Did Europe (especially Rome) help the English at all during the Viking invasions?

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The Vikings were invading everywhere, along Northern and eastern Europe, Europe including Rome was a complete mess and in no state to organise a united front, although the Carolingians and russian princes did try at various points.

Don’t forget the Western Roman empire had all but disappeared by then.


Its worth noting that Alfred didn’t save “the English.” He saved the Anglo-Saxons, and by saved we may rather say prolonged their rule for another two centuries.

The Angles and Saxons were Germanic tribes who conquered much of what is modern day England after the Fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Vikings arrived a few centuries later and lay waste to much of the coastline of Northern Europe (as well as a few other places, like Sicily for example). The Vikings carved kingdoms out of parts of England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and Italy. Their invasions were roughly contemporaneous with one another and as such none of the European kingdoms would really have been able to “aid” one another. Indeed, in this time period, aid would have been either showing up for the battles or not. And the Vikings rarely “battled,” they raided until life was so unpleasant you came to terms.

Finally, to return to my original point. “English” culture doesnt exist until around 1100 A.D. When the Vikings conquered northern France (Normandy) they chilled there for a century or so and then William the Bastard (William the Conqueror) invaded England and defeated the Anglo-Saxon ruler Harold at the Battle of Hastings. William ruled extremely effectively and established a new ruling class in England – the French speaking Norman descendents of Rollo and his Viking warriors. English culture is kind of understood as forming at the intersection of Anglo-Saxon popular culture and Norman-French elite culture. The easiest example of this is how all the words for farm animals – cow, pig, sheep, horse – are Anglo-Saxon in origin because poor people worked the land. Whereas, all the words for meats – beef, pork, mutton, venison – are Latin in origin because rich people could afford to regularly eat the meat.

This is a topic I am deeply fascinated by. If you want to learn more I recommend starting out by reading about the lives of Rollo, Eudes (Odo, Otto), Ragnar Lodbrok, Willliam the Bastard, Bjorn Ironside, William de Hautville, and Hastein. There’s so much information on this time period that isn’t really popular knowledge. The stories of the Viking Age are absolutely fantastic!


There was no unified idea of Europe in that time so most states had no incentive to help and helping would be very costly.


I’m not an expert but from what I’ve read about the subject: we’re talking 8th and 9th century here. It would have been hard to give any meaningful help, a crusade, in that time logistically, for most if not all Christian kingdoms in Europe. Rome for example, was sieged (unsuccessfully) by Muslim warriors in the 9th century. Almost every single other kingdom would have had it’s hands full with itself and its neighbours.

Also, the Vikings were expanding into almost all of Europe (although English territory was one of the first). It wasn’t an isolated Anglo-Saxon problem to deal with the Vikings.


The period that saw the launch of the Crusades was the High Middle Ages, at the very end of the 11th century; while the Crusading period extended to the 15th century, the majority of the action in the Holy Land took place between 1096 and 1291. In the First Crusade, the participants were primarily lords from Languedoc, Normandy, Anjou, Poitou, Brittany and the Low Countries, with additional participation from German, English and Italian nobles (keep in mind that, due to conflicts with the Pope, both the King of France and Holy Roman Emperor refused to participate).

The point I’m illustrating is that the First Crusade made possible due to a very specific cultural shift in northwestern Europe—the advent of High Medieval knightly culture, spearheaded and well-embodied by the Normans. The Normans, of course, were former viking raiders who had been given lands in the north of France to help secure the French heartland from further raids. Over time, they Christianized and adopted many Frankish customs as their own, but they were far more martial in character. They basically exported mounted warriors as a commodity (see: the Norman conquest of Sicily; the Norman conquest of England) and were a major factor in the First Crusade’s success (along with similarly warlike lords from Bouillon, Flanders, Blois and Toulouse).

This Latin Christian warrior culture (in a word: chivalry) did not yet exist during the period of the viking invasions; in fact, those viking invaders were integral to its development. There was nobody for the Anglo-Saxons to turn to. This was only two centuries prior to the High Middle Ages, but the world was a very different place, especially in terms of wealth/development, centralization of power and power projection capabilities that made the Crusades a reality.

Alfred was the king of Wessex, and the only “allies” he could hope to secure, beyond other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms like Mercia, were the indigenous Britons in places like Wales and Cornwall. Keep in mind, though—what the vikings were doing to the Anglo-Saxons, the Anglo-Saxons had done to the Britons 3-4 centuries earlier; they were ancient enemies. Carolingian Frankia was occupied repelling viking incursions of their own, and the Church did not have a military arm at this time (apart from the feudal soldiers of the Pope and his vassals, the responsibility of which was to defend their own lands around Rome).

