The Celts in Wales

The Irish, Welsh, and Scots all have a Celtic ancestry, but they settled their respective regions before the Roman conquest of Britain.  There is an amazing amount of debate as to the origin of the Celts:  were they Phoenician?  stocky and dark?  tall and blonde?  as culturally cohesive as the label suggests?   The standard theory is that the Celts were an Indo-European group that gradually migrated across Europe and Asia, with an identifiable, distinct culture by 750 BC.  As a group, they were well-known to the Greeks and Romans.  The map to the right shows the migrations of the celtic (or proto-celtic) groups around 1000 BC.   Note the expansion of the Celts in particular between 500 and 200 BC into the British Isles.  The Welsh tribes in particular consisted of the Ordovices, the Deceangli, the Gangani, the Demetae, and the Silures. http://archaeology.suite101.com/article.cfm/archaeology_and_the_celts “History Read more…

European (Medieval) Martial Arts

There is a fascinating documentary on the rediscovery of the European ‘martial art’ of sword fighting called Reclaiming the Blade, available on Netflix, if you subscribe:  http://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Reclaiming_the_Blade/70111112?trkid=2361637 It begins by talking about sword fighting movies (Lord of the Rings was highlighted in particular), but once they stripped away the honor and righteous talk, it had a really good argument that sword fighting prior to the invention of gunpowder was just as legitimately a martial art as karate. In Europe, there are now European sword fighting academies which teach medieval sword fighting like my children learn karate. How cool is that? A society now exists to promote it.  http://www.aemma.org/  with lots of resources to promote this lost art  (http://jwma.ejmas.com/php-bin/jwma_content.php?LLM=0&Tab=articles&MD=) is one example–the Journal of Western Martial Arts. Three of my children are black belts in Shodukan Karate (the fourth is a green belt). My eldest Read more…

Jews in Medieval England

Jews in Medieval England I’m updating this post, in large part because of a comment a reader left about my use of the word ‘pogrom’ in Footsteps in Time, having not heard the word before. A ‘pogrom’ is defined as: “An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.”  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Pogrom Jews lived in England during the Roman and Anglo-Saxon periods, but not as an organized community. This page states:  “When William the Conqueror arrived in England in 1066, he encouraged Jewish merchants and artisans from northern France to move to England. The Jews came mostly from France with some from Germany, Italy and Spain, seeking prosperity and a haven from anti-Semitism. Serving as special representatives of the king, these Jews worked as moneylenders and coin dealers. Over the course of a generation, Read more…

The Little Ice Age and the MWP

We all realize that temperature is not a constant.  It’s hard enough to imagine what life was like in the Middle Ages, without adding in differences in temperature.  As it turns out, many of my books falls directly into the ‘medieval warm period’ of 950 to 1250. “The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) is generally thought to have occurred from about AD 950–1250, during the European Middle Ages.[9] In 1965 Hubert Lamb, one of the first paleoclimatologists, published research based on data from botany, historical document research and meteorology combined with records indicating prevailing temperature and rainfall in England around 1200 and around 1600. He proposed that “Evidence has been accumulating in many fields of investigation pointing to a notably warm climate in many parts of the world, that lasted a few centuries around A.D. 1000–1200, and was followed by a decline of temperature levels till between Read more…

European Invasions

Throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, different groups moved from one location to another.  Sometimes, the purpose was conquest, sometimes raiding, and sometimes it involved a quest for a better life and the intent was to settle, rather than conquer, new lands. But usually somebody was already there.  The map at right show the paths of various groups from Roman times to through the Middle Ages. After the sack of Rome in 410 (see my post here: http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/the-fall-of-rome/) tribes were on the move all through Europe: Angles/Saxons/Jutes:  These three groups derived from Denmark and Germany.  “Following the departure of the Romans in A.D.410 and after the sacking of Rome, Britain was left unprotected. The distant dominions frantic call to Rome went unheard. Mutiny spread through the ranks of the British defenders remaining who were now descendants of Roman stock. Britain Read more…

Child Rearing in the Middle Ages

It’s hard to get a handle on what child care was like in the Middle Ages–or what exactly was the prevailing philosophy.  Certainly, the ideal childhood of today’s middle class in the US or Europe, did not exist during the Middle Ages. Sources that describe what child rearing was like are all over the map, in terms of the degree of care, love, maternal obligations, and how long childhood lasted.  A child’s life was also circumscribed the class into which he was born. Certainly infants were viewed as needing loving and attentive care:  “Writing around 1250, Bartholomew the Englishman said that if it is too hot or too cold when a baby comes from the womb into the air, the baby becomes miserable and cries. Following the advice of medical writers, he suggested that to cleanse the infant’s limbs of their Read more…

What happened to silence?

With more than 80% of Americans living in metropolitan areas (and only 2% living as I do in towns of fewer than 25,000 people), nobody knows what real silence is anymore.   http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/Population/ Writing historical fiction requires that you project yourself into that long ago past.  As the modern world hurtles headlong into the future, this becomes more and more difficult.  Trying to find spaces where it’s possible to get a sense of that historic time is getting harder by the day. Like light pollution, noise pollution is everywhere.  This winter in the Olympic National Forest and on the Quinnault Indian Reservation, my husband and I experienced the silence of the natural world, though it is presently threatened by the air routes over it into Sea-Tac airport south of Seattle. In Eastern Oregon, the silence can be complete–and loud–to the point of ringing Read more…

Medieval Life Expectancy: Muslim World verses Christian World

It is taken as given in this day and age that people living in Europe in the Middle Ages didn’t bathe much, if at all, had no real knowledge of science or medicine, and their high mortality rates were a consequence of this general ignorance.  Neither of the these assertions are, in fact, true, but the average human life span in the Middle Ages was significantly lower than the modern one nonetheless.   I have discussed this in several places on this blog. Here:  http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/life-expectancy-in-the-middle-ages/ I discuss the life span of the royal house of Wales and the Marche.  Eliminating individuals who died before adulthood completely from the equation, the mean life expectancy for women was 43.6 years, with a median of 42/43; for men, it was a mean of 48.7 and a median of 48/49.  That I elminiated those who died in childhood changes the Read more…