The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival
Glubb (John Bagot)
Source: Originally: Blackwood's Magazine, William Blackwood & Sons, 1978
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. As we pass through life, we learn by experience. We look back on our behaviour when we were young and think how foolish we were. In the same way our family, our community and our town endeavour to avoid the mistakes made by our predecessors.
  2. The experiences of the human race have been recorded, in more or less detail, for some four thousand years. If we attempt to study such a period of time 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.
  3. No such conception ever appears to have entered into the minds of our historians. In general, historical teaching in schools is limited to this small island. We endlessly mull over the Tudors and the Stewarts, the Battle of Crecy, and Guy Fawkes. Perhaps this narrowness is due to our examination system, which necessitates the careful definition of a syllabus which all children must observe.
  4. I remember once visiting a school for mentally handicapped children. “Our children do not have to take examinations," the headmaster told me,” and so we are able to teach them things which will be really useful to them in life."
  5. However this may be, the thesis which I wish to propound is that priceless lessons could be learned if the history of the past four thousand years could be thoroughly and impartially studied. In these two articles1, which first appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine, I have attempted briefly to sketch some of the kinds of lessons which I believe we could learn. My plea is that history should be the history of the human race, not of one small country or period.

Author’s Summary

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.
  1. We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.
  2. In a surprising manner, 250 years emerges as the average length of national greatness.
  3. This average has not varied for 3,000 years. Does it represent ten generations?
  4. 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.
  5. Decadence is marked by:
    • Defensiveness
    • Pessimism
    • Materialism
    • Frivolity
    • An influx of foreigners
    • The Welfare State
    • A weakening of religion.
  6. Decadence is due to:
    • Too long a period of wealth and power
    • Selfishness
    • Love of money
    • The loss of a sense of duty.
  7. The life histories of great states are amazingly similar, and are due to internal factors.
  8. Their falls are diverse, because they are largely the result of external causes.
  9. 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.


See Glub - The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Footnote 2:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2021
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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