Sunday, November 16, 2008

Today In History: Lützen.

On this date in 1632, Gustavus Adolphus, the king of Sweden, was killed in the climactic battle of Lützen, guaranteeing future employment for novelist Eric Flint.

15 comments:

Earl said...

Only you would have linked them, proud to see Flint picked up the gauntlet - most Americans have no real feel for the Thirty Years War, they can't even put the Three Musketeers in the same age. But then if there were a S&W matchlock pistol for cavalry you would own it.

Mattexian said...

C'mon, it's a pretty cool series, buncha WV hillbillies transported across time to help the "protestant side" in the Thirty Years War. It's fun imagining what Europe would look like if the US-style Rights of Man took a stranglehold of the peasantry, forcing the nobility to renegotiate early their terms of employment.

bumper sticker philosopher said...

Meh. I stopped reading the 1632 series after the first two books. It turned into an apologia for renaissance era Catholicism and socialism.

Flint's background as a Wobblie is indelible in his writing.

The heroes are all surprisingly thoughtful hard-working union types downtrodden by a bunch of inept capitalist pigs.

Flint suppressed the American aspect of the novels in favor of his class-warfare mindset.

The character of Mike Stearns is particularly sphincter-clenching. A West Virginia coal miner viewed through the eyes of a hard-core Marxist.

Oldsmoblogger said...

I dunno...I thought Flint and Weber did a good job fleshing out Admiral Simpson in 1633. My beef with Stearns is that he changes clothes in a phone booth, or durn near as makes no odds.

Not even Captain Victor Henry changes clothes in a phone booth.

Oleg Volk said...

Flint = commie

"1632" went downhill straight from the phrase "It's not like every one of these guns isn't illegal anyway".

Yuck. And poor, formulaic writing that makes Turtledove look good by comparison.

Tam said...

No kidding.

Plus, Grantville has to be the poorest-armed town in W. VA.

I have more rifles and ammunition than the entire cast of 1632...

Ed Foster said...