So no, no one helped the Anglo-Saxons because nobody could. They beat the vikings on their own, and got the glory. Alfred outmaneuvered and outfought the vikings bit by bit until Wessex and Mercia were free once more; his legacy, and the legacies of his children Aethelflaed and Edward, allowed Aethelstan to become the first King of the English.


Bookclub Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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I am currently reading Sapiens, A brief History of Mankind. This book is an interesting take on early human history and I CANNOT PUT IT DOWN!


I started Thomas Pakenham’s *The Scramble for Africa* last week and am still reading it. About 500 pages in with about 200 to go. Will finish today or tomorrow. Currently it is in the latter half of the 1890s and the last chapter I read was about the Italian defeat in Ethiopia. Really liking the book. It starts with the death of Livingstone and then follows the major great power competition and explorers across the entire continent. Personally found the Belgian/Leopold parts to be the best, followed by the British. German parts have been decent. Not too interested in the French colonial claims. Would recommend. Unless it rapidly goes down in quality I’ll say 4.5/5. (Edit – Now finished it)


WWll fans: if you haven’t already, read Blitzed. Completely changed my perspective on the Third Reich.


Night by Elie Wiesel – eerily beautiful depiction of what it was like to be in a concentration camp


if you guys are on winter break and have some time to kill, Jonathan Spence’s *The Search for Modern China* is a 900-page epic on China’s transition from late imperial times to the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.


A lot was happening in Boston During the 1721 Smallpox outbreak

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Just goes to show that on any topic, 50% of people are going to be wrong about it.


So, some black people were doing vaccines in Africa way before we were and some dude from boston takes the credit for everything?


The process of variolation was publicized in England by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador to Turkey who witnessed its use there. Against vigorous discouragement, she succeeded in in convincing the Princess of Wales to have her children inoculated (after demonstrating the procedure on convicts first!).


I’m going to name my next child Zadbiel Boylston.


If I’m remembering right wasn’t there a fairly large chance that the inoculation could end up killing you? A difficult decision to make, as you either took the risk then and potentially your kid died, or hoped that the disease wouldn’t pass through and infect them later. Franklin didn’t get his kid inoculated and later regretted it if I’m remembering correctly, but it’s not exactly like getting a vaccine today. There was a real threat either way.


What’s the story behind the Hungarian practice of using Eastern naming order (family name first, personal name second)?

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In colloquial Finnish in my mother’s generation, and I’m pretty sure later too, people used to “reverse” first and last names all the time….ie, Juhani Lakela referred to as “Lakelan Juhani” (Lakela’s Juhani).

No scholarly source, native Finnish speaker.


I don’t know the exact reason behind it but it probably has something to do with our grammar. You see, family names were originally used to distinguish people. Like if there was a John who was a Miller and one who was a blacksmith then they called one John the Miller and the other John the Blacksmith.

However, Hungarian is much more flexible than English and we many times put adjectives BEFORE the noun. Like “Pécsi András” is grammatically correct if I want to say András is from Pécs and it also can be a proper name too. (oh, “Pécsi” counts as an adjective, while Pécs itself is a city)

Same thing with Japanese BTW. Who also use this naming order. You can put adjectives or other stuff before the noun.


It is quite common in the spoken German dialects of Austria (and Bavaria for that matter) to use the family name first. That might also be a possible connection due to the strong cultural relationship in the Austro-Hungarian empire.


In Romania we also put the Family name first.


It’s anything but uncommon in Europe to put the family name first.


How were war horses trained?

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There are groups of horses that are more sensitive and skittish, often called “hot” horses that are bred for speed and endurance (think thoroughbreds and Arabians) and others called “cold” which tend to be much larger, slower, and stronger (think Clydesdales). Breeding them gave way to “warmbloods” which are an ideal combination of both. These warmbloods are often featured in Olympic dressage and three day eventing sports. Three day eventing is meant to reflect the training of the ideal war horse. Dressage (which is its own sport and the first day of the three day sport) is about precision and control, sometimes called horse ballet. Cross country is the second day, and as the name implies, takes the horses and riders through a natural course of obstacles like ditches, banks, and logs. The third day is stadium jumping (which is also a standalone sport). This event demonstrates agility and performance after a hard day of endurance. Altogether, these events represent the most important parts of training a war horse. The other part, training horses to accept large crowds and loud noises like gunfire and shouting are more rare these days but it is quite possible (think about police horses, another easy parallel here is the difference between dogs used in hunting vs house pets).

Edit: this is my first awarded post ever. Thanks very much!


Even after breeding there are still nerves and novel situations. The second half of the answer is in training.

You might start with someone the horse knows holding/minding the horse, and another person banging on drums, pots, whatever. Let the horse watch a swordfight with loud voices. Once the horses start to take that in stride, step it up.

Maybe for step two you have the sword fighters move around. Let the horse watch several people in groups do a group swordfight. Swordfight in front while the guy plays drums or bangs on barrels behind the horse.

