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The 250 year Empire
SOCIETY AND POWER - 07/02/2023

Resume from the “THE FATE OF EMPIRES and SEARCH FOR SURVIVAL” by Sir John Glubb

Link to book: http://people.uncw.edu/kozloffm/glubb.pdf

‘The only thing we learn from history,’ it has been said, ‘is that we never learn from history’. Perhaps if the pattern of the rise and fall of nations were regularly taught in schools, the general public would come to realize the truth, and would support policies to maintain the spirit of duty and self-sacrifice, and to forestall the accumulation of excessive wealth by one nation, leading to the demoralization of that nation.


The experiences of human race have been recorded, over more or less four thousand years. If we attempt to study such period in as many countries as possible, we seem to discover the same patterns constantly repeated under widely differing conditions of climate, culture and religion. Surely, we ask ourselves; If we studied calmly and impartially the history of human institutions and development over these four thousand years, should we not reach conclusions which would assist to solve our problems today? For everything that is occurring around us has happened again and again before.


We possess a considerable amount of information on many empires recorded in
history, and of the lengths of their lives, for example:

The nation, dates, duration and years of rise and fall :

Assyria, 247 years, from 859-612 B.C.
Persia, 208 years, from 538-330 B.C. (Cyrus and his descendants)
Greece, 231 years, from (Alexander and his successors)331-100 B.C.
Roman Republic, 233 years, from 260-27 B.C.
Roman Empire, 207 years, from 27 B.C.-A.D. 180  
Arab Empire, 246 years, from A.D. 634-880  
Mameluke Empire, 267 years, from 1250-1517 (Later Egyptian empire)
Ottoman Empire, 250 years, from 1320-1570
Spain, 250 years, from 1500-1750
Romanov Russia, 234 years, from 1682-1916
Britain, 250 years, from 1700-1950


Notice that these empires had a lifespan around 250 years.


The division of Rome into two periods may be explained. The first, or republican, period dates from the time when Rome became the ruler of Italy and ends with the accession of Augustus. The imperial period extends from the accession of Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius. It is true that the empire survived nominally for more than a century after this date, but it did so in constant confusion, rebellions, civil wars and barbarian invasions.


An interesting deduction from the figures seems to be that the duration of empires does not depend on the speed of travel or the nature of weapons. The Assyrians marched on foot and fought with spears and bow and arrows. The British used artillery, railways and ocean-going ships. Yet the two empires lasted for approximately the same periods.


No rule without exclusions, following well-known empires did not even reign a century: The Mongol Empire from 1206 to 1300 was the largest contiguous land empire ever, the Inca Empire 1438 to1533 and the Soviet Union survived only 70 years. The actual superpower, USA, seems to be in fast decline, it has not yet reached a century as empire.


Again and again in history we find a small nation, treated as insignificant by its
contemporaries, suddenly emerging from its homeland and overrunning large areas of the world.


As an example, in the year A.D. 600, the world was divided between two superpowers, just as it recently was in the Cold War between Soviet Union and the USA. The two powers were the eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Empire. The Arabs were then the despised
and backward inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula. They consisted chiefly of wandering tribes, and had no government, no constitution and no army. Syria, Palestine, Egypt and North Africa were Roman provinces, Iraq was part of Persia. The Prophet Mohammed preached in Arabia from A.D. 613 to 632, when he died. In 633, the Arabs burst out of their desert peninsula, and simultaneously attacked the two super-powers. Within twenty years, the Persian Empire had ceased to exist. Seventy years after the death of the Prophet, the Arabs had established an empire extending from the Atlantic to the plains of Northern India and the frontiers of China.


Another example is from the beginning of the thirteenth century. Mongols were a group of savage tribes in the steppes of Mongolia. In 1211, Genghis Khan invaded China. By 1253, the Mongols had established an empire extending from Asia Minor to the China Sea, one of the largest empires the world has ever known.


These sudden outbursts are usually characterized by an extraordinary display of energy and courage. The new conquerors are normally poor, hardy, enterprising and above all aggressive. Men hack their way through jungles, climb mountains, or brave the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans in tiny cockleboats. Other peculiarities of the period of the conquering pioneers are their readiness to improvise and experiment. Untrammeled by traditions, they will turn anything available to their purpose. If one method fails, they try something else. Uninhibited by textbooks or book learning, action is their solution to every problem. Poor, hardy, often half-starved and ill-clad, they abound in courage, energy and initiative, overcome every obstacle and always seem to be in control of the situation.


The decaying empires which they overthrow are wealthy but defensive-minded, elevating safety to priority.


The striking features in the formation of empires are:
(a) the extraordinary exactitude with which these stages have followed one another, in empire after empire, over centuries or even millennia; and (b) the fact that the successive changes seem to represent mere changes in popular fashion—new fads and fancies which sweep away public opinion without logical reason.


At first, popular enthusiasm is devoted to military glory, then to the accumulation of wealth and later to the acquisition of academic fame. Why could not all these legitimate, and indeed beneficent, activities be carried on simultaneously, each of them in due moderation? Yet this never seemed to happen.


