Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Hollandansandbrook

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It’s Hardcore History.



So, the conversation that you’re about to listen to

was done through a format that I ripped off

from the people that we’re talking with,

because I was on their podcast not that long ago,

and I remember thinking that the way

that they put it together structurally

was fantastic for three people,

because when you have three people in a conversation,

it can get unwieldy sometimes.

I thought they did a great job.

The show, I thought, went fantastic,

and in fact, I liked it so much

that I thought I’d like to do a version of sort of

a part two, if you will, on our own podcast.

So, perhaps it’s fair to say part one is available

from the archives of the Rest is History podcast,

and, well, this is part two.

Uh, the guests on the program, the hosts of that podcast,

Dominic Sandbrook and Tom Holland,

both writers, TV presenters, radio hosts.

I mean, they have very varied careers.

And, uh, while Dominic’s point of emphasis

is usually more in the 1970s, 1980s,

sometimes Churchill stuff,

Tom Holland rolls around in the mud

that we like to roll around in often,

and I’ve used his books for, uh, research materials.

I think we used, uh, Persian Fire

for the Persian shows. We definitely used his book

on the fall of the Roman Republic, Rubicon,

for our Fall of the Roman Republic series.

And he’s got a recent work out on the impact of,

I guess you could say, Christian thinking

on Western society called Dominion.

All of it worth your time, and as a podcast,

the Rest is History is absolutely worth your time.

And if you go, if you haven’t already,

and delve into their archives, tons of fun stuff on offering.

So, check that out if you like what you’re about to hear.

If you like what you’re about to hear, remember,

it’s kind of part two of an ongoing conversation.

Check out part one on their podcast

when you have a chance. And without further ado,

let’s just call this part two.

All right, gentlemen, I’m considering this part two

of the earlier discussion that we had on your program.

And so, I’m gonna throw some questions out there,

and you feel free to take them in any direction you want.

But since I have two Brits with me,

when my mom was working in London when I was a kid,

I was about five or six years old,

and I was completely enamored with King Arthur at the time.

And yet, even at five or six, I could tell

that there was a bunch of nonsense involved in the story.

But I was under the impression that you could just stop

passers-by on the street in London

and ask them for the true story.

And as you can imagine, I still am unsatisfied

with the answers I got.

So, I thought I would tap into the brain trust here

and ask you guys your opinion,

and it may differ from each other.

Do you think that the King Arthur legend is rooted

in any sort of reality, or is this a fabricated myth

from the get-go?

Tom, do you want to go first?

I know you’ve got strong views on this.

Well, I don’t think that Arthur, a historical Arthur, existed,

is the kind of blunt and brutal truth.

And it saddens me to say that, because I would always rather

that there was some kind of root of reality

at the base of a myth.

But having said that, I think that the way

that the story has evolved, it’s had

different kind of resonances in different periods of time.

And so in that sense, tracing where the story comes from

actually tells you quite a lot about medieval history,

early medieval history, the beginnings of Britain,

the beginnings of England, the forging of medieval culture.

So in that sense, I think Arthur is a really fascinating topic

of historical inquiry.

But I think that kind of burrowing around,

assuming that there is some real Arthur at the base of it,

I think that that’s a fantasy.

Yeah, I agree with Tom, Dan.

I think I don’t think there was anybody called Arthur,

and I don’t think any historian or archaeologist

or ethnographer or whatever will ever

uncover a single individual who’s

at the heart of the legend.

But I completely agree with Tom that the legend itself

is clearly, like all legends, it’s rooted in something.

I mean, it wasn’t invented as a fiction.

So it clearly draws on folk memories, on myths.

It tells you an enormous amount, not so much maybe

about what we now call England in the Dark Ages, I would say,

but the way that later generations thought

of that period and the way they thought of themselves.

And I guess the myth is more interesting than the man now,

isn’t it?

I mean, if there were a figure like Arthur,

he must have been a, what would you say, Tom,

a kind of Romano-British warlord or something.

I mean, ultimately, how interesting

is that compared with the legend of Arthur

and the way that’s accumulated over time, don’t you think?

What do you think, Dan?

Well, I’m riffing off what you guys just said,

because if this is a part of Englishness,

if we could call it that, then how do we?

Well, but Dan, actually, that’s one of the things

that’s fascinating about it is that it’s not

about Englishness so much, although it becomes that,

because, of course, the English are the enemies.

Right, I was just going to say, that’s exactly where I was

going, if this is a guy fighting the Anglo-Saxons, which

are a key component of the blending that will eventually

happen, how is this guy anything other

than some sort of Romano-Celtic hero or something like that?

In other words, how did he get wrapped up

into English history when, like you said,

here he is fighting the Saxon invaders who

are going to fuse with the various kingdoms

to create what we think of as England, correct?

Well, there are all these traditions

that are floating around, but the guy who really compiles

them is a bloke called Geoffrey of Monmouth, who is writing

as a Welshman, essentially.

And his book is, Arthur is a key figure, but not the only one.

And it’s a story about how Britain

is founded by Brutus, who is a refugee Trojan who

comes to Britain and fights various giants.

And that’s very much the level at which this is operating.

And you’re saying that that’s not historical,

is what I’m getting from you.

OK, just double-checking.

Alas, alas, alas.

England is still a nation of giants, Dan.

That’s what I’ve heard from every Englishman, yes.

Geoffrey is basically casting the English, the Sassanachs,

the Saxons, as the enemy.

But of course, by this point, you

have Norman kings of England, descended

from William the Conqueror.

And they end up conquering Wales, so the kings of England.

And so those Welsh traditions get absorbed into the,

they become the matter of Britain.

And the kings of England see themselves

as the rulers of the whole of Britain.

So just as they absorb the mountains and the valleys

of Wales into their kingdom, so also

do they end up absorbing these traditions about King Arthur.

And that’s why you have Edward I, who

is the king who conquers Wales.

He’s obsessed by Arthur.

I mean, he’s the guy who goes to Glastonbury and claims

the family’s tomb.

And digs up the tomb that supposedly has the, yeah.

And the monks were maybe involved

in that for a little bit of, you know, Glastonbury publicity

and whatnot.

And then, of course, it works.

There are further twists on that,

because at the beginning of the 15th century,

sorry, the 16th century, I guess,

when you have the advent of the Tudors.

So obviously, Henry Tudor landing in 1485,

beating Richard III of the Battle of Bosworth.

The idea of the Tudors as the heirs to Arthur

is really important to them.

So Henry VII’s son, who famously, you know,

dies at Ludlow Castle, paving the way for Henry VIII

to become king, he’s called Arthur.

Henry VIII loves the story of King Arthur.

I mean, am I not right in thinking, Tom,

that Henry VIII repairs the great painting

of the round table and has it done

for the visit of the emperor?

For the visit of the king?

Yes, he does.

Yeah, and one of the things that’s also fact,

so as Dominic says, it has political capital.

Because in a way, Arthur is a very, very famous

British export, English export, at a time

when England is really quite a peripheral kingdom

to the rest of Europe.

Arthur is a name that matters.

The matter of Britain is something

that resonates through all the courts of Europe.

So the upstart Tudors, by laying claim to that,

are, you know, they’re aggrandizing

their own dynasty, and they’re aggrandizing their kingdom.

But I think also the way that Henry VIII repairs

this supposed round table that’s hanging in Winchester

shows the way in which it’s not just us who are romanticizing

these stories.

People were doing it in the Middle Ages.

And so my favorite example of that

is Tintagel, this incredibly romantic castle in Cornwall.

I mean, it’s kind of one of the jewels in the Cornish tourist


And it’s a jewel because it looks exactly what you would

imagine King Arthur’s birthplace would look like.

It’s on a kind of rocky island.

The waves are crashing into the rocks.

There are kind of beautiful bridges that span it.

It looks like something from a medieval romance.

And the reason for that is that that’s what

it was designed to look like.

It was built by the brother of Henry III, who

is Edward I’s son, Richard, Duke of Cornwall.

And he builds it to look like King Arthur’s castle.

So even then, they’re kind of constructing and fashioning

the myth.

And now, of course, when tourists go to Tintagel,

they’re buying into a medieval idea of what

a medieval castle looked like.

So there are just kind of reflection

after reflection after reflection,

all these kind of mirrors held up to each other,

which is what makes it such a brilliant, brilliant story.

And I think one other element, obviously, is that in 1707,

England and Scotland officially become Great Britain,

the Kingdom of Great Britain.

And at that point, I think Arthur does become,

he’s both a British hero and an English one

because England and Britain, certainly

in the minds of the English, become

equated with each other.

So one of the most famous books ever

written about British history, or indeed English history,

which most of your listeners, I’m guessing,

will seem like gibberish to them,

is the book called 1066 and All That, a comic book

by Sellers and Yeatman at the beginning of the 20th century.

One of the jokes in that book, so it’s basically

a parody of the history that kids were taught in, I guess,

would you say Edwardian schools, Tom, early 20th century

schools, one of the jokes in it is that Alfred,

the book constantly mixes up King Arthur and Alfred

the Great.

But I think that’s what even now, lots of people

kind of mix the two of them up, don’t they, Tom?

They have a sort of sense that they fought invaders,

they did stuff with candles and timekeeping,

they were good Christian kings, all this kind of stuff.

Well, I think actually, I mean, I

think it’s intriguing that they make that joke because I think

actually one of the models for Geoffrey Monmouth’s portrayal

of Arthur is Alfred’s grandson, Athelstan,

who is the English king who essentially creates

the kingdom of England.

And it’s the first really to make the princes of Wales

pay the English crown tribute.

And his history of Britain ends with the coming

to power of Athelstan.

It’s as though this is where British history stops

because the English have completely taken over.

And actually, the portrayal of Arthur

in Geoffrey Monmouth’s history has lots

of echoes of Athelstan.

So it’s kind of like Geoffrey is trying

to supply a British mirror image of Athelstan.

