Monday, February 28, 2011

Note on the Rosenberg Case

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in Prison

On June 19, 1953 Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by means of electrocution for the crime of spying for the Soviet Union.1 At the time and later the case generated a great deal of heat and controversy. Many people thought that the Rosenbergs were victims of a government frame up.2 In fact as late as the 1990’s many still thought the Rosenbergs as innocent.3 For example Fred Inglis writes:

Evidence-conscious as we all are now we have to say solemnly at this juncture that we cannot know for sure that Greenglass’s story was all tarradiddle. But Greenglass was a known perjurer who was desperate to climb out of trouble; he was also an extremely low-level lens-grinder for the Los Alamos project. Julius Rosenberg was an honest sap. At the trial Rosenberg doggedly, ingenuously said that he felt the Soviets had made life better for the underdog, had restored the fabric of the country, had helped destroy the “Hitler beast” who destroyed Jewry.

Alger Hiss, like the Rosenbergs, still stands in an obscure position between innocence and guilt in the case history of American law.4

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Tough Minded"

Atomic blast at Hiroshima

The dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 will remain a bone of contention among historians but it is fascinating how the the decision to drop the bomb is justified. The usual argument, expressed in such books as Thank god for the Atom Bomb by Paul Fussell1 is about how those who gainsay the decision to drop the bomb are foolish sentimentalists, who don't understand war and the then war situation. That they lack the tough mindedness necessary in war and are mired in a sentimental fog.

What of course is absolutely fascinating is how those so called realists and tough minded people are also sentimental in their own way. They refuse to use such words as "massacre" "atrocity" "mass murder" "war crime" "crime against humanity" to describe the bombing. They studiously avoid using such tough minded unsentimental language to describe the bombing.

The fact is the vast majority of the victims were civilians and that the bombs were even more destructive and frankly indiscriminate and hard to escape from than conventional area bombing.

It is remarkable how many people who excuse the bombing use the argument that it helped to end the war don't seem to understand that even if that was the case it still is an atrocity, a mass murder of civilians a violation of the Hague conventions, a war crime and crime against humanity.

As for actually ending the war. Well it should be pointed out that the entry of the Soviets into the war just after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima was likely even more important than the dropping of either bomb. Certainly it shook the Japanese leadership. Of course what was also important was that the Emperor intervened decisively (finally!!) to get acceptance of the surrender.

There also were available a few more bombs to be dropped just in case these two didn't work.

What is of interest is also that it appears that before the bomb dropped the Japanese were willing to accept almost any terms, what the Japanese were willing to accept was the retention of the Emperor as a condition and surrender unconditionally aside from that. Of course after the bombs were dropped the Americans accepted that the Emperor would be retained and told the Japanese who then surrendered. So ironically despite the bomb the Japanese did not surrender unconditionally.

In war engaging in atrocity to terrorize the enemy into surrender is an all to frequent tactic. And it is also one that works frequently, although at times it backfires or simply doesn't work. Assuming that the bomb worked to hasten the surrender of Japan. (I frankly doubt the argument that an invasion would have been necessary at all; Japan would have more likely than not surrendered before then.) The argument seems to be that some how that it is justifiable / excusable if dropping the bomb resulted in Japan surrendering. If that is the case than all sorts of atrocities throughout history become justifiable / excusable. In fact even if they don't work they become justifiable / excusable because the intention was to shorten the war and get the enemy to surrender. During the war the Japanese engaged in China in various spectacularly brutal campaigns called the "three alls" meaning burn all, loot all, kill all, during which millions of Chinese civilians were murdered directly and indirectly. The purpose was to terrorize the Chinese into submission. The Nanjing massacre could be viewed in a similar fashion.

The dropping of the atom bombs purpose was to terrorize the Japanese by destroying two Japanese cities and massacring large numbers of people in what was then a truly jaw dropping stunning manner. The debate over how much it had to do with Japan finally surrendering will go on with in my opinion no final resolution.

There can be little doubt that if Japan had used a weapon of similar destructiveness on the United States and if they had then still lost the war, those that had authorized the use of such a weapon would have been justifiably tried and found guilty of war crimes.

It is quite grotesque to hear how after the war those involved in the dropping of the atom bombs got so defensive and upset when their acts were described as crimes, atrocities etc. So much for realism, tough mindedness and a lack of sentimentality. About themselves and their decision they seemed to wallow in it.