Still, the inquisition was run by the Spanish civil government, not the church. From 1492 until 1734they executed 5,000 people, almost all Moslems or Sephardic Jews allied to the Moslems, all for proven treason.
Nary a Christian among them except for a few Spanish apostates working for the other side as mercenaries. So much for fundamentalist propaganda.
There's a really good history of the Inquisition that pops up on the History Channel every few months, springing from a study done by Protestant researchers going through the records of the Inquisition. Check it out the next time it comes by.
During the same period my Northern European ancestors, mostly Protestants, whacked roughly a quarter million of their own for witchcraft or giving birth to twins (a certain sign of infidelity, God said so).
Most of the scientific work of the late 16th through early 18th centuries was financed by churchmen.
Lutheran Tycho Brahe travelled to Austria to get sponsorship for his work from the Catholic Arch-Bishop of Vienna, and his experience was common. Also, Puritanism is hardly something that can be laid at the doorstep of the Catholics, be they the Roman, Orthodox, or Episcopalian variety (same church, differing only in choice of head bishop). Fiery eyed fanaticism during that period was pretty much the province of the reformers/fundametalists/zealots. Remember, Martin Luther died while trying to reunite the Catholic Church and bring Lutherans back into the fold. He thought the reformation had gone too far, and the counter-reformation had redeemed the church. But the fundamentalists had taken over the movement, and the madness was out of control.
A truly scary German folksong of the period has a chorus that goes "See the red cock crow upon the rooftop", referring to the flames coming out of buildings filled with Catholics, or other, different kinds of Protestants, locked inside.
The actions of mercenary armies are by definition obscene. Mercenaries don't get hired unless there's a shortage of reliable locals with a sense of loyalty to the area in need of defense, and unpaid mercenaries are dangerous indeed.
The Scots (mostly Protestant)that Christian of Denmark used to kick the crap out of the Swedes (mostly Protestant)went so far as to behead the entire male population of Stockholm to convince the locals to give up their booty.
Gustavus Adolphus cross county skied back back from the Norwegian border (wearing birchbark gaiters, hench the Birkebiner race each year), and stabilized the situation by saying "Hey nice Scottish people! Come over to my side and I'll pay you the back wages Christian never did, plus a bonus, and you get to keep the loot and ladies you picked up in Stockholm. And don't worry about that beheading stuff, I understand that boys will be boys".
One is mindful of the words from Brigadier General DeChastellain, former commander of NATO forces in Bosnia, who said "There are no goodguys here".
I have no strongly held religious beliefs. If I wasted time on the fairytales at all, I imagine I would come out somewhere around agnostic.
By ancestry, I am a 100% lilly pure British mutt, equal parts Cockney, Lowland Scot, Highland Scot, and native Irish. And the "native" Irish part began with a Welsh mercenary who settled down with a local girl. I have no particular ethnic axe to grind here.
But I do think history is an important enough lesson, when taught honestly, that silly propaganda from several centuries past should be quantified and presented as such, rather than as "Gospel".
One of the real howlers in the 1632 series (all of which I have read and enjoy) is the presentation of appalachian whites as Lowland Scots.
The langauge of the courts, by it's very nature, must be the language of the people. Try and find any court records from the Circuit Rider judges or their clerks that were in any language other than Gaelic until the Reconstruction period in the 1870's.
Written in Scots Gaelic, which uses the commonly avilable English typesets, but using Irish idioms. By the time the appalachins were settled, most of the Lowland Scots families had been speaking a variety of English for 4 or 5 generations. And the Scots-Irish settlers driven from northern Ireland were at least 50% native Irish "Squireens", turncoat Irish Catholic middleclass who had converted to save their property.
The first English language newspapers printed in the appalachins didn't happen until the 1890's. It took that long for the Federal troops to drive away the wandering "Dominies" and raise up a generation literate in English.
Davy Crockett was considered an ill-spoken buffoon in Congress, but a brilliant orator on the frontier. On the frontier he was speaking his own language.
I have met few "Hillbillies" who didn't boast of Irish ancestors, and the DNA studies done by KSU show that about half the population of the rural, mountainous regions is Irish or the indistinguishable Highland Scot, with most of the rest being Lowland Scot, or western English from Cornwall,Devon,Dorset, and the Welsh Borders.
Understandable, as the English Civil War was essentially a race war between the Anglo-Saxon easterners (Round Heads) and the Celtic westerners (Cavaliers). The westerners lost, and had to run for it.
If I had to choose a place in 17th century Europe that was most likely to reflect something like traditional American values, I think I would have plopped Grantville down in Holland, right on the Flemish border. Or, if I needed some hills to make it defensible, right on top of Great-Granddaddy's Perthshire, Scotland, or maybe Switzerland.
And while we're on the subject, the Swiss seem to be rather under represented in the Ring Of Fire series. Odd, considering they were one of the big players militarily, both as mercenaries and as innovators (the first all gun armies, etc.).
Still, you have to go with what you have, and the Grantville series is fun at times. I thought the Ram Rebellion could have been better shortened to a few chapters in a better book, but authors have to make a living too.

bumper sticker philosopher said...

I always have to snicker when someone says the Inquisition was run by the Spanish Government and not the Vatican. Usually the person saying it is a Catholic.

The Vatican at the very least countenanced the Spanish inquisition and almost certainly approved heartily of it and the other atrocities committed in its name during the counter-reformation.

word verification Fibbing (and I think someone was)

Ed Foster said...