So the short answer to your question, Dan, is…

No, no, it’s funny because I remember

buying books in London as a kid, Arthur’s,

In Search of Arthur’s Britain, all these kind of things

where it seemed as though the British themselves were trying

to get a handle on what this was.

And I remember that the book was very unsatisfying

because instead of giving me a yes or no answer,

it sort of just took you through the post

Romano-British, you know, myths and countryside and all that.

But you folks mentioned the Normans a minute ago.

So let me bring you into something that I said recently

and let me get your opinion on it.

So I’ve always been fascinated with the fact that, you know,

nowadays, if you try to fight a modern army against an army

from 30 years ago, it’s ridiculous.

But for most of human history, with technology moving

either as slowly as it did or with these sort of,

let’s call it ebbs and flows of capabilities, right?

So someone from an earlier era could have a military

that was more capable from someone perhaps

in a later era, which is, of course, anathema now.

I had said that I thought that Julius Caesar’s Romans would

have defeated William the Conqueror’s Normans.

And of course, there’s, you know, centuries and centuries

and centuries between the two.

Took some flack for that.

Do you folks have an opinion on that?

I have an opinion on that.

I would say Julius Caesar would undoubtedly have beaten

the Normans, undoubtedly.

So the Normans, I guess they’re a big innovation.

Tom knows more about this than I do.

So once I’ve spoken, Tom will tell me where I’ve gone wrong.

I’m sure you’re absolutely bang on the money.

They’re a big innovation as knights, isn’t it?

Mounted cavalry, basically, sort of armored cavalry,

I guess you would say.

Yeah, and lances, the ability to use lances.

Big spears, Alexander the Great had big spears, Tom,

as we’ve discussed on our own podcast many times.

So I would say that the Romans would have won

because they had infinitely superior logistics.

They gave much more thought to military strategy.

They had a more resilient political structure behind them.

You know, they had these incredibly well-trained,

well-disciplined professional troops.

And what are the Normans?

I mean, the Normans are, if you were being harsh

about the Normans, you would say they’re a war band.

You know, they’re just slightly superior Vikings.

Aren’t they, Tom?

Frank, you know, French-flied Vikings.

I think that Norman cavalry is incredibly proficient.

And as a kind of, you know, a Norman boy,

you’re trained to the saddle and you are raised

to handle a lance from the saddle

because it’s a very difficult thing to do, apparently.

I’ve never tried it, but it doesn’t come easily.

So they are very, very formidable cavalry.

But I agree with Dominic and I completely agree with you, Dan.

I think Caesar’s legions would have wiped the floor

with the Normans because they were

the most lethal fighting force that the world

up to that point had seen.

And in due course, they would become even more lethal

because they would become these kind of professional armies.

And I think that really the only way to defeat

that class of infantry was the way that the Parthians did

against Crassus’ army in the desert,

which is to have kind of vast, open, blank expanse of land

and have very, very mobile horse archers.

But I think otherwise, the Romans are always going

to defeat the Normans, not least because of course,

infantry against cavalry, that’s what you get at Hastings.

That’s the kind of, you know,

the elephant against the whale kind of situation.

But Caesar had great cavalry.

I mean, Caesar recruited Gallic cavalry,

he recruited archers, he had all kinds of auxiliaries

who would have been part of the mix as well.

And as a Roman commander, he would have been

perfectly happy to sacrifice them.

Whereas the Romans probably…

Tom, don’t the Romans have much larger numbers anyway?

Because of the logistics, they can support greater numbers.

Their military machine is far greater.

And also you mentioned Hastings.

I mean, the Normans, they don’t wind up with the Saxons.

Yeah, they almost lose at Hastings.

And the Saxon, I mean, the Anglo-Saxon heavy infantry

was reputedly the best in Europe,

which is why after Hastings,

so many of them go to Constantinople

and serve as the bodyguards of the emperor.

Yeah, but even so, I mean,

the Anglo-Saxon military cannot compare

for professionalism or training or discipline to the Romans.

Well, and that army had just come from fighting

in the north too.

It wasn’t even the best example of an Anglo-Saxon army,

was it?

Right, so I think if…

I think if it, you know, it’s a close run thing at Hastings

against Harold’s army,

I think they would have been annihilated

by Caesar’s army.

And that is centuries and centuries beforehand.

So what do you think accounts for that?

And what makes it so,

because I’m fascinated with the fact

that the dynamic is so different today

than it was throughout military history, right?

Where armies from centuries previously could have,

I mean, Alexander’s army would have given,

I would say, many of the later armies ago.

There was a book by Arthur Farrell.

I’ve forgotten the title at hand,

but at the very end of it, he had talked about,

he tried to imagine Napoleon trying to fight Alexander.

And he said, if you could discount the effect

of firearms on a morale level,

that that even might be a near run thing.

What do you folks think about taking it

that far into the recent past?

Well, it’s technology, isn’t it?

I mean, it’s technology that makes the difference.

So, I mean, essentially the,

so the evolution, you know, the discovery of iron,

say, as opposed to bronze,

an Iron Age army is going to defeat a Bronze Age army.

Because of the difference in the metals?

Yes, because the effect of an iron sword

is going to be lethal on a bronze sword, for instance.

And likewise, the development, say, of the stirrup

facilitates a quality of cavalry

that you wouldn’t have before that.

And obviously the development of gunpowder

completely changes the equation.

But if you are measuring, say, a Roman legion

against any kind of army that is pre-gunpowder,

say, from the first or second centuries AD,

when they’re at their most professional,

I think that they are likely to win

simply because they have the mass infrastructure

of this vast empire behind them.

And that empire essentially,

that empire is conquered by the legions,

but it comes to exist purely to keep the legions going.

So you could describe the Roman Empire

almost as a series of military bases,

you know, with a tax base attached.

That’s essentially how the Roman Empire functions.

And when you have that amount of money,

that amount of professionalism,

basically anyone that you meet is likely to be defeated.

And even when the Roman armies do lose,

they do get defeated, they always come back.

It’s an absolute premise of Roman military doctrine

that the Romans never lose.

So even if the Germans wipe out some armies

or the Judeans wipe out some armies,

the Romans will come back

and they will inflict devastating punishment.

And nobody basically can withstand them.

And that includes the Parthians.

You know, apart from Carrie,

basically the Romans know that they always

have the beating of the Parthians.

So Tom, that’s me.

Couldn’t one make the case though,

that Carrie, it was bad generalship too.

I mean, there was some, yeah.

You could, yeah.

Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you, Dominic.

No, no, go ahead.

I was going to say that what Tom was saying,

I completely agree with Tom’s point.

And I think military success is often a question

of technology and political organization.

And I think we tend to,

because we emphasize so often generals and battles,

we lose sight of the fact that,

I mean, Tom said infrastructure.

And I think infrastructure is absolutely key.

There’s a brilliant book about the Second World War

by a guy, an American who’s based in Britain

called Philip, he’s called Phillips Payson O’Brien.

And he basically argued that in the Second World War,

all the battles are completely irrelevant.

And if you tell the story, talking about the battles,

you’re missing, you know, why the allies won,

which is all about logistics and infrastructure.

And I think, you know, anybody,

tons of your listeners, I imagine,

will have played computer strategy games,

where, you know, you know that if you’ve got,

if the spreadsheet is working

and you’ve got all your resources

and you’ve got your logistics all sorted out,

then in a way it doesn’t matter

if you lose a couple of battles

because you can, you know, you can recover from that.

And I think actually the Roman political organization,

let’s say, was so robust, so resilient,

so effective, so efficient,

that it was just infinitely better, wasn’t it, Tom,

than the organization of Western European medieval kingdoms.

Much more sophisticated, much more reliable tax base,

you know, sort of, it’s seasoned.

It’s professionalism.

It’s pure professionalism.

And it’s not some bloke who’s a nobleman

who spends his time kind of, you know,

molesting the daughters of the local peasants.

And then once every now and again,

he’s called on to fight the French or the English

or whoever it might be.

Of course, he spent all his time in the saddle and all that.

But that’s not the same as somebody who spent his life

in Roman military bases, as Tom says,

you know, trudging up and down the roads,

practicing, training, being drilled.

You know, I think there’s…

And being forged, yeah, and it’s the drill as well.

It’s the drill, for sure.

It’s the being forged into a single unit.

And that’s why really, you know,

it’s only when states in Europe are able

to raise sufficient taxes again to keep professional armies

and therefore to have them drilled

and to operate as entities

that you start to get anything approximating

to the professionalism.

Exactly, and that’s why you don’t get that drill

and all that stuff without the political organization.

And so what I would say, I’m sure Tom would agree,

is that the Roman Empire at its height

or the Roman system at its height

represents a kind of apogee of organization

and then there’s a long period of fragmentation.

And then I guess, what would you say, Tom,

the early modern period?

You get organized, European states organizing,

raising taxes at a level comparable to that.

So that’s why Napoleon, for example,

who was able to draw on the power of nationalism

in a way that people hadn’t really done

so powerfully before that,

that’s why Napoleon undoubtedly would have given the Romans

a very good run for their money

in a way that I don’t think, you know,

Oliver Cromwell’s army, as much as excited

as they would have been about reading their Bibles.

And, you know, I don’t think they would have.

But I think also, talking about Napoleon

and also thinking about the armies

in the American Civil War,

the idea of citizen armies,

that’s also a crucial part of the way

that legions are organized.

So a legio, a legion, was literally a levy.

It’s the Roman people in arms.

And in time, as, you know, the empire gets larger and larger

and you need more and more legiones,

more and more legions,

that sense slightly starts to diminish.

But say in the first century AD,

the Roman Republic has collapsed.

But if you want a microcosm of Rome

as it was in the Republic,

this idea of a kind of a body of men

who are, their strength lies in their coherence,

in their discipline, in their sense of comradeship.

You would go to a legionary base to find that.

You wouldn’t go to Rome.

