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Razib Khan's Unsupervised Learning

Aug 19, 2022

Despite the fundamental reality that the US exists thanks to a rebellion against the power of the British Crown in the 1700's, for the last century, the two dominant English-speaking powers have enjoyed a relatively positive geopolitical relationship. Whereas the US is younger, Britain has settled into the role of junior partner, as the daughter nation outstrips the parent in economic, military and cultural reach.

And yet despite the commonalities between these two Anglo-Atlantic polities, there are also profound differences rooted in history. Chief among them, Britain, particularly England, has vastly more history than the US. The oldest church still in use in England, St. Martin’s, dates to the last quarter of the 6th century AD, whereas the oldest building still in use in the continental US dates to 1610 AD, Santa Fe, NM's Palace of the Governors.


In this podcast episode, Razib discusses the history and culture of England with Ed West, author of the Wrong Side of History, an eminently writerly Substack that is ideal for a connoisseur of all things ancient (or at least medieval) and English. West, the author of many books on English history, expands on the importance of figures like Alfred the Great, Athelstan, the forgotten first true king of all England, and the Magna Carta, the document that set the template for later English political history, and possibly set the course toward the liberal democracy that dominates the world today. West also argues that Britain today has lost much of its distinctiveness as it becomes swallowed by America's cultural and political currents. He also contends that Britain is now importing subcontinental Hindu-Muslim rivalries into the British political system, as Hindus and Sikhs vote Conservative, while Muslims are aligned with Labour.