Brexit and the British Constitution: Part IV. The pre-1945 Roots of British Supranationalism.

The photo on the front is of David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1916 to 1922. His Liberal-Conservative government fell part in late 1922, and the Liberal Party remained out of power for nearly a century. Now and again, the party exerted some influence from the Opposition benches, or as in Churchill’s wartime government, some of their number occupied ministerial posts. But 1922 was the last time until 2010 that the Liberals participated in government. They were out of power, but their ideas ruled the country for the coming century. What follows is an analysis of the reasoning which led many leaders in UK political life to consider seriously that Europe and the UK needed a different political regime to the one that had led to the wars of the first part of the century. The regime, the dominant line of thought became, should be supranational, federal, and European in scope. The British supranationalists provided the main body of ideas, which resulted over seven decades later in the 2004 EU Constitutional Treaty. It entailed reducing the British parliament to the status of town council, and Whitehall to a subordinate to the European Commission.


In this article, I focus on the pre-1945 years, when British ideas were in the forefront of debates to establish a viable peace system for Europe, that would ensure prosperity and avoid recourse to war as a tool of policy. These ideas were of liberal provenance and came to hold that  the best regime for Europe is one in which the existing nation states dissolve into a federal and  collective sovereign in Europe. United, Europe would have the  size and clout to defend and promote European interests on the world stage. Anything less  would condemns Europe to recurrent warfare, as a sideshow in a world, where the shots are called by the mastodonts of the twenty-first century. This idea, often identified as French in origin, is in effect rooted most explicitly in the British liberal tradition. But the tradition holds two  incompatible strands. One sees the end point as the European Constitution of 2004, drawn up under the tutelage of former President Giscard d’Estaing. The other, preceding it by three centuries, is the constitutional monarchy rooted in the Glorious Revolution of 1689. It should not have come as a surprise that this novel  EU Constitution should have foundered in the United Kingdom in the referendum of June 23, 2016 on the loyalties accumulated over centuries to the older, inherited and highly successful British Union of nations.

In what follows, I argue that the UK’s home grown European federalists had an uphill battle to convince the British electorate that they should abandon a proven constitution, which had withstood the strains of over three hundred years, for an unproven constitution which challenged the fundamental tenet of British politics. The fundamental tenet is  that the electorate has the right to sanction its legislators at regular elections. F.W. Maitland, in his Constitutional History of England, writes that the Act of 1430, 8 Henry VI, c.7, regulated the county franchise for the next four centuries. [1] The franchise was extended in 1867 to working men by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. Walter Bagehot, editor of The Economist, wrote disapprovingly of this extension in his classic, The English Constitution. Government, he  pronounced to his Liberal readers, requires that “you can use the best classes of the respectful country; you can use the worst where every man thinks he is as good as the other”.

Within a half century of Disraeli’s measure the inherited UK constitution was opened to participation to a mass electorate, to modern political parties, and to Cabinet government. Bagehot’s  fear of  government by an ignorant mass electorate surfaced anew in the 1930s. It did so under the guise of a conviction that nationalism caused war. The fundamental reason for this was the catastrophe of the Great War.

In the following sections   I start with the fin de siècle gloom that pervaded British opinion over the conduct of the Boer war of 1899-1902; the impact of the rise of Germany on British foreign policy; the Historikerstreit about the causes of the Great War, and the consolidation of a British democracy within the ambit of the old Constitution as the liberal intelligentsia  took up cudgels against the concept of national sovereignty that underpinned British constitutional democracy. British constitutional democracy and a federal/supra-national ideal for Europe have never been comfortable bedfellows.

The end of “splendid isolation” and the Boer war.

During the mid- to late nineteenth century, Great Britain, the conventional view holds,  stood at the apogee of global power and influence, its leaders radiating a languid confidence only matched by a touch of arrogance. As famously described by Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury-three times Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister, and successor to Benjamin Disraeli as head of the Tory party- “English policy is to float lazily downstream, occasionally putting out a diplomatic boathook to avoid collisions.”  After a recession in the early 1870s, unemployment remained low; productivity continued to rise, and income per capita by 1900 exceeded French and German income by  over 50%. Exports were equivalent to those of Germany and the United States;  by  1880 more than 50 percent of world shipping was British owned, while British shipyards were constructing about four fifths of the world’s new vessels in the 1890s.  In addition to its own manufactures, Britain was the world’s greatest emporium for the goods and produce of other nations. The City of London was the world’s financial capital, with  the UK as  the largest exporter of capital by a wide margin. In addition, the United Kingdom was the centre of a world-spanning empire, both formal in India, Asia, Africa, Australasia and Canada, and informal in Latin America. As John Maynard Keynes famously wrote, “the inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as he might see fit, and reasonably expect their delivery on his doorstep…most important of all, he regarded this state of affairs as normal, certain, and permanent, except in the direction of further improvement, and any deviation from it as aberrant, scandalous and avoidable”. [2]

The confidence though was delusive. Like the island’s rain and fog, gloom was and is a recurrent characteristic of the British collective psyche. Writing in 1796, the year before his death, Edmund Burke-the great Anglo-Irish statesman- wrote, miserably, that “Our Government and our Laws are beset by two different Enemies, which are sapping its foundations, Indianism, and Jacobinism. In some Cases they act separately, in some they act in conjunction: But of this I am sure; that the first is the worst by far, and the hardest to deal with; and for this amongst other reasons, that it weakens discredits, and ruins that force, which ought to be employed with the greatest Credit and Energy against the other; and that it furnishes Jacobinism with its strongest arms against all formal Government”.[3] This was the Irishman, son to a Catholic mother, airing his conviction that the ill-gotten gains of the East India company corrupted British public life, undermined trust in the British constitution, inherited from 1689, and played into the hands of Jacobinism-the reigning ideology of the French revolution, and that he abhorred as a French version of Cromwellian tyranny, incompatible with British, and Irish, freedoms.  Over the century which followed Burke’s jeremiad,   Rudyard Kipling penned his poem for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897, as a solemn meditation on the mortality of empires. “Far-called, our navies melt away; On dune and headland sinks the fire; Lo, all our pomp of yesterday Is one with Nineveh and Tyre! Judge of the nations, spare us yet Lest we forget-lest we forget”. Lord Curzon , then Viceroy of India, forewarned that « as long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it, we shall drop straight away to a third-rate Power.» [4]

The most immediate cause for fin de siècle gloom  was the Boer war  of 1899 to 1902, and the defeats inflicted on the British forces in the field in the opening months of the war. Generalship was lacking; the logistical challenge of operating on the open savannah of the southern African uplands underestimated, and British manpower was found to be deficient. One third of recruits to the army were turned down, as unsuitable for service. Behind this stood the slums of Victorian Britain, prompting a spreading criticism of the doctrine of laissez-faire, which had prevailed for the past half century. Reformers, such as Sidney and Beatrice Webb—the founders in 1895 of the Fabian Society (so named because of its gradualist approach to radical change)—looked to the example of Bismarck’s Germany, and its state provision of health, education and insurance. Theologians looked to German biblical scholarship as their prime source of inspiration. Modernizers in Britain’s leading universities turned to German universities as  the models to emulate. German philosophy grew to influence in Oxford. German, and American business organization attracted admiration and fear in equal measure. Shocked by the recurrent prospect of a pan-continental alliance taking shape against Great Britain in support of the Boers, Joseph Chamberlain launched a bid to forge a prior alliance with Emperor Wilhelm II, Queen Victoria’s grandson. Germany, the prime power on the continent, and Great Britain, the prime global naval power, would link hands with the American Republic in a pan-Teutonic alliance. The initiative proved stillborn.