And that sense of a kind of a martial civic identity

is what the French Revolutionary Army, Napoleonic armies,

the armies in the American Civil War,

and then the citizen armies in the First World War.

That’s what makes them,

it’s also a crucial part of what makes them so lethal.

Well, it’s interesting because you would think,

you would think that if the Romans were beating you

all the time,

that you would simply try to copy what they did, right?

We all know that phalanxes spread across the ancient world

once that became a popular way of war.

And we know that there were things

like imitation legionaries that were created

once the Romans started to show

that the Roman way of war was so dominant,

but it never quite lived up to the original.

And it reminded me of, for example,

the early history of modern battleships

where certain countries could produce battleships

and other countries would buy battleships

from countries who could make them

because this was going to be the equivalent

of their Roman legionaries.

If you didn’t have battleships, you couldn’t compete.

And yet the states that couldn’t build their own

never quite seemed to rise to the level

of the states that could.

Why do you think that certain kinds

of military technologies are transferable

and other kinds of military technologies aren’t?

Is it because they’re wedded to the society or the system?

Or, I mean, somebody like Victor Davis Hanson

back in the day would have said it’s a cultural question,

you know, the Western way of war and all this.

Any thoughts on why certain kinds

of military technology aren’t?

I mean, barbed wire is transferable.

Roman legionaries seems to not be.

Steppe cavalry, you know, Mongol, Hun,

Scythian cavalry not really transferable.

Any thoughts on that?

Well, surely the answer to that is that barbed wire

is transferable because barbed wire is just a very simple,

you know, it’s just a very simple thing.

It’s a device.

Whereas a Roman legionary is a political

and cultural construct.

And you can’t just, it’s a bit like,

I would say trying to copy a Roman legionary

or indeed a kind of, let’s say,

an early 20th century dreadnought or something.

It’s a bit like thinking you can transplant it

from one society to another is like thinking

you can just pitch up in any given part of the world

and implant the, you know, Western style democracy

or something because these things are not,

they’re not sort of, I would say,

they’re not accessories that you pick up

at the shopping mall.

They are an expression, a reflection

of a political and cultural sort of landscape.

So in that sense, I would completely agree with Victor

David, what’s his name?

Victor Davis Hanson.

Yeah, I would completely agree with that.

I think there was a Western way of war.

That’s obviously rooted in Western, you know,

let’s say by the 20th century,

Western democratic industrial civilization.

You can’t just transplant something as complicated

as a battleship or indeed a legionary

from one setting to another.

Whereas barbed wire, which is relatively simple,

you can.

What do you think, Tom?

I completely agree.

I mean, if you’re a technologically advanced

civilization, then you’re going to have more lethal weaponry.

I mean, that’s always the way.

I mean, you talked about computer games.

If you play something like Civilization,

where you start off with a band of hunter-gatherers

and then you end up flying to Alpha Centauri,

that, you know, you know that going

to war with a phalanx against a squadron of tanks,

you’re absolutely going to be flattened.

And I think that we can see that actually playing out

in front of our eyes at the moment in Ukraine,

where the Russian armed forces had the kit.

But because a lot of that kit derived from Western sources,

now that they are subject to sanctions,

their ability to source that kit is diminishing.

And the more it diminishes, so they

have to kind of start shopping around in Tehran or wherever

to try and find the drones or whatever that they need.

And you realize the degree to which military proficiency

is a reflection of industrial proficiency,

technological proficiency.

And that’s why the West has always

been ahead of the game for so long,

is that since the Industrial Revolution, at least,

maybe before that, it’s always been at the cutting edge.

And perhaps one of the unsettling things,

if you’re in the West at the moment,

is the notion that perhaps that age is fading, not with Russia,

but with China.

OK, you guys bring up now the first tangent of the program

here, because you bring up something

that I find fascinating.

I remember as a kid, we were wargaming,

and we would talk about the 1973 conflicts in the Middle East

and this idea at the time, and you folks have certainly

studied this, that the handheld weapons of infantry

were going to make tanks obsolete,

and that you could already see that being foreshadowed

in the 73 war.

Well, of course, tanks sort of made a comeback,

and the long struggle between offense and defense

that you can see going back to armor

and all those kinds of things in the Middle Ages came into play,

and tanks sort of got a second lease on life.

If you guys had to guess, are we seeing the predictions of 73

finally coming true now with Ukraine and drones

and better handheld weapons that are anti-tank weapons,

or is this going to be another case of a premature writing off

of armor?

I’ve seen a lot of stuff on debate, actually,

on social media about this, Dan.

The arguments that I think there were a lot of people

who were overpraising the Russians

before the war started, who were great enthusiasts for tanks

and said, oh, the Russians, you know,

their brute force is unparalleled

and all this sort of thing.

And then there was all this sort of amateur footage

of Ukrainians with kind of, you know,

sort of stuff they’d built in their kitchen,

taking out a tank or whatever.

Hauling them off with tractors.

Right, exactly.

So I don’t know.

I mean, the death of the tank has been predicted many times,

hasn’t it, since the invention of the tank?

In fact, there were tank skeptics

even when the tank was invented.

I would guess that tanks, I mean,

it feels to me such a 20th century weapon of warfare.

And I would guess that in a world of drones

and van-held, you know, anti-tank sort of launchers

or whatever, I would guess that in 2050,

will tanks play such a part as they do now?

I would think not.

I don’t know, and I don’t envy defence secretaries

at the moment having to decide how they slice and dice

their defence budgets, kind of knowing that a wrong punt

and you might be stuck with completely obsolete equipment.

Well, that brings up-

But if you were the Pentagon, Tom,

you wouldn’t invest in tanks,

would you, if you were the-

Yeah, but if I’m the Pentagon, I can afford to, you know,

waste a lot of money.

Right, you can hedge your bets.

We have plenty of tanks, yeah.

But that then brings the question

from the land warfare element to the naval warfare element.

Could one say the same about surface vessels?

I mean, we’re talking about big, slow, large targets.

What do you think about that?

Well, I guess we’ll have to wait for the Chinese to invent-

I know, the Straits of Taiwan looms, doesn’t it?

To find that out.

Yeah, and actually, we in Britain are the worst people to ask

because we’re, of course, completely-

because we still have very strongly

the romance of the Royal Navy.

So in the 1980s, which is really my period,

Britain was very close to basically scrapping

most of the Royal Navy.

And then the Falklands War happened

and we ended up keeping far more of it than we’d planned to.

And now we’re sort of slightly-

I mean, if people from the Royal Navy listen to this,

they’ll be appalled to hear this.

But we’re kind of stuck with it.

And it’s a bit of an albatross

because we’re very unlikely to use it in any meaningful way.

So we’ve got two huge aircraft carriers

that I don’t think we can actually afford to send to sea

because we don’t have the necessary flotilla

that would guard these aircraft carriers

from being attacked by underwater missiles or whatever.

However, however, we have two aircraft carriers.

The French have one.

It’s very important that we shouldn’t be overtaken

by the French.

Essentially, that is justification enough.

Well, but you guys bring up now an interesting point.

And I think it applies to the tank question too.

So if I say to American military people

that the tanks are obsolete and you can see

that this lesson’s being taught in Ukraine, et cetera, et cetera,

and one can make the same thing maybe about surface vessels

on the high seas,

they will counter with the line that this is a system,

not a weapon, and that the system requires things

like infantry that would fan out, you know,

on either side of the armored columns

to prevent people from being able to get close enough

to use handheld weapons.

They would say that in order to prevent, for example,

your aircraft carriers being destroyed by, you know,

surface-to-surface anti-ship missiles,

that there’s an entire system involved.

You have, you know, picket ships and everything else.

Could one make the case that some of this

is poor handling of the entire system

rather than criticism of an individual weapon?

Well, Dan, I don’t in any way want to imply

that I am in any way a military expert.

Oh, that’s how we’re treating you.

That’s how you’re going to be…

No, we’re advertising you as that.

But when it comes to the United States,

it does seem that there is a problem,

which is that essentially the U.S.

is preparing for two kinds of war.

The first is the kind of war that they’ve been fighting over

the past 30 years.

So the 9-11 wars in Afghanistan, in Iraq, whatever,

where all kinds of the amazing kit that you’ve got

is essentially useless

because the people that you’re fighting, the enemy,

it’s all so asymmetrical

that in a way you have to invest all your money

in intelligence and counterinsurgency

and all that kind of stuff.

I mean, I suppose it’s a lesson in Vietnam.

The other is, of course,

that the U.S. is preparing for a superpower conflict,

first with the Soviet Union and now, I suppose, with China.

And again, the prospect of that is so horrendous

that the exchange of a few nuclear missiles

would, again, render all the tanks

and the aircraft carriers and so on useless.

Nevertheless, the U.S. is the number one superpower

and it’s a number one superpower

because it has the most proficient military.

So in a way, it’s a kind of badge of superpower status.

But it seems to me a badge that you can never really use.

I mean, you can never bring to bear

with the full intensity, perhaps,

that in a kind of a dream campaign you would

because you’re never going to be fighting

those kind of campaigns.

You don’t see vast tank armies

clashing in the plains of China, Tom?

I don’t. Do you?

No, that’s very implausible.

No, I don’t. I don’t at all.

When are they going to use all these tanks?

And there was a kind of brief upsurge of dread, I suppose,

that maybe this is what we faced in Europe,

that Russian tanks would drive across the Ukrainian plain

and then perhaps into Poland or, you know,

and who knows where they might stop.

But I think that that prospect now is looking

fairly improbable as well.

Well, which brings us to one of the reasons

that it’s fairly improbable.

And I would say nuclear weapons come into play.

And I’ve been having discussions with people about this lately.

And I find it appalling the willingness.

You know, when we were all, we’re all from a generation

where thinking about nuclear weapons

was something that was on our mind immensely more often

and more deeply than it’s on anyone’s mind.

Well, maybe maybe it’s changed in the past year.

But but two years ago, three years ago,

I would find an appalling lack of let’s call it respect,

maybe, for what these weapons can do if.

