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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Robin Fleming, 'Britain After Rome; The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070'

Part one of a great book. 366 pages, 58 pages of source notes.

by StFerdIII

This is truly a brilliant book on English history post the Roman until the Norman by the English professor now teaching at Harvard. Ms Fleming's book again dispels the lie of a 'dark age'. A different age or ages certainly, but not dark, not stupid, not bent-over and ones full of energy, innovation, and dynamism throughout the political-social-economy. What is unique about her approach is that Ms. Fleming takes the lives of average people based on extant records, archaeology, bone analysis, and a lot of discussion about death, burials, barrows, and cemeteries, and paints a most vivid portrait of what life entailed for the average person once the Romans left Britain in 410 AD, and just after the Normans conquered it in 1066. Anyone interested in European medieval history should read this book. It is about England, but much of its content and form of analysis could be applied elsewhere.

As Ms. Fleming states, England in the period 400 AD to 1070 AD was much wealthier, more militarized, disparate and more innovative than we can imagine. The entire structure of the British political and economic systems which would allow the British to dominate as the world's hegemonic power, was laid during these 7 centuries. By the time of the Norman invasion Britain was the richest, most centralized, most enterprising state in Europe, and one with the most advance legal and political system, as well as the greatest base of welfare support and social relief. It was not a primitive society. If you are William of Normandy you don't invade a land of paupers.

The basis for British medieval riches was built upon the Roman model. This Roman influence was quite decisive on British history:

...the volume of trade to Britain in the second century and the distances over which copious amounts of modestly valued goods travelled to get there are breathtaking; indeed, levels of trade were greater then than at any other time during the next 1,500 years.”

What Britain did have, however, was an exceptionally large army; and it is clear that the bulk of the province's trade was fuelled by enormous amounts of revenue spent by imperial administrators on the British garrison and by the systems of transport used to supply it.”

The Romans brought the Britons into the orbit of world trade. They also decisively changed their culture and political economy. Rome urbanized and civilized Brittania. Britons adopted to Roman mores and culture and suffused it with their own dynamism. British society was full of energy and change in 400 AD. We know this is true because during the interminable Roman civil wars which raged from about 200 AD until the empire's mild collapse 270 odd years later, Britain was able to substitute a new economy on top of the decayed remnants of the old:

By the year 300, however, construction, rebuilding and redecoration projects were going on across lowland Britain. At the same time, large-scale, Romano-British production of well-made tableware and more utilitarian coarse wares was now in full gear. Thus, within a couple of generations local producers were able to fill the gap left by the waning of the old economy, and prosperity returned to Britain.”

The Romans never had more than 40.000 men in Britain or about 2.5 % of the total population circa the 2nd century. So whilst important, and certainly an engine to greater pan-European trade, one should not over-emphasize just the Roman army with British economic vitality. But it did help. When the Romans left there was a political-economic gap, and one that was quickly filled by local replacements.

Taken together, the evidence from late Roman Britain paints a picture of flourishing provincial production of low-value goods for a large and essentially British market. Such an economy was predicated on a crowd of humble people willing and able to spend a few bronze coins for goods they had not made themselves. These changes betray not only profound economic shifts, but crucial cultural ones.”

The division of labour, the focus of skills, the attention to quality, and the mix of mass and customized production mark out late Roman Britain as a place of economic vigour. The market was somewhat regulated – all Roman markets were. Prices were inspected, goods quality assessed, and scams punished. But the basic core of supply and demand worked very well in Roman Britain. The standard of living must have risen dramatically as the building of infrastructure would attest. Baths, aqueducts, forums and heated buildings were built all over England in larger, well planned towns. Running water, sanitation, street clean up and market hygiene were regulated. All of these developments presage the Victorian creations of the same, by some 1300 years.

When the Romans departed in 410, much of this decayed. The towns became empty and many once vibrant cities contained markedly fewer people, and the infrastructure started to collapse. The political-economy moved from one of urbanity to one of rural development. The great European trading links were broken and in some cases disappeared. The 5th century was one of consolidation one could say, and transformation. Roman Britain had disappeared and in its place a domestic culture had to be formed.

As Britain migrated from the urban Roman world to a more bucolic economy, dynamism returned. Ms. Fleming states:

Besides general manufacturing, some small towns were closely tied to extractive industries: Charterhouse grew up around the lead and silver mining of the Mendips, Middlewich prospered from salt mining, and Chichester grew rich from iron extracted from the western Weald. These communities were also intimately involved in agriculture and food produciton.”

Good times also came from agriculture, which was undergoing a quiet revolution of its own....A whole array of changes evident in rural Britain suggests a systemic restructuring of rural life.”

The revolution in agriculture was a slow moving one dating from 400 AD and lasting until the modern age. When the Romans left no mills existed in England. By 500 AD a few hundred were in operation along with new techniques in ploughing, better grade iron ploughs, horse and ox collars, plant rotation, and more fecund fertility and irrigation systems. Labor was better employed. Capital flowed in. Surpluses were produced. Famine for the most part ceased and people became better fed, heavier, stronger and lived longer. Life was still hard of course, and many diets poor. Early death was common. Bone diseases endemic. In around 500 AD;

...death again took many, both men and women, in their early twenties and thirties. Indeed, about half of all those who reached the age of 5 died between the ages of 20 and 45. still, there were a few old people in Dorchester, some well into their eighties when they died....low-grade malnutrition, not from starvation, but rather from a flawed diet...Children grew slowly (the growth of young children lagged two years behind those of comparable age today), and puberty came late...”

We have all heard the nonsense that in times past children grew up faster than today. The reverse is of course true. Better diets, dairy foods, higher protein meats, more variety in vegetables and fruit, and an easier life leads children to develop far more quickly today than in 500 or 1500 AD. But even as Britain developed on the ruins of Roman culture, life would still have been a struggle for most.

As well invasions and migrations occurred during this early medieval period. The Germanic 'invasions' which were really a trickle of people from 400 to 600 AD commenced in earnest when the Romans left Britain. You don't migrate from a poor place to a poorer place. Migrations always occur from an undeveloped area to a richer domain. They also cause dislocations and conflict. Britain was no different. But as Ms. Fleming relates by about 600 AD the island was again prospering, with a cultural mix of native Briton, Roman and German-Saxon, creating a unique milieu. War and civil conflict between the 'Saxons' and the British was still somewhat endemic by 600 AD. But even so the country was by far the wealthiest in Europe. Living standards were again high, citizens of its various kingdoms enjoyed life-styles that would be the envy of their ancestors, and writing, art, and political-social innovation was rife. Objects of trade from around the world have been discovered in British burial sites from circa 600 AD. It appears that this blended Germanic-Briton-Romano society was coalescing around a Saxon-British culture and ideal and one that was unique in European history.

More to come from Fleming's great book.


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