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Friday, 27 January 2017

Comics Explained: Old Man Logan

Old Man Logan
Last week (as of writing) the trailer for the new Wolverine movie, Logan, was released. This new movie will be loosely based off of the Old Man Logan story arc which first appeared in Wolverine Vol. 3 #66 written by the fantastic Mark Miller. Due to Fox not owning almost all of Marvel's characters this adaptation of Old Man Logan had to be loosely based on it. Today we shall look at the story which the film is loosely based on.

Setting off from California
Wolverine broken
The story begins with a bloodied and torn up Wolverine ambling through a forest until he reaches some train tracks. Just as the train hits Wolverine the flashback ends and we see the present. Logan is living on a farm in the Californian desert with his wife Maureen, son Scotty, and daughter Jade. The farm is in poverty with them unable to sell their pigs from previous issues with selling tainted pork, and Logan instantly shoots down the idea of selling their children's toys. His daughter asks him if it's true that he used to be a superhero to which Logan replies: there's no such thing as superheroes. Later him and his wife discuss what to do as the landlord would not let the lack of rent slide. The next day the grandchildren of the landlord come. The landlord's grandchildren are the 'Banner Clan'; the children born from the Hulk's and She Hulk's incestuous relationship. 
The Hulk Clan
After arriving and finding that Logan doesn't have the rent they beat him to a bloody pulp becoming angrier that he doesn't unsheathe his claws. They threaten that if they don't have double the rent the next month it would go much worse for the family. That night a blind Hawkeye arrives at the farm requesting help from Logan: he needs someone to help him go from the West Coast to the East Coast in two weeks. In return he would give Logan a lot of money. Reluctantly he agrees and they set off across a divided America in the Spider-Mobile (a car built by the Human Torch and modified by Hawkeye). Here we find out that when the supervillains took over the world they divided America: the Abomination got the West Coast (now called Hulkland when the Hulk killed the Abomination), Magneto got the 'Bible Belt' (now called the Kingdom of the Kingpin when the new Kingpin killed Magneto), a neutral zone in the Mid-West, and finally the Red Skull got the East Coast, now called the President's Quarter. The pair end up in San Francisco to find that the city has been pulled into the ground. Hawkeye explains that when the population hit 8 million the Moloids (a race that lived under the Earth's surface) started sinking cities to devour the population like 'the world's immune system'. Looking around San Francisco they're attacked by a biker gang (with flaming wheels) called the Ghost Riders. The bikers start beating up Logan until Hawkeye manages to shoot and kill them with arrows (using sound to find where they are). Logan explains that he has renounced violence and when the villains took over they didn't kill him but instead they broke him. As they arrive in Las Vegas (now called Hammer Falls) Hawkeye wonders why he was not targeted during the hero purge. However, Logan's attention is on something bigger...

Hammer Falls and Spider-Bitch
Hammer Falls
Some of the Avengers were killed at Las Vegas, and Thor himself was killed by Magneto and Absorbing Man. No one can lift Mjolnir so it has now become a place of worship for people wanting a return to better days when the heroes were around. Magneto, the new Kingpin, and the President (Red Skull), allow the hero merchandising and worship to happen as it can be used as a source of revenue. Hawkeye and Logan bump into Ultron-8, who, unlike his normal 'human genocide' version, has become a regular person trying to make a living. Ultron has married Hawkeye's ex-wife and is now the stepfather of Hawkeye's daughter, Ashley, who is danger. Hawkeye and Logan go to meet Hawkeye's ex-wife, Tonya, who is Peter Parker's daughter. Tonya berates Hawkeye for running off before filling Ashley's head with tales of superheroes as now Ashley has joined with a small group to overthrow the Kingpin. As a retort Hawkeye says that her father and grandfather were Avengers so it was natural that she would want to follow in their footsteps. However, he vows that him and Logan would help her (offering Logan double what he was already paying him). On the way to the Kingpin's capital of Salt Lake City they pass through Cedar City which had just been sunk by the Moloids. Upon arriving in Salt Lake City they find out that Ashley has called herself the Spider-Bitch, and that the new Kingpin is organizing a public execution of Ashley's cohorts: the new Daredevil and Punisher. The Kingpin starts giving a speech explaining why he managed to oust Magneto ('Bitch got old') and then releases dinosaurs taken from the Savage Land who proceeds to tear apart the new Daredevil and Punisher. The pair discover that Ashley is being kept in a nearby Wall-Mart so with the Spider-Mobile they crash through the building. When they release Ashley the Kingpin arrives and to their surprise she brutally murders the Kingpin. It turns out she wasn't leading a new hero revolt but really a coup to replace the Kingpin...
Kingpin's death
Ashley orders her new cronies to kill Logan and Hawkeye, and they only escape thanks to Logan. Fifty cars and raptors start chasing the pair in the Spider-Mobile until the Moloids cause the ground to collapse under them. As the Moloids devour Ashley's forces the pair manage to get away. Back on their way they pass through an America created by the villains. Paste Pot Creek in Wyoming in full of dinosaurs after people bought the extinct animals from the Savage Land as exotic pets and then released them after realizing how difficult to look after they are. Electroville (likely named after Electro) has the ruins of the Baxter Building collapsed on the giant corpse of Loki which Hawkeye says 'Man, you missed yourself one hell of a fight that night.' Passing through South Dakota they see that the Red Skull has carved his face into Mount Rushmore where the Venom symbiote lives. They stop in Iowa for a drink where Hawkeye questions Logan on his non-violence. 

Death of the X-Men
Logan reveals to Hawkeye what happened the night the heroes died. Wolverine was with Jubilee in the X-Mansion disturbed by what appears to be a global attack. They're getting requests for help from the Avengers, Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D and Wakanda. Just as Jubilee asks for Wolverine's thoughts the wall explodes killing Jubilee. In horror Wolverine sees dozens of villains including Stryfe, Dr Octopus, Shocker, Sabretooth, Lady Deathstrike, Silver Samurai and Scorpion just to name a few coming through the hole. Unable the find the rest of the X-Men he has the children hide down in the bunkers as he deals with the villains. 
Wolverine against the villains
With his friends nowhere to be seen Wolverine starts killing the villains. Eventually only Bullseye is left and the two engage in a ferocious battle tearing chunks out of one another. Wolverine managed to impale Bullseye through his heart with his claws only for Bullseye to ask why he is doing this to his friends. The Spider-Man villain Mysterio (whose power is to create images) appears to tell Wolverine that he has fallen for his greatest image yet. Bullseye turns into Jubilee and Wolverine sees that the villains he had killed weren't villains but in actuality the X-Men.
Death of the X-Men
For days after Wolverine stumbles through a forest covered in blood and crying over the fact that he murdered his friends. Eventually he comes across a train tracks and puts his neck on the track. Although the train could not kill him because of his regenerative ability and adamantium covered skeleton, but the pain was enough. Fifty years later he has not unsheathed his claws.

