The Corner

Thought For The Day

“It is in the nature of civilization that it must be in constant conflict

with barbarism. Very few empires have been the result of a deliberate

ambition. They have grown, inevitably, because it has been found necessary

to expand in order to preserve what is already held. The French had to

annex Algiers because it was the only way in which the Mediterranean could

be made safe from pirates. Empire moves in a seties of ‘incidents,’ and

these ‘incidents’ mean that it is impossible for a country to live in

isolation. Barbarism means constant provocation.”

—–From “We Can Applaud Italy” (1935), in The Essays, Articles and

Reviews of Evelyn Waugh.

[Incidentally, later in that same piece Waugh notes that: “For about fifteen

centuries the Italians have never won an important battle.” I can’t be

bothered to check this, but fifteen centuries seems like an awfully long

time. I mean, we all know the jokes about the Italian tank with four

gears–one forward, three reverse, etc. etc. Still, fifteen centuries?

What about the Renaissance city-states–didn’t they fight a few important



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