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Two trees and a bird.

May 28, 2016

What creates a nation? What does a country need in order to claim success? What commodities or goods are required to raise a state from its knees to its feet, to turn the conquered to the conqueror? Clearly the answer is time and people – but this would be stating the obvious, and the obvious is sometimes dull and mostly always boring. I would suggest that in the case of Britain, there are three things that helped make it great. Without these three essential ingredients, Britain would just be Britain, a small rock in the North Atlantic, languishing beneath grey skies and a temperate climate. These three things are organic, two trees and one bird.

The Oak tree was essential in our modernity and striving. The timber from the mighty trees built our ships, ships that were used in exploration, trade and war. Without exploration there could be no expansion, without war there could be no territory, and without trade there could be no wealth. Without the Oak, there could be no fast and strong ships.

The Yew tree, whilst an essential ingredient in folklore, was an crucial part of the medieval arms race. The Yew’s strong and springy limbs were used to make the English long bow. Without this glorious weapon of war we would have lost the 100 years war against France, and our history books would sing a very different tune.

The goose. This humble bird did two things. Apart from being tasty and full of rich fat, it’s tail feathers gave us our fletchings for our arrows and our quills for our ink. Conquest is not just military, it is artistic and intellectual too. Anglicising the world through poetry and prose was as essential part of empire. We gave the world some of its finest poetry and plays – works written with quills, given by geese.

So, without the Oak, Yew and goose, the story of the British isles would be very different.

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From → History, Sociology

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