Polychronicon 163: Europe: the longest debate

Teaching History feature

By Brendan Simms, published 5th August 2016

On 23 June, electors in the United Kingdom will vote on whether they wish to remain part of the European Union. The passionate debate around the question has seen the spectre of Hitler and the example of Churchill invoked, with varying  plausibility, by both sides. It has also drawn on the more remote past. To the author of these lines, who has spent his mid-career studying the vicious eighteenth-century British ‘Europe’ debate, it is all very familiar, though perhaps a little tame. The Whig interventionists of the past, who supported continental engagement, have their counterparts in the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Europhiles of today. The Tory isolationists, on the other hand, who called for Britain to steer clear of European entanglements and to seek her destiny overseas, resemble the mainly Tory Eurosceptics today...

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