Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Quote of the day

From Harry Lime, played by Orson Welles in the 1948 classic "The Third Man",
"In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
Economic history in one paragraph.


Anonymous said...

Well the cuckoo clock was actually invented by those warmongering Germans... but then Harry Lime was never one to let the facts get in the way of how he liked to do things.

Paul K said...

Harry is also wrong about the Swiss being peaceful. The Swiss dominated the Renaissance battlefield and formed the core of the Borgias' armies. Rodrigo Borgias (later Pope Alexander VI) used them in the Papal army starting the tradition that led to the founding of the Pontifical Swiss Guard in 1506. His son Cesare used thousands of Swiss mercenaries. Charles VIII had 8,000 Swiss in his army when he invaded Italy in 1494. 13,000 Swiss invaded Italy and defeated the Milanese at the seige of Novara in 1513. Machiavelli wrote extensively about the Swiss in "The Prince."

The success of the Swiss armies was the result of a combination of phenominal battlefield discipline, willingness to fight to the last man, and the refusal to take prisoners.

Maybe the moral of the story is, if you want people to respect your neutrality, be really, really good at war.