Britain is not in decline (Image: getty)
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He argues the enduring belief that the nation's best days are in the past is damaging and wrong but has been around for centuries.
The question that now faces post-Brexit Britain, he says, is whether we want to be a "play a major world role" or become a "greater Sweden".
In a upcoming paper for the Centre for Brexit Policy, he writes: "The idea of decline is based on the belief that Britain was once a super-power, and no longer is. But it never was a super-power: it has always been, as now, a medium-sized state punching well above its weight."
Professor Tombs argues that the UK "remains what it has been for the last three centuries: one of the world's half-dozen or so most powerful states".
He writes that the idea of a Britain in decline "reached a paroxysm during the 1950s and 1960s" and that this "became the orthodox view of Britain's place in the world, shared by politicians, diplomats and commentators".
This led many to believe that joining the EEC was "the only way of rescuing Britain from economic decline".
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The eurosceptic historian adds: "The EEC was assumed by some process of osmosis to be able to provide a remedy: it was 'the lifeboat' and Britain 'the sinking Titanic'. In fact, Europe in the 1950s and 1960s was experiencing a one-off period of rapid growth [due] principally to agricultural modernisation and post-war recovery.
"By a double irony, Britain joined the EEC just as its post-war boom was ending, and when Commonwealth growth was accelerating."
Prof Tombs argues that the loss of empire did not mean that Britain suffered a major decline in power.
He writes: "Possession of a large empire did not make Britain a superpower, any more than it did Portugal or Holland, or even France. But the illusion that Britain was once a superpower but no longer is one has terribly distorted our perceptions of what we were and what we are now."
Identifying key strengths that have allowed Britain to enjoy outsize influence, he points to the country's relative political stability, our capacity to mobilise financial resources, our ability to build alliances, and our talent for exercising cultural influence through "soft power" – such as spreading sports including football around the world and winning the "international acceptance of Shakespeare as a genius".
The professor said: "The outside world has been influenced by Britain since the 1720s, and this shows little sign of diminishing."
Challenging his readers to change how they think of this country, he writes: "How different would our view of the world and of our role in it be if we thought of ourselves as a new and rising force, rather than a nation in decline? Whether post-Brexit Britain will in fact turn out to be a rising or a declining force is not determined by history or geography: it is essentially in our own hands."
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Forget the 1950s - Britain's best days lie ahead, claims top professor have 786 words, post on www.express.co.uk at January 1, 2022. This is cached page on Europe Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.