And I had written this down to potentially talk about.

But if we could imagine what a nuclear bomb or missile

being used today, filmed with iPhones,

you know, from on the ground in full living color with sound,

what this really meant.

I feel like it might be the kind of thing

where you would you would you would fully understand.

I mean, I mean, let’s put it this had we never used nuclear

weapons in the Second World War, atomic bomb doesn’t get dropped

on Hiroshima and we have nuclear weapons,

but we’ve never seen what they had done.

I would imagine it would be much more likely

that they would be used.

Had nuclear weapons been used after the Second World War?

Maybe let’s just say 20 years afterwards.

Do you think that would be something that would prevent

or or or inhibit their use more?

This is a weird way to phrase this question.

I’m trying to figure out maybe the value of having an object

lesson versus the theoretical idea of, oh, we

have these terrible weapons and they’ll do terrible things.

But you can’t even imagine what that might mean.

There’s a wonderful and I’m sure you guys have seen something

like this. There’s a wonderful thing online where you can see

how far the blast radius of a big nuclear weapon.

I think it’s Paris or something that they use.

Or maybe you could you could choose the city and you can see

exactly how far the damage is.

Do you think when we’re talking about unimaginable weapons like

this, that they almost lose their ability to deter because

we can’t even imagine what we’re talking about here?

So, Dan, are you basically implying that Hiroshima and

Nagasaki are too far distant to serve as object lessons?

Now, I here’s what I would suggest.

I would suggest that if you look and I know you guys probably

done this, too, if you look at the example, there are so few.

I mean, you know, as a former television news reporter, they

used to teach you the value of pictures and sound and stuff

like that to have black and white photos or the tiny little

things that we have.

Imagine the imagine if we had iPhones at Hiroshima and

Nagasaki and the different levels of intensity that

something like that would have on our collective psyche

versus. And also, let’s be honest, if you’re a Second

World War, what’s the word I’m looking for?

Aficionado. It sounds so strange to say you’re a Second

World War buff or something.

But I mean, there is so much violence and so much disaster

from the strategic bombing campaigns and everything else

that it all sort of blends together.

But had there been a nuclear weapon used in 1958, for

example, with color photos and I feel like the object I mean,

it’s almost like a generation has to almost learn these

things over and over or we forget them.

I don’t know that there’s a question there, gentlemen, but

maybe pick up from where I left off.

I think there are actually two different issues there.

So one is our fear of nuclear weapons.

But the other one, which I don’t think is the question

you’re asking, but I think is just as interesting, actually,

is about the way in which as a society, we regard moving color

images as so close to us.

So we say, look at the Beatles in the Peter Jackson

documentary. They look just like us.

Yes, they do.

You know, and then we look at people from the Second World

War and we say, you know, they look ridiculous.

They’re wearing old fashioned clothes.

They’re moving jerkily in the back, black and white footage

and so on.

And I do think you’re absolutely right that black and white

footage and black and white still pictures act as a kind of

barrier to our empathy, maybe because we just think old people

from history.

So they don’t kind of count in the same way that people do now.

Having said that, to return to your real point, I think in a

way your question is too kind to human nature because you’re

basically saying if we had incredibly picture perfect

imagery of, you know, the effects of a nuclear bomb, we

would learn, we would be chastened, we’d be horrified and

we would, you know, mend our ways in some way.

But, you know, we had we had color imagery of the effects of

bombing in Vietnam, let’s say, or so many wars since then, so

many atrocities and human beings haven’t changed.

People have carried on fighting wars and disgracing themselves

in various ways.

So I don’t actually think even if it was in color, even if it

was so vivid and palpable, I don’t think we would change.

I, I mean, I think that, say, I don’t know, America and China

and Russia each had 10 nuclear missiles.

The only thing is that they would use them because it

wouldn’t mean the end of of them as countries and it wouldn’t

mean the end of human civilization.

The reason that that we were all terrified of nuclear war and we

lived in its shadow was that it wasn’t because we’d seen that

the horror inflicted on Hiroshima.

I mean, just as much horror was inflicted on Dresden or Hamburg

or Tokyo or whatever.

It was the knowledge that human civilization would be destroyed

and perhaps life on Earth would be destroyed.

And that that hard core of scientific knowledge was then

played upon by filmmakers and science fiction writers in ways

that, because it was rooted in reality, certainly gave me

nightmares and I think gave gave an entire generation


So you had the day after in the United States, we had a we had

a series in Britain called Threads and the impact of this

was terrifying.

And I remember a science film of exactly the kind that you were

describing that that was themed around what would happen if a

nuclear bomb went off over St.


And I must have been about 10 when this went out.

And I still remember that they wanted to show what the impact

of flying glass would be.

And they put a pumpkin on a stick and then smashed the sent

the flying glass and the pumpkin was completely lacerated.

Couldn’t sleep after that for for weeks and weeks and weeks.

And then at the end of Threads, the which tells a story of a

nuclear war that destroys Britain.

It showed the heroine, the woman who we’d been following.

She gets raped and she gives birth to a child.

And the last still is her looking down to see what she’s

born and she’s screaming with horror.

And that was the thing that the film ended on.

But absolutely stays with me.

And it means that the very notion of nuclear war is a

shadow that hangs over me to this day.

I think that the interesting contrast is, say, with global

warming or climate change, which is often described as the

equivalent challenge facing people, the generations

younger than ours.

The problem with that is, firstly, that the science is

less absolutely grounded.

And secondly, that you can’t sum it up with a kind of image

of a pumpkin being smashed to pieces by glass or a pregnant

woman looking down and seeing that she’s given birth to some


It doesn’t lend itself to images of that horror, even though in

the long run, I don’t know.

I’m not a climate scientist.

The results may be may be analogous.

So I.

I think that when you said that we we need to kind of reeducate

ourselves about nuclear nuclear weapons, I think you’re right,

because essentially for what, 30 years now, the world has been

able to assume that it won’t happen.

And part of what happened with Ukraine and part of what is a

kind of, you know, it’s like the first onset of a migraine with


Is the possibility that we might be plunged back into the kind of

scenarios that gave rise to those those terrifying films in

which isn’t it interesting that on those films, I mean, they’re

about us as the victims.


And I think what’s held what held the world back.

So I think that’s an excellent point about the if they’d only

had a few nuclear weapons, they’d have used them.

And I think the reason is because what deterred nuclear

war was not the fear of inflicting terrible, you know,

atrocities and damage, but it was the fear of incurring

what happened to us.


What happened to us?

It was if I would say human history shows that if people are

presented with an opportunity to inflict a horrendous horror on

their competitors, they will by and large take it.

It’s the fear of incurring that that is that is held that held

the superpowers back in the Cold War.

Let me throw in a let me throw an angle in there, too, that

makes it, if not unique, then very unusual in military


You don’t have to be a belligerent to be a victim in

the nuclear conflict.


In other words, if you’re India and you’re going to be you’re

not going to be involved in this war, for example, it doesn’t

matter in a full on nuclear exchange.

People in India are going to suffer.

That’s it’s almost like all of a sudden real war, total war, as

we used to call it, is something that that involves everyone now.

And so so I mean, it’s a fascinating way of looking at

something that’s been a human construct since civilization

first arose.


I’m going to fight you.

But now if I fight you, maybe you could say that that that

the person right over the border is going to be affected

because, you know, refugees might stream over the border.

But now this is a you’re going to be involving everyone in

your personal in your personal sort of conflict in a way that

I mean, there is no neutrals.


I remember I remember reading about it years ago.

But I mean, the polluted milk in Scandinavia from radiation

that I mean, you start to realize, OK, all of a sudden,

if we want to use all the weapons that are in our

arsenal, it’s going to involve people that are not part of the

conflict at all.

What did Bertrand Russell say?

He said he talked about that it was unreasonable for a man to

expect to walk a tightrope.

You could walk a tightrope for a certain period of time, but it

was unreasonable to expect you to be able to do it forever.

And I feel like to piggyback on what Tom had said, we’ve almost

forgotten that we’re walking on that tightrope.

And it’s it takes something like a Ukraine and nuclear powers

being angry with each other to potentially remind us that

we’re still on that tightrope.

And it’s just as dangerous as it’s always been, if not more.

Well, I mean, I think that obviously having your city

pulverized is an utter horror.

But a deeper horror is to imagine that it’s permanently

poisoned. So that’s what you have with Chernobyl.

You see, it’s happened decades and decades ago.

But people are going in there now in the war and they’re

dying from going there.

And the idea that the whole world would be poisoned in that

way, I think, adds an extra dimension of terror.

And then in the 80s, scientists both in the Soviet Union and in

the West combined on a paper to argue of what was called a

nuclear winter, the idea that so much debris would be thrown up

that the sun would be blotted out.

And therefore, even if radioactivity weren’t completely

lethal to life on Earth, sunlight would go and without

sun, crops would die and people would starve to death and the

whole world would starve to death.

And I remember that they, the scientists that presented that

paper, they chose a poem by Byron and a translation of it by

Pushkin to put at the head of the paper.

And Byron’s poem, he wrote it in 1816, which was the year

without a summer, the same year that gave rise to Frankenstein,

the story of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein.

There’s a big volcano in that year, right?

That’s right. It was the year before, I think.

And it kind of spewed it up and so the sun was blotted out.

And actually, it was the last time of mass famine in Europe.

But in Byron’s image, the whole everything just goes dark.

And the theme of it is, is that no one is responsible.

No one’s to blame for it.

It’s just a curse that happens.

And the last thing is two people discover some wood.

They set light to it.

They realise they hate each other.

They kill each other.

And that’s that’s the cheery note on which it ends.

The one thing we do know, interestingly, though, is that

these kind of things did have an effect on policymakers.

So we know, for example, that Ronald Reagan was really

interested in things like the day after.

He was strongly affected by them.

He was personally had a horror of nuclear weapons.