To the East
The next day they continue their journey reaching Dwight's Toll. Dwight charges people who wants to cross while wearing Ant-Man's helmet. Hawkeye pays despite Logan's protests but as they cross the bridge we see a crevice full of skeletons and ants crawling over them. However, their journey is interrupted by a Tyrannosaurus who has become the new host for the Venom symbiote. They are only saved by Black Bolt being teleported in who whispers causing the symbiote to leave its host. Black Bolt takes them to the Mutant Forbidden Quarter where the last mutants reside. There Logan is surprised to see a young Emma Frost (who is using her psychic powers to make Logan see her as being young). She tells Logan that mutants were really an evolutionary blip and there are only twenty mutants left. The pair leave as Doctor Doom looks down upon them where it is hinted that the only reason why the Quarter exists is because Frost married Doom or at least sided with him. When they reach Connecticut they see Pym Falls. This is not a waterfall but instead where Hank Pym was killed.
Pym Falls
Finally they reach New Babylon (Washington) seeing the dystopian city which the Red Skull rules over. Hawkeye and Logan meet Tobias and hand him Hawkeye's package. Tobias is the leader of the East-Coast Resistance and inside the package is ninety-nine vials of Super-Soldier serum to create a new army of heroes. However, it turns out Tobias is really working for the government and he shoots both Logan and Hawkeye. 

The End
The last issue opens with the fall of Washington. Captain America has collapsed in front of a destroyed Capitol Building. The Red Skull then kills his old foe by placing his thumbs in Captain America's eyes. Now in the present Red Skull wears Captain America's uniform as he spends hours standing in a trophy room full of the uniforms and gadgets of the dead heroes including Captain America's shield, Iron Man's armor, Doctor Strange's cloak, Elektra's sais, and even pelt of Beast just to name a few things.
The Red Skull's Trophy Room
The body bags of Logan and Hawkeye are taken into the Trophy Room for the Red Skull to observe the dead heroes. However, Wolverine heals and knocks the Red Skull's crony unconscious. He knocks the Red Skull into the trophy cabinet and the two pick up trophies to fight with: Red Skull uses Black Knight's Ebony Blade while Logan grabs Captain America's shield. After a fight Logan decapitates the Red Skull with the shield. After grabbing the bag of cash initially promised to him he dons Iron Man's armor and tries to fly back home. Just over two days later he arrives home only to find his neighbor outside. Tragically the Hulk Clan got bored and decided to murder Logan's family for fun when he was away. When his neighbor says to do the Christian thing by burying his family and not to seek revenge Logan replies: The name isn't Logan,'s Wolverine. For the first time in fifty years he pops his claws. In Giant Size Wolverine: Old Man Logan he seeks his revenge. One by one he starts to massacre the Hulk Clan who turns out to be born of incest when nuclear bombs in California sent Bruce Banner and Jennifer Walters crazy. The first to die are sliced to pieces while washing blood off themselves in a river. Three others are killed after leaving Heff's Mansion which has now become a brothel. Eventually Wolverine goes to the Hulk Clan's lair where one by one he kills the clan. Bruce Banner, not in Hulk form, walks out to meet Wolverine and it turns out he can now use the Hulk's strength while in his human form. Banner turns into the Hulk and eats Logan. However, twelve hours later Wolverine claws his way out of Banner's stomach killing him. Only the baby Bruce is left and we see the shadow of Wolverine's claws hovering over the baby. A month later Logan holds a funeral for his family. Despite the pleas of his neighbors he decides to defeat the villains and bring back the heroes. It turns out he has adopted baby Bruce with Wolverine saying 'Besides, I got a little partner to help me out an' there's a nice poetic justice to Bruce Banner Junior bein' the first guy on my new team.' They rise off into the sunset.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, 20 January 2017

How did Hitler comer to power?

Hitler and Himmler
The Nazis was one of the most evil and destructive forces in history. Adolf Hitler ran a regime based on far-right authoritarianism, social Darwinism, and racism which culminated in one of the worst genocides in human history in the form of the Holocaust. Many people who did not live at the time of the Nazis wondered how did such an group manage to get to power. Today we shall look at how Hitler came to power.

Up to the Beer Hall Putsch
The origin of Hitler's rise to power lies in the ruins of Europe at the end of World War One. Wartime food shortages, business closures, and military setbacks had caused political unrest across Germany, and the Bolshevik revolution in neighboring Russia had shown a way how to eliminate these issues. on November 8 1918 Independent Social Democratic Party member Kurt Eisner led a bloodless revolt leading to the establishment of an independent soviet Bavaria. A day later the German kaiser, Wilhelm II, abdicated, the chancellor resigned leading German Social Democrat Party (SPD) member Friedrich Ebert to become chancellor (he said 'It is a difficult office, but I will assume it'). A few days after an armistice was signed ending the war in Europe. In January communists Rose Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht led an uprising, with their group the Spartacists, in Berlin only to be brutally crushed when Ebert aligned himself the far-right Freikorps, (an armed far-right militia). Across Germany the communist and socialist uprisings were one by one defeated. However, in June 1919 the new German republic (called the Weimar Republic as it had been formed in Weimar as Berlin was under Spartacist control) earned the condemnation of the political right. The Treaty of Versailles which ended World War One, (for Germany), was hated.
The Treaty of Versailles
In the Treaty Germany: lost land to Belgium, France, Denmark, and Poland; lost all of its overseas territories; had to say that it caused the outbreak of the war; demilitarized the Rhineland; restricted the size of Germany's army and navy; and Germany had to pay 20 billion (US $5 billion) in money or other goods. This caused outrage across Germany. Wartime censorship had hidden most of Germany's military defeats from the public eye, and foreign troops were not on German land so many people assumed that they had been winning the war. Thus the 'stab in the back legend' was born. Figures including Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg claimed that Germany could have won the war if communists, socialists, the Weimar republic, and Jews of betraying the German military. The Weimar politicians earned the nickname 'the November criminals'. Over the next few years the fledgling democratic republic would come into crisis. Failure to repay reparations led to massive inflation, called 'hyperinflation', where the German currency became so worthless that one US dollar would be equivalent of 4.2 billion marks. France and Belgium had occupied the Ruhr region until they got paid, a far-right attempted putsch under Wolfgang Kapp in 1920 failed, a left-wing workers' uprising broke out in the Ruhr region, and Ebert (now president) had to declare a state of emergency 134 in 1924 alone. It was during this time that Hitler came onto the scene.

