All The Europe Center News News July 13, 2022

Brexit was 10,000 years in the making, Stanford historian says in new book

What Britain’s geography means to the British people is key to understanding why they voted to leave the European Union, Stanford classics Professor Ian Morris asserts.
Ian Morris
Ian Morris (Image credit: Do Pham)
“Only when we put the facts into this framework do we see why Brexit seems so compelling to some, so appalling to others and where it might lead next.”
Ian Morris, in "Geography is Destiny"

Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000-Year HistoryMany reasons have been advanced to explain why Britain voted to leave the European Union, but the fundamental reason has been overlooked, according to Ian Morris, a historian and archaeologist at Stanford’s School of Humanities and Sciences.

That reason is geography.

More precisely, what Britain’s geography means to residents of the island nation – officially known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – is the key to understanding why, in 2016, they made the decision they did, and what that choice augurs for their future, Morris writes in his new book, Geography Is Destiny (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2022).

“Brexit was just the latest round in an ancient argument about what Britain’s geography means,” he asserts. How that meaning has changed is what the book is about.

Morris, who holds the Jean and Rebecca Willard Endowed Professorship in Classics, argues that the meaning of a region’s geography depends on two things: technology, especially the kinds connected with travel and communication, and organization, particularly the kinds that allow technology to be effectively deployed. His new book is divided into three parts, each represented by a map depicting how these forces have shaped Britain’s relationship with Europe and the world.