What will also continue to go on will be those who argue that the bombing was justified will continue to decry their opponents as lacking realism and tough mindedness while avoiding using such tough minded and realistic words to describe the bombing as massacre, atrocity, mass murder, war crime, crime against humanity. They seem to competely lack the realism and tough mindedness to call a spade a spade.

1. Summit Books, New York, 1988. See also Feifer, George, Tennozan, Ticknor and Fields, New York, 1992, pp. 566-584, for another example of “tough mindedness”.


Grayling, A.C., Among the Dead Cities, Bloomsbury, London, 2006, pp. 77-79, 113-116, 147-158, 231-234, 250-254.

Katsuichi, Honda, The Nanjing Massacre, An East Gate Book, Armonk NY, 1999.

Calvocoressi, Peter, Wint, Guy, Pritchard, John, The Penguin History of the Second World War, Second Edition, Penguin Books, London, 1989, pp. 1033-1037, 1181-1208.

Pierre Cloutier
Neo-Confederate Crap

Slave Auction

The following is a revised posting I left at the Pharyngula website.1 I have also added references.

This is the post I was replying to: I have added some supplemental commentary to this persons posting it is the non-indented material.

Hit me with your best shot !
I'm still standin yea yea yea !
Come on is that the best you folks can do?
Calling me names truly exposes who is the bigot.
How many ships flying the confederate flag imported slaves? ZERO!
That was the north's doing. Cha Ching $$$$.
The Northern blockade during the Civil War massively reduced trade into the Confederacy and prevented any revival of the slave trade including illegal. The South was heavily involved in the trade while it was legal; after all who was buying the slaves? Southerners were involved in all aspects of the operation of the slave trade.2
"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races – that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."
This is from the Lincoln / Douglas debates. Aside from indicating that racism and racist like beliefs were common in the North as in the South how does this indicate that slavery was not the most important cause of the Civil War? Or that Lincoln shared these beliefs how does this in anyway indicate the preserving slavery was not the most important reason why the South tried to secede. Further racist attitudes towards Blacks did not mean that someone could not be opposed to having them enslaved. Interestingly Lincoln seems to have shared these beliefs less than most people of his time.3

Also in Lincoln's first inaugural address:

"I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."
Lincoln was still hoping for reunion with the Seceding states seven of which had seceded by the time of his inauguration. Further he did not wish to alienate the border South states. Finally he really did believe that he had no power to interfere with slavery where it existed. In this respect he was entirely correct, in terms of the normal powers of the president in a normal situation. In the future Lincoln would base his interference with slavery entirely on his emergency and war powers. I should however indicate that Lincoln was quite adamant that he and his government would NOT allow the further extension of slavery or the creation of more slave states. And Lincoln was quite adamant that he wanted to stop the expansion of slavery so that the institution would, without new places to expand into, wither and die. Many southerners felt that this was the death knell of slavery and that the institution would be in mortal danger unless the slave states left the union. Certainly the main complaints justifying secession in the Southern Conventions regarding secession was the threat to slavery posed by Lincoln and the Republicans. Finally Lincoln was trying to reassure Southerners that although he and his government would stop the extension of slavery they would not interfere with it where it currently existed. All in hope of reunion.4

So why did Lincoln invade the South if not to free the slaves? If you have an inability to think for yourself, then you stick to repeating the same government lies. But if you are interested in finding the truth, you can again examine Lincoln's very own words. Again from his first inaugural address:

"there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority [...] to collect the duties and imposts"

