One of the biggest surprises of my trip to London last year was the integration of British military history into the rest of English society. Statues and monuments are everywhere in London. It seemed like every park, abbey, church, and public square somehow reflected upon Britain’s military past. Leaders like Slim, Churchill, Montgomery have several statues and were seemingly buried in multiple places.
If you want to experience military history in the United States, you go to Washington D.C. or one of the many battlefields scattered across the nation. London’s version of Arlington National Cemetery seemed to be every church, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
Interestingly, statues in Edinburgh praise literary and scientific accomplishments. Weird…
London also highlighted some interesting gender distinctions in military remembrance. Continue reading →
One of the things that stuck with me most during my trip to London last year was the incredible diversity of the city. Anglo-Saxons, Indians, Sikhs, the whole nine yards. People from seemingly everywhere came to live or work in the English capital.
All of this makes sense for those who know anything about British History. Everyone comes to live in Britain because the British basically controlled everyone at one time or another. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 eventually led to Pax Britannica and an empire so large that the sun very literally “never set on the British Empire.”
That empire began to crumble when a war fought against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan for the freedom of the world revealed the inherent contradiction between colonialism and self-determination. When the Japanese Army swept across Southeast Asia, it showed the world that Europeans were not invincible.
From this history of cultural imperialism and exchange comes the incredible diversity of London. There, I saw the impact of history. History walked up and down the streets. History took the Tube every morning. History stopped at Greggs for a terrible-for-you, but so-dang-good breakfast roll.
Somehow it felt like London was doing it right, or at least better than Minneapolis. Minneapolis is certainly diverse, but it also feels divided in ways that London did not. Continue reading →
(Editor’s Note: This is a college essay I finished in 2006. It’s one of the better papers I’ve written. I hope you get something from it.)
A revolution of some sort had been due in China since the onset of the decline of the Qing Dynasty. As China’s “old order” became more and more untenable, various rebels and reformers attempted, without success, to halt China’s decline. It took the “right” revolution to renew an ailing nation. After the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the failure of various reformers, the Communist Revolution finally succeeded in ending the decline because it was truly revolutionary, offered a system to replace Confucianism, and united the nation.
After spending five days in London last summer, my friends and I took a train north to Edinburgh to spend our final week together in Britain. Our schedule slowed down. We checked out the gorgeous city at a leisurely pace. We slept in Dylan’s apartment instead of a random hostel where our shit could be stolen.
Yet, somehow, I felt out of place.
In London, I almost kamikazed a car driving in the “wrong” direction. I didn’t pick up the accent very quickly. I would last two minutes driving in London-proper. But there was no culture shock.
When I traveled to Britain to visit a friend studying in Edinburgh, we stayed in London for five days. We visited palaces that housed hundreds of years of monarchy. We visited castle walls where centuries of England’s sons had thrown down their lifeblood.
We visited the same Parliament building that ruled the seas since 1488, enforced Pax Britannica, balanced the powers of Europe, and controlled and colonized so much of the world that the sun, very literally, never set on the British Empire.
London feels like it has been there for thousands of years and makes you believe that it will remain for a thousand more, long after America crumbles. Continue reading →