Civilisations die without trade

The last Viking settlements may have vanished after walruses moved to safer shores to avoid being hunted for their ivory, a new study suggests.

Norse communities founded by Erik the Red flourished in Greenland for 500 years but then disappeared suddenly in the late 15th century leaving towns and villages abandoned.

Now scientists at Cambridge University think they have solved the mystery. The Norse economy relied so heavily on the ivory trade that when supply and demand slumped they had no other way to make a living and were forced to leave.

Useful news from history, no? The importance of trade?

Well, yes?

Here’s a typical Dinesh D’Souza argument. In Death of a Nation – the far-right commentator, film-maker and recently pardoned ex-con’s fourth political documentary – he tries to make the case that Hitler was a lefty. That’s a tall order, and here’s the best D’Souza can muster: he says Adolf wasn’t a homophobe.

Dunno, I think the socialism part of Nazi might be a small clue.

A reading of Goetz Ali could be useful here.

These aren’t exclusive

China in Africa: win-win development, or a new colonialism?

It’s entirely possible for it to be both you know.

After all, British in India was, made India very much richer.

Oh yes, it did. GDP per capita didn’t rise much between Clive and Mountbatten, true, but it rose a bit. The number of per capitas tripled and more. That’s Malthusian growth, to be sure, but it is still economic growth.

Local churches for local people

Since the 16th century the Leigh family, Austen’s relatives, had owned Adlestrop Park, the great house which is thought to have inspired Sotherton Court, the estate in her novel Mansfield Park.

But the house has been restored and is now owned by the Collins family who are also generous donors to projects including the refurbishment of the church’s five bells.

Now the rector and churchwardens have asked a consistory court to let Dominic Collins install a hatchment, a coat of arms display, in the church in memory of his late wife.

But the idea was opposed by local historian and Austen expert Victoria Huxley, who said it was inappropriate to install a memorial to a family who were not the Leighs.

She wrote: “I was very surprised that someone with a relatively short link to the village (compared to the age of the church) should seek to place their coat of arms in the church, and I do not think that most people in the village have been alerted to this request,” adding: “I feel that only a family which has strong ties over several generations should have such a display.”

Moron. Such hatchments act – to use a modern terminology – as a blockchain recording who were the major landowners in the area. Absolutely every one of them was new at some time, marking the social climbing of some arriviste. Still become that historical record though.

Race in the UK

Even Winston Churchill, who historians have found believed in racial hierarchies and eugenics, escapes scrutiny beyond his war hero reputation.

As did just about everyone before, say, 1960?

Our classrooms are diverse and students want to learn what is most relevant to their lives. If they are to demand change and equality, they need to understand that the playing field isn’t level for everyone. They deserve a safe place to talk about why that isn’t the case and ask difficult questions – for example, about the meaning of structural racism. How has British history negatively affected countries around the world that the ancestors of many British citizens once called home?

That march through the institutions thing……

Instead, the curriculum supports an ideology that doesn’t acknowledge many of the flaws in UK history. In whitewashing the discrimination and bloodshed in our past, is it any such a wonder that parts of our society are racist, misogynistic and prejudiced? It’s not enough to discuss these issues in Black History Month in October and ignore the reality of racism that minorities have to endure all year round. Students need to be taught to critically analyse these events and empathise with people across cultures in a diverse but interconnected world.

Ah, critical studies.

How about teaching kids what happened and then adults the implications of it all?

Not quite how I would put it myself

On this day in AD 395: The Roman Empire is forever cloven in two – and the classical world dies

I’d perhaps argue that 1204 is the date, the Crusaders sack Byzantium. Other dates can also be chosen. But thinking that the Western Empire going down – or starting its fall – is the end of the classical world is to be more than a little euro-centric, no?

Idiot sodding stupidity

Stoll offers the ideal complement. He has set out to tell the story of how the people of a sprawling region of our country—one of its most physically captivating and ecologically bountiful—went from enjoying a modest but self-sufficient existence as small-scale agrarians for much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to a dreary dependency on the indulgence of coal barons or the alms of the government.

Stoll refuses to accept that there is something intrinsically lacking in Appalachians—people who, after all, managed to carve out a life on such challenging, mountainous terrain. Something was done to them, and he is going to figure out who did it. He links their fate to other threatened agrarian communities, from rice growers in the Philippines to English peasants at the time of the Enclosure Acts. “Whenever we see hunger and deprivation among rural people, we need to ask a simple question: What went on just before the crisis that might have caused it?” he writes. “Seeing the world without the past would be like visiting a city after a devastating hurricane and declaring that the people there have always lived in ruins.”

The missing history is above all a story about land and dispossession. For roughly a century, starting before the country’s founding, the settlers of central Appalachia—defined by Stoll as the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and most of West Virginia—managed a makeshift life as smallholders. The terms of that “holding” were murky, to say the least: property claims in the region were a tangled patchwork of grants awarded to French and Indian or Revolutionary War generals and other notables, which were commonly diced and sliced among speculators, and the de facto claims made by those actually inhabiting the land. In some cases, those settlers managed to get official deeds by the legal doctrine of “adverse possession”; in many others, they were simply allowed to keep working the land by distant landlords who had never laid eyes on it.

That modest but self-sufficient existence is what the people in Appalachia are returning to. It’s just that now we think of that modesty as being abject poverty.

Yer 18th century farmer up there might have been gaining $5 in modern money a day from his efforts. That’s less than food stamps these days.

If you don’t understand how fucking poor the past was you’re never going to get anything right, are you?

Strange capitalism

Land-use laws changed dramatically. The poor in England were no longer able to freely draw use values from public or wild areas. They became dependent on the market economy to obtain all of the necessities of life.

