Next time you wonder what the European Union has ever done for us, remember just one word. Peace. It has been the greatest force to bring jaw-jaw to the dysfunctional family, and we should treasure it for that alone.
We will spend the next four years being reminded of one particularly nasty European conflagration. I wish it was the exception, but that’s a long way from the truth. If you look back at the fourteenth year of the century for the last 1300 years, you only find one without a European war going on. That is, a war on European soil. (I’m not counting all those colonialist invasions, just the domestics.) The only exception is – wait for it – 814 which wasn’t an unbloody time, just not well recorded..
Before you deny it or think the current UK nations weren’t involved, here’s a quick tour of some highlights.1814 was of course the Napoleonic Wars with the British embroiled in the Peninsular War. I. 1714 we were up to our elbows in the War of Spanish Succession. The Ottomans and Venetians were also having a set-to, but we weren’t (officially) involved.
1614 was a particularly busy year. The Englsh (under their new Scottish king) were busy in the Spanish Portuguese War and the war of Jolich Succession, as well as fighting in the Americas. The Ottomans were fighting the Safavids, the Polish battled the Muscovites and sundry other conflicts littered the fields. In 1514 (just one year after the Battle of Flodden) both England and Scotland were parties to War of the League of Cambrai. That engulfed much of Western Europe while Moscow and Lithuania founght and the Hvars rebelled against Venice. It’s also the year Henry VIII founded the Anglican Church.
1414 saw the Hunger War and the Northern Crusades against the pagan people of Northern Europe. Both Owain Glendwyr and the Lollards revolted against England, but Henry V still found time to claim the French Throne as his contribution to the Hundred Years War. 1314 was the year of Bannockburn, when (my ancestor) Robert the Bruce defeated the English. The European mainland seems a bit calmer that year, but it was in the midst of a massive famine.
1214 saw wars in Scotland. There were Crusades (also known as wars, by the way) in 1212 and 1217. England was relatively peaceful, recovering from the Anarchy wars between Stephen and Matilda in 1135 to 1154. 1114 saw war in Georgia and ongoing rampaging all over Western Europe by the Holy Roman Empire. 1014 saw war between Germans and Poles, and between the Byzantines and Georgians. Over here, Ireland saw a great three-way battle at Clantarf, and a year later in 1115 Cnut invaded England after a lot of preliminary skirmishes. Of course this was the century of William and Harold’s little contretemps as well.
914 sees very little recorded in the British Isles, but we know it wasn’t a peaceful place. The Sajids invaded Georgia. And in 714 the Umayyads conquered Hispania, creating the emirate of Cordoba and establishing Muslim rule in Al Andalusia which lasted over 700 years.
And of course, not all of Europe is peaceful today. The Euromaidan uprisings in Ukraine, the crisis in North Kosovo and the Insurgency in the Caucasus (as we are supposed to call the Chechen war these days.) Next time you, or the bloke on the bar stool next to you, or a buffoon on the box (I’m looking at you Farage) argues against the Union, remember the alternatives.