18 November 2011

History: What inspired you initially?

I was musing about several things recently, and wondered what my inspirations were regarding history.

It transpired that both Michael Wood's unreleased "In Search of the Dark Ages" 1979-81 BBC documentary series, ie. Offa; Alfred; Athelstan (and five other subjects) and also ITV's 1983-6 drama "Robin of Sherwood" (starring Ray Winstone and Clive Mantle) struck the nail on the head to inspire me!

But why especially, despite me liking history at school anyway? Well, aside from sheer charisma, enthusiasm and stirring graphics & theme music in the former, and gritty re-enactions and warm English humour in genuine woodlands and lavishly re-created sets as the latter, these brilliant shows grabbed me by the short and curlies and 'dragged me in' to the wonderful world of History!

In an age before the all-consuming internet and mass media when even the now-defunct and fiddly VHS was in it's infancy, these shows were surely even back then a revelation? Maybe it was simply that they were just very very good! Perhaps near-perfect?

26 May 2011

Bloody Immigrants!

Waves of persistent immigrants hopped off the battered boats and made their way into the nearest towns in the south, initially unchecked at the coast by the residents, merchants and churchmen and aimed to claim whatever they could from their strange new home, the fertile land of Britain.

They looked, acted and sounded different- a major threat to established, age-old societies and customs, aiming to use the best of what their new homeland had to offer, and thus were soon despised by the Britons- who would defend their homes, their kinsfolk and land with violence, if necessary!

None of the new arrivals could have had a wash in a long while, if ever - and none could speak the native tongue, nor perhaps even tried once here? They slowly took over...

Before long there was intense social conflict across the country, and 'they' would overtake the main body of the very country itself by force, a large number killing, looting and raping!

These rapacious, feared and 'bloody' immigrants were... The Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes!

See how the redtop 'media' daily papers work??

25 January 2011

The "fleeing" Fyrdsmen?

The fyrdsmen that fatally broke rank from the English shieldwall at Senlac, 14th October 1066, chasing the 'broken' Norman-French-Breton army, weakened the English defence and frittered away a victory for Harold, who was slain that day.

Was it really this simple? Or were they later arrivals who had not been present to hear King Harold's strict orders to hold formation at all costs? And why was it only the right flank who broke the 'shieldwall'?

We know from the sources that more Anglo-Saxons came trickling in from the southern shires throughout the day, as their king had bade them days before. We suspect that the length of the violent battle suggests that the English were not easily overcome, and that the emphasis on the fleeing fyrdsmen may be exaggerated?

The entire front rank (half a mile long if we accept Santlache hill top as the site?) was armed by the king's/earl's 1,500-3,000 huscarls, so anyone breaking through them had to had to either;-

a) Outnumber them heavily enough not to be halted, more so than the left and centre.
b) The Huscarls may have thinned out in that sector, maybe due to a General advance which failed, and the right copped for it for some reason?

We are told of successive Norman 'retreats' (this time deliberate?) but not which part of the English line broke this time?

So, were the men who fatally broke rank due to their over-zealousness, 'late arrivals', or simply indisciplined amateurs whom the huscarls in front of them, couldn't halt?

It's impossible for us today really to get into the mindset and the fighting ethos of medieval man? I accept the battle-fury and 'victory' zealousness, but surely all of the wall would have been noted as 'fleeing' downhill, not just the right flank? And weren't these fyrdsmen hemmed in behind the front rank huscarls?

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