The rise of Germany and the Great War.

Central to British fin-de-siècle gloom was the rise of Germany. In  the introduction to his Imperialism and the Rise of Labour, – the fifth book of his A History of the English People in the Nineteenth Century, Elie Halévy, the renowned French historian of Victorian Britain, wrote that “England felt an increasingly powerful conviction that her vitality was less than that of certain other nations, and that if she was progressing, her rate of progress was less rapid than theirs…It was this loss of confidence which explains the far-reaching change in her foreign policy which took place towards the end of the nineteenth century. The British Government no longer certain that the country was sufficiently powerful to stand by herself, abandoned the policy of “isolation”, and sought external support in some system of alliances”. [5] This was a recurrent theme of the twentieth century, and was one of the reasons that Prime Minister MacMillan in 1961 sought British entry to the EEC.[6]

The fact that Great Britain eventually went to war against Germany and Austria-Hungary is all the more surprising given that, for Germany, Great Britain was the ideal partner to avoid the German leadership’s fear of encirclement from a hostile Franco-Russian alliance. Not the least was the long history of Anglo-German alliances.  After all, German troops had marched with Marlborough in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714); Prussia and Great Britain were bosom allies in the Seven Years War of 1756-1763, which swept France from most of northern America , from the Indian sub-continent, and confirmed Britain’s primacy in the Caribbean; at Waterloo in 1815, the Prussian general Blücher saved the day for Wellington’s army, to confirm the final defeat of Napoleonic France. Great Britain stood aside from the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, ending in the defeat of France yet again. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, called to settle some of the outstanding problems in the Balkans flowing from the recent Russo-Turkish war, Chancellor Bismarck famously identified the British Prime Minister Disraeli as the pivotal personality of the Congress– “Der alte Jude.  Das is der Mann”- he is quoted as saying. Siemens was heavily invested in the British economy. Hamburg bankers were prominent in London financial markets. Kaiser Wilhelm was an honorary Admiral of the Fleet. There was widespread sympathy in Great Britain  for Emperor Franz Josef  over the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Hapsburg throne, and of his wife in Sarajevo, on June 26 1914, by Serb terrorists, with the support of the Serb government,

But British and German public opinion turned hostile to each other. These were early days for the “yellow press”- newspapers run by magnates interested in boosting sales to the new mass electorate. Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe,  bought the Daily Mail  in 1896, the Daily Mirror in 1903, and bought The Times in 1908. His brother, Viscount Rothermere (born Harold Harmsworth) joined him and together, they  created  one of the world’s largest media empires of its time, with a specific marketing slant towards the new reading public of literate working men and (especially) women. Lord Northcliffe beat the nationalist drum in his newspapers. With the backing of  its owner, the journalist Henry-Wickham Steed, The Times’  Germanophobe and anti-semitic Vienna correspondant,  campaigned to liquidate Austria-Hungary- the supposed prison of nations.  His prejudice was widely shared by British progressives all gung-ho for national liberation, at least in the empires of others. The one exception, of course, was Germany where Chancellor Bismarck had defeated France in 1870, united the German lands, exclusive of Austria-Hungary, and upset the European balance of power. United Germany’s spectacular rise between 1870 and 1914 added grist to the anti-German mill in British public opinion, as did Kaiser Wilhelm’s bombast, his support for an ocean-going navy, capable of challenging British sea power, and his erratic diplomacy. In addition, there was much British heart-burn about Germany’s industrial and trade prowess on world markets.

Rivalry with Germany was a central feature of the years leading up to the outbreak of war, the key moment being the decision to ally  with France in 1904. Paradoxically, the person who campaigned assiduously to warn his compatriots of the threat to Great Britain occasioned by Germany’s rise to the status of continental Europe’s dominant power was Alfred, Lord Milner, part German by descent and educated at Balliol, Oxford, the nursery of generations of British leaders. Like the Webbs, he was much taken by Germany’s state-led development, and like other liberal imperialists, was wont to criticize “the barrenness of the Parliamentary machine”. [7] Milner had gained experience in the civil conduct of the Boer war;  laid the foundations of a united South Africa; in  1910,  become a founder of  The Round Table – A Quarterly Review of the Politics of the British Empire, which helped to promote the cause of imperial federation; and in December 1916, had been included by Prime Minister Lloyd George as Minister without Portfolio in his  five-man War Cabinet.  Lloyd George remained in office until 1922, at the head of a Liberal-Tory coalition. That was the last time that the Liberal Party occupied 10 Downing Street. Lloyd George was sidelined in the inter-war years, as was Winston Churchill, the maverick ex-member of the 1906-1914 Liberal Government, who joined the Tories at the end of the 1914-18 war, and always remained an outsider within the Tory party.

In The Round Table Movement and the Fall of the “Second” British Empire (1909-1919)[8]  the historian Andrea Bosco argues that the two wars of 1914-18, and of 1939-45 should be seen as wars of succession to the British Empire.  He ascribes a central role in the drama to Milner’s Round Tablers who realized, he maintains, that Great Britain’s days as a world power were drawing to a close, and came to advocate a world federation, at the summit of which stood the United States and the British Empire. According to Bosco, they identified Germany as the prime challenge to British hegemony, and consequently engineered the wars, the better to kill off German pretensions. Bosco’s  contention that Great Britain willed the two world wars in order to block the rise of a rival will find few takers; his contention that the roots of British supra-nationalist ideals may be traced to the Round Tablers has much greater credibility.

The ultimate justification for going to war in August 1914 was spelt out by the British Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey in his famous speech of August 3, 1914, in the House of Commons. [9] His main argument was that Germany’s request to move troops across Belgian territory in preparation for an attack on France, flouted the 1839 Treaty whereby the European powers pledged to respect Belgium’s neutrality. With Germany in control of Antwerp, and the Channel ports, British vital interests were at stake. If London failed to stand by the Treaty, the British commitment to the neutrality of the smaller powers would be revealed as worthless. “I do not believe for a moment, that at the end of this war, even if we stood aside, we should be in a position, a material position, to use our force decisively to undo what had happened in the course of the war, to prevent the whole of the West of Europe opposite to us—if that had been the result of the war—falling under the domination of a single Power…”  If, Grey continued,  Britain were to stand aside, “we should, I believe, sacrifice our respect and good name and reputation before the world, and should not escape the most serious and grave economic consequences.” In other words, were Great Britain not to enter the war as France’s ally, France would align with Germany in a pan -European alliance against Great Britain. Better join with France than stand aside and let events take their course.

As Max Hastings has written in his book, Catastrophe, “If Britain had stood aside while the Central Powers prevailed on the continent, its interests would have been directly threatened by a Germany whose appetite for dominance would assuredly have been enlarged by a victory”.[10]  “Until 1918, the fundamental options before the western allies were those of acquiescing in German hegemony on the continent, or of continuing to bear the ghastly cost of resisting this. It was, and remains, a huge delusion to suppose that a third path existed”. [11] “Those who fought and died, he concluded, did not do so in vain”. [12]

The Historikerstreit: Who was to blame for the Great War?

