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There are no thousand-year empires

And a collapse or fall down as Felipe Fernandez-Armesto described can come very swiftly, especially in this modern day

Editor, The Times:

I'm re-reading Felipe Fernandez-Armesto's "Millennium: A History of Our Past Thousand Years."

Fernandez-Armesto is a member of the modern history faculty at Oxford University. Previously he has written on various subjects including the Spanish Armada. He also supplied some of the narrative for that excellent three-part series of the same name - a series that is virtually unavailable now.

"Millennium" remains Fernandez-Armesto's masterwork - a delightful, eclectic collection of histories about empires that have come and gone over these last thousand years. His long reach encompasses such African kingdoms as the original Zimbabwe plus other powers in both pre-Columbus North and South America that, had history taken a different twist, would have become major players on the world's scene. (One has to remember that Egypt associated with the pyramids was a major player in the Middle East until overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks - Egypt's armies were the first to inflict a major defeat on the hitherto invincible Mongol 'hordes'.)

In the summing up, Fernandez-Armesto's message is this, no matter how powerful a nation is at present, this will come to an end some time in the future. There are no thousand-year empires (or reichs for that matter).

"Millennium" was published in 1995. At that time the United States was the world's mightiest power; Europe was in great shape! The Berlin Wall had fallen; a 'new Jerusalem' of free market capitalism was to take all of us to new heights. Just hang on and enjoy it!

Fast forward to 2011. The U.S. is effectively bankrupt. There is talk of default and the citizens of that once great power are hopelessly divided.

Even the most powerful nations in Europe, namely Germany and France, are struggling. The weaker ones, Greece, Italy, Ireland are "basket cases." Worse than that, many seem to think that a return to a vicious 1900s style of capitalism is the answer to all our financial woes.

There has been much crowing about Canada's financial performance. However, as one Mexican president put it, "We are too far from God and too close to the United States."

And a collapse or fall down as Felipe Fernandez-Armesto described can come very swiftly, especially in this modern day.

Dennis Peacock

Clearwater, BC