“History is not the story of strangers..”

A critical review of A History of Europe from 400 to 1000 by Chris Wickham in the Guardian contains this interesting comment on history.

The very idea of a thousand years of cultural darkness before the Renaissance is ludicrous (just think of the Sutton Hoo hoard and the Lindisfarne Gospels). As for the “birth of nations” approach, it does indeed lead to a view of history which is only interested in the past as far as it explains how things came to be as they are today. Wickham’s own view is that all grand narratives are in themselves suspect. Rather he wishes us to understand that communities must be understood in their own terms. This is his theme: a “grand narrative” which is no more and no less than the sum of its parts.

And that’s worth considering alongside a previously noted point.

History is not the story of strangers, aliens from another realm; it is the story of us had we been born a little earlier. History is memory; we have to remember what it is like to be a Roman, or a Jacobite or a Chartist or even – if we dare, and we should dare – a Nazi. History is not abstraction, it is the enemy of abstraction.

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  • Gregory

    The death of Maurice may have been the last opportunity for a solution in the Balkans

    and his death at the hands of Phocas, is still discussed in a contemporary way.

    If Maurice wasn’t the last chance, then it was Heraclius, and even at that, was Heraclius, the inevitable end of a Latin speaking empire?

    The dark hole theory doesn’t work if one lives in Ciscaucasia, Transcaucasia in Asia, Anatolia, or Mesopotamia or even Alexandria.

    Except, perhaps, out of a wondering, what was happening in Britain, the mystery island.

    “Wickham’s own view is that all grand narratives are in themselves suspect”

    That’s true.

    There is a myopia, the pan-tankie discussions here, for example, neglect to remember, the Tsar, is also a contemporary saint, and his family, martyrs,

    That’s relevant, today, politically, most Russians, have went backwards, in their relationships.

    The east survived, because its armies were at the front, the west collapsed, because British armies were cutting their way to Arles, to make an Emperor.

    The point also worth noting, the barbarian influx was only viewed as a minor hazard to a British army, determined to get stuck into its political rivals in Europe.

    Right to the very end the British were making emperors, at a time, they should have been at the front, fighting for the empire, rather than fighting over it.

    The Saxon period, was because Britain was too Roman, rather than not Roman enough.

    The Saxons also ( in common with many Germans) had really nice helmets.

  • Harry Flashman

    Pete given your interest in things whacking into the earth at great speed have you ever come across evidence that the onset of the Dark Ages was some cataclysmic event around about the fifth century?

    I have heard that a comet might have struck around then or even a massive volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa.

  • Gregory

    “Pete given your interest in things whacking into the earth at great speed have you ever come across evidence that the onset of the Dark Ages was some cataclysmic event around about the fifth century?”

    Britain lost its economic base,

    the civilians booted out the last administrators, base coinage dumped at the docks, there was no use for it.

    The empire needed an economy, in Britain the army were a large part of the money supply.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_III_(usurper)

    The Roan armies were going at each other, the barbarians of interest only as hired help.

    If barbarians wouldn’t pick a side, they were often allowed to go on their merry way.

    The British army left, with a commander of some talent, to deal with its rivals, it probably could have rounded up the Germans if that had been its first object.

  • Until posters and Western historians acknowledge the existence of Greek-speaking Byzantium, and seriously factor in its role and achievements, they will just continue to speak essentially nonsense.