It seems fairly clear from the actual words of Lincoln that he was a racist (like most Americans in that day) who wanted to invade the South in order to collect the government's taxes from Southerners who no longer wished to remain in the Union. The entire war was initiated and fought by the North in order to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. Likewise, since the North was not threatening to end slavery, the South was most certainly not fighting to preserve slavery. The South fought the war to defend their homes and to break free from a tyrannical government.
Well the author forget that it was the South was the one that opened fire on Fort Sumter and further since the South had no legal right to secede the National government was well within its rights to continue to collect duties and imposts. The author creates a straw man; it is well known that the war was fought to preserve the Union by the North for various reasons, including the idea that Southern secession made a mockery of Democracy and further that allowing secession would destroy the rest of the Union. Nations generally do not allow themselves to be destroyed at what appears to be a whim. In a nation state attempted secession leaves behind a massive array of interlocking disputes making civil war extremely likely. The comment that the North incited the war is simply false. After all it was the Confederacy that opened fire on Fort Sumter. None of this deals with the question of the why the South succeeded, in fact it avoids it. First the Confederacy was formed even before Lincoln and his allegedly “tyranical” government took power. And what where the “tyranical” acts threatened? Why the exclusion of slavery from the territories. The refusal to impose a slave code on the territories, regardless of the inhabitants feelings. The base insults to the South consisted of such things as giving fugitive slaves rights to a hearings before being sent back south in some norther states.5

Also, recall that slavery was supported by the US government, not just by the South. Moreover, most of the slave trade went through Northern ports and the North was profiting from slavery just as well as the South through cheap Southern-produced goods and tariffs. So if the media is going to attack all things Southern as racist, should they not been held to do the same for all things US government or all things yankee? The hypocrisy is truly unbelievable. I suspect the true motive for the denigration of the South is really about denouncing secession (by equating it to racism). Government is coercion and secession is the ultimate weapon against government.
The above is an outstanding example of evading the issue which is why did the South secede. It does so my changing the topic to racism in general. The South produced few goods, it manufacturing industries were comparatively weak. What the South produced was masses of cotton and other raw materials, i.e., tobacco, rice etc. The South was a mass importer of manufactured items from the North and Europe. Oh and please note that many Abolitionists knew full well that much of the Northern economy benefited from slavery directly or indirectly and bitterly denounced it. In fact those who in the north directly benefited from slavery (various commercial concerns etc.) where very likely to be pro-Southern and pro-slavery. Besides your defence of the South is to shout your racist too! That of course means that your admitting the South was and is racist. No Historian worth his salt will deny that racism permeated both North and South in the pre Civil War era, what this has to with the changing the cause of the Civil War is beyond me. It is obvious that you could be racist and anti-slavery. I also note a slip slide from the past to the present. How does the fact that over a century ago racism permeated the American Republic tell us about racism today. It is a fact that neo-Confederate thinking has traditionally in the South been associated with racism. Neither does any of this change the fact that secession occurred because of Southern fears about slavery being undermined. The fact that the North benefited in many respects from slavery does not change the reasons why the South seceded was because the South feared what might happen to slavery when Lincoln took office.6

As Jefferson Davis said, "Truth crushed to the earth is truth still and like a seed will rise again." Let us hope this is true.

disclaimer: Although I think this is unnecessary, the yankees will slander me if I do not say this. While I support the South and the principle of secession, I am completely against slavery. While we are at it, I am also against murder, rape, pedophilia, and the slaughter of kittens.

Confederate Constitution:

"Section 9 - Limits on Congress, Bill of Rights

1. The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same."
I will deal with the slave trade below. After the Civil War Jefferson Davis produced an appologia7 which claimed the Civil War was not about slavery. He did so by massive messaging of the truth and out and out lying.

The evasions above of the Southern history of disenfranchisement and racism are obvious and clear. Also obvious is a deliberate ignoring of the interconnection between nostalgia for the Confederacy and racism. The re-imposition of “white” rule in the South was accompanied by much Confederate nostalgia along with terror. Further this “white” reconstruction of the South was accompanied by a Northern acceptance of the myth of the innocent South and the wicked Reconstruction and a tacit allowance of the imposition of a quasi servitude on Blacks again. Our author, although he is against slavery, seems to not be aware that it is tyrannical. Certainly he does not seem to be terribly upset by it. At least compared to the Lincoln’s unacceptable tyranny, which consisted of nothing he did because he wasn’t in office yet. The tyranny that our author finds unacceptable boils down to a government refusing to allow the further territorial expansion of the tyranny of slavery and further the perfectly legal collection of taxes etc.; also the national government resisting the illegal seizure by violence of its property.8

Below is my posting.

