top of page

2022-07-18 History

I've been having some intermittent internet drop outs due to the tremendous amount of rain we've been having all month. It's hot out there and even when it's not raining the air is heavy and wet. Now that I am a gentleman farmer I don't have to work in any weather so I don't but instead of playing guitar and learning Spanish, both are priorities, I have been getting started on Murder in the Airplane Factory and watching too much TV.


I generally watch too much bubble gum TV but I am also a WWII, Korea and Vietnam war addict. I've watched everything Hulu, Netflix and Amazon have in this genre and am tempted to start buying stuff but won't. It's nice to come across a documentary that has film clips I haven't seen before. I have also found some tv series from the Russian point of view and some Russian TV series about fighter pilots and ground soldiers on the Russian side. This period is "our history" and in 200 or 300 years people will be rewriting our history in broad terms that the average student can absorb. It is like us learning about European history of from 1066 to the 1800's. We have learned what scholars and, skeptically, governments want us to know about consolidation of modern empires, exploration of the new world, the war of Independence, critical race theory, the slavery period, Darwinism and so on. What will high school kids in 2320-2420 be required to learn about the 20th and 21st centuries? If history is any measure they will be learning what the governments and churches of the "victors" want them to learn.


But I am also very interested in empires and kingdoms. I am very interested in the whole concept of how some "wet tart in a lake" can touch a sword on someone and he becomes my king? I also have very deep convictions about why and how empires rise, exist and fall. Begging the question, "Are we entrenched in the downfall period of the "American Empire" and if so who rises? The Chinese? The Russians?" They seem to be the only viable candidates at the moment. I am not talking about Abortion Rights or The ERA amendment. I am asking, "Are we so distracted as a people, so sated with the internet, Starbucks, the Kardashians and tv, ignoring the incredible threat(?) that the ever expanding Chinese empire represents? How Dangerous Russia is right now? One thing for certain. As empires fall lots of civilians die. Instead of the 1,000s that died in middle ages wars, the 20 million or so that died in WWII, we now have the capability to wipe out billions in a major shift in empires. Is it inevitable?


For a while I watched a lot of series based on the Romans. Some comedy, some satirical and some semi-factual. I have long wanted to really know why and how the Christian church became so co-mingled with society and political events. I've also watched several of the "Church and Pope" genres describing early church activities. I was interested enough to download and read/scan several "scholarly" texts describing the history of the Catholic, Church of England and Episcopalian churches. The creation of the CoE and Episcopalian churches having deep "political" motives, arguably driven by politics, power and greed, nevertheless put the Papal church under pressure causing what I call disturbances in the evolution of the human condition. Of course much earlier than modern Christianity we know Judaism, Islam and Buddhism were well entrenched as humanity closed in on being able to record our oral and written "known" history.


I think we teach history all wrong and have thought so since I crammed US History into a summer school course in my Junior year of high school I spent 4 or 6 weeks, I can remember, cramming names and dates in my head so I could pass a test and move on to the next requirement for graduating. Clearly, as we accumulate more history, we have to drop some parts and condense so that the student can complete the requisite test taking in the fixed and limited time available.


I think that's wrong. History is a history of us. It should be more of a narrative of big events and it is extremely fascinating - way cooler than Narnia. It is about the human condition and why we do what we do. To understand the war of independence it is much richer to understand in teh context of why Marco Polo, Columbus Pilgrims and even the Vikings travelled around the world with intentions to stay and never go back, who paid for it and how that influenced the outcomes for the modern countries we know today.


It was only recently I was even aware that the Vikings spent hindreds of years sailing around the east coast of England attacking Ireland, Spain and eventually making raids on Italy than I ever suspected! I always had the impressions the Vikings toodled over to East England and made a bunch of shit show for a while basically stealing some silver and gold while wiping out vulnerable churches, raping a bunch of women and drinking lots of ale. That makes for fun lore, tv nd cartoons but the historical truth is dark, scary and tragic for the average middle and lower class people's. A raid on England did a lot of the Viking stuff, but they also sent a lot of Christian's home to become slaves - The history of one people enslaving other people is threaded throughout all of time.


The reason I didn't know more about this is because of the compressed nature of how I learned history. "OK. We gotta talk about Vikings for a but but basically they lost, England is England so it really doesn't matter." Well it does matter because the Vikings occupied great areas of Ireland, some areas of Scotland and huge part (really all of for a while) of England (before it was England) for like 400 years. They didn't just all get on their boats and go home - they are completely intermingled in their blood lines.


OK so ramble, ramble ramble. I am an American so in narrow-ish strokes I trace my ancestry on one side back through the Belgian area of Europe and on the other side back through Scotland and my geographical country population traces it's origin back through England so I am curious about what is England, where did it come from and why is it a wet bint can make a king?


I don't portend to be a history scholar but I can read and I can think and form judgements that work for me. To understand England I need to understand a little about Rome and early empires, a lot more about the motives for Christianity and in weaving archeological facts with written words one can develop a tapestry and draw their own conclusions. One must temper these findings with who "wrote" the historical texts and how much of of them are influenced by who wrote them - i.e. the winner always gets to write history from the winners perspective.