I mean, the irony is that all the time, you know, his critics

were sort of calling him a gun-toting cowboy and stuff.

He was poised to start World War Three.

But we know now that Reagan read a lot of this stuff.

He was really interested in the day after and profoundly

affected by all of this.

So a responsible, you know, these these, I guess that that

bears out your point, Dan, that these reminders, if you like,

whether they be scientific reminders or fictional kind of

science fictional reminders, they mattered during the Cold

War and they they helped to instill, I guess you would say,

a kind of responsibility and restraint.

Let me explain for people who maybe don’t know what we’re

talking about, we’re old enough to remember that the day after

was a movie, right?

The day after at middle 1980s, it came out and the day after

was a dramatization of what would happen in a nuclear war.

And the story is, and I’m not sure it’s true, but I’ve read

it on in several different memoirs, was that Ronald Reagan

used to have movies screened in the White House and they

screened this movie for him.

And he was profoundly affected by it in a way.

Look, this is a man who had studied, you know, I mean, he

should have understood without having to see the movie.

But the movie made all the difference.

And it supposedly the story is that this led to him taking

Mikhail Gorbachev aside for a private conversation during a

summit which led to all I mean, one could argue that there were

a lot of dominoes starting to tumble right then that created

a lot of the world we live in right now.

And wouldn’t that be amazing if you were the filmmaker that

made the day after if you could somehow tie your your artistic

decisions into something as monumental as that.

And there’s another element to that, which is that some of your

listeners may know about the able archer.

Oh, yes.

The near miss.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

The near miss.

So when so this is a there was a NATO war game.

I think it was in the low countries and the Kremlin were

very worried that this was actually the prelude to war

because their own war games envisaged that NATO would strike

during a war game.

So they they, you know, they got in a terrible sort of state

about it.

I think it’s Oleg Gordievsky, the man who saved the world.



Who passes that he passes the story to his British handlers

and it finds its way to the White House.

And when Reagan heard this, he was really struck and

astonished because, of course, up to that point, Reagan

thought of the Soviet Union as the evil empire.

And he thought, you know, these guys are the villains.

They’re out to kind of, you know, they’re part of the great

the great conspiracy of international communism.

And for the you know, he he sort of I think he writes it in

his diary or his journal or something.

For the first time, he thinks they’re just frightened old men

and they and he stunned by the idea that they think the West

would strike them first.

And I think it’s such an interesting, you know, he had

never occurred to him before that, that the Russians were as

were as frightened of being nuked by him as he was by them.

Because to be afraid of nuclear war, you’ve got to think that

someone who has his finger on the nuclear button would press

it. And that requires you to think quite dark thoughts about

people who may be your enemies.

And I think the people both in the West and in the Soviet Union

did think that about their adversaries.

And, you know, as Dominic says, that is was a crucial part in

opening Reagan to the notion that perhaps the evil empire

wasn’t so evil.

But I also think that that is one of the reasons why people

are so unsettled by what’s happening in Ukraine now, is

that Putin has the look of Dr.

Evil about him.

And he he has he has the kind of sheen of, you know, a super

villain in the kind of film where the villain is threatening

the world with nuclear blackmail.

And the fact that, you know, Russian propaganda has made

play with that, has kind of hinted at devastating responses,

kind of breaks a taboo, because actually even, you know, the

idea that you would threaten first use was something that

both sides, I think, is that right, Dominic, avoided during

the war?

Yeah, I mean, both sides always claimed that.

I mean, either side was doing that.

Of course, I mean, it’s a slight difference, isn’t it?

Because Putin presumably is talking about tactical

battlefield nuclear weapons.

So he’s not talking about incinerating.

Although his TV, his TV networks, you know, they.

Yeah, well, they’re all that.

They really I mean, they’re stuck.

This has got a huge airplay down in Britain because they.

Yeah, there’s a whole fascinating subject here about

how the Russians actually rather like the Iranians, they they

take the attitude that Britain is the real villain in and it

goes back to the 19th century.

Oh, I sure does.

The great game and all that.

The great game.

Britain is the real villain.

And Uncle Sam is the sort of rich, naive sort of cat’s paw

for the British royal family, the Bank of England and the

other sinister conspirators who are really plotting to destroy

Russia or whatever.

And so that we are the Bond villains.

Yeah, right.

And so they have their images, their images.

I mean, they have they show again and again images of

nuclear weapons destroying Britain.

I mean, there’s so much so that they had a protest from the

Irish foreign ministry because those missiles also showed them

blowing up Ireland.

Well, they had and they had that they had that classic British,

the classic Bond villain thing where they were going to

detonate a nuclear missile in the North in the Atlantic and a

tsunami would wash over both Britain and Ireland.

Yeah, what’s interesting, though, guys, is that is that

all it would take was for someone like Vladimir Putin to

to use a nuclear weapon in an out of the way place in the

middle of nowhere, blow up some factory out of and the taboo

would be broken.

And I mean, I believe that, you know, when we talk about needing

a reminder and we were talking about how long it’s been since

these weapons were used, there’s this sense that, OK, well, no

one would really use one.

And I think something like that would would you know, I don’t

mean to to put ideas into someone’s head, but certainly

the ideas are already there.

Something like that would be a game changer because it would

literally be the way of saying you think this could never

ever happen. We’re going to show you that we’re serious.

You know, it’s funny because after the Soviet Union fell

because you’d mentioned Abel Archer.

But I mean, the the last time we almost had a disaster was

during the Boris Yeltsin era where there was a mistake,

right, where somebody had misread radars or something.

And you turn around, you go, OK, when I was, I don’t know, a

television news guy in my 20s.

That’s how we thought a nuclear war might happen.

Right. No one would obviously go go and declare the third

World War. But these things I mean, there’s a great book

called The Dead Hand, which is about the the the Soviet system

that was in place in case their entire command and control

structure were wiped out.

It could still launch a retaliatory strike.

And I think during the Yeltsin era, we thought, OK, the only

way this is going to happen now is is because of a mistake.

And now we’re back where we were 40 years ago, where you

could actually envision someone like Putin saying, OK, I’m

going to use a nuclear weapon in the middle of nowhere,

just to show everybody that they’re out there.

We can use them and you’re not safe from them.

But I mean, to be positive, to just to be cheery, that is

becoming a bit of a downer, a bit of a downer.

I mean, he has he he he’s hinted at that and that this is

clearly what he’s brilliant at, is making people’s flesh creep

and, you know, menaces.

It’s, you know, kind of mafia type intimidation of shop

owners or whatever. I mean, that’s he’s very, very, very

good British shop owners.

Is that what the nation of shopkeepers is?

That what we’re talking about?

I mean, he’s kind of, you know, it would be awful if if you did

something and I had to, you know, do something terrible in

response without actually saying what the terrible nice

country you have here.

Be ashamed if something happened to it.

Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

But but actually there have been a kind of number of dogs

that have embarked in the night.

So obviously the use of a tactical nuclear missile

battlefield nuclear missile is one of them.

But also, and I don’t know whether this is because our

cybersecurity is so good or because actually Russian cyber

attacks aren’t as good as as we thought they were.

But there hasn’t there haven’t been kind of devastating

attacks on.

Western cyber infrastructure.

And you thought that perhaps there might be very, you know,

certainly a kind of defense institutions or whatever, and

that is a kind of the raft of hope that I cling to.

Yeah, there’s a reassuring element of shambles.

But I guess I guess you could say, though, Dan, that’s

actually not reassuring because it’s out of incompetence and

chaos that mistakes are made and accidents happen.

So I suppose you can see that two ways.

You know, will a nuclear war start because a doctor or evil

thinks it’s in their interests or will it start because people

are in a complete mess?

They’re frightened.

Everything is falling apart around their ears.

I mean, that’s the that’s probably the more likely

scenario, isn’t it?

Then then a villain starts, you know, Bond villain starting.

But I think the implication of the fact that these kind of

horror options haven’t been taken up, I suspect must be

because there are channels of communication that remain open

between the Kremlin and the White House, between the

Pentagon and the Russian military establishment.

And it must have been intimated on both sides that there are

red lines beyond which you shouldn’t go.

But you guys know, you know that that sometimes dynamics get

ahead of decision making.

I mean, that’s the whole First World War idea.

That’s the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brings me back not to

change subjects radically.

But we called the series that we did on the First World War

blueprint for Armageddon because it was it was as Gwen Dyer,

the military historian, had said, you know, the the

entrance into the idea of total war that makes the Second World

War possible and the kinds of conversations we’re having now

possible. Can I shift and ask you guys another question

similar to the one we did about the Romans and the Normans in

1066? But I want to ask you your views on First World War

Germany versus Second World War Germany.

And I had made the statement once that I thought, relative

to the other powers involved, that the First World War German

state was the stronger or more dangerous foe than the Second

World War one. Now, in the United States, there’s a

fascination with the Second World War, the Nazi state, the

technology is enticing and entrancing and all those kinds

of things. But it was my position that the First World

War was the more stable society, the more deep society with the

with the stronger foundation. Do you folks have any views on

that? Maybe you differ from each other. I don’t know.

I totally agree with you, Dan.

So I’m a complete heretic on this because I think we

discussed when you came on our podcast, I think Britain should

have fought on the other side of the First World War.

Did you really?

Which is not a view you’ll often know.

No. So I’m a great fan of, you know, I like it.

Yeah. I like a central European.

Those damn Belgians were asking for invasion.

Right. Right.

This was our chance, you know, to deal with the French once

and for all. And we we blew it.

Anyway, listen, I think I think I think I would say I agree

with you. Wilhelmine, Germany was in many ways, you know,

an infinitely, as you say, deeper, more stable, more secure

society than the Nazi Germany.

So, you know, if you think I mean, Germany entering the 1910s,

highly educated, very high level of political participation,

very strong labor unions, for example.

It’s not obviously much less democratic than Britain or

France, let’s say.