You do realize that the reason that the Confederate constitution outlawed the Slave trade was because if they legalized it it would have guaranteed European opposition to the New Confederate states. Despite this there was a significant push to re-legalize the slave trade by some Southerners at the time. This was rejected as political suicide.9 You do realize that that the U.S. had abolished the Slave trade more than 50 years earlier.10 You do realize that people continued to illegally import slaves into the south for profit. You do realize that Southerners were heavily involved in this traffic and that there were court cases in the South in which those who were tried for this were routinely acquitted.11

You do realize that the confederate constitution strengthened slavery and made it much more difficult to abolish.12 You do realize that that at the state State Conventions considering succession slavery was talked about ad nauseum and that that in the papers and other documents justifying succession slavery was the most prominently given reason for succession.13 You do realize that after the election of Lincoln large sections of the South were filled with spasms of rage and fear over what his election meant in terms of the survival of slavery.14

You do realize that even before Lincoln was inaugurated seven states had seceded from the Union and the confederacy formed.15 You do realize that the Southern states were ceasing federal property all over the place. You do realize that attacking Fort Sumter was an act of war. You do realize that the American president has emergency powers to deal with insurrection, which this was indisputably.16

You do realize that the Confederates absolutely refused to recognize the right to succeed of parts of the Southern States that didn't want to go along with succession. You do realize that mass arrests and in some places executions happened in those areas. Say parts of Texas, Eastern Tennessee, with mass arrests suspension of Habeas corpus etc.17

During the War the Confederacy in terms of centralizing the state etc, went the same way as the Union. Oh and the Confederacy invaded neutral Kentucky.18

Oh and Andrew Jackson, a Southerners said during the nullification crisis in 1832 that succession was treason and that he would hang the ringleaders as traitors.19

In 1860 most people in the United States did not think that there was a legal right to secede. Most American supported the right to revolution, which was a different thing.20 In this case the simple fact that Lincoln was elected as President was not deemed by most northerners and by a lot of Southerners sufficient excuse to secede.21 After all Lincoln had been elected by 40% of the vote and the republicans had less than half the seats in the new Congress.22 Lincoln's ability to adversely affect the South would have been severely limited. Oh and Stephen Douglas a very pro-Southern Northern politician and second in the popular vote in the election of 1860 swore up and down that succession was illegal and that he would help crush it.23

Oh and at the same time Arkansas seceded from the Union the state introduced laws that made manumission of slaves illegal and tried to re-enslave the states free black population. Much of South Carolina’s free Black population fled in the face of greatly increased persecution.24

Succession was not a legal act but a revolutionary act and has such had a high chance of causing a Civil War. The Southern politicians made a disastrous mistake. Oh and many were hoping for the election of Lincoln and helped to generate the hysteria and panic in the months preceding the election in order for succession to happen.25

And do I have to point out that during the constitutional convention Southerners lobbied for their human property to be included as part of the full population when it came to appropriating representation etc. at the same time they wanted their human property excluded from the rights of the constitution etc. A compromise was reached the infamous 3/5th clause. At the same time Southern slave owners resisted any effort to lessen their tyrannical control over their slave property. Allowing slaves to get legally married would have been a good start.26

The South fully supported coercion against slaves to keep them in that status and those who didn't want seccession.

The political leaders of the South made what could only be described as an irresponsible gamble and lost completely.

1. Here

2. Thomas Hugh, The Slave Trade, Papermac, London, 1997, pp. 543-546, 566-570, 739-741., McPherson, James M., Battle Cry of Freedom, Ballantine Books, New York, 1988, pp. 378-388.

3. McPherson, pp. 184-187.

4. Stampp, Kenneth M., And the War Came, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1950, pp. 179-203.

5. IBID, pp. 1-45, 239-286, McPherson, 234-307, Potter, David M., The Impending Crisis, Harper Torchbooks, New York, 1976, pp. 485-583.

6. McPherson, 91-103, 116-144.

7. Davis Jefferson, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, 2 vols., Thomas Yoseloff, (rept.) New York, 1958. The Vice-President of the Confederacy also wrote an apologia, Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States, 2 volumes, National Publishing Company, Philadelphia PA, 1868-1870.

8. See McPherson, pp.234-275.

9. McPherson, pp. 102-103, Freehling, William W., The Road to Disunion, vol. 2, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007, pp. 177-184, 502-504.