Two periods worth looking at first, just because that's my current jam, are England from about 850-890 and then England around 1200. This is only 300 years of history and a lot happened including a 20 year period where a Viking reigned over all of England, Norway and Denmark. But for a few twists of history, we all might be Vikings speaking Swedish. It is a dichotomy that sometimes I will say, "things change fast" and then realize that things didn't change fast.


If you google "Viking map of England" you will get a lot of different images. What's going on here? Well the Vikings started raiding and occupying in the 3 and 400s. The period I am interested in at the moment is about 850-1200 - That's "only" 350 years of a 900 year period when the Vikings were stomping around! Think about that time frame in context of the United States being about 250 years old. Our map has changed quite a bit since 1776 yet life in 1776 is pretty unrelatable to us from a practical standpoint. With pretty good recorded history we can't even agree on our declaration of independence and what the constitution says. How are we to understand life from 300-1200?


As Monty Python would say, "A Quick Intermission" to talk about why I started this and what I am reading to form my opinions. 1. It's raining and the internet has been intermittent. 2. I recently watched a series called, "The Last Kingdom." A fictionalized Story of King Alfred of Wessex covering up to the early 900s. "Vikings" and "Vikings:Valhalla" especially, fast forwarded a couple hundred years to highlight the period of Viking expulsion (a misnomer more accurately called unification of England), guys like Leif Erikson and the "creation" of modern unified England. 3. With the internet being intermittent I was spurred on to further read, Cambridge Medieval History Vol. 1-5 (4,000 pages with no pictures - LOL), Medieval Europe 395-1270 and History of the Middle Ages. While these texts cover all of Europe I am a good scan reader, largely skipping Franko and French history and slowing down on the thick chapters about Vikings and England.


Here is a map of the "big" Viking invasions from around 865-878, only a13 year period. Think about how long it takes to change the world at this time. Armies are basically on foot with some horseback, they have to walk everywhere, feed their army when they get there, survive winters and in between siege and capture forts and castles with axes, swords and spears. Where do these soldiers come from? Who is paying for this? What were my ancestors doing at this time? How did my line survive? Who were the peoples of Wessex, Mercia, Northumberland and East Anglia? Who were Franks, Celts, Saxons, Angles and so on and why are they here?



Here is a map of what things looked like in 878. King Alfred is recognized as the first King to make real inroads in uniting England into what England eventually becomes but his death around 899 allowed for 300 more years of turmoil before what I consider the modern English Kingdom in 1066. That's a story for later, but the 300 years of turmoil were a product of succession, invasion, alliances formed, alliances broken, intrigues and betrayals. It is also about kings and leaders. In each generation one either finds a strong unifying leader, or weaker leaders ripe for invasion and extinction. Alongside nationality/race, Viking vs. Saxon and so on, there is a church creating and converting people to Christianity as fast as they can. For now let's give Alfred his due as it is pretty clear from this map of his time what England was gonna look like. It represents, in my opinion the end of "paganism" whatever that is, we'll discuss later as Guthrum (a Viking) was a Christian. In fact there were purges of pagans throughout the latter parts of the 8th and well into the 9th century both in England and in Sweden, Denmark and Norway by both Saxons and Danes. Good bye Odin, Mars and the Norse Gods and hello Jesus!




Here's a map of King Canute's time. 1016-1035. A relatively peaceful and unified time. Canute (or Cnut) came to power when King Edward and he agreed on a divided England but subsequently Edward died and Canute basically took it all. Succession is always a very dangerous time. Of course Canute dies and in quick succession his son Harthacnut who died with no heir takes over. In the vacuum of his death, his half brother Edward the Confessor takes over making England again independent from the Scandinavian countries. Edward died without a successor in 1066 (familiar date?) and Edward's brother-in-law, King Harold takes the crown, "Hey! Who made you king of me?" and we are looking at some bad shit about to happen. Seems all these kings in the first 1000 years trace their blood back to one god or another coming out of the Dark Ages - each God choosing them individually to lead "their" peoples - To be real between like 300 and 800 there was a king about every 100 miles or so - Alfred and some of his predecessors kinda cleaned all that shit up by 900 - again a glib throwaway for like 900 years of history - LOL.. Anyway by 900 as long as that holy blood is passed down through you, you could have a claim at being king but you better have an army to back it up.


So William the Conqueror, a Duke in Normandy decides that he wants to be king, invades England in the battle Hastings in 1066 kicks ass and takes the crown.





Here is a map depicting England between like 1100-1200. I glibly say this is the extent of my interest because until the Pilgrims take off for the new lands in 1620-ish nothing happened except a few things like the Magna Carta, the Hundred Year's War and encompassing War of the Roses, the plague and the Crusades. To me that's all interesting and important but until 1620 the maps of France, England and Spain remain pretty much unchanged until we open the new world. People just kept dressing in fancier clothes and kept developing better and better weapons. Kingdoms were large enough to not have any real threat of collapse, or were they? The British Empire, where a kingdom occupies and suppresses an indigenous population, as empires had done since the Romans, basically failed in WWII, for largely the same reasons as the preceding empires. This is why it is important to understand what kind of empire the US is, what is happening, what will bring it down (if it is not failed already) and is there anything we can do to stop it.