And I think it’s, you know, it’s in many ways remarkable, given

the forces arrayed against it by the end of 1914, that Germany

fights on as long and almost forces a draw, you know, could

force to draw conceivably in 1917 or 1918.

Nazi Germany, on the other hand, it’s obviously led by somebody

who is descending as the war continues for deeper and deeper

into into paranoia.

It’s unstable.

It doesn’t have clear war aims.

Everything is being improvised, you know, as they go along.

It also has this distraction of its kind of anti anti-Semitic

mission, which they they feel more and more motivated to

accomplish as the war goes on.

And Hitler’s sort of obsessive anti-Bolshevism as well, which

obviously leads him to invade the Soviet Union.

I mean, it’s a much more it’s a more what’s the word?

It’s more dysfunctional, more hysterical kind of society.

So I would say, yeah, the 1910s Germany is a much more

formidable proposition.

It’s also got it’s got I mean, the Austria-Hungary is not the

greatest ally in the world, but it’s also got the Ottoman

Empire, you know, which which Britain makes a terrible mess

of fighting at first Gallipoli.

So, yeah, and I think, you know, that the First World War could

easily have entered in a draw, whereas there’s a good argument,

I would say, that Hitler was always going to lose the Second

World War once he does not Britain out in 1940, and

especially once he invades the Soviet Union and then declares

war on the United States.

A draw is unthinkable from that point onwards, I would say.

I completely agree that Wilhelmine Germany economically,

culturally, militarily is formidably strong.

I mean, it’s it’s probably with the United States a vision of

the future if you’re standing there in 1910.

Britain already seems antiquated in comparison to both

those countries and and Wilhelmine Germany with its I

mean, it’s kind of universities, you know, we’ve said at the

beginning that technology and ability to innovate is

fundamental to military prowess and power.

And in that sense, Germany is absolutely cutting edge.

However, I mean, obviously, the one thing to say about Nazi

Germany is that ideas kill as well as tanks.

And the ideas that the Nazis embody are lethally dangerous

way off the scale compared to any of the competent powers in

the First World War.

And that has to be factored into, you know, I think any

any comparison of the two of the two Germanys that.

Six million.

People were destroyed for ideological reasons.

By Nazi Germany, and that simply wouldn’t have happened even

had had the Kaiser won the First World War, nothing comparable

to that would have happened.

I don’t think that that being defeated by the Kaiser would

have been a pleasant experience, but it was, you know, it was

nothing comparable to being occupied by the Nazis.

Let me say that I think that plays a role into why the First

World War state was stronger than the Second World War state.

You go to the to the cemeteries in the First World War, the

German cemeteries, and you will come across the graves of Jewish

German patriots who fought for that regime.

And you look at the, for example, nuclear scientists who

defected from from the Nazi German state and then helped

the allies.

These are all people who conceivably in a less ideological,

less anti-Semitic sort of society would have perhaps been

fighting on the other side.

It doesn’t that by its very nature, when you’re when you’re

taking people who are members of your population.

And I mean, even at the end of the war, when the resources were

so strained, they’re still sending, you know, the train

cars to the death camps.



And I agree with Dominic that basically the moment that Hitler

fails to knock Britain out of the war, he’s going to lose the

war, I think.

But suppose he had knocked Britain out of the war, suppose

he’d occupied Britain, suppose he had established a kind of

empire, a Reich over over continental Europe and Britain.

The the impact of that would have been immeasurably more

devastating than the allies in the First World War being

knocked out.

Do you even see that as you see when I look at it and maybe I

just lack imagination, I I can’t imagine that happening.

I mean, Churchill talked about, you know, everybody, you could

always take one with you and all that.

But but was a cross-channel invasion.

And you guys know, I mean, I mean, simply I mean, a D-Day in

reverse seems to have been.

Well, again, I don’t think that that there was ever any

prospect of an invasion, but I do think there was a prospect

of Britain suing for terms.

Yeah, I agree.

That’s which is why I think I think what is it, 10 days in

May, nine days in May, I can remember the John Lukacs book.

Yeah, brilliant analysis as the kind of the pivot of the 20th

century. This this this period while Dunkirk is happening in

the France is in the process of surrendering and there’s a

possibility that Churchill will be toppled and that the British

government will open peace feelers to Italy and therefore

by extension to Germany in the very process of opening up

peace feelers would have crippled Britain’s ability to

maintain morale and that perhaps there you would, you know,

Britain might not have been occupied, but it would have been

a kind of vicious regime.

And would the United States have become engaged then if it was

if it was a kind of continental Europe with this lethally

anti-Semitic racist regime that essentially was kind of

trampling pretty much every ideal that the modern

contemporary West holds sacred?

I I think I think that would have been possible.

I think the scenarios are interesting because let’s

imagine that the Kaiser’s Germany either wins.

I mean, it wins the First World War, I think, by Britain not

becoming engaged in the war.

So let’s imagine the Kaiser’s Germany wins the First World

War. The Kaiser’s Germany is then hegemonic in continental

Europe in the 19 going into the 1920s.

But it’s it’s a it’s a triumph.

It’s triumphalist.

It’s kind of strutting about it’s it’s sort of preening.

But there are other there are still counterweights to it.

I mean, Britain is still a counterweight, presumably, but

also it doesn’t necessarily I mean, the Kaiser’s Germany at

that point has achieved its aim.

It is, you know, it has shored itself up against itself up

against Tsarist Russia.

It has put France very firmly in its box.

Presumably the Kaiser now has his place in the sun that he’s

always wanted.

But I’m guessing the Kaiser’s Germany doesn’t have many more

complicated war aims in the 1920s.

Hitler’s Germany, by contrast, is so unstable, is based on

constant conflict and constant chaos.

And so I don’t see a Nazi New World, you know, that world of

the kind of the man in the high castle, the Amazon drama where

Nazi rule continues for decades.

I don’t really see that happening because I just think

that sort of that sort of furious sort of I use the word

hysterical before the almost hysterical dynamism at the heart

of the Nazi project would unravel.

I’m not sure.

Eventually, I because I think that at the heart of Nazi

ideology is the idea that the strong have the right to not

only the right, but they have a kind of moral responsibility to

crush the weak.

I mean, the Nazis do what they do not because they want to be

evil, but because they think they’re doing what’s right for

their race.

And if they’ve won a kind of victory, then that legitimates

that perspective and it only has to last for, say, you know,

a generation or two.

And that then becomes part of the fabric of the way that


Tom, you think people copy them?

You think people would?

You think Nazism would become ingrained in the way that I

know you think, because Tom, I mean, I’m not going to make

Tom’s a great argument for him, but Tom, one of Tom’s great

themes is how even if we are not, you know, consciously

Christians, everything we do is sort of permeated with kind of

as it were, Christian ideology.

But you think that would have happened with Nazi ideology

after one generation?

I think that part of the reason why the Nazis in the

contemporary West serve as the embodiment of evil is that they

did kind of target some of the key kind of ideological

foundation stones of Christian Europe, of which obviously one

is the idea that the strong owe a duty of care to the weak.

The Nazis repudiated that.

And the other is the idea that all human beings have an

inherent dignity and that there is no Jew or Greek.

And again, the Nazis repudiated that.

The fact that they were defeated kind of has demonstrated, even

if it’s subliminally, the fact that those ideas are not just

morally wrong, but are kind of.

That they’re unsustainable, that you can’t organise a society on

that basis, and that, I think, is very important to the way that

the West understands not just its politics, but the very

essence of human nature.

But it had the Nazis won.

Had they kind of enshrined that as their own victory, as

evidence that what they were saying was right, that their

race, the Nordic race, was superior to other races, and

that strength was more important than weakness, and that the

powerful did have a responsibility to crush the

powerless, and they could point to a prostrated Europe as

evidence for this, and they were not overthrown, they were not

humiliatingly defeated, they were not crushed, they were not

obliged to surrender unconditionally, then those

ideas would have had a currency in a way that they haven’t, as

a result of what actually happened.

A world in which fascism was not conclusively defeated would be

one in which it continued to thrive, because it does play

with the way that lots of people do instinctively think, people

do instinctively, people are instinctively chauvinist, people

are instinctively inclined to think that the strong are more

important and better than the weak.

And it’s only kind of, you know, centuries and centuries of

Christian conditioning, really, in the context of Europe, that

has changed that view.

And if those values had been seen to be defeated, then I think

that the corollary of that would reverberate through the decades.

So this is going to be a strange transition.

So I’m going to try to transition it this way.

One could make, certainly with the First World War Germans, one

could make a case that there’s a colonialism aspect involved,

right, that the place in the sun question is much more open.

But even in the Second World War, strategic war aims of

Germany, that’s a colonialism, too, in a sense, right?

We’re going to we’re going to take over the Slavic lands and

we’re going to to rule over the Slavs and they’re going to be

the slaves for the Nazi state.

We had talked earlier about colonialism, and I’m curious

about, you know, in the United States, we have certain figures

in history. One is Tecumseh, for example, who tried to unite the

native tribes against the United States at a certain point to try

to figure out how you could fight back against the colonial

powers and the colonial movements.

I find that if you go into the history of, say, Sub-Saharan

Africa, North America, Central Asia, South Asia, you have all

these attempts to try to fight back against the divide and

conquer strategy that’s so important in the colonial

approach. I wanted to ask you guys if you had an opinion, which

region would you consider the greatest odds on favorite to

resist colonial subjugation if they were ever able to unite in

a Tecumseh-like way against the colonial powers?

So any any region of the world that was ended up being absorbed

into a European as part of the divide and conquer sort of

strategy? Yes.

No question, India.

The British conquest of India was was a kind of Anglo-Indian

conquest. I mean, it was it wouldn’t have been possible for

the British to…

Because the numbers were so small.

The Indian company. Yeah. And, you know, it’s a private company

taking over the whole subcontinent. I mean, there’s no

way that they could possibly have done that unless India was

completely fragmented and there were substantial segments of

Indian society and different states within the framework of

the whole subcontinent willing to work with the British and in

a way to use the British just as the British were using them.