10. Cooper, William J., Liberty and Slavery, Alfred AQ. Knopf, New York, 1983, pp. 50-52, 70-72, 98-99.

11. McPherson, pp. 102-103.

12. See Avalon Project, Here, for the Confederate Constitution. The following sections massively strengthened and defended slavery.

Article 1 Sec. 9 (4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

Article 4 Sec. 2. (I) The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all the privileges and immunities of citizens in the several States; and shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any State of this Confederacy, with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.

(3) No slave or other person held to service or labor in any State or Territory of the Confederate States, under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs,. or to whom such service or labor may be due.

Sec. 3 (3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.
The American Constitution by comparison goes to strenuous lengths to avoid the words slave, and slavery.

13. See Dew, Charles B., Apostles of Disunion, University Press of Virginia, London, 2001.

14. McPherson, pp. 234-275, Channing, Steven A., Crisis of Fear, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1974, pp. 229-293, Freehling, 2007, pp. 323-444, Potter, David M., The Impending Crisis, Harper and Row, London, 1976, pp. 485-514.

15. McPherson, pp. 257-259.

16. McPherson, pp. 267-275, Potter, pp. 555-583.

17. McPherson, pp. 305-306, Lowen, James W., Lies Across America, The New Press, New York, 1999, pp. 177-179.

18. McPherson, p. 296, pp. 428-437.

19. Freehling, William W., The Road to Disunion, vol. 1, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1990, p. 278.

20, See Stampp, Kenneth M., The Imperiled Union, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1980, pp. 3-36, (Essay The Concept of a Perpetual Union).

21. McPherson, pp. 257-275, Stampp, 1980.

22, Stampp, 1980, pp. 238-239.

23. McPherson, pp. 231-232.

24. Freehling, 2007, pp. 199-200.

25. Channing, pp. 229-293, Freehling, pp. 323-341, Potter, 448-484.

26. Stampp, pp. 232-234.

Pierre Cloutier.

Monday, February 07, 2011

English Forces sent to France in the later part of the Hundred Years War
A Preliminary Review and Analysis

Divided France in 1429 C.E.

The last part of the Hundred Years War although much written about in certain aspects frequently those writings do not give a very good overview of the war. Here I will give a listing, albeit incomplete of English forces sent to France during the period 1415-1453 C.E.

English Forces Sent to Northern France 1415-1453

1415 10,435
1416 0?
1417 10,809
1418 2,000
1419 0?
Total 23,244

1420 1,275
1421 4,100
1422 1,079
1423 1,520
1424 2,209
1425 1,396
1426 800
1427 1,200
1428 2,694
1429 1,800
Total 18,073
AVP 1,807

1430 7,991
1431 3,448
1432 1,220
1433 1,110
1434 2,088
1435 1,987
1436 7,926
1437 2,067
1438 1,646
1439 963
Total 30,446
AVP 3,045

1440 2,081
1441 3,798
1442 2,500
1443 4,549
Total 13,328
AVP 2,666

1448 1,000
1449 963
Total 4,998
AVP 1,666

At the same time English forces were sent to Gascony but far more infrequently and in much smaller numbers.

In 1415 480 men were sent. In 1423 200 men were sent along with 200 more in 1428. In 1431 620 men were sent along with 2,298 in 1439. In 1442 500 men were sent and in 1443 620 men were sent. The English lost Gascony in 1451 but in 1452 an English army of 5,000 men was sent to reconquer Gascony. In 1453 2,325 reinforcements were sent. Despite that the French drove the English out of Gascony in 1453. Thus ending the Hundred Years War. The figures for Gascony even more than the figures for Northern France are incomplete. Even so the total is that in the period 1415-1453 12,243 men were sent to Gascony.

At the same time in 1436 an army of 7,675 was sent to relieve the English port of Calais on the French coast and to ravage the possessions of the Duke of Burgundy. The garrison of Calais was also getting a more or less regular stream of replacements / reinforcements so this figure in incomplete.

The Totals and Average Per Years if you include Gascony and Calais works out as follows:

1415-1419, Total – 23,724 AVP – 4,745
1420-1429, Total - 18,473 AVP – 1,847
1430-1439, Total - 41,039 AVP – 4,104
1440-1444, Total - 14,448 AVP – 2,890
1448-1450, Total - 4,998   AVP – 1,666
1451-1453, Total - 7,324   AVP - 2,442
Grand Total - 91,4125

As I mentioned above these figures are not complete and neither do they include mercenaries or local forces employed on the continent but they do tell us something about war making at this time.

