The Clash of Empires

Tue 23rd September 2014 at 19.30 - 22.30

A Fellowship visit to Stort Valley Rotary Club and a brilliant talk by Baroness Shirley Williams

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Fellowship, Friendship & Knowledge

It was before 6 p.m. that three members of our club - Malcolm Acors, Michael Sinclair and Peter Greene - set out to  drive to Bishops Stortford to attend the regular meeting of Stort Valley Rotary Club at the Lemon Tree in the centre of town.

Why suffer the hours drive to the other side of the District you may ask?  Well, several reasons.

Firstly Peter Greene had been working with Peter Latham and David Scott of that club on our Websites and Newsletters to see what we can learn from each other, and had been looking for an opportunity to meet up with them face to face.

Secondly, as part of that exchange of information, he had noticed that Baroness Shirley Williams would be speaking at the club on the 23rd September.  The subject of her talk was her reflections on the consequences of World War One.  In a wide ranging and erudite talk she covered the effects as she saw them, summed up best as the “Clash of Empires” and the “Breaking of Nations”.

Her key points were that pre-WW1 Europe was a continent of old Empires - the Ottoman, the Austro-Hungarian, the French, Spanish, Portugese, Russian, and the British.  Germany and Italy, as relatively newly formed countries, mainly from principalities, didn’t have empires, and felt hard done by.  Shortly after the end of the war, most of the empires had failed and Europe was a continent of Nations.  The inter war years were characterised by inter-country disputes, the rise of dictatorships culminating in World War 2, and the invasion of most countries in Europe by the Axis powers.  More recently the Soviet Union had broken up into many of its constituent parts.

Little surprise then that most countries see the co-operation of nations and the formation of transnational groupings such as the European Union, as a way to ensure peace between them.

She then drew parallels with the recent Scottish referendum.  The debate had focussed almost exclusively on internal factors and the problems (currency, jobs, etc) which an independent Scotland might face (depending which side was talking) and hardly at all with the positive aspects and benefits of a United Kingdom.  She had many connections with Statesmen and business people around the world, ranging from the USA to Malaysia, the Middle East and the Far East and Australia.   In the light of the World Wars, why would any country seek to create more national break-ups.  They couldn’t understand why a country which had been, and remained, such a force for good in the world, could voluntarily break up.

It was very educational and informative, and expressed in a down-to-earth and understandable way.  An event not to be missed.

On top of this, Stort Valley members went out of their way to make our Mike, Malcolm and Peter feel welcome, and they were most impressed to learn how the club has grown from a low point of 6 or 7 members to its current strength of 27, and with a nearly even split of men and women.  Inn addition, the club seems to be heavily involved with primary school children.  It is progressing both the Life Education initiative and Rotakids.