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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What If the Alps Didn't Exist?

Was the development of freedom in Western Civilization due to the Alps? Mountainous areas tend to have less government than lowlands but in most civilizations the mountains tend to be on the periphery, with the result that freer areas can be dismissed as populated by barbarians. (We have a little bit of this kind of reaction to the US and, within the US, to the western US.) In the case of the Alps, we have a mountain range in the middle of the civilization, which makes it harder to dismiss.

There was another effect of the Alps. In the fifteenth century, it looked like absolute monarchy would be the wave of the future. In the absence of the Alps, Francesco Sforza or Charles the Bold (or some other megalomaniac) would have been able to expand. In another century or two, Europe might have been wall-to-wall absolute monarchies.

There's another point: We can't expect history to work the same way on different planets. If we encounter extraterrestrials, they might model their reactions on their equivalent of Louis the XIVth.

2 Comments:

Anonymous TJIC said...

> Mountainous areas tend to have less government than lowlands but in most civilizations the mountains tend to be on the periphery, with the result that freer areas can be dismissed as populated by barbarians.

If you're not already familiar with it, check out

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Not-Being-Governed-Anarchist/dp/0300152280

The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia (Yale Agrarian Studies Series)
Professor James C. Scott (Author)

2:01 PM  
Blogger Joseph said...

I mentioned The Art of Not Being Governed in some of my earlier speculations on this topic.

1:48 AM  

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