14 Jul 2012

Six Ages of Empire

Below is is General Sir John Glubb's own summary of the main points in his essay The Fate of Empires written in 1976. It is always good to see a writer who takes the time time to provide a summary at the end of a long essay - it seems to be a lost art in academia. Glubb studied a number of major Empires in Europe and the Near East: including Assyria, Achemanid Persia, Roman Republic and Empire, and the Ottomans. Unfortunately he doesn't consider any of the Indian, Chinese or Japanese Empires. Note that he considers the British Empire to have lasted from 1700-1950. He says approximate dates are fine for his purposes and that empires seldom begin and end on exact dates, but are preceded by a period of expansion and followed by a period of decline that makes them hard to locate exactly in time.

As numerous points of interest have arisen in the course of this essay, I close with a brief summary, to refresh the reader’s mind.

(a) We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.

(b) In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness.

(c) This average has not varied for 3,000 years. Does it represent ten generations?

(d) The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:
The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
The Age of Conquests
The Age of Commerce
The Age of Affluence
The Age of Intellect
The Age of Decadence.
(e) Decadence is marked by:
An influx of foreigners
The Welfare State
A weakening of religion.
(f) Decadence is due to:
Too long a period of wealth and power
Love of money
The loss of a sense of duty.
(g) The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.

(h) Their falls are diverse, because they are largely the result of external causes.

(i) History should be taught as the history of the human race, though of course with emphasis on the history of the student’s own country.

No doubt the points Glubb makes are contestable, and unfortunately I'm not in a position to judge his effort. But it is interesting that his list of characteristics which he sees as common to the final age of all empires are rampant across the first world. This is certainly a subject it would be interesting to follow up on. If searching on this subject be sure to include Glubb's name as otherwise you'll be swamped by references to the game The Age of Empires.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Keep is seemly & on-topic. Thanks.