There is no controversy worth the name over who began World War II. Reinhard Spitzy, in his book How We Squandered the Third Reich, [13] places the blame fairly and squarely on the German leadership, and on Hitler in particular. None of the serious historians of the second world war argue otherwise. Spitzy had joined the Austrian Nazi Party in 1931, participated in the Vienna putsch in July 1934, and enthusiastically backed Hitler’s incorporation of Austria into the Reich, but came to realize during the Munich crisis that Hitler was marching Germany to world war. Spitzy joined Admiral Canaris’ counter-intelligence unit, the Abwehr, which became one of the main cells of the German opposition.

There are of course less serious historians, among whom should rank high the former British civil servant and EU Commissioner Roy Denman. In Missed Chances, Denman recounts how again and again the blundering British misjudged the Europeans. He has them  join – against the historical evidence- with Clemenceau in imposing a Carthaginian Peace on Germany; proceed to  undermine the Weimar Republic by insisting on reparations;  fail to stand up to Hitler in the 1930s, and then  foolishly-according to Denman- become embroiled with Germany over Czechoslovakia and Poland.  Britain, Denman argues, could do nothing effective to prevent Germany getting its way with its immediate eastern neighbours. By issuing the March 1939 guarantee of British military support to Poland if Germany should invade, the British government made war inevitable. Chamberlain could have stayed out of a Polish-German war, enjoyed a large Tory majority in the House of Commons, kept Churchill out of power, and left Germany free hands to attack Russia. World War II was the un-necessary war, made real by British folly. [14]

Denman’s argument is bogus Realpolitik. He imagines that leaving central-eastern Europe to Hitler’s ravenous will would have been good policy. It definitely was the policy of the appeasers. Denman agrees with them. The correct lesson in 1939 from the Great War, he says, was to stay out of continental entanglements. Britain would have retained its Empire; Europe’s continental hegemon would have reached an accord with the world’s prime maritime power. Despite professing his admiration for Foreign Secretary Grey, Denman nonetheless writes that “there still exists a widespread impression in Britain that Germany deliberately planned a war in August 1914. There is little evidence of this”. [15] This is plain false: he should have known of Fritz Fischer’s Griff Nach der Weltmacht, presented below and published in 1961. The European states, he argues in essence, blundered into the war unintentionally. Blunderer Numero Uno, according to Denman,  was Great Britain.

It should be noted that Denman’s view of the causes of the two wars puts the blame firmly on Great Britain, not Germany. It is the barely spoken assumption of 1930s appeasers, and of the UK’s supra-nationalist enthusiasts, who agree with Denman that Europe’s inherited state system is prone to war, requiring highly sophisticated diplomacy to keep the peace; such skill is unlikely to be available at the crucial moment; the intricacy  of inter-governmental relations in such a complex polity as Europe makes the region too prone to accidents; the costs of these accidents have risen geometrically with the advent of modern technology; the only possible regime that can ensure the peace and underpin prosperity is a federalisation of Europe, under the direction of institutions with strong supra-national powers. This is Denman’s conviction, and why he cavils at Britain’s “missed chances”, to not go to war in 1914; to not give Hitler free hands in central-eastern Europe in 1939; to “miss the bus” in not joining in the Schuman Plan of 1951; in not signing the Rome Treaty; then joining on disadvantageous terms in 1972; and becoming the EU’s “awkward partner”, always dragging its heals as the project’s champions move towards their ultimate goal of creating a federal and supranational constitution for Europe.

The origins of this supranational ideal, it bears emphasizing, are of British and French origin. They may be traced to the Allied Maritime Transport Council set up  under the Lloyd George government, and designed as a para-public “administration”, running a cartel to minimize competition in logistics between the allies. It was chaired by a British civil servant, James Arthur Salter, who worked alongside Jean Monnet, later the EU’s founding father. Salter was the ideas man of supra-nationalism; Monnet was the indefatigable networker, who laboured to implement it. At first an enthusiast for the League of Nations, to which he was appointed by Clemenceau, as Deputy Secretary-General, Monnet soon became disillusioned by its laborious and unanimous decision-making processes,  and resigned in 1923. Disillusion hardened into conviction as the League proved unable to maintain the peace. He expressed his views clearly in a memorandum of 1943:  ‘there will be no peace in Europe if the states are reconstructed on the basis of national sovereignty…Prosperity and vital social progress will remain elusive until the nations of Europe form a federation of a ‘European entity which will forge them into a single economic unit”. [16]

Monnet’s statement makes clear his project is a  European peace programme. His remedy is the subordination of European states to a new collective sovereign. To judge whether Monnet’s  remedy is the right one for the disease requires us first to ask what historians have to say about the origins of the Great War. To do so, let us deploy Kenneth Waltz’ three images on the causes of war: war as rooted in man’s nature; war as originating in the domestic structure of states; and war as inherent to the anarchy of relations between sovereign states.  [17]  There is a huge literature on origins of the Great War, numbering about 25;000 books, and no agreement yet on what the causes were. The literature definitely does not endorse the nostrum that nationalism caused the war.

 The first image

“The seat of evil is the self, and the quality of evil can be defined in terms of pride”, Waltz writes in citing the Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. [18]  The human predicament is described in the biblical story of Adam and Eve cast from the garden of Eden; who in their earthly wanderings retain  a sense of perfection,but are  equipped with defective powers of reasoning and will. Niebuhr’s particular crusade is against modern  utopianism, to create the world over in the dreamer’s image, and fed by humanity’s besetting sin of pride. At most, writes Arthur Schlesinger of Niebuhr, “we cannot play the role of God to history, and we must strive as best we can to attain decency, clarity and proximate justice in an ambiguous world. [19] Modest, practicable aims are the necessary antidote to big visions.

To the victors of the Great War, the seat of evil was the Kaiser. In Article 227 of the Versailles Treaty, the allies “publicly arraign William II of Hohenzollern, formerly German Emperor, for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties”. Not surprisingly, Wilhelm writes in his autobiography, My  Memoirs,- in chapter 10 entitled “The Outbreak of War” – that the allies’ intent to encircle Germany, dismantle Austria-Hungary and take back Alsace-Lorraine was the immediate cause of war. [20]  That was in 1922. Four years later, Wilhelm was reported as arguing that the true villains of 1914 were not France or Russia, so much as “ the international Jews and Free Masons who, he alleged, desired to destroy national states and the Christian religion”. [21]  This, of course, was much what children were taught in  National Socialist Germany. [22]  John Röhl, the historian of Wilhelm II, makes the point that  Kaiser and Hitler were of one ilk. Wilhelm, he writes, “ was the very last person who should have been entrusted with the immense powers of the Hohenzollern military monarchy..”. His contribution to the crisis of the first half of the twentieth century, writes Röhl,  was “his breathtaking ambition to lead his country to what he himself termed “Napoleonic supremacy’- by peaceful means if possible, by war if necessary..”. [23]  Ian Kershaw’s  titles for his great biography of Hitler apply as much to the Kaiser:  hubris is succeeded by nemesis. [24]

There are other interpretations on the origins of the Great War which chime with Niebuhr’s theme of man as a fallen angel. “The First World war is a mystery.“, writes John Keegan. [25] It remains, he argues,  a mystery why it began, and even  more so, why it persisted. In the  first few months, the French suffered over a million casualties; the Germans suffered 800,000 casualties the small British professional army was decimated; the Hapsburg Empire suffered 1.27 million casualties; and the Russians suffered a devastating defeat in late August at the battle of Tannenberg, where 230,000 men—half of General Samsonov’s army- were killed. By the end of the war, one in six Serbs had died; Russia lost 6.5 million men. Yet Europe’s leaders soldiered on, as the costs rose and the visible benefits dwindled. Peace endeavours come  to nought. The reason for this, writes the historian Richard Evans , is that  the statesmen who took these fateful decisions had fed on a  diet of  “ a quarter of a century of imperialist annexations, wars and conquests, that only force mattered, and that the people on the other side were members of an inferior race that would be easy to defeat”.[26]  In other words, Europe’s élites  glorified war and violence. They were not  carried into conflict on a wave of popular enthusiasm.