I read a very deep quote last night. I can't recall it verbatim but basically, "The act of living is real, visceral and direct. The act of thought and debate is endless, hugely time confusing, worrisome and distracting."


We share the same needs as the serfs of 300BC, 500AD and 1800 AD. We need to eat, sleep, raise a family and hope to be productive. Things that happen "literally" like covid, economic downturns, inflation and joblessness impact 90% of us immediately and directly. That's a big reason in my opinion that it is hard to get a dialog about climate change going. Or why I don't care about oil running out as much as some. Or why starvation in Africa is not on top of my priority list. I am too busy surviving in my monkeysphere to worry about yours or the bigger picture. Sure, I should be worried about running out of oil in 2050 but the reality is that I'm gonna be dead. Sure the new coast of Florida might intersect Orlando and we'll lose Miami and everything up to about Tampa. Hey, my house is in Live Oak - I'm gonna die before I have to move - LOL...


Another thing I had an impression of was the Celts and Saxons crossing the English Channel and subsequent invaders having as great a difficulty as Hitler would have had if he tried it. I know it's not archeologically correct but the English channel especially the Thames were a little different 2,000 years ago and provided good inroads inland to London and Wessex. Populations were small and far between, there were no airplanes or artillery and one could sail 20 ships of 100 men, sail up to the back door of London, jump out and make camp for a whole winter before anyone had to swing an axe in response to the counter attack. It's comical that the safest place to be is in a fort or castle. There are three options, storm the castle and get wiped out, siege the castle and starve them out which takes too long, or taunt the egotistical king outta the castle and have a fair fight. It's comical time and time again the king in Winchester rushes out to battle and gets wiped out for glory of God, King and Wessex. It's also contextual to understanding why if you take Wessex, or York or any of the other big fortifications, you basically rule Wessex, Northumbria or whatever you are fighting over.


But again I digress, but I I am digressing here is a quick map to answer the questions of who were the Saxons Franks and Celts and how did they get there.




And for the inevitable question of who were they we close the loop back to the Romans. Here is what the Roman empire looked like around 200AD. The Romans had a pretty good run at world dominance, or at least the world that was known to them - LOL... Thank God we figured out the world is round. If it was flat this could have gone on endlessly like game maps in a video game. At least today we've defined all the territory available to contest - LOL...




It is the human condition of course that as our needs are safely met, and in middle class western society it largely is, that we have time to look outward at other societies but also look inward at how our society is being run and do we agree with how things are?


I'll explain in a future musing but as I read the tea leaves, empires fail because the get too big to govern. They possess and create less than they consume so they must expand, like a universe, until they start collapsing and then disappear into a black hole.


I started to turn into Nostradamus making predictions of what the world might look like in 300 years but I started to generate more questions than answers for myself and realized that aside from nationality, we must really understand more about how religion is going to play into things.


So I will close out here, take some lunch feed some dogs and reflect some. If you read this far congratulations. I am hoping it reads enjoyably and not arrogantly or didactically. We'll come back and dig around the Church V State thing some more as there is some stuff I wanna yeall at the internet about and get off my chest.








13 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All

2022-07-27 History Part III

Empire building allows the Emperor to siphon off resources while enjoying cheap labor or slavery. The Romans primarily conquered and occupied. There was little intermixing with the indigenous peoples.

2022-07-22 History Part II

I think a good jumping off point is around 1,000AD. I call this modern history. The Egyptians left us with some good stories and piles of rocks, the Greeks left us some pretty good science adn archit

2 Comments


Dan Deutsch
Dan Deutsch
Jul 19, 2022

I knew I would capture the nerd in you - LOL. I've always had the interest but never really verbalized anything. I have been too busy with career and so on to dig into this more deeply - remember the the quote about surviving being literal?


You are a game nut and I am a product of the screen generation. Neither genre gives an accurate history but but are engaging and entertaining and digestible. However I watch a series and then dive into the books to find out who the real people were and what the details are. I do this with docos as well.


England and Russia collapsing - England was what I call a traditional empire. They occupied…


Like

Uh-oh, now you’ve done it – ancient and medieval history with a focus on western Europe is my specialty topic ! Game on !


GEEK ALERT – WALL OF TEXT TO FOLLOW !


If anyone isn’t interested then please look away now, I’m going to obsess a bit. Actually, a lot !


First off, I agree totally about your view of history basically being written by the victors, and more importantly by the powers that be of the day. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be accurate histories available of say the MeToo movement, I Can’t Breathe or trans rights, it’s just the popular press (or whatever the hell it is in 2300 is) will focus instead on the Kardashians…


Like
bottom of page