So the Raj was it was a kind of Anglo-Indian condominium.

But I think that it was entirely possible in the 18th century for,

you know, say, in South India, the Sultanate of Hyderabad, of

Mysore, Tipu Sultan in Mysore was, I mean, he heroic fighter

against the British. Had Hyderabad, had Mysore, perhaps

had they allied with the Marathas, there’s no way the

British could have could have conquered India.

So, you know, and the moment that the sense of a united

India came to be formed in the in the late 19th and 20th

century, it became obvious to everyone that the Raj was going

to end. I mean, even the most kind of died in the war

imperialist had to accept the moment that there was a kind of

Indian national consciousness emerging. There was no way that

the British could hold on to India because the mismatch was

too great.

I agree with Tom. But I think that the reason India works,

Tom, is because India had there had been empires in India. So

it’s perfectly plausible to imagine that in the 18th, you

know, had history worked out differently, that there would

have been some dominant empire in India that would easily have

been able to see off the East India Company. Do you not think

I mean, but that’s not the case in other parts of the world. So

if you I mean, that thing, all the colonial, I would say almost

every single colonial European colonial empire works, because

it works with local collaborators and local allies.

And that starts right at the beginning, when the Spaniards

arrive in the Valley of Mexico. And yes, when they when they

arrive in what’s now Peru. So in both cases, that the

traditional view that we have is completely wrong. So the idea, a

tiny band of Spaniards pitch up, and through their amazing

technology, and the fact that everybody thinks they’re gods,

are able to overcome colossally superior numbers. I mean,

that’s just obviously nonsense. What happens is that in both

cases, they’re working with lots of local allies, because the

societies in which they’ve arrived, are deeply fragmented.

And would always have been fragmented. So, you know, the

the what we think of as the Aztecs, they have lots of local

rivals, I think, clash Carla, the, the most obvious ones, the

Spaniards ally with, and they’re Spanish are only able to defeat

them because of their local, their local allies. Same thing

with the Incas, the Spaniards arrived, the Incas are divided

this, but they were probably always going to be divided

because they had a history of division. And there were lots

of people who resented the Incas. So that’s slightly

different from India. Because I think in India, you’d had hadn’t

you Tom, kind of big, powerful, rich, united civilizations that

could easily have seen off European intruders. And I don’t

think that’s true. In the Americas. It’s impossible to

imagine, I think the Native Americans of North America,

forming this massive confederation, that would have

seen off the French and the British. I mean, that they had

no history of such a such alliances.

No, but here’s what’s funny. They they imitated exactly what

you were talking about, right? They did it in reverse. So

someone like Tecumseh, for example, tried to use the

British to help him defeat the Americans in the same way that

before there was a United States, certain tribes allied

with the French or the British to try to see the other side.

In other words, that’s almost the reverse of what you’re

talking about, right?

But by that point, it’s too late. It is too late.

But also, I mean, I think technology does matter. And

scale of size matters as well. But to go back to the

technology, I mean, Dan, you were saying, you know, why were

people, I don’t know, beyond the frontiers of the Roman Empire

not able to replicate the legions? Because they didn’t

have the society, the culture that had generated the legions.

And likewise, if you’re going through a kind of an industrial

quantum leap, if you’re going through the Industrial

Revolution, if you are developing weapons that are

fearsome and devastating on a scale beyond the imaginings of

people who don’t have factories, who don’t have steel mills, and

if you are a civilization that is able to feed vast numbers of

people and generate a huge population growth, then there’s

no way you can resist it. And that essentially, you know,

going right the way back through the entire span of time, that’s

why we all now have urban civilizations and we’re not

hunter-gatherers, is because ultimately, there are

technological, there are societal advances that will make

certain societies stronger, more powerful, more devastating,

more lethal than others. And when there is a total mismatch,

those who are the weaker will be, there’s no way that they can

withstand. So I would say that I’m sure that the Aztecs could

have seen off the Spaniards, but I don’t think that there was

ever any prospect that the Native Americans of the Great

Plains could have seen off the United States. I don’t think

that there was ever any prospect of the native people in

Australia seeing off the settlers in the 19th and 20th

century. There was just no way it would ever have been


Okay, so I’ll make this the last question, but it’s certainly a

trapdoor kind of question because it may. So one of the

things you get here in the United States, and I think you

get them all over the world, is this idea of that these

technologically superior or, I don’t know what you would call

it, a logistically, infrastructurally superior

entities should not have done what they did, right? So for

example, the people who came from Europe should not have done

what they did in a broad sense. We’re not talking about

individual massacres or this, but in a broad sense should not

have done what they did. I find it in an almost, I find it

impossible to imagine the counterfactual in these

situations when you have societies that are so

dominating in terms of technological or, as we said,

logistical or infrastructural advantages. It’s hard for me to

imagine, for example, the Europeans finding the new world

and then just saying, well, you know, we’re just going to sit

aside and not do anything. I mean, in other words, there’s

this wonderful open land. John Wayne once said it was okay for

the Europeans to take the land from the natives because they

weren’t properly using it. I mean, is it one of those things

where are we assuming something that almost would be a defying

human nature to expect something like that to happen? Well, I

trapped your question emerges. So before you go, can I just,

you know what I’m going to say? I know you’re going to say it

and Tom will take a week to say it. So that’s okay. We have it.

We have it. Well, it’s your podcast, Dan. I mean, the

podcast, we have no time. Obviously, if you’ve ever heard

me. So I would say whenever people tell this story and they

now Tom also knows what I’m going to say, and it’s probably

rolling his eyes. I think whenever people tell this story

and they start sort of, you know, as it were, I don’t want

to sound like I’m a lunatic. So but but I will, when I start

sort of wringing their hands and saying this is dreadful

behavior, this is very awful. We should feel very sorry about

it. It’s all this kind of stuff. I just think that’s a

historical. I think people behave in inverted commas badly

throughout history all the time. Reliably, big, rich,

technologically adept, aggressive societies will

behave aggressively. I think it’s impossible. It is. I think

it’s literally impossible to imagine a scenario in which

Columbus sails west and then the Spanish don’t do what they do

in the in in in Mexico and Peru, for example. I mean, they don’t

they don’t all behave badly because they’re all villains.

They behave badly, I would say, because they’re human and

because that’s what people do. So I think the sort of

expressions of slight shock that we have now as 21st century

spectators looking at all this, which is sort of, oh, how could

the Spanish do what they did? How could the British behave so

meanly in India and Africa and all of this kind of stuff? We

should feel very sorry and kind of rend our garments and weep

and wail about it. I mean, again, I know some of your

listeners will probably think I’m being too flippant, but I

think the story of history is that this this is part of being

human. I mean, as awful as that may seem to many of us. And I

know Tom will talk about why that seems awful to us and the

sort of ideological sort of coaching we’ve had to think

that. And of course, we all have that because we want to think of

ourselves as nice people. But yeah, I completely agree with

you, Dan. I think it’s impossible to imagine a

scenario in which Europeans can travel vast distances in great

numbers with, you know, with weapons, with firearms, with all

of their diseases as well, by the way, and in which they don’t

subjugate these places. And I don’t think it’s because

something intrinsically wicked about early modern Europeans. I

think it’s because to be brutal about it, that kind of

competitive, acquisitive, sort of exploitative strain is deep

inside human nature. And it’s an interesting aspect of being a 21st

century, Westerner, that we shudder at that and we recoil

from it, even as we, as I think deep down, we can see it in


So Dan, what I would say to that is, you know, was it bad? Was

it good? What is the definition of bad? What’s the definition of

good? What is wrong with going and conquering other people? What

is wrong with, if you’re much more powerful, subjugating those

who are weaker than you? And they may sound kind of shocking

questions, but they’re only shocking, because we take the

answer to those questions pretty much for granted. But if you

look at the vast sweep of history, it’s not at all

self-evident that people regard, particularly in powerful and

aggressive civilizations, that they regard conquering people

who are weaker than them as something that is quote, unquote

wrong. So going right the way back to the beginning, if you

look at the Nama palette, which is kind of one of the

foundational emblems of ancient Egypt, it shows the figure of a

pharaoh combating the forces of chaos. And the images of people

on that frieze who are not Egyptian, who lie beyond the

borders of Egypt, makes it clear that they are the people who are

the object of the pharaoh’s wrath and might, and that their

subjugation is the right thing to do. That this is a moral

positive, that this is the correct thing to do. And it’s

very difficult to think of an empire in antiquity that did not

see its conquests as in some way the expression of what either

the gods wanted or kind of moral abstractions were being worked

out. So whether it’s the Assyrians or the Babylonians or

indeed even the Israelites, their conquests are mandated by

the divine. Same with the Persians, but the Persians

introduced this incredibly novel idea that the world is moral and

that their empire is the expression of kind of an abstract

force of truth and order that permeates itself throughout the

entire fabric of the universe. And that’s an inheritance that

Christians and Muslims have inherited. So the caliphate, the

Arab conquests, they are justified by this is what God

wants. God wants the world to become Muslim. I think what

makes the thing that is slightly more complex is the Christian

attitude to this, because on the one hand, Christianity is a

missionary religion that, like Islam, sees itself as a gift

given to the whole of humanity. And therefore, Christians like

Muslims have a duty to spread their faith to the ends of the

world. But what makes Christianity more ambivalent in

its attitude to this kind of imperialism is the fact that

Christ himself dies the victim of a great empire, namely the

Romans. And of course, the cross is an emblem of the right of the

powerful to torture to death the powerless. And this becomes the

emblem of Christianity. It’s the emblem that the Spaniards, for

instance, take to the new world. So when the Spaniards conquer

Mexico, of course, there is a sense of triumph. They are the

conquistadores. The idea that God has given them this world

and that it redounds to the glory of Spain, that it’s

something to celebrate. Of course, that is an element of it.

