When I turned up at university to study history in the early 1980s I was in need of inspiration. Reviewing the optional courses, I despaired of yet again examining the causes of the First World War or nineteenth century parliamentary reform. Important as these were, I felt I had studied nothing else at school – probably because it seemed a good number of my teachers were old enough at least to have served in the trenches if not to have agitated for political reform in the 1830s. So imagine my enthusiasm when I spotted a new course entitled: “South Africa: apartheid and the roots of segregation”. I signed up with alacrity. [Read more…]
As I write this in Dubai, it seems that Hosni Mubarak’s days as President of Egypt are numbered. It reminds us of the transitory nature of power – although in Mubarak’s case the transit took some thirty years – and he hasn’t gone yet. But regimes that one day can seem to be anchor points on the political landscape, around which governments shape foreign policy and businesses structure their approach to key markets, can the next day be in a state of acute flux.
We seem surprised by sudden change. World leaders caught off guard respond with fancy political footwork and carefully coded statements as they rapidly recalibrate alliances. Markets get the jitters. [Read more…]