The Second Image

The unit for the first image is man; the unit for the second image is the state. In the first, man is deficient; in the second, the state is deficient. What that deficiency is depends on one’s ideological preferences: it may be a monarchy, a dictatorship, capitalist, or socialist; it may  be  predicated on racial ideology or on class messianism.  Whatever the deficiency may be, its deficiency will find expression in  the use of  war as an accepted tool of policy. Logically, the recipe for ending the source of war is to extirpate the state’s deficiency, by war or revolution or a combination of both. Hence, the paradox being that in order to uproot the sources of  war that lie within a state, war must be waged unconditionally until the offending state is laid low. Peace, in this image,  is achieved by war.

The argument that war is a legitimate means to establish peace between peace-loving peoples was propounded most clearly by President Woodrow Wilson in his April 1917 war message to Congress. [27] “The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” Meanwhile, the United States will  “ exert all its power and employ all its resources to bring the Government of the German Empire to terms and end the war” “ Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people.” “ We have no quarrel with the German people. … It was not with their previous knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellow men as pawns and tools..”.  “We …know that in such a Government, following such methods, we can never have a friend; and that in the presence of its organized power, always lying in wait to accomplish we know not what purpose, there can be no assured security for the democratic Governments of the world.”

In the immediate years following the end of the war, allied historians argued that Germany was sole responsible for the start of the war, a view sanctioned by the “war guilt” clauses within the Treaty of Versailles. The thesis however was heavily contested in both revolutionary Russia and in isolationist United States. The Russian revolutionary authorities had published evidence of secret deals between the Tsar, and the British and French governments, to carve up the spoils of war. In 1926, Harry Elmer Barnes published The Genesis of the World War, the first American book written about 1914 that was based upon the available primary sources. He argued that World War I was the result of a Franco-Russian plot to destroy Germany. Barnes went on to consider that Hitler was not  to blame for the outbreak of war in 1939. Holger Herwig, the Canadian-German historian already cited, concluded that the work published on the subject of the Great War’s origins, up to the 1960s is little more than a pseudo-historical sham. [28]

The major turning point in German accounts of the Great War’s origins came in 1961,  when Fritz Fischer published his controversial book Griff Nach der Weltmacht, demonstrating that  the autocracy launched its policy for Lebensraum and for ethnic cleansing  in central-eastern Europe, as a response to internal political dissent. The Kaiserreich did so to pre-empt further advances by the Social Democrats following their relative successes in the 1912 elections.  This was the first book published in German that placed the blame for the outbreak of war fairly and squarely on Berlin. It pointed the way to a broad consensus that Wilhelminian Germany held a special responsibility for the outbreak of war. It was of course contested as a thesis. The task of High Commands, it was pointed out,  is to prepare plans for war, the  existence of which does not prove intent to wage war. It has also been contested on the grounds that Berlin’s policy was not expansionist, but simply to maintain Austria-Hungary as a great power. [29]

Fischer’s prime innovation was to emphasise the domestic origins of the war. The theme is picked up in British accounts of the war’s origins. Christopher Clark, in his book emphasizes, that key decisions were taken in monarchical structures that shrouded power relations within each executive. In this view, the Fischer thesis, the Primat der Innenpolitik , could be applied to all pre-democratic, European states of the period. [30] The catastrophe, writes Max Hastings,  came about, not because of publics clamouring for war. but  because of the decisions of elites. [31] Not only were these decisions taken in non-transparent conditions, the people who took them were often mediocrities. As Rear-Admiral Alfred Hopman is reported as saying,  “.. . absolutist governance was responsible for our failure to produce statesmen and instead only bureaucrats and lackeys”. [32]

The third image.

In the third image, it is Europe’s state system that is deficient. This, in the view of supra-nationalists, is what has to be superceded. Their conscious intent is to reject the historical legacy of the European mid-seventeenth century settlement, notably in the form of the Treaty of Westphalia, which confirmed  the doctrine of “cujus regio, ejus religio”.  Under Westphalia, states exist in an anarchic system, in which they inter-act, but where conflict is ever-present.  As inequality between states is endemic,  “ the strong, as Thucydides writes in his History of the Peloponnesian War, do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.” The Great Powers call the shots, balance each other out with a view to preventing any one of their number becoming predominant, compete economically, and seek to augment their influence  through the formation of alliances. Their inter-actions form the structure of the system. This structure  may be bi-polar- as during the cold war-and relatively stable over time, or multi-polar, and more fluid. Both structures  may share a common set of rules or institutions as a society of states. But as Hedley Bull warns, this society “ is always in competition with the elements of a state of war and of…. conflict”. There is no reason to suspect, he adds, that international society would be the sole or the dominant element. [33]

Third image historians argue that it was not Germany or Austria-Hungary that were to blame for the outbreak of war, so much as the European state system itself. Between 1923 and 1926, the German Foreign Ministry published forty volumes of documents to promote the idea that the war was not the fault of one nation but rather the result of a breakdown in international relations[34] In 1929, Sidney Fay, a U.S. historian,  published a two  volume history, The Origins of the World War, which placed much of the blame for the war at the door of the allies. [35] The classic of the genre is by the former correspondant of Corriere della Sera, Luigi Albertini,  whose The Origins of the War of 1914,  appeared first in 1941 in Italian, and appeared in English translation  in 1953. [36]  As John Keegan writes, Albertini’s is “ the bedrock of all discussion about the causes of the war and … provides a detailed chronology of the crisis and excerpts from the most important documents”.[37] Albertini is critical of Germany, but does not go so far as to claim that the German government deliberately set out to provoke a general war.

A version of the same broad thesis that the war was caused by a breakdown in diplomacy between the powers, is that- in Lloyd George’s words- “the nations slithered into the boiling cauldron of war without any trace of apprehension or dismay”. [38] Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers, takes much the same position. He ends his book, comparing the European crisis of 2011-12 with that of August 1914. The only thing that has changed, he writes, is the presence of strong supranational institutions, that -he writes- provides a framework for defining tasks, mediating conflicts and identifying remedies that was conspicuously absent in 1914. Otherwise, little has changed. “All the key protagonists hoped that this (the 2008 financial crash and the 2010 Greek financial crash) would not happen, but in addition to this shared interest, they also had special-and conflicting- interests of their own. Given the inter-relationships across the system, the consequences of any one action depended on the responsive actions of others, which were hard to calculate in advance, because of the opacity of decision-making processes”. [39]

Clark challenges the view of a peculiar German war guilt, and instead maps the complex mechanism of events and mis-judgements that led to war [40]  His thesis is well received by Richard Evans, [41] whom we have met in our discussion of the first image.  If we combine the lessons of Clark and Evans, the war came about by mis-calculations and a climate that glorified violence. The lesson for English readers is that the United Kingdom shares the blame with Germany and the other powers for the outbreak of the war,  the implication being that the UK has to be part of the (supra-national and federal) European solution. By contrast, a German historian  attributes the success of Clark’s book in Germany to “a “deep seated need (on the part of German readers) no longer so constrained by the taboos characteristic of the later twentieth century, to free themselves from the burdensome allegations of national war guilt”.[42] National debates in Europe, notably about the causes of war, have their inescapable and separate national trajectories.

