The link below is to an article that takes a look at Late Bronze Age ‘Must Farm’ in eastern England.
Tag Archives: England
The link below is to an article that takes a look at Seahenge, England.
For more visit:
Sometime in the autumn of 1621, a group of English Pilgrims who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean and created a colony called New Plymouth celebrated their first harvest.
They hosted a group of about 90 Wampanoags, their Algonquian-speaking neighbors. Together, migrants and Natives feasted for three days on corn, venison and fowl.
In their bountiful yield, the Pilgrims likely saw a divine hand at work.
As Gov. William Bradford wrote in 1623, “Instead of famine now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God.”
But my recent research on the ways Europeans understood the Western Hemisphere shows that – despite the Pilgrims’ version of events – their survival largely hinged on two unrelated developments: an epidemic that swept through the region and a repository of advice from earlier explorers.
A ‘desolate wilderness’ or ‘Paradise of all parts’?
Bradford’s “Of Plymouth Plantation,” which he began to write in 1630 and finished two decades later, traces the history of the Pilgrims from their persecution in England to their new home along the shores of modern Boston Harbor.
Bradford and other Pilgrims believed in predestination. Every event in their lives marked a stage in the unfolding of a divine plan, which often echoed the experiences of the ancient Israelites.
Throughout his account, Bradford probed Scripture for signs. He wrote that the Puritans arrived in “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” They were surrounded by forests “full of woods and thickets,” and they lacked the kind of view Moses had on Mount Pisgah, after successfully leading the Israelites to Canaan.
Drawing on chapter 26 of the Book of Deuteronomy, Bradford declared that the English “were ready to perish in this wilderness,” but God had heard their cries and helped them. Bradford paraphrased from Psalm 107 when he wrote that the settlers should “praise the Lord” who had “delivered them from the hand of the oppressor.”
If you were reading Bradford’s version of events, you might think that the survival of the Pilgrims’ settlements was often in danger. But the situation on the ground wasn’t as dire as Bradford claimed.
Earlier European visitors had described pleasant shorelines and prosperous indigenous communities. In 1605, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed past the site the Pilgrims would later colonize and noted that there were “a great many cabins and gardens.” He even provided a drawing of the region, which depicted small Native towns surrounded by fields.
About a decade later Captain John Smith, who coined the term “New England,” wrote that the Massachusetts, a nearby indigenous group, inhabited what he described as “the Paradise of all those parts.”
‘A wonderful plague’
Champlain and Smith understood that any Europeans who wanted to establish communities in this region would need either to compete with Natives or find ways to extract resources with their support.
But after Champlain and Smith visited, a terrible illness spread through the region. Modern scholars have argued that indigenous communities were devastated by leptospirosis, a disease caused by Old World bacteria that had likely reached New England through the feces of rats that arrived on European ships.
The absence of accurate statistics makes it impossible to know the ultimate toll, but perhaps up to 90 percent of the regional population perished between 1617 to 1619.
To the English, divine intervention had paved the way.
“By God’s visitation, reigned a wonderful plague,” King James’ patent for the region noted in 1620, “that had led to the utter Destruction, Devastacion, and Depopulation of that whole territory.”
The epidemic benefited the Pilgrims, who arrived soon thereafter: The best land had fewer residents and there was less competition for local resources, while the Natives who had survived proved eager trading partners.
The wisdom of those who came before
Just as important, the Pilgrims understood what to do with the land.
By the time that these English planned their communities, knowledge of the Atlantic coast of North America was widely available.
Those hoping to create new settlements had read accounts of earlier European migrants who had established European-style villages near the water, notably along the shores of Chesapeake Bay, where the English had founded Jamestown in 1607.
These first English migrants to Jamestown endured terrible disease and arrived during a period of drought and colder-than-normal winters. The migrants to Roanoke on the outer banks of Carolina, where the English had gone in the 1580s, disappeared. And a brief effort to settle the coast of Maine in 1607 and 1608 failed because of an unusually bitter winter.
Many of these migrants died or gave up. But none disappeared without record, and their stories circulated in books printed in London. Every English effort before 1620 had produced accounts useful to would-be colonizers.
The most famous account, by the English mathematician Thomas Harriot, enumerated the commodities that the English could extract from America’s fields and forests in a report he first published in 1588.
