A History of Leaving and Remaining

How helpful is history to understanding Brexit? Surely guidance from the past is one of the most useful tools that we have – and, indeed, this is what justifies its study? Sadly, I fear that history very rapidly becomes pretty gnomic and tiresome. Historians immediately enact one of those scenes from Battle Royale or The Hunger Games where they all rush to grab the nearest weapon to hand, commit an act of ghastly violence with it and then themselves fall victim to something awful with prongs. Perhaps this is unsurprising, given that history encompasses the entire course of human experience and can be as legitimately read as an onward-and-upward narrative of increased decency and diminished violence, or as a sort of endless comic strip of Dadaist accident, wretchedness and absurdity. British (or English) attitudes towards mainland Europe provide ample weapons for both Brexit and Remain arguments.

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