Although born in Austria Hitler wanted to live in Germany and after serving in the army during the war he ended up in Munich. Shortly after the war ended a party called the German Workers' Party (DAP), based off of the principals of anti-semitism, far-right nationalism, and anti-communism. In September 1919 Hitler joined and quickly rose through the ranks thanks to his skills at debating and giving speeches. In February 1920 Drexler and Hitler reorganized the DAP to become the Nationalist Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), or the Nazi party. This new party had a 25 point program whose aims included from reclaiming lost German land, bringing in pensions for the elderly, and excluding Jews from many lines of work. The Nazis formed a paramilitary group called the SA, led by Ernst Rohm, whose job was to intimidate Jews, liberals, socialists and communists. Hitler also adopted the swastika as the symbol of the party. Soon Hitler had replaced Drexler and started a personality cult with people referring to him as f├╝hrer (leader). Membership of the Nazi party grew exponentially as people became attracted by Hitler's emotional speeches, and young unemployed men were eager to join the SA. In 1922 Benito Mussolini managed to lead a march on Rome with his fascist blackshirts and establish a fascist regime in Italy. This inspired Hitler to do the same. As France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr, hyperinflation had decimated the savings of the population, and general crisis Hitler managed to enlist the support of influential general Erich Ludendorff. When the leaders of the Bavarian government were waiting to do a speech in a beer hall on November 8 1923 Hitler, Ludendorff, their associates, and 603 SA members burst into the hall with Hitler saying 'The national revolution has broken out! The hall is filled with six hundred men. Nobody is allowed to leave.' He declared that a new Bavarian government under Ludendorff had been formed. When Hitler left the Bavarian politicians said that they would support the putsch and Ludendorff allowed them to leave. Instead they informed the authorities who ended the putsch the next day leading to sixteen putschers dead and many arrested (Hitler himself almost was killed. The person standing right next to him was shot by the police and killed). Hitler was arrested but he had a sympathetic judge who gave him a light sentence in Landsberg Prison.
The Putsch
Prison to the Great Depression
Hitler's time in prison was surprisingly pleasant for someone who had tried to overthrow the government. He had a very large cell to himself, received letters and gifts from supporters, and had plenty of time to write his memoir called Mein Kampf (My Struggle). Half of his memoir is devoted to telling an embellished story of his life while the other half is devoted to his views of race and politics. Hitler was released from prison on December 20 1924. Although Mein Kampf never became widely read until Hitler came to power did give him a popularity boost, and the putsch had made him a quasi-celebrity. It did not help matters much with the 1924 December elections though as the Nazis and their proxy parties barely received 3% of the national vote. However, Hitler had a propaganda campaign where he intended to channel anger over the Treaty of Versailles, economic turmoil, and the rise of new media (such as 'decadent' art and movies) into anger at Jews, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and the left. In 1924/5 the Barmat Scandal helped when the Jewish Barmat brothers were first accused of war profiteering by buying food in the Netherlands and then selling it in Germany, and for having preferable agreements with the SPD. Hitler, and other right-wing figures, used this as a way of painting an image of Jews and left-wingers of betraying Germany. However, the Nazis were soon declining. Thanks to Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann he managed to get an easing of reparations, a loan from the United States, and for French and Belgian troops to leave the Ruhr which eased a lot of Germany's economic issues. As a result Hitler started to lose the thing which he had been using to attack ethnic minorities and the left with. In the 1928 election the Nazis got less than 3% of the vote and when Ebert died Hitler put forward Ludendorff to run as president. He barely got 1% of the votes and von Hindenburg became president. Party membership was only at 130,000. It looked like the Nazis would be a temporary threat to the security of the Weimar Republic; the Great Depression changed that.

After the Depression
In 1929 the Wall Street Crash led to the worst economic crisis in years and issued in the Great Depression. German unemployment rose from 1.5 million in 1929 (the German economy still was not sound), to 6 million. Production dropped by 58%. Both the Nazis and the German Communist Party (KPD) gained mass support. Clashes between the SA and the  KPD militia Rotfront led to the banning of the two militias which inadvertently boosted their popularity and the ban had to be lifted. Hitler's vitriol grew as he started targeting Jews and other 'undesirables' in his speeches. In January 1930 a young SA member Horst Wessel was killed by communists which was used by Hitler's propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, to make a martyr for the Nazis. The song Horst Wessel Lied became the anthem for the party and was used to attack communists. In October 1930 the Nazis launched their first campaign of violence against Jews by having the SA smash the windows of Jewish-owned stores in the Potsdamer Platz. Meanwhile, the coalition government collapsed. Under Hermann Muller there had been a 'Grand Coalition' of the SDP, the Centre Party, the liberal DDP, and center right DVP. This coalition collapsed thanks to the Depression which Hitler used to show the weaknesses of democracy. Through a use of propaganda the Nazis in 1930 went from having 12 seats in the Reichstag (the German parliament) to 107 earning over six million votes and becoming the second largest party.
An example of Hitler's antisemitism
In 1932 President Hindenburg wanting a more right wing government appointed Heinrich Bruning of the Catholic Centre Party as chancellor. Bruning was deeply unpopular. He tried to ban both the SA and Rotfront which failed and earned him condemnation from both the Nazis and KPD. His austerity measures drove the poorer peoples into the arms of either the KPD or Nazis and people started calling for him to be hung. His train carriage was often pelted with stones and eggs. His excessive use of Article 48 (which let the president do whatever he wished without consulting the Reichstag, although chancellors could also use it) and him banning over 100 publications which criticized him further entrenched his unpopularity. Hindeburg replaced him in the June of 1932 with General Staff officer and nobleman Franz von Papen. Von Papen was not popular and he could not stem the rising popularity of Hitler. Thousands were donating money to the Nazi party and the Nazi propaganda network was drawing support to the party as Hitler began to be seen as the 'savior' of Germany from communist domination. Ideas of Germany being a great nation destined to conquer the East, and anger channeled at Jews, minorities, and homosexuals won the Nazis lots of support. However, the Nazis were slowly going bankrupt thanks to this propaganda campaign. In the 1932 elections Hitler flew to five different cities a day to generate support. It made him more popular but had started to deplete the funds of the Nazis. However, von Papen had a coup orchestrated in Prussia which ousted the center-left coalition and broke the SDP's power base which the Nazis soon occupied. In December 1932 Hindenburg replaced von Papen with General Kurt von Schleicher who was unable to successfully do anything thanks to weak rule and Nazi intransigence. In what historian Alan Bullock called 'the back stairs intrigue' Hindeburg and von Papen thought of a plan to halt the rise of the Nazis, halt the rise of the communists, and to control Hitler. In the November election of 1932 Hitler lost 34 seats allowing the KPD to become the third largest party. Hindeburg made Hitler a deal: Hitler would become chancellor if von Papen became his vice-chancellor. January 30 1933 Hitler was made German chancellor.