Aside from revealing the small size of Medieval armies of the time the above figures also give some idea of how the small size of such armies didn’t preclude military effectiveness. It also illustrates the limits that Medieval governments had in terms of keeping up army strength. The simple fact is that Henry V’s ability in 1415 and again in 1417 to raise an expeditionary force of over ten thousand man was basically a huge effort and not one easily repeated. It has been known for some time that even before Henry V’s death there was growing resistance to Henry V’s efforts which were likely simply unsustainable for England hence the significant slacking off during the 1420’s even before Henry V’s death.6 It is of interest that despite this reduction in English commitment the period 1420-1428 was over all a very successful period for the English.7

All that changed in 1429 with the appearance of Joan of Arc, the relief of Orleans and the coronation of Charles VII in Rheims. In their struggle to maintain their possessions in France the English had to strain there reserves of financial and military strength for a prolonged period of time and for a much longer duration than under Henry V. It also appears that financially the situation was less positive than under Henry V. Despite this during the 1430’s the English were able to pull off sending the largest number of forces to the continent. In 1436 a total of 15,601 men were sent, about half to Northern France and the rest to Calais. The effort was unprecedented and a fiscal horror for the English government.8 The war was clearly unsustainable the longer it went on. It is common to condemn the government of Henry VI for not prosecuting the war vigorously. It appears that to the extent that they were able they did so. Further the erosion of the English position after Joan of Arc was not due to any lack of effort by the English government to contain the damage. Their efforts were considerable they were simply not sufficient because English resources were not sufficient. Certainly when faced with understandable resistance to continued financial exaction's to prosecute an un-winnable war Henry VI’s advisers did their level best overall.9

In the 1440’s there was a overall slacking of effort related to the resistance to further exactions to finance a war that both being slowly lost and grinding on and on. Fortunately the devastation caused by the war in France made a truce a good idea for them also. So in 1444 the Truce of Tours was agreed to.10

The French building on work done before were able to use the truce to build up their financial and military resources. The English government severely hamstrung by massive debts and poor credit and a population adverse to more war taxes and loans was unable to profit much from the truce. Those serious fiscal etc., problems were aggravated by some truly bad policy decisions. So when the truce broke down in 1449 the result was disaster.11

The French overran the English possessions in Northern France in a year, (1449-1450). Hamstrung by their serious problems the English government still managed to send 4,000 reinforcements over but it was not enough.12

After the loss of Gascony in 1451 the English in one last very costly effort managed to send 5,000 men to reconquer Gascony in 1452 and 2,325 men to reinforce them in 1453. It was again simply not enough and the effort greatly damaged English government finances. In the end it appears that conquering France was beyond the resources of England and that the Hundred Years War was not lost through lack of effort by the English but by lack of means.13

1. AVP – Average Per Year

2. Year of Truce of Tours. Truce of Tours lasts 1444-1449.

3. 1450 year English driven out of Northern France.

4. Grand Total for Northern France 1415-1450.

5. These figures and all the other ones used in this essay come from, Curry, Anne, English Armies in the Fifteenth Century, in Arms, Armies and Fortifications in the Hundred Years War, Ed. Curry, Anne & Hughes, Michael, The Boydell press, Bury St. Edmund, Suffolk, 1994, pp. 39-68, at pp. 44-48, Griffiths, R. A., The Reign of King Henry VI, Second Edition, Sutton Pub., Gloucestershire, 1998, pp. 178-208, 443-473, 482-532. In the last table I added the various figures together.

6. Henry V died in 1422. For more about the extent of the English effort see Curry, Ormrod, W. M., The Domestic Response to the Hundred Years War, in Curry et al, pp. 83-101. See also Griffiths above and pp. 107-122.

7. Griffiths, pp. 178-189.

8. Ormrod, Curry, Griffiths, pp. 178-208, 443-473.

9. IBID. and Griffiths, pp. 482-532. For the view that the English were betrayed by an administration that could have fairly easily done more see Barker, Juliet, Conquest, Little Brown, London, 2009.