But there is also a nagging sense that perhaps what they’re

doing is offensive to God. And it’s really summed up with the

kind of the great debate between two Spanish theologians, one of

whom, Bartolome Las Casas, argues that the Indians have

souls and that what the Spaniards are doing essentially

is not justified by God’s law. And his opponents, when they

argue against this, have to draw on classical tradition to say

certain people are natural slaves. Of course, they should

be. They should be conquered. And I think that that

ambivalence towards empire. So, you know, if you’re if you’re

caught, if you’re going out under the emblem of a cross, are

you playing the Romans or are you playing the guy who gets

tortured to death by the Romans? I think that that is an

ambivalence that has laid at the heart of the kind of the Western

conquest of the world, the hegemony that the West has

exercised over the world. And in a way, the fact that people

beyond the West have bought into this, the fact that they they

to kind of buy into the idea that there is a kind of dignity

in being oppressed, that victimhood brings its own

status. The paradox is, in a way, that is an expression of

continuing Western hegemony. I mean, there’s nothing really

kind of more more Western than the idea of decolonization, for

instance, if you’re decolonizing something, you are expressing

deeply, deeply Western ideas. But it’s a kind of massive it’s

a kind of moral mobius strip. Are these ideas inherently

correct or are they do we think that they’re correct because

we’ve all of us been weathered by the effects of empires that

believed that and were kind of the vectors for it? There’s a

split the difference, though. There’s a split the difference

in this. I mean, if you like when I was when you go read the

primary source materials from an era where people absolutely

believed that there is eternal damnation and eternal hellfire

if you’re not saved by a by a religion, if you believe that

your conquest of, say, a native peoples who is who are pagan or

heathen or whatever word you would use, and because you have

you have shown them the way that you have saved them from an

eternity in hellfire, then whatever you did to them in this

one life is by comparison, meaningless. In other words,

how do good people justify this? I think that’s how good people

tell themselves that they’ve done a good deed by conquering

and enslaving other people, as long as you save them from an

eternal damnation. Does that make sense?

But what is good? But what is good? I mean, that’s the thing.

What’s the definition of good? Because your definition of

goodness is constantly changing. Oh, sure. All right. I mean, so

I think, you know, the Aztecs, they were they were themselves

imperialists. Their extraordinary city, their

extraordinary civilization was itself founded on conquest. And

as far as I know, there was no one in Aztec society that

questioned that. There wasn’t the kind of questioning of the

right of the powerful to conquer the powerless that, say, the

Spaniards brought, even though the paradox isn’t the Spaniards

were infinitely more lethal and destructive.

I mean, I would say, Dan, I mean, I don’t know whether Tom

agrees with this. I just think asking the question battle good

is the wrong question to ask about history. Well, unless

you’re a theologian. Yeah, I guess so. But I mean, some of

your listeners may well be thinking, well, what do you

expect? You know, you get two British guys on and that’s

right. That’s right. Excuses for colonialism. But I mean, one

way if they think that is to ask this. So some of the most

effective conquests in history with the Arab conquests. Yes.

And, you know, here’s here’s a question. Were the Arabs wrong

to conquer Egypt? Was that bad? I mean, if you went to Cairo

today, and you proposed that argument, and you said, this was

a terrible thing. It was exploitative. It was aggressive.

It was unprovoked. It shouldn’t have happened. The people who

did it were bad. And they were villainous. I’m sure they did

it. They claim they were doing it for religious reasons. But no

doubt there was a lot of greed and cruelty and say all this

stuff. I mean, if you made that argument in the center of Cairo,

people would think you were demented. And I don’t think and

feel and most people I think would feel very uneasy making

such an argument about the Arab conquests. Because we tend to

make those arguments about good and bad actually with relation

to Western colonialism, don’t we? And we think of colonialism

as a purely Western phenomenon as a European phenomenon. But I

mean, imagine making that argument about the Ottoman

Empire, and saying, the Ottomans were wrong to have conquered

Constantinople, they were wrong to have taken. Well, the Greeks

certainly make that argument. Well, the Greeks would make that

argument. But then would you say the Greeks were wrong to have

landed in Sicily, and to have established their colony at

Syracuse or something? I mean, that would seem well, you know,

the argument to me, you know, my answer to that, I mean, good,

you know, right, and right and wrong, good, good and evil are

cultural constructs. Of course, they’re generally agree with

you. I generally, generally are propagated by the powerful. And,

you know, the, the ideas of good and evil, or right or wrong, or

justified invasion, or whatever, are generally created to

sustain structures that have been created by the powerful,

because if they’re not powerful, then they don’t last.

Well, I mean, in the United States, you could say if, if, if

if we have a problem with the invasion of the Spaniards into

the New World, for example, and they come in, I mean, I mean,

the Comanches had a genocidal war against the Plains Apaches.

But that is beyond the pale of the sort of ethical discussions

we have about this sort of stuff. Because these are

indigenous peoples against other indigenous peoples. In other

words, it’s like Gallic tribes fighting other Gallic tribes,

and then Caesar comes in. Is there any difference between

having an outsider?

Well, now your argument is who are outside? No, but surely your

argument here is who are outside? I mean, how far are

you allowed to travel to fight? Surely that’s it? No, because

let’s take the example of the Aztecs. The Aztecs were not

indigenous to the Valley of Mexico, they had moved south. So

is it okay for them to move by land, but not okay for the

Spaniards to move by sea? I mean, I think the trouble is

these are you when you start to look into these, those sort of

moral boundaries, I think just begin to crumble. I mean, I

don’t think you can say it’s fine for the Aztecs to come to

trudge over land and then start fighting people. But because

the Spaniards have come by ship and have paler skins, that’s

not okay.

So unless you’re a theologian, as a historian, I think you have

to regard morality as relative, as culturally conditioned, as

something that evolves and changes. In other words, not as

something absolute. Because if you’re treating it as something

absolute, then you’re engaging in a slightly different

discipline, I think. It isn’t to say that discipline is wrong.

I mean, that’s what theology and philosophy and ethics is all

about. But if you’re looking at history, to talk about ideas of

right and wrong as absolutes, you have to recognise that the

sense of these as absolutes is culturally conditioned. So to

look at the Gauls, was it wrong for the Romans to conquer the

Gauls? I mean, to the Romans, no, and probably not to the

Gauls either, because the Gauls had sacked Rome, the Gauls were

constantly rampaging around, they were tribes, they were

endlessly attacking each other. The Romans conquered them and

the Gauls ended up kind of acknowledging the Romans as the

most powerful tribe of all. And that was kind of part of the

moral universe that both Romans and Gauls in the first century

BC inhabited. If we look now, say, Dan, the question you

asked, can white Americans sit in judgment and say that, say,

the Comanches were wrong to attack other Native American

peoples in the Great Plains? Inherent in that is the idea

that because Native Americans ended up being conquered and

subdued and subordinated to the power of the white settlers,

therefore they have a status as victims that that white settler

society privileges, because that white settler society brings

with it the idea that it’s God suffered the death of a slave at

the hands of an imperial power. And even if people, you know,

particularly on the liberal wing and progressive wing in the

United States, are no longer overtly Christian, then they’re

not denominationally Christian. Morally, in their hearts, they

remain Christian and they retain the conviction that there is a

status and a moral value in being a victim, that being a

victimizer, being an imperial power does not possess. And

that therefore people who come from a position of privilege are

not entitled to sit in judgment over those who are not

privileged. But that is a culturally conditioned

assumption that is bred of the distinctive character of

American history, I would argue. I mean, you could go further

and say, well, that’s that is an absolute moral position. But if

you’re doing that, you’re no longer engaging in history. In

my opinion, you’re engaging in philosophy or theology.

And for more on this, Tom Holland’s book Dominion would

thank you very much. This all day, but it’s about 115 degrees

in my studio right now. And I am melting. Where can people hear

your podcast?

So it’s called The Rest is History. You can hear it on

Spotify. You can hear it on iTunes and you can hear it on

YouTube. And we do two episodes, pretty much do two episodes

every week, don’t we, Tom?

Yeah, sometimes a few more.

Covering everything. They’re much, I have to say, compared

with Dan’s, your opuses. I mean, these are mere pamphlets. Some

of them are only 45 or 50 minutes.

That is a great way to rationalize my lack of

productivity. Thank you. I appreciate that.

But no, we do two a week and we have a club called The Rest is

History Club. And if you join the club, you can have chats with

all the other club members and they all get very excited.

And they, Tom, basically, they do. They spend they basically

spend most of their time telling us how terrible our most recent

episode was or whatever. But yeah, so it’s The Rest is

History. It’s not as hardcore as hardcore history. I think it’s

fair to say, isn’t it, Tom?

I think it’s less epic and sweet, but we are kind of

inspired by you, Dan. We’re upping our game. So we’ve just

done we’ve just done a five part special on the American Civil

War. And you may be appalled at the idea that we could possibly

do the American Civil War in five episodes. But but when we

tell you that we did the whole French Revolution in, I think,

about an hour.

Oh, my gosh. You’ll see that we’re doing better.

OK, well, you guys are delightful. I’d love to have

another conversation with you someday. Thank you so much for

taking the time.

Thanks for having so much for having us.

My thanks to Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook for coming on

the program today. Their podcast The Rest is History is something

you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already. It’s

been a long, hot summer full of challenges in, you know, the

family stuff and everything else. So it’s been a while

since we’ve spoken to you. Thank you for your patience. I know

many of you’ve had similar summers, but I feel back in the

saddle again. So we should have some offerings on tap for you

before too long. And, you know, if I don’t talk to you until

then, well, remember, we have a Twitter feed at Hardcore

History. Maybe you can hear from me in the interim. And I hope

you’re all having a good summer and a good year. And here’s to

hoping that things pick up and get better, you know, as the end

of the year rolls around. It’s it’s difficult times for a lot

of people, isn’t it? And we hope you’ll stay safe. Talk to you

soon, folks.

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