Walter Russell Mead, one of our most distinguished foreign policy experts, makes clear that the key to the predominance of the two countries has been the individualistic ideology of the prevailing Anglo-American religion. Mead explains how this helped create a culture uniquely adapted to capitalism, a system under which both countries thrived. We see how, as a result, the two nations were able to create the liberal, democratic system whose economic and social influence continues to grow around the world.
With wit, verve, and stunning insight, Mead recounts what is, in effect, the story of a centuries-long war between the English-speaking peoples and their enemies. Sustained by control of the oceans that surround them, the British and their American heirs built a global system of politics, power, investment, and trade over the past three hundred years. Along the way, the two nations developed a sophisticated grand strategy that brought the English-speaking powers to a pinnacle of global power and prestige unmatched in the history of the world.
Since Oliver Cromwell's day, the English-speakers have seen their enemies as haters of liberty and God who care nothing for morality, who will do anything to win, and who rely on a treacherous fifth column to assure victory. Those enemies, from Catholic Spain and Louis XIV to the Nazis, communists, and Al-Qaeda, held similar beliefs about their British and American rivals, but we see that though the Anglo-Americans have lost small wars here and there, they have won the major conflicts. So far.
The stakes today are higher than ever; technological progress makes new and terrible weapons easier for rogue states and terror groups to develop and deploy. Where some see an end to history and others a clash of civilizations, Mead sees the current conflicts in the Middle East as the latest challenge to the liberal, capitalist, and democratic world system that the Anglo-Americans are trying to build. What we need now, he says, is a diplomacy of civilizations based on a deeper understanding of the recurring conflicts between the liberal world system and its foes. In practice, this means that Americans generally, and especially the increasingly influential evangelical community, must develop a better sense of America's place in the world.
Mead's emphasis on the English-speaking world as the chief hero (and sometimes villain) in modern history changes the way we see the world. Authoritative and lucid, God and Gold weaves history, literature, philosophy, and religion together into an eminently important worka dazzling book that helps us understand the world we live in and our tumultuous times.
Chapter One: With God on Our Side
On September 17, 1656, Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, addressed the English Parliament to lay out his foreign policy, and he began by asking the most basic political questions: Who are our enemies, and why do they hate us?
There was, he then asserted, an axis of evil abroad in the world. England's enemies, he said, "are all the wicked men of the world, whether abroad or at home . . ."
And, in the language of the seventeenth century, he said that they hate us because they hate God and all that is good. They hate us "from that very enmity that is in them against whatsoever should serve the glory of God and the interest of his people; which they see to be more eminently, yea most eminently patronized and professed in this nationwe will speak it not with vanityabove all the nations in the world."
Cromwell went on to spell out for the Roundheads, as the partisans of Parliament had been known in the English Civil War, that...
Walter Russell Mead starts his serious book with a joke, and it's a funny one, not to mention smart, which bodes well for the book itself, as it shows Mead taking us into his confidence: a writer telling witty tales that assume intelligence in his readers.
God and Gold is engaging in the extreme, which you can't say of most books spanning more than 350 years of history with an emphasis on religion, politics and money. (Reviewed by Paul Hughes).
Full Review (987 words).
The Linking Threads of God
As you might expect with a book about history, there's plenty of interesting points to highlight and even more for readers to birddog; but Mead is so polyhistoric in his knowledge and so profligate with his references, moving easily from Matthew Arnold to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, it's hard to choose where to begin. Do we send you to Captain Bligh or William F. Buckley, Jr.? Macaulay or Thoreau? Rumsfeld or Thackeray? Shall we offer more on Calvinists or ...
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'Diamond has written a book of remarkable scope . . . one of the most important and readable works on the human past published in recent years.'
An enthralling story not only of power, religion, and trade but also of people and how they changed, and continue to change the extraordinary language that is English.
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