What then are the causes of  the Great War ? There is no agreement. Human failings, élite decisions in deficient state structures, the failure of Europe’s diplomatic networks, miscalculations made more probable by the complexities of Europe and the glorification of violence which preceded the outbreak of the war, all played their part. The one conclusion that our historians do not embrace is that the war was caused by populist clamours for war.  Nationalism was fanned by the war, but did not cause it. Yet nationalism as a cause of war became a central belief of British supra-nationalists. How this came about is the subject of the final section.

The national idea in the inter-war years.

The new Europe, emerging from the Great War, was to be constructed on the principle of self-determination, while conflicts over frontiers and minorities were to be adjudicated through the League of Nations, based in Geneva in neutral Switzerland. The reality proved quite different. The U.S. Senate voted against becoming entangled in Europe’s affairs; establishing the foundations of economic recovery proved elusive; ideologies of left and right ran rampant. As John Keegan writes, “The legacy of the war’s political outcome scarcely bears contemplation: Europe ruined as a centre of world civilization, Christian kingdoms transformed through defeat into godless tyrannies, Bolshevik or Nazi, ….the deliberate starvation of peasant enemies of the people by provinces, the extermination of racial outcasts, the persecution of ideology’s intellectual and cultural hate-objects, the massacre of ethnic minorities, the extinction of small national sovereignties, the elevation of commisars, gauleiters and warlords to power over voiceless millions, had its origins in the chaos it left behind”.[43]  The three empires – Ottoman,  Austrian and Russian – collapsed, to be replaced by successor national states, with contested frontiers, often large ethnic minorities within their borders and with newly minted and contested constitutions. The franchise was widely extended, but did not survive long. Parliamentary regimes were brushed aside in Russia, and Italy, where Mussolini  installed himself as dictator in 1922, to Lenin’s acclaim. Lenin established close relations with Ataturk, who set up his one party, militantly secular state. Dictatorships became the norm across southern and eastern Europe.

These were unpropitious conditions for establishing  a viable political order in Europe.  Extreme violence continued unabated in the immediate post-war years, characterized by set piece battles between regular armies (as in the war between Poland and the Soviet Union, or the Greco-Turkish war);  the proliferation of civil wars, in Ireland and in the successor states to the now defunct empires of central-eastern Europe and the Ottoman Empire;  and social or national revolutions, culminating in the rivalry between Fascism and Bolshevism.[44]  While the centre of gravity of territorial revisionism was located in the lands of the old multi-national empires, in the mid-nineteen twenties, there was a general climate of rapprochement in western Europe, particularly in relations between France and Germany. But the economic collapse of 1929 undermined any remaining faith in constitutional democracy and in market mechanisms. Germany’s Weimar Republic collapsed as the centre parties – divided among themselves –  succumbed to hostilities from the communists and national-socialists, precipitating the arrival to power of the National Socialists in Germany in 1933. In the inter-war years, France had 42 separate governments, as the factions fought for office in a Third Republic constitution that sourced absolute power in the National Assembly. Constitutional democracy as exercised in the mother country of the 1789 Revolution was hardly a model to imitate.

By the 1930s, Europe was riven by what has been called an international civil war. Two ideologies predominated:  the anti-communist,  racial ideology of National Socialism, and the international class war fostered by the Soviet Union.  Both of these ideologies were supra-national. Both saw  nation-states as at best tools for higher purposes. Both had limitless ambitions. As Robert Gerwarth points out, the new logic of violence permeating the conflicts of the immediate post-war years pointed straight to the extremes perpetrated in the wars of 1939-45. Europe returned to the savagery of the religious wars, from which she had issued through the terms of the Treaty of Westphalia, finally signed in 1648. The Treaty laid the foundations for the concept of national independence as the counter to the claims of empire. The Treaty of Westphalia was signed at the same time that the foundations of the modern British state were laid in the Cromwellian dictatorship, followed by  the Stuart restoration, and the Glorious Revolution of 1689 which established a constitutional monarchy where no laws could be  enacted “without consent of Parliament”. [45]

This British inherited state structure adapted smoothly in 1918 to universal suffrage, and to the  politics of mass electorates. Socialism was domesticated and constitutional monarchy survived. The United Kingdom retained a robust two plus party system.  One major reason for this successful transition was that the country emerged victorious from the war, whereas the successor states of Russia, Germany and Austria inherited the legacy of defeat. Unlike France the inherited British Constitution placed power in the hands of the “Crown in parliament”, based on a party system functioning on the first-past-the-post principle. Governments ran parliament between elections, rather than being the plaything of parliaments as in France. The country furthermore was not invaded, so that the rationale for the physical, financial and material losses of the war came to be ascribed to the abstract principle that Britain’s largely volunteer armies fought and died for the independence of others. Both Labour and Tory political leaders proved receptive to Indian demands for self-government; both accepted higher levels of taxation, and an expanding welfare stat. The electorates of both major political parties supported Empire, King and Parliament. Their major difference by the 1930s was Labour’s support for extensive nationalization of the “means of production”, while the priority for Tory policy was the creation of a property-owning democracy. Neither questioned the constitutional foundations of the British state. Indeed, Labour party mandarins believed that the near limitless powers of the “Crown in parliament” would facilitate  the establishment of socialism in Britain.

Self-government became the dominant leitmotif of the British Empire after 1918. The trend had been building for over a hundred years. The federation of Canada was formed in 1867; the federation of Australia in 1900; and the federation of South Africa in 1909. In the UK, the Liberal government of 1906-1914, intended to institute Home Rule for Ireland, and Scotland and to take the first steps for Welsh Home Rule by dis-establishing the Church in Wales. But these initiatives were interrupted by war, and—despite the major contribution of Irish troops in the war—Ireland achieved independence in defiance of London by the ballot box and the gun. The war also furthered a sense of national identity in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa, and most importantly in India. In 1919, Parliament passed the India Act. As King George V announced, “the Act which has now become law entrusts the elected representative of the people with a definite share in the Government and points the way to full responsible Government hereafter”. [46] In the so-called Round Table talks of the early 1930s, and then in the Government of India Act of 1935, the dimensions for  an All India Federation were established, with an electorate of 35 millions. India  was thus well on the way to achieving parity of status with the Dominions as a self-governing country. In 1939, the Dominions all volunteered to join Great Britain on the outbreak of the second world war; only southern Ireland used its powers to declare neutrality. India’s Congress party did likewise, but was overridden by the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow.  Indian independence came a short two decades after Edwin Montagu,  Secretary of state for India in 1917, made his historic announcement in Parliament for “the  gradual development of self-governing institutions” in India.

British liberals turn against the national idea.

Yet in the interwar years, British liberals turned against the national idea.  The Lloyd George coalition of Liberal- and Conservative parties  fell apart in late 1922, and at the 1924 election, the once dominant Liberal party shrank to a shadow of its former self. Out of office for nearly a century, Liberal ideas nonetheless permeated the country. The prime architect of this ideational dominance was Milner, the founder of The Round Table.  The members of his “Kindergarten”, as his followers were called, came to repent the severity of the Versailles Treaty.  They were both Liberal Imperialists, in favour of a politically de-centralised  but cohesive British Empire, as well as for a more generous treatment of Germany, along the lines argued by John Maynard Keynes in his  famous 1919 pamphlet, The Economic Consequences of the Peace.   Milner’s men played  a central role in British politics- Philip Kerr, the Marquess of Lothian became British Ambassador to the United States in the crucial years of 1939-1940; Lionel Curtis, the founder of “Chatham House”, the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London; Geoffrey Dawson, the near uninterrupted editor of The Times for thirty years from 1912 to 1941, and an ardent proponent of the 1930s policy of appeasement of Germany, as conducted by Prime Ministers Baldwin and Chamberlain;  John Buchan became Governor General, of Canada from 1935 to 1940.

