Friday, 20 June 2014

The Noise of History

As I have frequently had to point out, I am no student of history, but (to adapt Thomas Beecham's comment on the English and music) I do love the noise it makes.  My ten days in Austria exposed my ignorance at every turn, so I decided -- at the very least -- that I should shake a few Wikipedia articles on Austrian history, just to see what they sound like.

Now, who can resist a noise like this: "His son Philip the Fair married Joanna the Mad, the heiress of Castile and Aragon, and thus acquired Spain and its Italian, African and New World appendages for the Habsburgs"?  It seems Joanna the Mad was the sister of Catherine of Aragon, of whom even I have heard.  Mediaeval and early modern history does seem to consist entirely of a complex dynastic board-game. OK, you might get a mad wife in this round, but you also pick up Spain in the process.

In the end, the main noise European history seems to make (apart from the rattling of the dice in the dynastic cup) is the groan of one people throwing off the yoke imposed by some other people's self-appointed rulers.  Only to throw up a Napoleon, who changes the rules and sets in process a whole new level of nationalist-dynastic gameplay.

Meanwhile, down here at the bottom, the cattle need milking, those fields won't plough themselves, and we have tithes, taxes, and rents to pay.  I hear we're all Bavarians now. Or French. One or the other.  What is a French, anyway?

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