In the gunpowder era, use small booms far at first, a little closer each time the horse gets used to them to the point they can ignore it. Add booms during the swordfight, make the situation increasingly chaotic. Throw things. Have people yelling. Advance (eventually) to having the minder ride the horse instead of stand in front w/reins. Etc.

The goal is to desensitize the animals to the noises and visual stimulation. Eventually you can get to where the animal will stand calmly with swordfighting all the way around just as if it were in a pasture eating grass.

The last stage is the hardest, having the stress of battle (and its smells, hormones, and death) all around- but that works the same way, it’s just more work to “fake” that for a horse to “get used to”.


It also helps to have “trainer” animals. With a dog, your older dog knows how to sit, come, etc. When they perform that in front of a puppy, the puppy observes and learns much more quickly than they would from a cold start. Horses are no different– you can run a young horse with its parent, run it with an empty saddle, let them see the adult be groomed, etcetc. and it is a much easier road than breaking and training a wild adult horse. And there is no reason to think training war horses would be any different: “Hey, that horse is standing still, maybe I don’t need to panic, either”. And so on.


Fun fact, many war horses including those used by knights in medieval warfare were trained to purposely trample fallen enemies. Stomp stomp


small point: rarely in history did horses ever willingly charge into long spears and pikes. you didn’t start your battle by sending your cavalry into the fully-manned, fresh and energized blocks of pikemen. that’s suicide.

after you’ve harried them with arrows for an hour, maybe sent your heavy infantry to try and split the block, and have an open flank or gap in the line to send your horses into, then you call for a charge.


In WWI, horses would be trained for the front line by setting off cannons and guns while they are eating. They ended up liking the sound, because they associate it with food. I will update with sources when off my phone.


In the Seven Years War, Why exactly did France consider the war against Prussia a bigger priority than the one with Britain at sea and in the colonies ?

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The French were actually preparing an invasion of Britain, but like so many times before, the Royal navy stood in their way. Battle of Quiberon bay is little known, but was very important in turning the war in Britain’s favour. Together with several other British raids, it effectively put an end to the invasion plans, but also prevented the French from reinforcing the colonies.


Just to be clear, there were a lot more hostilities going on in Europe (& outside, in the Indian Ocean) at the time. The French were not only at Rossbach but also waging a protracted campaign against Prussia’s Hanoverian allies – in a campaign that was really dragging them down since it went nowhere. The lacklustre French performance is what prompted the appointment of Choiseul in 1759, whose express hope was to force Britain to the table by amongst others an aggressive campaign against Hanover & Britain itself. Both plans failed and the disaster of Quiberon Bay (1759) fatally handicapped the French navy & their capacity to project power far outside of Europe.

In effect France was waging a war on 3 fronts – Europe/America/India, unexpectedly it lost on all of them.


The quebecois have been asking themselves this question for 200 years.


It was a matter of strategic reality. France could compete for some local control of the waves, but the English fleet was still overwhelming in an overall sense. France could have invested in trying to compete with England at sea in a more general sense, but France was the strongest land power in Europe, and had enemies on land that they could focus on.

So its a national case of sticking with what you are good at.


My basic understanding of this is that:

1. Colonies were looked at more as valuable commercial holdings which could be swapped back and forth, rather than indispensable strategic interests

2. France knew it’s relative strength was as a continental land power, while its power to project overseas was questionable when a naval power like Britain was involved

Between those two things, the rational strategy would be to leave the colonies to hold on as best they could while the army runs up the score in Europe. Even if they lost Canada they could always get it back in negotiations. Had they done better that is probably what would have happened


How did communal living societies handle crying babies?!

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There was a tv show my son used to watch which showed a day in the lives of other children all over the world, most of them living in extremely rural conditions, most of them in what we would consider third world countries.

Many of the families depicted lived communally, most in one room structures, although they structures were all very different because of different climates. One thing I noticed that they all seemed to have in common is that all the children would sleep together at one end of the room. Not the babies I assume, but very young children. I did find myself wondering if that stopped them crying, always having someone near them, unlike in our homes?


As you mentioned, there would likely have been lots of babies all the time. People likely grew up and lived their entire lives hearing babies cry all night. It’s likely never really seen as much of a problem because having a noisy night is probably the norm. I mean, even beyond babies, think about all the snoring, grunting, tossing and turning, etc that everyone does all night.

I would imagine people who were raised in that sort of environment find the sounds comforting and easy to sleep through. They would probably find complete silence more unnerving. Think of people today who have difficulty sleeping without a TV or white noise in the background.