I'm no lover of the Vatican after the French takeover politicised it and turned it into a trophy for competing dynasties.
Got a junior son who's looking a bit big for his britches, and threatening the succession milord? We'll just get him a bishopric and he's out of the way. Any bastards he produces won't inherit anything, and we can use the same bishopric as a safety valve when your son passes away.
Anything after the French induced schism was about as bad as the Borgia years, and usually not as supportive of the arts (quick swivel to Harry Lime at the top of the Ferris Wheel in The Third Man, with the second best line ever recorded in movie history).
The point I was trying to make, and the same one all those stunned English, German, and Scandinavian historians made on the History Channel after months of delving through all two and a half centuries of the Sancta Hermondad's records is this: virtually everything we've heard about the Inquisition was massive B.S.
I have no truck with religion as theology in any form (back slidden Presbyterian here, with a bead rattler Ex), but it is part of our history.
It was shaped by European culture both for better and worse, and was an instrument in shaping said culture, for better or worse.
It deserves something more than the knee jerk hysteria spouted by propagandized simpletons. Judge it (again, after seeing that stunning History Channel expose) against similar, equally fallible institutions in Northern Europe at the same time.
My take is about the same as Flint and Weber's, to whit: About the same number of monsters and bureaucrats on either side of the religious divide, but probably a bit more forgiveness and moral flexibility on the part of the Roman Church, less fundamantalist fire and brimstone.
The Counter Reformation was dramatically more peaceful, partly because it came to war ravaged, worn out areas too tired to complain, and partly because it was seen to be a return to normalcy and stability by the locals.
But there are two other things that come to mind that I wish had been kicked around back in school when I was taking the class.
The firat is a corillary of the return to stability business mentioned before.
The Counter Reformation was carried out predominantly by newer monastic orders like the Franciscans and Dominicans, legitimately decent, humble people who delivered what the Church claimed to deliver before the wars, and so often hadn't.
In that sense, Luther's work was a success, and it was the "Gentle Conquest" that brought him back into the Roman Catholic orbit before his death. The second is, quite simply, a look at the map.
After a century of misery and the reduction of Central Europe to an unproductive garbage dump that produced nothing but grade two cannon fodder for the next two hundred years, the lines between the two competing religions and cultures were just about where they had been a year or two into the conflict.
If you've never sat through a Latin High Mass in a Lutheran cathedral, you are missing, at least at the gut level, the basic premise of my whole phillipic.
They are ALL CATHOLIC! What the "Protestant", mercantile, grain and fish eating flat land northern European/latter day Viking types recreated was the National Catholic Church Inc., run by their kings and merging the church hierarchy with the national nobility and gentry.
The same system that existed before the Crusades raised the Pope from the status of titular first bishop to Commander Of The Faith.
The Grazing, meat eating Alpines saw less change in their lives, wanted less change in their lives, because they had a more dispersed, self sufficient, more heavily agrarian culture.
The Counter Reformation gave them back a church that was again a cost effective buffer aginst hard times with it's tithes and storage against such, and an essentially benevolent intermediary between commoner and nobility.
The peoples of the Tyrol were the big winners of the religious wars, because they ended up with the reformed church Luther envisioned.
The non-Roman "Catholic" churches of the north, "Lutheran" and to a lesser, gentler extent Episcopalian, turned on the fundamentalists with a savagery that had heretofor been reserved for the Pope's minions.
Ever wonder why there are so many Baptists, Amish, and Mennonites everywhere in the world except the Protestant areas of Germany where they originated?
Angry peasants lead by fundamentalist ministers (think Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Adam Clayton Powell, with attitude and a sunburn) are just as much a liability to Lutheran or Episcopalian gentry as to their Roman Catholic cousins.
I mean that literally. The degree to which conversion between varying brands of Catholic happened for purposes of political marriage was enourmous.
Queen Kristina of Sweden became a Roman Catholic nun, and a nice little Roman Catholic princess from Germany converted to Orthodox Catholic and became Catherine the Great of Russia.
A branch of Scotland's Roman Catholic Stewarts turned Lutheran Catholic to inherit some property in Germany, and changed their name to von Saxe-Cobourg-Gotha.
They ended up running Great Britain, and changed their name to Windsor during the first world war, when Britain's King George squared off against his first cousin Kaiser Wilhelm, with the aid of their mutual first cousin, the Tzar of Russia.
At the end of the day, it was all for nothing. The same people ended up running the show, the split between national churches and a supra-national church followed the same ethnic and cultural lines established at the beginning of the showdown, and the center of Europe lay gutted for six or seven generations.
Screw all fanatics, with a long, pointy crowbar. I've always tried to treat history as an objective lesson in sociology, and I usually trusted the honest intent, if not the conclusions, of my teachers.
I can't describe the sense of outrage I felt when I saw all those talking heads on the afore mentioned History Channel special say "Sorry about that". "It all never really happened". "Silly us".
Looking at the religious wars without the filter of some presupposed reaction to a nefarious, all powerful monolith really changes things.
Now that we have a new Messiah leading another ignorant but angry mob, one wonders how much this cycle will differ from the last.