Forming the Dictatorship
The Reichstag Fire
Hitler did not automatically become dictator on January 30 1933. On February 27 1933 a Dutch communist Marinus van der Lubbe set fire to the Reichstag building. There has been much debate as to whether van der Lubbe did start the fire although noted historian Ian Kershaw has stated that he did start the fire. The debate today largely centers on whether he was alone or if he had an accomplice. The Nazis blamed a communist conspiracy and Hitler said 'These sub-humans do not understand how the people stand at our side. In their mouse-holes, out of which they now want to come, of course they hear nothing of the cheering of the masses.' Following the fire the Reichstag Fire Decree was signed by Hindenburg passing Article 48 suspending habaeus corpus, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to free assembly. Hitler also had many communists arrested including KPD leader Ernst Thalmann. Before Hitler could solidify his power he had another election to try and get between 50 and 55% of the vote. However, with the KPD and SPD being either arrested or harassed by the SA this prompted Hitler to have the Enabling Act put forward which would give him dictatorial powers. In the Koll Opera House the act was passed. Just over a year later Hitler had managed to have the SA and political opponents purged in the Night of the Long Knives and had become dictator when Hindeburg died of old age allowing Hitler to become president as well as chancellor. Thus a murderous far-right regime had come to power that would rule with an iron fist, and would proceed to commit one of the largest genocides in history.

The rise of Hitler is something that we must know. By knowing how Hitler came to power we can try and prevent it from happening again. The West German, and later German, constitution was set up to avoid such a regime from rising again. It could happen anywhere else. The memories of the Nazi regime is a stark reminder to humanity that this must never happen again.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Third Reich: A New History by Michael Burleigh
-Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris by Ian Kershaw

Saturday, 14 January 2017

World History: The Crusades

Peter the Hermit
The Crusades are possibly one of the most controversial parts of history with people debating constantly what the purpose of the Crusades were and what they meant. Enlightenment and Victorian European historians have said that the Crusades were a stories of heroes, post-colonial historians have said that the Crusades were the first steps towards later European imperialism, Marxist historians have stated that religion was used as an excuse to make Crusaders wealthy, and the media has portrayed it as a clash of civilizations between Christendom and Islam. Particularly among the hard right and far-right groups you can hear talks of a new Crusade happening now, or one that will happen in the future. This post will try and show that the Crusades was not simply Muslims vs. Christians, or simply guided by greed. Two Crusades which we shall look at were not even about fighting Muslims! First off, we have to look at the Crusade that started it all.

The First Crusade
First Crusade
The First Crusade began in 1095 in a fractured world. Many kingdoms in Europe were often at war with each other, the Byzantine empire was slowly losing land in Anatolia to various Islamic states, and the Muslim world itself was split. In Anatolia, Syria, Iraq and Palestine there was the Seljuq /Seljuk Empire whose rulers were primarily Sunni Turks while in Egypt there was the Fatimid Caliphate which claimed descendant from the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatima bint Muhammad, (they were Shia instead of Sunni). Just a few years prior to the calling of the First Crusade there was a wave of deaths among the leaders of the Seljuqs and Fatimids. De factor ruler of the Seljuqs, vizier Nizam al-Mulk, was murdered in 1092 and just a few months earlier Sultan Malikshah died under suspicious circumstances quickly followed by his wife, grandson, and other key political figures. In 1094 the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir died quickly followed by his vizier Badr al-Jamali, and the Sunni Abbasid caliph al-Muqtadi died. Mamluk historian Ibn Taghribirdi later said 'This year is called the year of the death of caliphs and commanders'. The Seljuqs had been slowly taking land from the Byzantines in Asia Minor, so much so that by 1090 they had driven the Byzantines to the coast. However, during the war the Seljuqs had attacked the Fatimids and taken Jerusalem from them. The Fatimids had openly encouraged and allowed Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem for several reasons: they earned money through taxing Christians; it helped appease Christians in their border; and they were Ahl-al Kitab (People of the Book). However, when the Seljuqs conquered Jerusalem where they sacked the city and made it harder for Christians to do pilgrimage (something they later reversed but by then it was too late). Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus in 1094 asked Pope Urban II for aid. His predecessor, Pope Gregory VII, had been concerned about the Byzantines and in 1074 had proposed personally leading 50,000 'volunteers' in fighting towards Jerusalem. Urban decided to defend the Byzantines for a few reasons: he thought it could unite the warring kingdoms in the west; he could retake Jerusalem for Christianity; and he hoped that by helping the Byzantines this could mend the Catholic/Orthodox schism and reunite Christianity. On November 27, 1095 at the Council of Clermont he made a speech calling for a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to fight the Seljuqs and whoever did would be absolved from their sins. With the cry of 'Deus Vult!' (God wills it) the First Crusade began.
The People's Crusade
Marxist historiography sometimes states that the Crusades were done by the younger sons of nobles wanting an easy fortune. However, this was not the case. This is seen as many commoners of all ages and sexes took part in what has been called the People's Crusade. During the eleventh century people were very religious so a war-pilgrimage to Jerusalem was seen as the perfect way to show their devotion. A priest called Peter the Hermit from Amiens enthusiastically called for commoners to join in with his crusade, (around 40,000 left Cologne with him including many elderly people, women, and children). Unfortunately for the People's Crusade most of the fighters were either killed or enslaved by the Seljuqs at the Battle of Civetot. Later on the disciplined, armed, and trained Crusading armies came, the Prince's Crusade. These were comprised of people from across France, Germany, Italy, and England although the Seljuqs referred to them as 'Franks'. There were discrepancies in the goals of the Byzantine emperor and the Crusaders. The Crusaders wished to go to Jerusalem whereas the Byzantines were concerned in reclaiming lost land in Asia Minor. The emperor managed to get oaths of fealty from all Crusading leaders, bar Raymond of Toulouse, which said that they would restore imperial rule to all lands, towns, and castles which once belonged to the Byzantines on their way to Jerusalem. While fighting in Antioch a cleric working for Raymond of St. Gilles supposedly saw a vision of where the lance which pierced Christ's side was buried, and after digging they found the 'lance'. Although a little convenient the result of finding the lance served as a huge moral boost for the fighters showing just how much they were devoted to their religious belief. By finding what they believed to be the lance which pierced Christ's side this showed them that they had God's favor. With the Seljuqs weakened from the death of their leaders, no assistance from the Fatimids, (disavowing the notion of it being Christian vs. Muslim), and unprepared in fighting a strong army after fighting the weak People's Crusade the Seljuqs started losing ground in the Levant to the Crusaders. Finally in 1099 Jerusalem fell to the Prince's Crusade.

