan European landscape, is evidence in itself that he is pro Europe. Interpreting current affairs, historical, geopolitical or economical is nothing new, we must learn from the past but also learn how to move on. That said I don't see Germany add a problem but more of a solution, in my own opinion I'm unsure if a central federal style government is the best solution, I would worry it would become autocratic. But it's a proposal well worth public debating.

      November 13, 2013

    • Maja

      It would have been great if you were there for the post talk debate. Unfortunately we don't have moderators to the LEC web site.

      November 13, 2013

  • Annie

    I feel the need to confess. I think I inadvertently pushed in.

    I was told to join the queue "there" and the chap pointed at an old gentleman at a bend in the queue by the stairs down into the theatre. I assumed the other people must have been waiting for a different event and did what I thought I was told. As we moved it appeared it was one queue and that I had misunderstood him. Apologies to anyone affected!

    November 12, 2013

  • Colm

    Interesting talk, there was a subtitle that wasn't clear from the website; something along the lines of "European Problems, the German Question, and Anglo-American solutions", so the talk focused a bit more on Germany and a possible future United Federal States of Europe than I was expected. Was very interesting though.

    November 12, 2013

  • Andrea

    Are you still in a pub? Just finished my business / jobhunt networking in the area...

    November 12, 2013

  • Aindriú Ó C.

    Sorry won't make it to the after analysis. Good lecture all the same.

    November 12, 2013

  • hans

    Too late to get in now. I'll join you afterwards in the pub

    November 12, 2013

  • Mona

    Apologies for fat finger syndrome... I meant to write "Maja"

    November 12, 2013

  • Mona

    Hi Maya, my apologies but due to transport failures I have had to turn back en route to the lecture...Unfortunately with the suspension of the jubilee line and delays on the dlr, I was still half an hour away from the lecture hall when it was due to start! Such a shame as I was looking forward to this one...

    Enjoy the Tuns.. Mona

    November 12, 2013

  • David

    Sorry I can't now make this

    November 11, 2013

  • zorka

    This is such an interesting topic and I am sorry that I want be able to attend.
    I am back in Auckland now and if anyone from the group is planing to come and visit NZ I would be glad to meet them or help them plan their trip here.
    Big thank you to Maja for organizing such interesting events and regards to all the nice people I met in this group.
    Zorka

    1 · October 24, 2013

  • Wilfried

    I grew up in Switzerland. And yes, history at primary school was based on regional area but the we moved and having to learn foreign languages like French or English introduced one also to literature, history culture at large of that language area. It enabled us at an early age to make comparisons and discover/experience an array of differences on historic "truth". The victims of written history are the nameless people that never appear in history largely written in the name of glorious achievements or a leader's elevation. That is why people go back to "glorious" or "victorious" wars, the "great past" etc. It is easy to refer to related literature and it's perceived truth and avoids the uncertainties that come with looking forward and follow a new vision. That is one of the problems England has with the EU.

    October 15, 2013

    • Andrea

      Well, I named one of my small cuddly sharks after one of the few persons who changed European history for the better and I'm still a big defender of the ideals of the French revolution Liberte, egalite, fraternite, because if nobody would have climbed this bloody chair on Bastille day we might still have to pay tribute to some mushroom aristocrats - and here I think the frogs really made a difference.....

      October 15, 2013

  • Maja

    To those of you who are interested in this subject I'd like to recommend a great documentary on the Ottomans which is currently being shown on the BBC on Sundays. You can see it on http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03d0d5d/The_Ottomans_Europes_Muslim_Emperors_Episode_1/

    1 · October 15, 2013

    • Andrea

      Maja, I think is less extreme at least in Germany ( I won't vouch e.g. for the French.....). But getting back to the bookshop/library example, we had lots about Russia (Anastasia, Ivan...), France (Louis XiV, Marie Antoinette, Robespierre...), the UK etc. One of my first heroines as a child was Marie Antoinette....

      1 · October 15, 2013

    • Maja

      That is all fine Andrea, but I do have reservations about how realistic one can be about other's interests and perceptions, but lets have a chat AFTER the talk. As you know we don't have moderators here :-)

      October 15, 2013

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