This podcast from two left leaning Colonial Williamsburg analysts, “What if the British had won?” shows us that you have great influence, even when you work in very small ways. This is a lesson on why each of us should continue to work for freedom every single day!
Paul: Yes, and I think historians who have in the past sort of held alternate history or as they prefer to call it, “counterfactuals,” somewhat in disdain are coming to appreciate more the role of contingency: how little things can change the world. Robert Sobel’s novel, which I think I mentioned, is called “For Want of a Nail,” and it turns, it has Gates hesitating at Saratoga and British reinforcements arriving.
But even the title of that novel makes clear how little, the point is how small things can change the world in big ways. The title refers to, “For Want of a Nail” refers to Richard III’s unhorsing, which this is the same scene where Shakespeare has Richard say, “My kingdom for a horse.” And the phrase for “For Want of a Nail” comes from a 17th century poem that’s generally attributed, we’re not sure, but George Herbert and it goes:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
[For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost].
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
And you can look at this two ways. You can say perhaps this means we can’t predict how our actions will change the world so why bother, but I hope that we have the opposite response, that it inspires us to do what we can as citizens because you never know what small action you take can lead to big changes.
In other words, never give up or lose heart, for you play an important and influential part in the fight for freedom!