The Idiots Who Make History

Until recently I scoffed at the idea of history being shaped by ‘great men’. Such a notion seems obviously ahistorical to me, abstracting from the messy reality of how change occurs and imputing the complex array of causal powers involved to a small group of unusually prominent individuals. But since the referendum I find myself coming back to it again and again. As far as I can see, two individuals – Boris Johnson and David Cameron – have conspired through their conflicting ambition to bring about a cataclysmic change that neither of them ultimately wanted. There were certainly organised groups supporting either of the two possibilities in the referendum. Nonetheless, what ultimately made it possible were two individuals. Or rather their stupidity. Perhaps individuals are more important to political change than I thought.

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