Archive for September 2014
Dauvit Alexander / Flickr
You know when you hear something and you just have to respond?
This is one of those posts …
News this week in Britain is full of the imminent independence referendum in Scotland. BBC Newsbeat has been covering it too, with a particular emphasis on teen voters. The 9th of September edition heard from two 19-year-old girls in Edinburgh, both called Sarah.
One was for independence, the other not. Here’s what the first Sarah said when asked why she thought Scotland should leave the United Kingdom.
I feel like Scotland should be independent, there’s not really other unions in Europe.
I thought this was a slightly odd reason, and it wasn’t challenged by the reporter, so let’s examine it now in a rough blast through Europe and with apologies to history scholars everywhere! 🙂
France has been getting bigger gradually with various unions since 843 AD. Many gains came from marriage, such as Brittany in the north-west of France. (One might say ‘speared’ onto the side of France, lol) Brittany was semi-independent but joined France in 1491 when Anne, the heir of Brittany married the King of France, Charles VIII.
Spain as we know it has been around since about 1492. Before it united, much of Spain was run by Muslims from north Africa. Historians called it an unusually tolerant society where Christians and Jews and Muslims lived in relative peace. Oh to be back there now.
Tiny Belgium is currently a union between French and Dutch and Flemish speakers. It used to be an even smaller collection of around 6 independent states. There are occasional calls from the Dutch-speaking side, that they should make a union with the rest of the Netherlands.
4. The Kingdom of the Netherlands
Netherlands was created from a group of provinces under the Union of Utrecht in 1579, after a fight with Spain over religion. (The war theme – actually quite a strong driver of unions in all these countries to be honest!)
Greece is particularly difficult to summarise, the story of this country goes back thousands of years, Ancient Greece, natch. Philip of Macedon started unification during 300 BC. His son was Alexander the Great, who continued in the unification tradition by marching into new places with a large army and saying: “You’re all part of us now”.
Sweden was probably consolidated from separate towns into a single nation around 1200 AD. It’s hard to say for sure, because no one in Sweden appears to have written anything down.
Switzerland is a union of self-governing Cantons. Assessment: Mostly harmless.
Italy as we know it didn’t exist before 1861, it was created by a union of dozens of different regions and city-states. Important factors: All spoke same language and enjoyed olive oil with everything.
Before 1871, Germany was a series of large separate states including Bavaria, Saxony and Hanover who were united by Otto von Bismark, who was running yet another separate Kingdom, Prussia.
Germany was artificially separated after WW2 and East Germany was run by a communist government. In 1989 when the Berlin Wall fell, East and West Germany united into a single nation again. Also, Berlin is fun. You should go.
There have been two significant breakups of country unions in recent times. The big one is the break of the USSR in 1991. Russia had run out of money.
This contributed to Yugoslavia falling apart the next year. It was a federation of republics that had been pushed together after World War 2. When they broke apart in 1992, it led to another conflict with over 100,000 deaths.
Bonus fact for getting this far …
Not part of Europe of course, but let’s not forget the USA. Starting in 1776, it is a gradually growing union now with 50 separate States, each with their own parliament and laws.