A Variety of Falls

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Great nations demonstrate a variety of falls, Glubb finds:

It has been shown that, normally, the rise and fall of great nations are due to internal reasons alone. Ten generations of human beings suffice to transform the hardy and enterprising pioneer into the captious citizen of the welfare state. But whereas the life histories of great nations show an unexpected uniformity, the nature of their falls depends largely on outside circumstances and thus shows a high degree of diversity.

The Roman Republic, as we have seen, was followed by the empire, which became a super-state, in which all the natives of the Mediterranean basin, regardless of race, possessed equal rights. The name of Rome, originally a city-state, passed from it to an equalitarian international empire.

This empire broke in half, the western half being overrun by northern barbarians, the eastern half forming the East Roman or Byzantine Empire.

The vast Arab Empire broke up in the ninth century into many fragments, of which one former colony, Moslem Spain, ran its own 250-year course as an independent empire. The homelands of Syria and Iraq, however, were conquered by successive waves of Turks to whom they remained subject for 1,000 years.

The Mameluke Empire of Egypt and Syria, on the other hand, was conquered in one campaign by the Ottomans, the native population merely suffering a change of masters.

The Spanish Empire (1500-1750) endured for the conventional 250 years, terminated only by the loss of its colonies. The homeland of Spain fell, indeed, from its high estate of a super-power, but remained as an independent nation until today.

Romanov Russia (1682-1916) ran the normal course, but was succeeded by the Soviet Union.

It is unnecessary to labour the point, which we may attempt to summarise briefly. Any regime which attains great wealth and power seems with remarkable regularity to decay and fall apart in some ten generations. The ultimate fate of its component parts, however, does not depend on its internal nature, but on the other organisations which appear at the time of its collapse and succeed in devouring its heritage. Thus the lives of great powers are surprisingly uniform, but the results of their falls are completely diverse.


  1. Electric Angel says:

    I recall Spain holding on to most of Latin America until 1820 or so. In 1798, a man could travel from Tierra del Fuego up to Port Angeles, Washington, go east to the Mississippi River drainage, down to New Orleans, and over to Miami, and never set foot on territory not at least nominally under the control of the King of Spain. I wonder if the Tierra del Fuego to Port Angeles distance is more than Belarus to Vladivostok?

  2. Rollory says:

    Chechar has written quite a lot about New Spain at his blog (chechar.wordpress.com). He has repeatedly made the point that New Spain, as a political entity, endured for nearly 300 years — comparable to the existence of the United States (and also very comparable to Glubb’s imperial period) yet anglocentric Americans have completely glossed over the lessons that might be learned from it.

  3. The Fourth Doorman of the Apocalypse says:

    Can we see in the behavior of our current elites their expectation that the end will not be long in coming?

    This seems to relate to Mancur Olsen’s Stationary Bandits as well. Once they perceive that things are coming to an end it is in their interests to loot the hell out of the beast. To kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

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