However, we have yet to speak of the darker side of the First Crusade. Shortly after the Council of Clermont there was intense and violent outbreaks of Antisemitism which spread to Germany and central Europe. On May 3, 1096 Emich of Flonheim's army in Speyer, south Germany ruthlessly massacred the Jewish community and when he went Worms the massacres continued there. As the Crusaders marched through Europe in every town that they went to Jews were massacred. Jews had escaped from Cologne before the armies arrived but the armies hunted them out and murdered them. It is possible that Peter the Hermit's army in Regensburg forcibly baptized the entire Jewish community. Some historians have argued that this was the start of centuries of pogroms and persecution of Europe's Jewish populace. When Jerusalem fell in 1099 Muslims and Jews were massacred by the Prince's Crusade. Sources indicate that Jews were burnt in a synagogue and Muslims were murdered in the mosques which they took refuge in. After the capture of Jerusalem the Crusaders actually renegaded on their oath to the Byzantine emperor. Several 'crusader states' were established: the Principality of Armenian Cilicia, the County of Edessa, the Principality of Antioch, the County of Tripoli, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Thanks to the establishing of these kingdoms some post-colonial historians have argued that this was Europe's first tentative steps to global colonialism. After a brief battle with the Fatimids the  First Crusade ended.

The Second Crusade
Map of the Second Crusade
Following their defeat at the hands of the Crusaders the Seljuqs were unwilling to allow the crusader states to remain. The County of Edessa was the first of the kingdoms to be established, in 1098, and was also the weakest. Saljuq noble Imad ad-Din Zengi besieged Edessa and after a four month siege it fell on December 24, 1144. Later Muslim historians have said that this was the first jihad against the crusader states. In November 1145 the new pope, Eugenius III, was elected and believed that the other crusader states would fall. On December 1 he issued a remission of sins, protection of property, and a moratorium on the payment of interest on debts for anyone who would become a crusader. Among those who went crusading was King Louis VII who had been already thinking of going onto a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Like the First Crusade we can see a clear devotion to Christianity with one abbot, Bernard of Clairveux, saying:
This age is like no other that has gone before; a new abundance of divine mercy comes down from heaven; blessed are those who are alive in this year pleasing to the Lord, this year of remission, this year of veritable jubilee. I tell you, the Lord has not done this for any other generation before, nor has he lavished on our fathers a gift of grace so copious. Look at the skill he is using to save you. Consider the depth of his love and be astonished, sinners. He creates a need- he creates it or pretends to have it- while he desires to help you in your necessity. This is a plan not made by man, but coming from heaven and proceeding from the heart of divine love.
However, Bernard started preaching in northern France and Germany to counteract the preaching of another monk, Radulf. Radulf had been calling for violence against Jews as well as Muslims which had besmirched the image of the First Crusaders. Louis VII also had a second reason to go on the crusade: he feared a rival family could become the counts of Edessa. Unlike the First Crusade where the nobles were largely united with this crusade Louis VII and Conrad III of Germany went separately to Jerusalem where they were defeated separately by the Seljuqs whose forces were largely led by the ruler of Damascus, Mu'in al-Din Anur. Although they reunited to siege Jerusalem they were routed and instead sieged Damascus but were defeated by the Seljuqs. The crusaders had been defeated in the east and the north as well. Crusaders attacked the Wends in northern Germany to convert them from paganism to Christianity. They only had token conversions with many converting back to paganism when the crusaders left, despite the horrific massacres in Pomerania and Mecklenburg. Meanwhile, in Iberia (Spain and Portugal), the crusaders won some victories. By 788 the Umayyad dynasty had conquered most of Iberia and the remaining Christian kingdoms began the Reconquista. The crusaders aided this with in 1147 Lisbon was conquered by Christians.

Third Crusade
Saladin in an Italian painting
The Third Crusade is perhaps the best known crusade. An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub, better known as Saladin, founded the Ayyubid dynasty in 1174. A Sunni of Kurdish origin he managed to become sultan of Syria and Egypt. He is also portrayed very positively in European media with him appearing in Dante's The Divine Comedy, when Dante is in Purgatory he meets Saladin who is there only because he is Muslim and not Christian. The Third Crusade would be the first one where the Crusaders fought against a united Muslim force instead of the Seljuqs and Fatimids. In 1177 the king of Jerusalem had defeated Saladin in battle and the agreement between them allowed free trade between Muslim and Christian traders. However, the person who negotiated this agreement, (Raynald of Chatillon), renegaded on this and started harassing Muslim caravans and ships going to Mecca. When the king died Raynald ignored the new king's orders to release Muslim traders leading to war. By the end of 1187 both Acre and Jerusalem fell to Saladin causing Pope Urban III to supposedly drop dead upon hearing the news. Pope Gregory VIII said that Jerusalem's fall was thanks to the sins of European Christians and declared a new crusade. This call caused Henry II of England and Philip II of France to end their war. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa immediately took up the call and headed to Anatolia unaware that the Byzantines had made a deal with Saladin: if they would impede Barbarossa's journey he would protect the empire. It did not matter much as Barbarossa never made it to Jerusalem. After the Sultanate of Rum (a Muslim power) let him use their lands, (he sacked the capital Iconium when he lost patience with them), he reached the the Saleph River on June 10, 1190. There we do not know what happened. Either he wanted to cool down thanks to the heat so went into the river, or his horse lost its footing crossing the river, but either way Barbarossa drowned.

Meanwhile, in 1189 Philip of France helped Richard overthrow his father who became Richard I, (later called Richard the Lionheart). Richard wished to get to Jerusalem through Egypt but instead the Christian forces went to Acre. During the siege the Christian forces disagreed and some even left to return home. Shortly after arriving Richard sent a message to Saladin for a meeting, however, Saladin refused as they were still at war and they should only meet at the peace treaty saying 'it is not seemly for them to make war upon each other' after the fighting had stopped. Saladin did try and get the release of the Muslim garrison and their families although Richard responded by having 2,700 of the prisoners (including the families of the garrison) decapitated in front of Saladin's army. In response Saladin started executing Christian prisoners. In 1192 Saladin captured Jaffa but told the crusaders to hide in the citadel as he had lost control of his army who wanted revenge for Acre. Conrad of Montferrat, a leading crusader who was briefly King of Jerusalem, was even assassinated in 1192 in Tyre by the Hashashins (Assassins. These were a group of Muslim assassins now in popular culture thanks to the game Assassin's Creed. The English word 'assassin' comes from their name). Eventually in 1192 a peace disliked by both sides was made. Saladin recognized the sovereignty of the crusader states but Jerusalem remained under Saladin's control.