The policy of appeasement, Martin Gilbert and Richard Gott have written, was an affair of the heart, rooted in pro-Germanism. [47] Dislike of France among its supporters  ran deep. The Versailles Treaty, the argument ran,  was a construct of French folly. Germany was a natural British ally. It lay at the heart of the European economy and would help create a European bloc with which it would be advantageous to trade. A strong Germany would stop the spread of communism, and provide leadership in eastern Europe where independence for its own sake was absurd even dangerous. Seen in this light an alliance with Hitler’s Germany lay in the British interest, as much as it was also to avoid war. As Horace Wilson, an arch-appeaser, wrote: “our policy was never designed just to postpone war, or enable us to enter war more united. The aim of appeasement was to avoid war altogether, for all time”. [48] Hence the shock to the appeasers when Churchill “and his rabble” gained power in May 1940.[49]  As Andrew Roberts has written, the British Establishment never gave wholehearted support to Churchill. “At a deeper level, he could not be forgiven for having been proved right about their flagship policy of those years: appeasement”.[50]”  This split in British politics, between the few who backed Churchill, and the majority who wanted peace – Germany’s Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, was convinced they were prepared to pay any price – opened up anew in May 1961 when Harold MacMillan announced his decision to bring the UK into the EEC.

Great Britain’s declaration of war in September 1939 differed remarkably from Grey’s speech to the Commons in August 1914. Grey’s reasoning was couched in the traditional terms of British foreign policy to oppose hegemony by any one power in Europe; Chamberlain’s was simply a statement that “there is no chance that this man will ever give up his practice of using force to gain his will. He can only be stopped by force”. [51] Great Britain, with the backing of the Empire, Chamberlin declared, was now in a fight against evil, brute force, bad faith, oppression and persecution.

Chamberlain was speaking to a generation for which the Great War was a mere twenty years back. As Christopher Clark records, that war mobilized 65 million troops; at its end claimed the demise of three empires (the Russian, Austrian-Hungarian, the Ottoman Empire, as well as the German empire of the Hohenzollerns); caused twenty million military and civilian deaths, and twenty-one million wounded.[52]  The British Empire lost 2.1 million wounded, and about 1 million dead. Five out of the seven million British troops hailed from the British isles, the remaining 2 million equally from India and the Dominions.   For the Empire as a whole, the deaths as a percent of total population numbered around 0.30%.  For the British aristocracy,-still the governing class- the losses were infinitely higher: one in five sons of peers died. Of the 5,650 Old Etonians to serve in the armed forces, 1,157 died and 1,500 were wounded-a casualty rate of 47% of those enlisted. Old Etonians won 13 Victoria Crosses, 548 Distinguished Service Orders, and 750 Military Crosses.[53]  There was no buying their way out of service. This exhorbitant rate of attrition among the United Kingdom’s ruling class, along with higher land taxes and death duties, prompted an unprecedented turnover in the sale of estates in the inter-war years, and informed the policy of appeasement in the 1930s.  It explained in very large part the audience won by the luminaries of the British liberal left in their conviction that “nationalism” was the cause of war. It also explains why more than a handful of British citizens were willing to betray King and country. (Tim Tate, Hitler’s British Traitors: The Secret History of Spies, Saboteurs, and Fifth Columnists, Icon Books, 2018).

Here was a further difference between the Great Britain of the Great War and the Great Britain of the Second World War .  In the Great War, Henry-Wickham Steed argued his case in the columns of The Times for national independence from the Hapsburg monarchy. In the Second World War, E.H. Carr, who chaired the Chatham House Study Group on nationalism,  became The Times editorialist. The tone of his articles may be represented in an article of his,  “The New Europe”, published in July 1940, in which he stated that  “the first lesson of the war was that the conception of the small national unit, not strong enough for an active role in international politics, but enjoying all the prerogatives and responsibilities of sovereignty, had been rendered obsolete by modern armaments and the scope of modern warfare”.[54] Europe, he went on, “can no longer afford a multiplicity of economic units, each maintaining its economic system behind a barbed wire entanglement of tariffs, quotas, exchange restrictions and barter agreements”.

In other words, the two criteria for successful policy- according to Carr –   are efficiency and power. “Common economic planning,” he writes in a pamphlet, Nationalism and After, first published in 1945,  “as well as joint military organization,, will alone enable western Europe, Britain included, to confront the future with united strength and confidence”. “Many old traditions will have to be discarded, before Europe and the world can recover their balance in the aftermath of the age of nationalism”.[55] It may be added that Carr, in the 1930s an admirer of Hitler, then in the war an admirer of Stalin, thought in 1945 that the idea of an independent India was nonsensical.  He always backed Empire against nation, just not the British Empire.

British advocates of a European or Atlantic federation successfully deployed their skills at networking the spectrum of British politics. From Round Tablers and  Labour’s Fabians to the aristocracy, they deployed their influence in the universities, the media, and all major political parties; they spoke to a broader public through the BBC, The Times and The Economist.  Prominent among them was Jean Monnet’s colleague from the Great War, and the League of Nations, the British civil servant, Arthur Salter. In 1931, he published The United States of Europe in which he proposed to build a   federal Europe within the framework of the League of Nations, by creating a “common market”, along the lines of the German Zollverein of the nineteenth century. The USE would derive its funds from a common external tariff, and its common political authority would be “even more important than the national Governments, and would in effect reduce the latter to the status of municipal authorities”.[56]  Its organization would resemble that of the League of Nations – A Secretariat, a Council of Ministers, a parliamentary Assembly, and a Court of Justice – with one exception the “Secretariat’  (later, the Commission) would be a permanent body of international civil servants, loyal to the new organization, not to the member countries.

On the approach of war, British European federalists set up the Federal Union, to promote the idea of a federal Europe as an alternative to war, and to Hitler’s “New Order”. The  American Rhodes Scholar and New York Times journalist, Clarence Streit, published  a best selling book, Union Now: A proposal for  a  Federal Union of the Democracies of North Atlantic, that advocated  the political integration of the democracies of Western Europe (including their colonies) and the other English-speaking countries at that time (the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa).

Here is a sample of like-minded statements:  “Until our reverence for this quite artificial theory of national sovereignty is dispersed there can be no hope of international order”.[57]  “War is inherent in the relations between sovereign states”. [58].  “Unless we destroy the sovereign states, the sovereign states will destroy us”. [59] Each state  “must surrender the primary prerogative of sovereignty, the right to make war…(and agree) to form a Federation”.[60] Ivor  Jennings,-scholar of the British constitution- proposed federal institutions for a European Union: a Congress, an executive, a judiciary to interpret a written constitution and a bill of human rights. [61] As Arnold Toynbee, a leading light in the federalist movement,  explained, “If we are frank with ourselves, we shall admit that we are engaged on a deliberate and sustained and concentrated effort to impose limitations upon the sovereignty and independence of the 50 or 60 local independent States…It is just because we are really attacking the principle of local sovereignty that we keep on protesting our loyalty to it so loudly”. [62] British federalists, and Jean Monnet, welcomed the Churchill government’s hasty proposal in May-June 1940 for a merger of France and Great Britain as the first attempt to build a European Union.[63]  Their influence faded during the war, and the immediate post war years, but their fortunes revived in the 1960s, and were crowned by British entry to the EEC in 1972.