The artist John White, who was on the same mission to modern Carolina, painted a watercolor depicting the wide assortment of marine life that could be harvested, another of large fish on a grill, and a third showing the fertility of fields at the town of Secotan. By the mid-1610s, actual commodities had started to arrive in England too, providing support for those who had claimed that North American colonies could be profitable. The most important of these imports was tobacco, which many Europeans considered a wonder drug capable of curing a wide range of human ailments.
These reports (and imports) encouraged many English promoters to lay plans for colonization as a way to increase their wealth. But those who thought about going to New England, especially the Pilgrims who were kindred souls of Bradford, believed that there were higher rewards to be reaped.
Bradford and the other Puritans who arrived in Massachusetts often wrote about their experience through the lens of suffering and salvation.
But the Pilgrims were better equipped to survive than they let on.
Peter C. Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
From ghost tours, to books, Halloween costumes to theatre productions – and even a museum – the Jack the Ripper industry is well and truly alive.
His is the name given to the unidentified serial killer who was believed to be responsible for a number of murders in and around the Whitechapel district of London between 1888 and 1891. It was during this period that the lives of Mary Ann Nichols (Polly), Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly were so brutally ended.
Known as the Whitechapel Murders, the killings saw an unsubstantiated number of female sex workers murdered by an unknown assailant[s]. At various points, some or all of these unsolved murders have been attributed to the notorious “Jack the Ripper”.
And yet the fact remains that Jack the Ripper is not, and never has been, real. The name “Jack the Ripper” was simply invented by a journalist to boost newspaper circulation – and it did just that as papers sold from stands all across London town with tales of “Jack’s” gruesome killings.
So while there was a killer – or even many killers – committing horrendous acts of femicide during the period, it was not done by a man named Jack the Ripper. And what can also be said with a great deal of certainty is that it was not a smog shrouded, top-hatted, cloak wafting mythical figure who was responsible.
The reality of the killings
What is real, though, are the women who were killed – and the pathological violence enacted upon them. Public recounts of their murders are often sanitised, and frequently omit the true ferocity of the violence and degradation they endured.
This includes virtual decapitations, facial, abdominal and genital mutilations, organ removal and possible cannibalisation. But yet in spite of the sexual injuries inflicted upon the bodies of the women killed, any sexual motives for the killings are frequently dismissed.
It has been argued by several feminist historians, that the whole grand narrative of the Whitechapel Murders is held aloft to all women – as a warning of what may happen should they breach their prescribed gendered limits of domesticity, geography and sexuality.
In this way, the story of “Jack” and his deeds, is built around a cornerstone of “whorephobia”. This is the hatred of, oppression of, violence towards, and discrimination against sex workers. And by extension, derision or disgust towards activities or attire related to sex work.
The women killed, by and large, are rarely represented as anything but deserving, diseased, destitute, addicted, immoral and unsightly. They were part of a community which was too visible and deemed verminous. And many sources at the time overtly stated that the sins of the fallen, far outweighed the sins of the hand that slew them.
The humanity and life experiences of the women killed in Whitechapel have been utterly reduced to their jobs and the roles they played in society. They have become more akin to cultural tropes of “disposable street prostitutes” than once living women. More unreal than the unreal “man” who is supposed to have killed them.
A cultural icon
Failing to acknowledge the horrific historical truth of these murders has undoubtedly impacted perceptions of Jack the Ripper today. He is seen as an “icon of crime” rather than a horrific serial killer who disembowelled women.
Worse still, since the era of the crimes, hundreds of people globally have lost their lives to killers who have confessed to emulating “Jack”. And the press still refers to “Jack the Ripper type crimes” when acts of femicide have been committed, particularly if the victims work in the sex industry.
“Jack” did not forge his ubiquitous cultural status, his multi-million pound industry, or his “immortality”. “Jack the Ripper” may be a made up construct but with lives still being taken in his name, it is high time that our cultural relationship with “The Ripper” changed. One way of doing this is by addressing the way such modern crimes are reported.
The World Health Organisation’s 2014 report, which looks at how violence can be prevented, highlights the impact language around such violence plays. And given that “Jack’s” name remains associated with an ever growing list of victims – from around the world – it is clear this is something that needs to change sooner rather than later.