The Fourth Crusade
Crusaders sack Constantinople
The Fourth Crusade is the last crusade against Muslims which we shall focus on. Two decades after the end of the Third Crusade a prominent preacher, James of Vitry, was trying to drum up support for another crusade to the east. In 1198 the new pope, Innocent III, called for a new crusade but unlike the last ones it received mute response from monarchs. England and France had returned to war while the Holy Roman Emperor was struggling to curb the power of the papacy. However, a crusading army was organized and set off in 1202, (it would have done in 1201 but the person chosen to lead it died), under Boniface of Montferrat. As previous crusades had been bogged down in Anatolia to get to Palestine this crusade opted to go through the politically and economically important region of Egypt. However, this involved a navy which the crusaders lacked so envoys were sent to various Italian city states to get a navy. Surprisingly Venetian doge Enrico Dandalo agreed to make a navy as Egypt was a prime trading partner with Venice. The crusaders were supposed to attack Cairo, and Innocent III specifically stated that they could not attack any Christian states. However, the crusaders had little to no way of paying the Venetians for their navy, so they became mercenaries for the Venetians. The city of Zara in Dalmatia had become economically independent from Venice and had rebelled in 1181 which the Venetians had failed to reconquer. Enrico Dandalo wanted the crusaders to take Zara. Some refused to do so and returned home, including Simon de Montfort whose son would later found England's parliament. Zara was captured causing the pope to excommunicate the crusaders, (he later reversed this so only Venetian crusaders were excommunicated). The crusaders then ended up in Constantinople, (modern day Istanbul and capital of the Byzantines). They did this as the son of the former emperor Isaac II, (Alexios), promised to pay the crusaders if they reclaimed his father's throne. In 1203 Isaac was restored with the help of the crusaders and the next January his son become emperor. Alexios could not meet the demands of the crusaders and was deposed in 1204 by a rival, also called Alexios. Angry the crusaders sacked Constantinople. The magnificent Library of Constantinople was burnt, several Roman bronze horse statutes were taken and given to Venice (they are now outside St Mark's Basilica), and 900,000 silver marks were looted. This caused the quick decline of the Byzantines which would finally vanish in 1453 and permanently split the Catholic and Orthodox churches. In the end hardly any crusaders managed to get to the Holy Land. There would be five more crusades to the Holy Land, the continuing of the Reconquista in Iberia, and several in north Africa.

Other Crusades
There are two crusades against non-Muslims which I briefly want to talk about.
Albigensian Crusade
Innocent III excommunicating the Albigensians
The Albigensian was one of the crusades against Christians. Catharism was a branch of Christianity which emerged in the twelfth century which said that God was a spirit unsullied by physical matter, Jesus was an angel in a phantom body, that the New Testament was allegorical and not truth, and that God and Satan were equal. It even encouraged abstinence in marriage. In Languedoc in southern France Catharism was very powerful, so much so that Innocent III thought it could threaten the entire Catholic church. In 1208 he excommunicated the Albigensians when a papal legate was murdered and a year later a crusade was called. With aid from the French monarchy a war against the Cathars began. Raphael Lemkin, who coined the word genocide, has described this as a genocide saying 'one of the most conclusive cases of genocide in religious history'. At Beziers in 1209 between 15,000 and 20,000 were massacred. Up to a million Cathars are thought to have been killed. Scorched earth policies were even used, like in Toulouse where vineyards were uprooted, livestock slaughtered and farms burnt. In 1229 the crusade officially ended but the persecution of Cathars did not with the Inquisition being set up in 1234 to look for remaining Cathars.

Livonian Crusade
For close to a hundred years there was a crusade in the Baltic region, part of the Northern Crusades, against the peoples of the Baltic and northern Europe in what is now Latvia and Estonia. Pope Celestine III in 1193 called for a crusade against pagans in northern Europe and when peaceful means of conversion failed violence was used. These crusades were fought mainly by the Danish and the Holy Roman Empire with them being the closest kingdoms to the pagan tribes and states. These included wars against the Livs and Latagians (1198-1209), Estonians (1208-27), Saarema (1206-61), Curonians (1242-67), and Semigallians (1219-90). One reason suggested for this crusade was to prevent the spread of Orthodox Christianity into northern Europe. The Kievan Rus had converted to Orthodox Christianity and the Novgorod Republic that replaced it was a major local power. Hence, some have argued that there was a fear that Orthodox Christians would convert the pagan people in the Baltic, so a crusade would convert them to Catholicism before this could happen. The Livonian crusade was much closer to the Albigensian crusade than the Reconquista or 'Holy Land Crusades'. This was a war of conversion instead of 'reconquest'. It did succeed in it's aims with the peoples of the Baltic becoming Catholic.

The crusades show how not everything in history is black and white. The crusades weren't simply a clash of civilizations, a war of religions between Christianity and Islam. We see crusades where Christians fought Christians, Christians fought pagans, Christians betrayed each other, Muslims betrayed each other, and Muslims and Christians made alliances to fight other Muslims or other Christians. It is also easy to forget how the crusades to Jerusalem were also driven by actual religious devotion. People believed they were truly fighting for God by going on a war-pilgrimage to Jerusalem. We also have to consider something else: when was the last crusade? Jonathan Riley-Smith states that crusading never really petered out until the late nineteenth century. Do the Wars of Religion like the Thirty Years' War count as a religion? It is also too easy to place the crusades on today's politics. Particularly the hard right likes to say we are facing a crusade now or in the near future. This belief is born through the idea of a clash of civilizations which was not true then and is not true today. Anyway, thank you for reading and the next World History post will take us to southern Africa to look at Great Zimbabwe.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Crusades: A History by Jonathan Riley-Smith
-God's War: A New History of the Crusades by Christopher Tyerman
-The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives by Carole Hillenbrand
-A History of the Arab Peoples by Albert Hourani
-BBC In Our Time podcast, Baltic Crusades
-Crash Course World History: The Crusades
-The Times Complete History of the World edited by Richard Overy

For the list of other World History posts please see here

Saturday, 7 January 2017

World History: Vikings

Illustration from 12th century Miscellany on the Life of St. Edmund
Vikings are something which has enraptured the public's image for centuries. Starting with the Victorians and their contemporaries the world has become fascinated with the people who we now refer to as Vikings. In some areas where the Vikings once raided and ruled the legacies and memories of these raiders has become sources of local pride. I come from Yorkshire in northern England which was centuries ago home to the only truly Viking territory on mainland Britain in the form of the Kingdom of Jorvik. The town which I am specifically from is only a twenty minute train journey from this kingdom's capital, modern day York. York itself has taken much pride that it was once ruled by Vikings. What were the Vikings like in real life? Who were the Vikings? To start off with we have to look at where the people we call Vikings came from and why they started raiding in the first place.