Concluding remarks.

The development of federalist thinking in the UK emerged by a process of trial and error. It was first applied successfully in the British empire; the Great War postponed its application in the United Kingdom for a century; a fin-de siècle gloom accompanying the Boer War prompted admiration of Germany’s state-led development, but also concern at Germany’s rise to primacy on the continent; this in turn informed the “entente cordiale” with France in 1904, and Great Britain’s entry to the war in 1914.  But the exhorbitant price paid in that conflict and the failure of the Versailles settlement to ensure the peace led to more radical thinking: peace in Europe could only be ensured on the basis of a federal union, and a subordination of national sovereigns to a collective European sovereign. These were the thoughts that had lasting impact on Europe’s development.

In 1941, while lingering in Mussolini’s prison, Altiero Spinelli—who may rank alongside Monnet as a founding father of the EU – composed the Ventotone Manifesto, with the help of Ernesto Rossi a  fellow prisoner. The manifesto was entitled Towards a Free and United Europe. In his memoirs, Spinelli writes: “’Since I was looking for mental clarity, and precision, I was not attracted by the foggy and contorted ideological federalism of a Proudhon or a Mazzini, but by the clean, precise thinking of these English federalists, in whose writings I found a pretty good key to understanding the chaos into which Europe was plunging and for devising alternatives”. [64]

These British ideas bore fruit over seven decades after being hatched. They informed the draft constitution for a United Europe, presented in 2002, and described as “the most radical reform of the institutions ever put forward”.[65] The subordination of national parliaments to EU institutions was made clear by the provision that if a third of national parliaments believed that a proposed EU law exceeded the Union’s powers, they could force the European Commission to reconsider, but not to block the measure.  Article I-6 of the draft European Constitution stated that “The Constitution and law adopted by the institutions of the Union in exercising competences conferred on it shall have primacy over the law of the Member States.”[66]

There is, and always has been, two  major problems with this blueprint.  The first is that modern mass politics in Europe are national. The loyalties of Europeans remain national or regional first, and rarely European first. The second is that the fundamental assumption of nationalism as a cause of war is an unwarranted simplification. There are multiple causes of war, the history of which in Europe shows clearly that national passions are aroused by its pursuit. War is the problem; nationalism is a mere manifestation of war.

This statement has two implications for the UK, as wells for Europe as a whole. The first is that is that there has never been adequate public support in the UK for a federal Europe.  The old, inherited British constitution adapted rapidly and smoothly to the era of mass democracy. As a nation of nations, the British electorate felt at home with their constitutional arrangements. In addition, the British Empire had evolved into a Commonwealth of self-governing nations: how come, the question was asked,  that Great Britain would be the only Commonwealth  country after Empire that was not self-governing? The idea that the British electorate should lose its rights to vote out incumbent lawmakers in exchange for membership in the EU  begged the question whether that was not too high a price to pay. And because there was no support to subordinate the UK as a province in a federal European super-state, membership had to be sold on economic grounds. Not surprisingly, British public opinion waxed and waned pro-EU according to the ups and downs of the economic cycle.

The second is that the causes of peace in Europe since 1945, exclusive for the sake of brevity of the violence in the Balkans and the Caucasus following 1990, cannot credibly be ascribed to the EU. In 2012, The EU did receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but celebrants were careful not to exagerate. Commission President,  José Manuel Barroso, declared that:  “This is an award for the European project – for the people and the institutions – that day after day, for the last 60 years, have built a new Europe”. Less prosaically, the pacification of Europe after 1945 may be ascribed to multiple factors, not the least of which are: that the wars of the first forty-five years of the twentieth century saturated the region with unequalled violence; that the existence of nuclear weapons threatened instant devastation by the powers which possessed them; that the United States after 1945 remained engaged in Europe as its prime pacifier.  European “construction” evolved within those confines, but did so at the expense of its member states democratic legitimacy.

The vote of June 23 2016 to Leave the EU came as a thunderbolt to British EU federalists. almost to a man and woman in favour of Remaining. The subsequent three and a half years of rearguard action, though, revealed how far British sovereign powers had been handed over, frankly, on the sly-along Arnold Toynbee lines- through subterfuge, pretence and obfuscation. It was as if the half-boiled, drowsy British frog had hopped out of the cauldron at the very last minute, before-as UK supranationalists planned- it would be sooner rather than later melted into a new European soup.

The three highlights of this revelation may be listed thus:

  1. Lord Kerr, former UK Ambassador to the EU, and a key player in the politics of the European Constitutional Convention, who predicted that the EU would soon bring the British dog to heel;
  2. Prime Minister May who morphed from Prime Minister to EU Governor of the province of Britain, and sought to confront the British public with an option of remaining in the EU as a province, or staying within its jurisdiction as a colony;
  3. and Lady Hale who delivered a verdict on Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament that was: unconstitutional, sloppy in draftsmanship, based on hearsay and internally inconsistent in its judgement. Lady Hale acted as an activist in the mantle of  a judge- an extraordinary abuse of high office.

My argument throughout this series is simple: Europe needs a regime, but that regime cannot be at the cost of democratic control by national parliaments of public policy. The EU, devised as an apolitical space beyond the direct influence of national electorates, lacks fundamental legitimacy.  The responsibility for devising such an unsustainable regime in Europe must be shouldered fully by British federal/supranationalists. Quite simply, to the luminaries of the British liberal left, the idea of national sovereignty is an “illusion”.[67] The voting public do not agree.  The only sustainable regime for Europe is one compatible with the inherited and venerable UK Constitution. The EU’s present arrangements are not. The UK public understood that when it voted to Leave on June 23, 2016.

[1] F.W. Maitland, ed by H.A.L.Fisher, The Constitutional History of England, Cambridge University Press, first published 1908, re-issued 2007, p.173.

[2] John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, MacMillans, 1971, pp.6-7.

[3] R.B. McDowell (ed.), Correspondence of Edmund Burke. Cambridge University Press, 1989, Volume VIII, p. 432.

[4] Nicholas Mansergh, The Commonwealth Experience London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969, p. 256.

[5] Elie Halévy, Imperialism and the Rise of Labour,Second ed in English, Lon,don, Ernest Benn, 1951. p. viii.

[6] Nigel J. Ashton,  Harold Macmillan and the “Golden Days” of Anglo-American Relations  Revisited, 1957–631, Diplomatic History, Vol. 29, No. 4 , September 2005, pp.691-723.

[7] Robert Scally, Origins of the Lloyd George Coalition: The Politics of Social Imperialism, 1900-1918, Princetion University Press 1975. p.56

[8] Andrea Bosco, The Round Table Movement and the Fall of the “Second” British Empire (1909-1919,Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing , 2017

[9] HC Deb 03 August 1914 vol 65 cc1809-32, The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, (Sir Edward Grey).

[10] Max Hastings, Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War,London, William Collins, 2013. p.xix.

[11] Ibid p. 553

[12] Ibid p 563.

[13] Reinhard Spitzy, How We Squandered the Reich, Michael Russell, 1997.

[14] Roy Denman, Missed Chances : Britain and Europe in the Twentieth Century,  Cassell, 1996, p. 151.

