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WILLIAM STUBBS Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects

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WILLIAM STUBBS
Seventeen lectures on the study of medieval and modern history and kindred subjects
page 264



258 THE BALANCE OF POWER. to you to be more than enough about that, I shall venture to make some remarks on the influence of the ideas by which at the present day politics and politicians seem or profess to be guided. In that division of the subject I may seem to become somewhat political myself; if I do, I shall not ask your pardon. I have never been ashamed to express my convictions where they happened to differ from those of my friends with whom on most other subjects I should be willing to agree. I shall not, therefore, I think, rightly be thought rash or disputatious if I venture to express difference from those modern political schools with which I feel that I cannot sympathise at all. So now to the subject. Almost any student who has read the usual books, if he were asked to mark what was the foremost idea of the three centuries that intervene between the year 1500 and the year 1800, would reply that it was the idea of the balance of power. The balance of power, however it be defined, i.e. whatever the powers were between which it was necessary to maintain such equilibrium, that the weaker should not be crushed by the union of the stronger, is the principle which gives unity to the political plot of modern European history. Whether the balance is to be maintained against the preponderance of the house of Hapsburg, or the preponderance of France, or the preponderance of Catholic powers as opposed to Protestant ones ; this is the key to the plot. But it is not the existence of the key or the character of the plot, but the existence of the drama of modern European politics, that is the first feature of our sketch : the existence of the powers by whom the drama is played and between whom the balance is maintained. Medieval history may, it is true, be read as a drama, but it is not one in which the plot is obvious ; it is rather more a series of dramas which may be combined, like Greek trilogies, but have unities and plots


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