The stages of the fall of great nations seems to follow after a period of abundant wealth and intellectual prosperity. The decadence is due to too long a period of wealth and power, selfishness, greed, materialism and loss of a sense of duty. This age of decadency contains at least these 9 following elements: 


Defensiveness. Pessimism. Materialism. Frivolity. Immigration. Welfare. Politic polarisation. Greed/corruption. A weakening of religion. 


Defensiveness is to put safety first. The nation, immensely rich, is no longer interested in glory or duty, but is only anxious to retain its wealth and its luxury. Military readiness, or aggressiveness, is denounced as primitive and immoral. Civilized peoples are too proud to fight. The weakness of pacifism is that there are still many rivals in the world who are hungry and aggressive.


Pessimism. As the nation declines in power and wealth, a universal pessimism gradually pervades the people, and itself hastens the decline.


Frivolity. Frivolity is the frequent companion of pessimism. Idleness. Laziness. Superficiality. Indecency.  Let us eat, drink and be happy, for tomorrow we die. The heroes of declining nations are always the same—the athlete, the singer or the actor. The word ‘celebrity’ today is used to designate a comedian or a football player.


Materialism. The habits of the citizens have been corrupted by the enjoyment of too much money and too much power for too long a period. The result has made them selfish and idle. There does not appear to be any doubt that money is the agent which causes the decline of strong, brave and self-confident people. The decline in courage, enterprise and a sense of duty is, however, gradual. The first direction in which wealth injures the nation is a moral one. Money replaces honor and adventure as the objective of the best young men. Moreover, people will not try to make money for their country or their community, but for themselves.


Immigration. Influx of foreigners. One of the oft-repeated phenomena of great empires is the influx of foreigners to the main cities. This problem does not consist in any inferiority of one race as compared with another, but simply in the differences between them. In good times of commerce and wealth, every type of foreigner floods into the great city, the streets of which are reputed to be paved with gold. The original natives become not seldom a minority in their own city and are more likely to be found in relative purity in rural districts and on far frontiers.

The problem with immigration from the history of empires can be split in 3 parts;
A) They are different. If the earlier imperial race was stubborn and slow moving, the immigrants might come from more emotional races, thereby introducing cracks and schisms into the national policies, even if all were equally loyal. 
B) While the nation is still affluent, all the diverse races may appear equally loyal. But in an acute emergency, the immigrants will often be less willing to sacrifice their lives and their property compared with the original descendants of the founder race.
C) The immigrants are liable to form communities of their own, protecting primarily their own interests, and only in the second degree that of the Nation as a whole.


The Welfare State. This is not something new. History seems to suggest that the age of decline of a great nation is often a period which shows a tendency to philanthropy and to sympathy for others. The rights of citizenship are generously bestowed on every newcomer even those formerly subject, and the equality of mankind is proclaimed.  As long it retains its status of leadership, the imperial people are glad to be generous, even if slightly condescending. Specially women are altruistic and feel fine to extend the welfare system, even over the limits of the budget. As exemplified in the book of Glubb, an increase in the influence of women in public life has often been associated with national decline.


It may perhaps be incorrect to picture the Welfare State as the high-water mark of human attainment. It may merely prove to be one more regular milestone in the life-story of an ageing and decrepit empire.


Political polarization. Another remarkable and unexpected symptom of national decline is the intensification of internal political hatreds. One would have expected that when the survival of the nation became precarious, political factions would drop their rivalry and stand shoulder-to-shoulder to save their community. Often the reverse occurs. Instead of joining forces together, different factions fight one another in conflicts or civil wars, until foreign forces easily just marches in.


Greed and corruption. The immense wealth accumulated in the nation creates envy. Beneath the surface, corruption and greed for money is gradually corroding and decomposing the administrative structure.


Religion. Historians of periods of decadence often refer to a decline in religion. In this manner, at the height of vice and frivolity the seeds of religious revival are quietly sown. After, perhaps, several generations (or even centuries) of suffering, the impoverished nation has been purged of its selfishness and its love of money, religion regains its sway and a new era sets in.
As you may have noticed, every of these 9 elements have created roots in the present Western World.

 
Perhaps, in fact, we may reach the conclusion that the successive rise and fall of great nations is inevitable and, indeed, a system divinely ordained. But even this would be an immense gain. For we should know where we stand in relation to our human brothers and sisters. In our present state of mental chaos on the subject, we divide ourselves into nations, parties or communities and fight, hate and vilify one another over developments which may perhaps be divinely engineered and which seem to us, if we take a broader view, completely uncontrollable and inevitable.


If we could accept these great movements as beyond our control, there would be no excuse for our hating one another because of them. However varied, confusing and contradictory the religious history of the world may appear, the noblest and most spiritual of the devotees of all religions seem to reach the conclusion that love is the key to human life. Any expansion of our knowledge which may lead to a reduction in our unjustified hates is therefore surely welcome.
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