[15] Ibid ; p.22.

[16] Quoted in Christopher Booker, Richard North, The Great Deception: Can the European Union Survive? London, Continuum, 2005, p.31.

[17] Kenneth Waltz, Man, The State and War: a theoretical analysis, Columbia University Press, 1959.

[18]  Ibid. p.21

[19] Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, “Forgetting Reinhold Niebuhr”, The New York Times, September 18, 2005.

[20] Kaiser Wilhelm II, My Memoirs, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1922. Pp. 246-222.

[21] Quoted in Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, Free Press: New York, 1993.p.68.

[22] Dispatch of Ambassador Sir Eric Phipps,  December 16, 1935 Doc 275 C 8362/71775/18 British Documents on Foreign Affairs, Volume 46, Germany 1935, University Publications of America, 1994 page 394.

[23] John C.Röhl, Kaiser Wilhelm II,Cambridge University Press, 2014. pp.xv-xvi.

[24] Ian Kershaw, Hitler, 1889-1936. Hubris; Vol I, Allen Lane, 1998;  Hitler, 1936-1945, Nemesis, Vol II, Allen Lane, 2000.

[25] John Keegan, The First World War, p. 456.

[26] Richard J. Evans,  The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914. Penguin 2016. Pp.713-714

[27] Address delivered at Joint Session of the Two Houses of Congress, April 2, 1917; U.S. 65th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Document 5.


[28] “Patriotic Self-Censorship in Germany”, from The Outbreak of World War I, edited by Holger Herwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. pp 153–159,

[29]  Gerhard Ritter, “Anti-Fischer”, from The Outbreak of World War I edited by Holger Herwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. Pp. 135–142

[30] Arno Mayer, “The Primacy of Domestic Politics”, from The Outbreak of World I, edited by Holger Herwig. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. pp 42-47

[31] Hastings, Catastrophe,p.123.

[32] Hastings, Catastrophe, p.432.

[33] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Soceity, A Study of Order in World Politics, Columbia University press, 1977. P.49.

[34] Holger Herwig,. “Patriotic Self-Censorship in Germany”, from The Outbreak of World War I, ed. Holger Herwig.Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1997. pp 153–159,

[35] Sidney B. Fay; The Origins of the World War, 2 Vols, The MacMIllan Company, 1928, Reprint, 1966.

[36] Luigi Albertini, Origins of the War of 1914 (3 volumes). London, Oxford University Press, 1953.

[37] John Keegan, The First World War, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. P.450

[38] David Lloyd George, War Memoirs, vol 1, London Ivor Nicholson and Watson, 1936 ed. p. 52.

[39] Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914, London, Penguins, 2015. p.555

[40] Andreas Kilb, “Die Selbstzerstörung Europas: Christopher Clark hat eine Studie über den Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges verfasst“, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 9, 2013.

[41] Richard J. Evans, “ Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914”, The New York Review of Books, February , 6 2014, pp.14–17.

[42] Hans-Ulrich Wehler,  Beginn einer neuen Epoche der Weltkriegsgeschichte“.  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Mai 6.  2014, Nr. 104, p.10


[43] John Keegan, The First World War, London, Pimlico, p 450-451.

[44] Robert Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923, Penguin Books, 2017.

[45] The English Bill of Rights,

[46] Quoted in Sir Courtenay Peregrine. The Government of India. Clarendon Press, 1922. p. 125


[47] Martin Gilbert, Richard Gott, The Appeasers, Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1967

[48] Quoted in Martin Gilbert, Horace Wilson,: Man of Munich, History Today, Vo 32, 10 0ctàber, 1982. p.6.

[49] Jack Colville, Chapter 5, Change of Government and Dunkirk May 1940, The Fringes of Power: Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955,  Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 2004.p. 90-117.

[50] Andrew Roberts, Churchill: Walking with Destiny, Penguins, 2018. P.509.



[52] Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to war in 1914, London, Penguins, 2015. p.xxi.

[53] Alexander Churchill, Blood and Thunder: The Boys of Eton College and the First World War, The History Press, 2014.

[54]  Jonathan Haslam, The Vices of Integrity: A Biography of E.H. Carr, London, Verso, 1999, p.86.

[55] E.H. Car, Nationalism and After, London, MacMillan, 1945. p. 73.

[56] Arthur Salter, The United States of Europe, London, George Allen and Unwin,1931.  p.92.

[57] Patrick Ransome,”Federal Government,  Fortnightly Review, October 1939, p.417.

[58] Lord Lothian, The Ending of Armageddon, Federal Union, , 1939, p.3.

[59] Lionel Robbins, The Economic Consequences of War, Howard Fertig, 1939. p.105.

[60] H.N. Brailsford, The Federal Idea, , Federal Union, 1939, p.10.

[61] W. Ivor Jennings, A Federation for Western Europe, Cambridge University Press, 1940. Chapters V, VI.

[62] Cited in Lindsay Jenkins, Britain Held Hostage, Washington D.C., Orange State Press, 2ndedition, 1998. p.51.

[63] Andrea Bosco, June 1940, Great Britain and the First Attempt to Build a European Union.Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing , 2016

[64] Cited in Richard Mayne, John Pinder, Federal Union: the Pioneers. A History of Federal Union, London, MacMillan, p.84.

[65] Richard Baldwin, Mika Widgren, Decision-making and the Constitutional Treaty: Will the IGC discard Giscard? CEPS Policy Brief. No 37/August 2003.

[66] Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe, Rome, 29 October 2004.


[67] See Roy Jenkins Foreward to Richard Mayne, John Pinder,Federal Union: The Pioneers a History of Federal Union, MacMillan, 1990. P.viii.


About Jonathan Story, Professor Emeritus, INSEAD

Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD. Prior to joining INSEAD in 1974, he worked in Brussels and Washington, where he obtained his PhD from Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He has held the Marusi Chair of Global Business at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Graduate Schoold of Business, Fordham University, New York. He is preparing a monograph on China’s impact on the world political economy, and another on a proposal for a contextual approach to business studies. He has a chapter forthcoming on the Euro crisis. His latest book is China UnCovered: What you need to know to do business in China, (FT/ Pearson’s, 2010) ( His previous books include “China: The Race to Market” (FT/Pearsons, 2003), The Frontiers of Fortune, (Pitman’s, 1999); and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe : The Battle of the Systems,(MIT Press, 1998) on monetary union and financial markets in the EU, and co-authored with Ingo Walter of NYU. His books have been translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean and Arabic. He is also a co-author in the Oxford Handbook on Business and Government(2010), and has contributed numerous chapters in books and articles in professional journals. He is a regular contributor to newspapers, and has been four times winner of the European Case Clearing House “Best Case of the Year” award. His latest cases detail hotel investments in Egypt and Argentina, as well as a women’s garment manufacturer in Sri Lanka and a Chinese auto parts producer. He teaches courses on international business and the global political economy. At the INSEAD campus, in Fontainebleau and Singapore, he has taught European and world politics, markets, and business in the MBA, and PhD programs. He has taught on INSEAD’s flagship Advanced Management Programme for the last three decades, as well as on other Executive Development and Company Specific courses. Jonathan Story works with governments, international organisations and multinational corporations. He is married with four children, and, now, thirteen grandchildren. Besides English, he is fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, reads Portuguese and is learning Russian. He has a bass voice, and gives concerts, including Afro-American spirituals, Russian folk, classical opera and oratorio.
This entry was posted in Europe, European integration, France and Germany, United Kingdom, World politics, business and economics, World war and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.