"Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life, and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other underground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, practical and unbelievably dull; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation."

Norman Mailer
"The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China--why then it will be spring."

"This new history of yours," said McPhee, "is a wee bit lacking in documents."

C.S. Lewis

Synchronicities this week

  • June 24 Midsummer/St. John’s Day
  • June 24, 1947 The first flying saucers are sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold.
  • June 24, 1542 St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet, is born.
  • June 24, 1938 500 ton meteorite lands near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
  • June 24, 1717 First Free Masons' grand lodge founded in London.
  • June 24, 1374 A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • June 24, 1314 Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains independence from England.
  • June 24, 843 Vikings destroy Nantes.
  • June 23 Midsummer’s Eve
  • June 23, 1972 Nixon & Haldeman agree to use CIA to cover up Watergate.
  • June 23, 1942 Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales.
  • June 23, 1888 Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president.
  • June 23, 1848 Workers’ insurrection in Paris.
  • June 23, 1713 The French residents of Acadia are given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia, Canada. They choose the latter, migrate to Louisiana, and become Cajuns.
  • June 21 Summer Solstice (11:28 a.m.).
  • June 21, 1964 Three civil rights workers-Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney-are kidnapped and murdered by the Klan in Mississippi .
  • June 21, 1948 The 33 1/3 RPM LP record is introduced by Columbia Records.
  • June 21, 1944 Ray Davies of the Kinks born in London.
  • June 21, 1916 Mexican troops beat US expeditionary force under Gen Pershing.
  • June 21, 1877 The Molly Maguires, ten Irish immigrant labor activists, are hanged in Pennsylvania prisons.
  • June 20, 1947 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, gangster, the “man who invented Las Vegas,” shot dead in Beverly Hills, Cal.
  • June 20, 1909 Errol Flynn, greatest of the swashbucklers, born in Hobart, Tasmania.
  • June 20, 1944 Congress charters Central Intelligence Agency.
  • June 20, 1943 Detroit race riot kills 35.
  • June 20, 1893 - Lizzie Borden acquitted in murder of parents in New Bedford Mass.
  • June 20, 1871 Ku Klux Klan trials began in federal court in Oxford Miss.
  • June 20, 1837 Queen Victoria at 18 ascends British throne ; rules for 63 years ending in 1901.
  • June 20, 1756 146 British soldiers imprisoned in the "Black Hole of Calcutta." Most die.
  • June 20, 1631 The Irish village of Baltimore is attacked by Algerian pirates.
  • June 20, 1214 The University of Oxford receives its charter.
  • June 20, 451 Germans & Romans beat Attila the Hun at Catalarinische Fields.

Friday, May 8, 2009

This week in the Secret History: Anarchy in the UK - 1381

The murder of Wat Tyler,
peasant leader

"When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"

On this day in 1525 the German Peasants' Revolt was brutally crushed by the combined forces of the nobility and the church. This was the typical fate of a peasants' revolt. But these epical risings by supposedly ignorant and subservient men and women were the first symptoms of a change in consciousness that would eventually sweep their oppressors from power and begin a new age in Europe...

We tend to imagine medieval society as a fixed and immovable hierarchy, where even imagining a different ordering of society wold have been impossible. Not so. The sense of dignity and the desire for freedom are inherent in human nature. Peasant revolts, uprisings of exploited subsistence farmers, whose labor was at the disposal of their feuudal overlords, were in fact fairly common in the late Middle Ages. In Germany alone between 1336 and 1525 there were no less than sixty phases of militant peasant unrest. In the end they were almost always defeated. .

The main demand of the revolutionaries was for the abolishment of serfdom, whereby the poorest of the small farmers were in effect owned and, by law and tradition, exploited by their feudal lord.

Inn the late Middle Ages, the social gap between rich and poor had become extreme, as it is now in the United States. Dress, behaviour, manners, courtesy, speech, diet, education — all became signs of the noble class, making them distinct from others. By the 14th century the nobles had indeed become very different in their behaviour, appearance and values from those "beneath".

"The Peasants' Revolt," "Wat Tyler’s Rebellion," or the "Great Rising of 1381" is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the best documented popular rebellion ever to have occurred during medieval times. The names of some of its leaders, John Ball, Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, are still familiar.

In June 1381, Kentish rebels formed behind Wat Tyler and joined with rebels from Essex and marched on London. When the rebels arrived in Blackheath on June 12, the renegade priest, John Ball, preached a sermon including the famous question that has echoed down the centuries: "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?". (I.e. "While Adam dug, and Eve spun, who then was the Gentleman ?") The following day, the rebels, encouraged by the sermon, crossed London Bridge into the heart of the city. They were betrayed by false promises from King Richard II, their leaders murdered, and the rising crushed.

Even though the revolt itself failed, the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 demonstrated such enormous support that it marked the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England. It led to calls for the reform of feudalism in England and an increase in rights for the serf class.

Bond Men Made Free is a highly readable account of peasant revolts in general, and the English Revolt of 1381 in particular, written by one of the foremost current authorities on the subject, Rodney Hilton.

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