This dependency on the market put downward pressure on wages because it produced a massive reservoir of surplus labor.

Well, you’re going to have to show that wages did fall. Which I don’t think you can……

This doesn’t sound right really, does it?

As a historical theologian, I researched the role that pious Christians played in developing and producing alcohol. What I discovered was an astonishing history.
Religious orders and wine-making
Wine was invented 6,000 years before the birth of Christ, but it was monks who largely preserved viniculture in Europe. Religious orders such as the Benedictines and Jesuits became expert winemakers. They stopped only because their lands were confiscated in the 18th and 19th centuries by anti-Catholic governments such as the French Revolution’s Constituent Assembly and Germany’s Second Reich.

Deeply, deeply, uncertain that the Jesuits were ever major land holders (in Europe) or vintners.

Yet this is from an academic.

Michael Foley, Associate Professor of Patristics, Baylor University


Well, turns out Ian Smith was right then

In the early 1980s I interviewed the undoubtedly racist Ian Smith, who led Rhodesia with white minority rule from 1965 to its reincarnation as Zimbabwe in 1979. How would Mugabe do, as leader, I asked him? “He will be there for at least 30 years, murder or imprison all of his opponents and bankrupt the country”, was the terse reply. Not a terribly bad call, really.

Smith’s solution wouldn’t have worked either but still…..

Someone with good Google Fu needed

Rowntree and his assistants went out on to the streets of York in 1897 to investigate. Armed with notebooks, they criss-crossed the city, frequently passing the place where Deliveroo couriers would congregate more than a century later. They visited more than 45,000 people in the following two years, asking how much they earned, what they paid in rent, what food they bought, and all manner of other questions about their lives. Rowntree made sure to compile information on wages from local employers and to consult the latest medical research on the number of calories men, women and children needed to consume every day.

What were the calorie numbers Rowntree used?

Be rather interesting to compare that with average diets today, no?

Children’s deaths in Lanarkshire

The bodies of hundreds of children are believed to be buried in a mass grave in Lanarkshire, southern Scotland, according to an investigation by BBC News.
The children were all residents of a care home run by Catholic nuns.
At least 400 children are thought to be buried in a section of St Mary’s Cemetery in Lanark.

Before the outrage:

It opened in 1864 and provided care for orphans or children from broken homes. It closed in 1981, having looked after 11,600 children.

The death records indicate that most of the children died of natural causes, from diseases common at the time such as TB, pneumonia and pleurisy.
Analysis of the records show that a third of those who died were aged five or under. Very few of those who died, 24 in total, were aged over 15, and most of the deaths occurred between 1870 and 1930.

Given the prevalence of child death from those diseases at that time that’s not actually a bad outcome. Well, obviously, dead children is a bad outcome but comparatively…..

Don’t think so love, don’t think so

Wilberforce, unquestionably a force for good, helped end, in 1807, Britain’s official involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. But he was not alone. The enormous contribution of black people in Britain at the time – especially activists and writers who were slaves themselves – has no equivalent site of glory, in London or anywhere in the country.

There were no slaves in Britain at the time. None, not a one.

The Jamaican chippie called Chalky

A late Roman history claims that Clodius Albinus, the 2nd-century Roman governor of Britain and self-proclaimed emperor of Rome, was named Albinus on account of his extraordinary whiteness at birth (From Carlisle to Cairo: Romans could be from anywhere, 8 August). But it should be pointed out that the Romans could be a bit Jim Davidson when it came to naming prominent black people. When Martial addressed a famous prostitute named Chione (“snowy”) in epigram 3.34, he explicitly described her as black (“nigra”).

Not exactly a new idea then.

Yes, idiot

We’re entering a period of intense wartime memorialisation. As the salvation of the British and French from certain death by sheer pluckiness comes alive again in Christopher Nolan’s – by the way, brilliant – film, the centenary of Passchendaele fills the TV schedules with grainy death and plangent trumpets. Farage and his ilk have to own these moments, since their narrative takes so much animation from the atmosphere these wars create: hazily remembered high drama in which British phlegm won the day, and sly foreigners were put in their place. I understand instinctively why Farage would like it if young people spent a lot more time thinking about our victory in the second world war. Yet I wonder what, specifically, he wants the young to understand about Dunkirk, and the more I wonder, the more I think that maybe he didn’t actually watch it.

Nigel runs battlefield tours, as done for years. As with his fishing (where he even writes fishing columns) it’s one of his private interests. He’s also rather good at it.

Ah, yes, amazing how often this has been discovered

A trove of Nazi treasure valued at over £500million has been pinpointed in a Bavarian wood.
But the hoard cannot be excavated because the treasure hunter who has found it has fallen out with the landowner — whose permission he needs to extract it.
Hans Glueck, 76, who has quested after the hoard of gold, diamonds, artworks and rare postage stamps for two decades says the owner of the land wants the treasure for himself.
But without the map and coordinates he has obtained down the years ‘he is as blind as a mole,’ said the fortune-seeker.

I know of two instances here in Czech of the Nazi gold train being found.

Perhaps “claimed” to be found is more accurate because no one ever does produce the gold.

Oysters ain’t exotic food

Early Cornish kings feasted on a diet of oysters, roast pork and fine wine, eating and drinking from bowls imported from Turkey and glass goblets from Spain, a new dig at Tintagel Castle has suggested.

The connection with tin trading is well known and was there a couple of millennia before the site of this dig. But really, oysters back then were not exotic nor rich food. With a low population and thus pretty much entirely clean water (and the amount of shit running free would just make filter feeders grow faster anyway) oysters would be damn near everywhere just for the price of picking them up. They were poor man’s food.

As was salmon, truth be told, often enough at least.