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Britain Enters the Unknown

Summary:
Compared to the threats posed by climate change and China’s hostility to liberal democracy, the consequences of Brexit may seem far less significant. But the United Kingdom has chosen an odd and dangerous time to decide to go it alone. LONDON – A history teacher at my school believed that every great event in the past should be approached on the basis of a tripartite analysis of its causes, pretexts, and results. He would list these in columns on the blackboard, and we would then have to learn them by heart: the causes of the eighteenth-century War of the Spanish Succession, the pretexts for the French Revolution, the results of the American War of Independence, and so on. Britain Enters the Unknown

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Compared to the threats posed by climate change and China’s hostility to liberal democracy, the consequences of Brexit may seem far less significant. But the United Kingdom has chosen an odd and dangerous time to decide to go it alone.

LONDON – A history teacher at my school believed that every great event in the past should be approached on the basis of a tripartite analysis of its causes, pretexts, and results. He would list these in columns on the blackboard, and we would then have to learn them by heart: the causes of the eighteenth-century War of the Spanish Succession, the pretexts for the French Revolution, the results of the American War of Independence, and so on.

Of course, life and further study teach us that things are not that simple. Causes can be a combination of accident, ambition, and coincidence, together with more profound economic, social, and technological changes. Results can be equally difficult to gauge neatly. After all, history rarely brings closure, and it is hard to know when the effects of a great event begin and end.

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Chris Patten
Associate Director of Design Thinking, Henry Ford Learning Institute. I use design to make complex issues more tangible and build empathy among stakeholders.

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