In the last chapter of Volume 1 of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, General Observations On The Fall Of The Roman Empire In The West, which we will discuss next Wednesday (together with the preceding Chapter 38: Barbarian Rule), Gibbon looks at the Europe of his day and gives us an optimistic picture typical of the period of Enlightenment.
Volume 1 was published first in 1776. Gibbon died a very sick man in 1794 at the age of 56 . He lived in Lausanne until 1793 and "shared the common abhorrence" of the French Revolution. Had he lived longer, he would have experienced the final excesses of the revolution and the rise of Napoleon from close by. Would he have reconsidered his words
The reign of independent barbarism is now contracted to a narrow span; and the remnant of Calmucks or Uzbecks, whose forces may be almost numbered, cannot seriously excite the apprehensions of the great republic of Europe (6). Yet this apparent security should not tempt us to forget that new enemies and unknown dangers may possibly arise from some obscure people, scarcely visible in the map of the world.
and looked closer to home?