The people who we call Vikings originated in northern Europe in an area called Scandinavia, (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden). Peoples across Europe and the Middle East referred to these peoples in various ways. The Franks referred to them as 'Northmen' or 'Danes' while the English referred to them as either 'Danes' or 'heathens'. Irish sources initially referred to them as 'pagans' or 'gentiles' but later called them 'Finngall' (Norwegians) or Dubgall (Danish). Slavic peoples in eastern Europe referred to them as 'the Rus' which later Byzantine and Arab texts referred to them as. The word 'Viking' itself only came into usage during the 'Viking revival' over two hundred years ago when we first began seeing these people in a romanticized view in contrast to the barbarians which they had been portrayed as centuries prior. We are not too sure on the etymological origins on the word 'Viking' with there being several theories about the origin of it, one such with it being an Old Norse word for 'pirate' or 'piracy'. 

Historians have often placed the start of the 'Viking Age' as 793 when raiders from Scandinavia sacked the Lindisfarne monastery in what is now Northumbria. Despite what the media normally portrays Viking life to be like most people in Scandinavia for centuries had been either farmers or traders. So why then did they start raiding suddenly? An initial theory was that population pressure meant that there was not enough land to go around for the use of farming. Hence, 'Vikings' started raiding Christian areas, like England and France, to get rich quick or to settle distant lands like Iceland. However, this theory about wanting land has largely been discredited now. A huge Viking farm has been discovered at Borg on the Lofoten Islands off of the northern Norwegian coast (actually inside the Arctic Circle), and a Norwegian merchant called Ottar who visited Alfred the Great of Wessex said that one of the three things which he did to sustain his family was reindeer farming in the 'furthest north of all the Norsemen'. The population density of Scandinavia has been estimated to be one or two people per square mile, the exact opposite of over-population. Other theories have been put forward. Most theories do have some uniting reason to why they started raiding western Europe: economic reasons. For many generations Scandinavians had been exacting tribute from the Sami, Finns, Balts, and Slavs in eastern Europe as it was home to the best fur for trading. The merchant Ottar took tribute from the Sami and said 'That tribute consists of the skins of beasts, the feathers of birds, whale-bone, and ship-ropes made from walrus-hide and sealskin'. These items were very important in both Scandinavia and western Europe, (as well as other materials from Scandinavia), which helped create important and lucrative trade routes between western and northern Europe. From here Scandinavians learnt important facts about the goings on in the west giving them ample information to extract more wealth through raiding.

However, these economic links have been used in accordance with theories about why raiding started. Some, like Peter Sawyer, have argued that raiding showed the power of local rulers. Danish kings controlled the route to the Baltic and used the tributary system to show their power. By sending out raiders and then taking the profit this showed other rulers how powerful they was. This period saw increased urbanization where much wealth was located so naturally it was easier to get rich raiding urban settlements than trading. Another idea argued by historians, like Robert Ferguson, was the raiding was a response to Christian expansion. The start of the 'Viking Age' coincided with Charlemagne's wars against the pagan Saxons (please see here) so raiding of wealthy Christian settlements would help counteract Christianity's spread, and make them wealthier. What the real reason was we may not know.

Religion and Burial Practices
The Vikings were polytheistic and their religion is often referred to as Norse. We know that the gods were often revered as this extract from History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen shows 
For all the gods there are appointed priests to offer sacrifices for the people. If plague and famine threaten, a libation is poured to the idol of Thor; if war, to Wotan; if marriages are to be celebrated, to Frikko.
It is unfortunate that most sources on Norse religion were written centuries after the Vikings had converted to Christianity, or are from the Icelandic sagas which are heavily mythologized. However, we can learn much from archaeology, and what sources which we do have.  We know that the 'chief' of Norse gods was Odin, and quite like the Greco-Roman gods he was not a perfect being. Thanks to Marvel comics Thor and other appearances in the media, (the god associated with thunder, strength and the protection of humanity) is the most famous Norse god. Often people would honor Thor in times of need as he was seen as the protector of humanity and would grant them strength. Similarly to many other religions there is an apocalypse in Norse religion called Ragnarok. Although a Christian source written years after the 'Viking Age' we get a good idea of Ragnarok from the Poetic Edda. Among the things to happen in Ragnarok is that the son of Loki, the giant wolf Fenrir, would kill Odin, and that the world would be engulfed in water. Eventually the world would resurface fertile once more with the surviving gods returning and with two humans to repopulate the world.

Contrary to popular belief the 'Viking funeral' of being cremated on a ship was very rare. In Denmark it was actually more common to be buried than cremated. Many areas had the dead buried with personal belongings which was believed would help them in the afterlife. Usually this indicated the wealth and power of an individual: burials with many grave goods have been interpreted as being burials of rich and powerful individuals. In Oseberg, Norway a ship was even buried in a burial mound around the year 834 with an older and younger woman in the mound as well. Bone analysis has found out that they ate a diet consisting of meat showing how wealthy they were as fish was the diet of most people at the time. Also, the fact that such an amazing horde was found buried with the women showed that women in this society could be very important. There are instances of the stereotypical ship burning funeral. The best is an Islamic source from Ibn Fadlan written in the first half of the 900s and shows a unique way how they (the Rus) prepared the dead. Among this they 'divide them [his wealth] into three parts. The first of these is for his family; the second is expanded for the garments they make; and with the third they purchase strong drink, against the day when the girl resigns herself to death, and is burned with her master'. After a feast, an orgy, and a ritual where the sacrifice supposedly sees her master 'in Paradise' the sacrifice's throat is cut and the ship is burnt. Of course this ritual is likely only reserved for the elite. Also, contrary to popular opinion if a Viking king died peacefully this was seen as a good sign as it indicated that his rule had been prosperous.

Vikings in the East
Kievan Rus in Constantinople
It is erroneous to place the start of the Viking Age with the sack of Lindisfarne. Generations before they started raiding west they had been extracting tribute from the peoples of the east. Principally people from east Sweden went east to the Baltic to do this and they started travelling to Lake Ladoga and down the Volga to trade. By 750 they had established a settlement called Staraja Ladoga to do this. Here they used tribute and trade to get goods including amber and a quarter of a million silver coins from the Islamic caliphate to the south! In return they traded Frankish swords to Arab traders. Using small ships, with around ten crew members, they would travel down the Dnieper and Volga rivers to access the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. There they would have access to the two cities of wonder: Constantinople and Baghdad. This trade was so prosperous that they established settlements across the rivers to secure this trade. In the 8th-Century Kiev was founded and in the 10th-Century Novgorod was founded. The name of the Vikings also changed along here. One theory on their name origin was that it comes from Roslagen, (eastern Sweden), which then got shortened to Rus. They did continue raiding with one in 907 allowing them to trade in Constantinople. Like their cousins in the west the Rus were known as fierce fighters with Arab sources stating that their leaders went into a rage similar to that of the infamous berserkers. Thanks to this the Byzantines even hired them as mercenaries. As shown below one mercenary named Halvdan in the 9th-Century got bored and carved his name into the Hagia Sophia. 
Viking graffiti in the Hagia Sophia
Eventually there was a shift among the Rus from a Scandinavian identity to a Slavic one as there began assimilation between the Rus and the local Slavic peoples. Elizabeth Rowe has stated this shift in Kiev took three generations to do. However, the states of Novgorod and Kiev would lay the foundations for a new state whose name derives from the Rus: Russia. However, that is a future World History post.