Nearly constant breastfeeding and super close cosleeping, like breast to chest, until age 3. I once read an article about Nigerian mother being shocked at how often babies in the US cry. Nigerian babies are held and carried constantly, in all levels of society, and they aren’t disciplined the way we do either, it’s more corrective encouragement and attention from the get-go. I have four kids. I’ve noticed each one cries progressively less. Something about living in a big pack. Which brings me to my last point, which is that babies and small children were likely way more active and outdoors during the daylight hours and thus more likely to sleep more soundly.


A few points.

One, it’s what you’re used to. My boyfriend grew up with silence, and darkness at night when he went to bed, out in the country. I grew up with a fan, and the television, in the city. I can sleep with lights on, sirens, and the tv blaring.

Two, most babies today are ‘light sleepers’ because parents encourage the behavior. Not saying I’m innocent, I did it with my first born. Everyone be quiet, don’t make any noise, the baby is sleeping!!

With my second daughter? As long as peeps weren’t screaming, I let it go. She learned to sleep through most anything, and slept like a rock.


The norm in most pre-industrial societies is for baby to be next to mom all the time. So very likely, if baby cried at night, it would be comforted very quickly. It’s really strange, from the perspective of human history, to have a baby down the hall from the parents crying by itself.


Why is the Ottoman Empire referred to as Turkey in most history books?

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Interesting, any reference I’ve heard about Turkey before 1920 was always referred as Ottoman Empire. I was educated in Brazil, so this may have a skewed view compared to the West European one.


Never heard Ottoman Empire refered as Turkey but I would assume it is because of the Seljuq Turks => Ottoman Empire => Turkey transitions.

However, by your logic, no empire ever had a correct name.


Laziness I think in a lot of cases.

It’s similar to the way people regularly conflate Russia and the Soviet Union.


The notion that the western powers called the ottoman empire Turkey to encourage separatism might be reading too much into it.

Metonymy (and in this case synechdoche) was simple a very popular rhetorical device back then, and still is. However Nationalism was very much a part of the general psyche back then, and post-napoleonic Europe very much referred to each other by nationality. Since the dominant nationality of the ottoman empire were the turks…


I don’t know, I am European and a History enthusiast and I have never seen this mistake anywhere. The Ottoman Empire has always been named that way in my books.
I was actually very confused about when the Ottoman Empire started being named Turkey and why.


How has Switzerland maintained its ‘neutral’ status?

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I think it was invaded by Napoleon during the Napoleonic wars.


Switzerland is surrounded by mountains and is highly defensible. I believe at one point they even had plans for detonating mountain sides to block routes in if the defenses failed.


During WWII there were more than a few instances of axis and allied air crews violating Swiss airspace. A few Swiss cities were even bombed. Pretty sure the Swiss began firing upon airspace violators too.


In the 20th century it’s not too unique in this. Ireland, Sweden, Austria, and Finland for a few examples also maintain their neutrality.

In WW2 why didnt the Germans invade… There was just never any point. France was their target and they logically figured the best way to get to France was through the low countries rather than the mountains.

Switzerland wasn’t about to invade the Axis, indeed it had a lot of pro Nazi people amongst its elites, so there was no reason to invade. The nazis had enough on their plate.

Also there was the factor that neutral countries were useful. Sweden was a bit better for international trade but Swiss banks offered an excellent place through which to funnel ill gotten wealth and fund the war effort.

On the other side why didn’t the allies invade… Fairly similar reasons of there being no point. Germany was collapsing already and the north was far easier to invade. There was no need to try and open up alpine passes from Italy.

Swiss nationalists will of course argue that its due to the strength of the Swiss military, the national redoubt system, etc… But this is wrong. The main reason is primarily :why bother?

As to whether neutrality would ever be broken… During the Cold War it was widely recognised amongst Swiss military planners that the west was not a threat. If Switzerland was to be in danger it would be the Eastern block invading rather than the French. This thinking wasn’t as far advanced as in Sweden nonetheless come ww3 it was fairly accepted the Swiss would probably end up on the side of the west to some extent.


Switzerland is a mountainous country with few natural resources worth taking. The majority of males had to undergo mandatory training which meant they could raise a somewhat effect army quickly. Switzerland also built its infrastructure like bridges and tunnels so they could be easily sabotaged. Invading Switzerland has been a consideration in both wars to attempt to outflank the enemy but such a maneuver would require a rapid advance though Switzerland. An invasion would be slow and would likely see Switzerland ally with the opposition leading to a likely grueling battle though the Swiss mountains for which ever country tried invading. Basically nothing worth taking and would take to long and be to expensive to be a serious tactical consideration in the WWs


The Alps are a natural defence. It just wasn’t worth it.

When Napoleon tried to invade, they learnt quickly to just destroy their Bridges making it almost impossible to traverse with a large army.

They have kept this defence and all bridges are currently wired to blow if an Army decides to Invade.

Belgian also wanted to stay neutral but they were unlucky enough to be flat land between France and Germany.


They launder everyone’s money, you don’t fuck with the money