The Debatable Land #15: Holding the waves and holding the line
History never ends but it may be fulfilled.
Sundry personal matters prevented me from writing a newsletter last week but, with the hope that later is better than never, here is this week’s edition. My thanks to you all for subscribing and special thank yous to the super-righteous amongst you who have upgraded your subscriptions.
The Vindication of Francis Fukuyama?
Of all the English kings poor old King Canute remains the most traduced and not just because he was a Dane. In the popular view, at any rate, Canute remains a figure of idiocy, a warning against regal hubris and a reminder that even the mighty are as often clay-footed as not. There is, to be sure, much to be said for this cutting-down-to-size. Modesty and prudence are useful virtues.
But I have always preferred the contrary view that far from thinking he could command the waves to recede, Canute was actually attempting to demonstrate the limits of kingly authority. By ordering the incoming tide to retreat he was showing his otherwise overawed courtiers that nature cou…