Vikings in the West
Lindisfarne today
In 793 the first major Viking raid on England took place with the monastery of Lindisfarne being sacked and the monks inside being murdered. Alcuin of York wrote
We and our fathers have now lived in this fair land for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and never before has such an atrocity been seen in Britain as we have now suffered at the hands of a pagan people. The church of St. Cuthbert is spattered with blood of the priests of God, stripped of all its furnishings, exposed to the plundering of pagans- a place more sacred than any in Britain.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle said:
A.D. 793. This year came dreadful fore-warnings over the land of the Northumbrians, terrifying the people most woefully: these were immense sheets of light rushing through the air, and whirlwinds, and fiery dragons flying across the firmament. These tremendous tokens were soon followed by a great famine: and not long after, on the sixth day before the ides of January in the same year, the harrowing inroads of heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-island (Lindisfarne), by rapine and slaughter.
When studying the Vikings in the west the idea of 'only the winners write history' gets shot down as almost all our sources come from those attacked by Vikings, and they are not very flattering of the victors to say the least. In 789 there had been a raid on an island off the coast of Dorset but the Lindisfarne raid is seen as greater as it was a raid on a monastery. Thus started 'the Viking Age' in western Europe. In 794 the island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland was sacked and then Vikings started raiding Ireland. Around the same time in the same ships which they had used for trade in the east were being used to take raiders up the Seine. In 845 they even managed to siege Paris and they only left when paid 2600 kilograms of silver by Charles the Bald. 

We also see in this period Vikings settling in the west. In some areas they created entirely Viking settlements, mainly the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Orkney, the Shetlands, and Greenland. In fact modern Icelandic is the closest language to Old Norse for this reason! This was achieved as in areas like Iceland and Greenland there was no previous settlement. In other areas of Europe Vikings came and settled. In 840 Vikings started creating settlements on the Irish coast and one would become Dublin. Other trading ports were founded by Norwegians including Cork and Limerick, and afterwards there was much intermingling between the Scandinavians and Vikings. Dublin boomed thanks to becoming a key trading port getting goods from Iberia and Byzantium to be shipped to northern Europe. That is until 1014 with the Battle of Clontarf when Brian Boru managed to oust the Vikings from Ireland. However, it was not Irish vs. Vikings but rather Irish and Vikings vs. Vikings. It was a different story in Normandy (northern France). Charles the Simple was forced to sign a treaty in 912 with Rollo granting him areas of northern France in return for Rollo converting to Christianity and protecting the Seine. This was called the Duchy of Normandy (Normandy coming from 'Normanni' or 'Men of the North'). Under Rollo's protection raids on France started to dwindle. Finally we have England. Fans of the BBC show The Last Kingdom and the books it is based on will recognize the 'Great Heathen Army' (as named by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle). In 865 an army led by Ivarr the Boneless, Guthrum, Halfdan, and Ubba invaded East Anglia (southeast England) and proceeded to conquer most of England until 878 when they were halted by Alfred the Great of Wessex. The areas conquered by the Vikings was called the Danelaw and here intermingling of Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon cultures could be seen. Many place names have their origin in Scandinavian words, any place in England in -by, -howe, and -ton just being a few examples. Northern English accents (such as my own) were born through the blending of Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon speech. Any readers from Britain will notice the stark difference between accents from the north and south, this is one of the reasons why. Slowly the remaining English kingdoms started chipping away at the Danelaw until 927 when the Kingdom of England was born. However, the Viking presence did not stop here. Between 1016 and 1035 Cnut the Great ruled England and it was only until 1066 at the Battle of Stamford Bridge did Scandinavian presence in England end with the defeat of Harald Hardrada. Incidentally the same year William of Normandy, the descendant of Rollo, conquered England. In all areas when the Vikings settled they traded once more with the locals with them even funding the rebuilding of settlements which they had attacked using the money earned through trade.

One final point to mention is this: Vikings went to the Americas. Leif Erikson went from Greenland and supposedly founded a new settlement called Vinland. Here they traded and fought with the local people until the settlement was abandoned. We now know that Vikings did settle in the Americas. L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland has been discovered to be a Viking settlement, however it is doubtful if it was Leif Erikson's settlement. Although not there long it shows that Europeans had arrived in the Americas centuries before Columbus and without the horrors that Columbus did in the Americas. 

Conversion to Christianity
For centuries Vikings knew about Christianity. They had traded with Christians, took Christian wives, took Christian slaves (called thralls), and had lived with Christians. Hence, conversion to Christianity was not a major issue for many Vikings with some converting but continued to worship Norse gods as well as Jesus. Queen Thyra, married to King Gorm, (Denmark's first king), ensured that Christian's were protected during in Denmark and her son Harald Bluetooth later boasted of 'making the Danes Christian'. Harald (incidentally the runes making his initials put together form the Bluetooth logo) supposedly converted around the 960s when a monk managed to hold something boiling in his hand without being burnt and this aided the conversion of Denmark. It especially was helpful that Thor's hammer Mjolnir which people wore as necklaces resembled the Christian cross. Some historians believe that Harald had Denmark convert through fear that remaining pagan would give Christian kingdoms to the south an excuse to constantly attack Denmark so conversion removed this threat. Slowly the other kingdoms converted to Christianity so that the last Vikings wore the Christian cross instead of Thor's hammer.

It is clear to see why so many people are enraptured with the Vikings. Although the traders and farmers of reality contrast greatly with the entirely seafaring people that the media portrays them as they still remain interesting. What is more their legacy has greatly shaped the world. From the names of our days (Thursday comes from Thor's Day, Wednesday from Wodin's (Odin's) Day etc.), to our place names, to the way we speak, to even graffiti carved into the floor of the Hagia Sophia. They forged Ireland, Russia, Denmark, Ukraine, and the UK. They helped forge the world that we live in today. Thank you for reading and the next World History post will be about the Crusades.

The sources I have used are as follows:
-The Hammer and the Cross: A New History of the Vikings by Robert Ferguson
-The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings edited by Peter Sawyer
-The Viking Age: A Reader edited by Angus A.Somerville and R.Andrew McDonald
-BBC In Our Time podcast: The Volga Vikings

For the list of other World History posts please see here