“They talk as if England were not in Europe,” was Edmund Burke’s retort to his critics, who believed that simply being an island was sufficient security against the threat of the French Revolution. Burke’s geopolitical understanding lies at the heart of this book. Brendan Simms (like Burke, another Irish enthusiast for the United Kingdom and a professor of the history of international relations at Cambridge) has written a trenchant, provocative account of the intimate relations of Britain and Europe and how each shaped the other.
England (and later the UK) was forged in response to successive threats from across the Channel (among others, Philip II, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Imperial Germany). In return British influence has played a crucial, often interventionist, role in the balance of power on the continent.