WARNING: May contain opinions
Why? I hear you say. Well, several reasons really.
History doesn't matter; history is full of wars; history is written by the winners. Hmmm! What I guess I'm really hearing when I hear those words is: History doesn't matter to YOU; history is full of wars only because that's what they teach in school; and history is written ONLY by the winners because they WON and shout the loudest. To say that history is only about the winners, is to negate the lives of those who lived through those exact, same times and who 'lost'!!....what happens is...their voices continue to be suppressed by those who come out with the aforesaid sweeping statements and who demonstrate an inability to see beyond the obvious.
I'm not going to lecture here (well, not intentionally anyway - I do blame the teacher in me though!!) and I'm not going to add footnotes and references...if you want to know more, simply look it up (whilst you still can, of course!!!) and before they silence the voices of today's people ALSO living through a time of war. You see....suppression takes many forms. Knowing our fight and struggle today, is it any wonder I get a tad miffed at the continual silencing of the voices of people from the past???
We are making our discontent and unhappiness heard today in a way never done before and, in the future we will want people to know that we tried hard to end the subjugation. If we fail, do we want the people of tomorrow to hear only the voices of the 'winners'? Exactly.
As a medievalist I can only really talk about that period and the early medieval period is known as the dark ages...a misnomer...it wasn't dark at all. From 500 C.E. to 1500 C.E. is a thousand years of mixed fortunes from the departure of the Romans to the arrival of the Angles, Saxons and Jutes...to the Viking raids, the Norman Conquest and the Hundred Year War with France...which was actually only about 30 years in total over a few centuries.
During that period we have writers such as Gildas, Bede, Nennius, Giraldus Cambrensis...and records such as the Anglo Saxon Chronicles and the Annales Cambrae. We have the Norse Sagas such as Beowulf and The Dream of the Rood - without which we would NOT have the epic fantasy fiction genre of today, such as The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was a medieval literary scholar, who studied the Norse Sagas in depth...and this is clearly visible in his works. Just saying.
However, as with all other types of analysis, one must always question. The usual being: who, when, where, why and what. So, taking Gildas - who? a Romano-Celtic monk; when? 5th century; where? Wales; why? well, he was a monk and that's pretty much what they did; and what? he was writing about the corruption and lawlessness of his leaders!!! Sound familiar??? Just one more....Bede - who? An Anglo Saxon monk; when? 7th century; where? Northumberland; why? He was commissioned to write; what? A history of the English people. Now...where Gildas saw the arrival of the Anglo Saxons as a plague of Biblical proportions, Bede saw their arrival as the saviours. Gildas was Romano-Celtic, Bede was an Anglo Saxon...so, ultimately, both Gildas and Bede had their own agendas - question everything!!!
Evidence suggests that far from an invasion, the Anglo Saxons arrived as settlers, invited by Vortigern to come save the people of Britain from the Picts. When the Romans left, Britain was vulnerable to raids and the payment for these 'mercenaries' was land. Gildas saw invasion as a punishment for his people, Bede saw saviours and angelic intervention. So, there you have two different perspectives of the same event within a few years. See what I mean?
Vikings NEVER wore horned helmets to battle. Too easy to grab. Only a few Vikings were raiders and slavers. A lot of what we know of the Vikings actually comes from a medieval Muslim writer...Ahmad ibn Fadlan, who was part of an embassy for the Caliph to the Volga Vikings. It is from ibn Fadlan that we know of Viking sea burials. Yet, here in Britain, we are taught that ALL Vikings were raiders and slavers! Hmmm!!! Nope, they too were settlers and have got a bad rep, purely because they raided the monasteries at Lindisfarne and because those raids were recorded by monks and MUST therefore be true, without exaggeration or embellishments!! Hmm again.
Basically, I guess what I'm trying to say is that history DOES matter, as long as you can see through the bullshit of the 'winners' writing. The 'myths' of history should not be perpetuated and in today's world there is no excuse for sweeping generalities, whilst knowledge is available on that most wondrous thing known as the Internet. Research can be tedious and if you have no interest you are less inclined to want to do it at all, which I fully understand. I don't understand the first thing about science but neither do I dismiss it.
We ALL have a past, individually and collectively and we are ALL part of a rich tapestry of art and science. So, let's NOT dismiss the achievements that history has brought us; let's concentrate on the positives and recognise the feats that those who have gone before have attained. If we want to be remembered as those who stood up to those who would suppress us and try and win over us, then let's have the courtesy to accord those from the past who tried to do the same thing, the sound of their voices too.
Blessed be x
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