Crucis said...

Geez, Ed, two posts and you wrote more words than are contained in the average paperback. I read a lot, but I would guess that most folks just scrolled down and skipped you.

Tam said...

I sure as hell didn't.

He can fill my comments section up with stuff like that any time he wants.

Ed Foster said...

Engineering came later in life. I started out as a History/Anthropology major, working nights as a toolmaker, due to the fact that I couldn't feed a growing family on the $28.50 per diem I got as a sub in the Hartford school system.
I ended up going full time at the chip cutting, and the company sent me back to school for an ME.
Now I'm a nefarious firearms designer/other stuff related, until Big Brother bags me, but I try to to stay current on the old trade.
Someday I'll write a book on how the American Revolution started in 405 A.D. Think about it.

Tam said...

405?

Didn't Constantine III pull his legions across the Channel in 407?

That's the only thing in the first decade of the 5th Century I can think of...

Tam said...

(...and the "Tend To Your Own Defences" letter from Rome was in 410, right? I'm shooting from the hip, here...)

Ed Foster said...

Hengist and Horsa got off the boat in 405, starting with the Isle of Wight. The stew started simmering right there.
Consider, at the time William Shakespere was born, something close to a third of the English population spoke some variety of Cornish/Border Welsh, a situation that maintained until the Cromwellians went through western England with fire and sword, and put to death everyone they caught who couldn't say the Lord's prayer in English.
Anything resembling a sense of "Englishness" in the lower classes was three centuries in the future, waiting for the train and public education to break down the local isolation.
England, as late as the early 19th century, was still the most medival country in western Europe, with most of the population living and dieing within five miles of their birthplace. Five miles on a muddy path is as far as you could travel and still return in time for milking.
Back to Hengist, Horsa and Co. Forgive me,I lost my Ritalin.
I stumbled across a map showing the stalled battle lines between Cavaliers and Roundheads during the first winter of the English Civil war. It looked awfully familiar.
Then I went back to an old school book by Ashley Montague. He did a demographic survey of the British Isles just before the second world war, and had done a blood type distribution map of England. The deliniation of type A (North Germanic/Norse) and type O (Alpine/Celtic) matched the frozen battle lines exactly. Not even a wobble of a few miles either side of the line.
So, we're looking at a war that was not only political, but a continuation of the same sorry old race war that had batted back and forth between eastern, Germanic England and western, Celtic England for centuries. Most of the men who stopped the Spanish Armada (along with some rotten weather and crappy dago gunpowder) could speak little or no English.
The two great central historical facts of the 17th century for England were the enclosure acts and the conquest of Ireland.
The conquest of Ireland meant the logging off of the largest oak forest in Europe. The oak that built the British merchant marine, the royal navy that protected it, and the wood for Sir Christopher Wren to rebuild London after the great fire.
It also gave England the giant's share of Europe's lye trade. Without lye, there was no economical way to tan large amounts of leather.
Lye was made by running water through the ashes generated by burning Ireland's oak forests, anything that wasn't fit for ship or building timbers.
Leather was the plastic and rubber of it's day. Without lye to tan the leather harnesses, seals, gaskets, bellows and pulley belts, there was no industrial revolution.
With it, there was, and there was also an enourmous need for grazing land to grow sheep for the woolen and linen cloth factories springing up in the midlands, along every dammable stream.
The enclosure acts stripped the countryside of small, self sufficient farm villages, by enclosing multi hundred square mile holdings and destroying everything inside them, to provide maximum grazing area.
It was rare in the old Danelaw along the eastern coast, because the soil was poor and rocky, and virtually unheard of in the Home Counties of the south-east, because of the strong "tribal" bonds between master and serf.
But Celtic England was destroyed in less than a decade, with the displaced population left to wander the roads and starve, or move into the cities as a permanent underclass manning the mills and knocking shops. The beginning of "Bloody Mindedness", class hatreds, and fertile ground for British writers from Charles Dickens to David Storey and Anthony Burgess.
Now, how this fits into the establisment of America will have to wait until I go out and make a few bucks, but think about it.
Also consider that the same enclosure acts savaged southern Scotland and eastern Ireland as badly as they did western England.
A picture should be forming:-)