10. Griffiths, pp. 443-473, Ormrod, Curry, Jones, Michael, John Beaufort, duke of Somerset and the French expedition of 1443, in Patronage, The Crown and the Provinces in Later Medieval England, Ed., Griffiths, R. A., Alan Sutton Humanities Press, New York, 1981, pp. 79-102.

11. Ormrod, Griffiths, pp, 482-532, Rogers, Clifford J., Military Revolutions of the Hundred Years War, The Journal of Military History, v. 57 no. 2, April 1993, pp. 241-278.

12. IBID. Griffiths, Curry.

13. IBID. and Griffiths, pp. 107-122.

Pierre Cloutier
Note on some Nonsense and the Dark Ages

Book Cover

The following is a expanded version of a comment I left on the website Skeptical Humanities.1 It concerns some thoughts on pseudo-scholarship and the dark ages.

Its been almost 30 years since I’ve read Holy Blood, Holy Grail,2 and it has got to be one of the most flagrant examples pseudo-scholarship ever. What is remarkable is that the bibliography in the book is actually pretty good; but the main purpose of that bibliography is to support massive woo. What I found especially annoying was on one page they would introduce, tentatively, some far out speculation and then pages later would treat that speculation as a “fact” and use it to support some even more far our speculation and then pages later use….. And so forth.

The pseudo-scholarship in the book is used to give a aura of respectability to fantasy and out of control conspiratorial thinking, with virtually no evidence to support it. What I especially loved was how our authors danced the fact that there is NO early evidence that Jesus married Mary Magdalene at all. There is plenty of early evidence, from Gnostic sources, about Mary Magdalene being regarded as a Disciple of Jesus; but being married to him, not a sliver.3 In fact the earliest evidence I know of the belief that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene is from anti-Cathar writings of the 13th century that attributed this belief to the Cathars.4 I note this is c. 1200 years after Jesus’ death! None of the Church fathers seem to know of such a belief and since they accused the Gnostics of believing all sorts of stuff that they the Church fathers found offensive. I would think they would have included this one if it had existed.

If you think Holy Blood, Holy Grail, is bad than don’t read The Jesus Papers,5 by one of the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Michael Baigent. In the book the author asks us to take seriously papers which he has seen, but which he can’t read, (The documents are in Aramaic), but which he assures us will rock the foundations of Christianity. Oh and the owner won’t let them be examined by scholars or studied. We can’t even get pictures of the documents. But we must take them seriously. ORLY!?

The Dark Ages are an interesting period. There is this bias that goes back to the Renaissance that regards The Greeks and the Romans as “like us” and in a sense our contemporaries and regards the period between as an age of obscurantist darkness.6 Well in many ways this is just nonsense. The foundations of modern Europe were laid in the “Middle Ages”,7 and frankly it is careful and in my opinion distorted thinking and writing that leads people to think that the Greeks and the Romans were “like us”.

I have found, for example, it a lot easier to get into the mind of Thomas Aquinas, despite the fact I’m a secularist and agnostic, than the mind of Cicero despite the fact that I share many of Cicero’s beliefs.

The Classicalist M.I. Finley wrote a brilliant essay called Desperately Foreign, (Its in a collection of essays he wrote called Aspects of Antiquity,8.), that describes the world of the Greeks and the Romans as only superficially like our own and in the end “Desperately Foreign”. This tendency of “modernizing” the Greeks and the Romans produces a mindset that sees kindred spirits in the thinkers and doers of antiquity and one that emphasizes the strangeness and irrationality of the Dark Ages / Middle Ages. The cultic, irrational elements of Greco-Roman culture are thus either down played or bluntly ignored. Thus we read that until the third century B.C.E., Greek art had, “nothing vulgar, coarse, or debasing”.9 This statement is simply, and utterly wrong. As any half decent examination of just vase paintings of the 6th and 5th century B.C.E., would reveal. The fondness of the Greeks and Romans for Mystery Cults, arcane mystical speculation, and their reputation in antiquity for frenzy and extreme behavior have to be ignored in the distorted view of them being modern rationalists.10

In fact in many ways the European world of the “Middle Ages” is less “Foreign” than the world of the Greeks and the Romans. To cite an example the pervasive influence of the Bible, given that our society is still in many respects Bible saturated, makes the “Middle Ages” more comprehensible to us, or me at least. Also much of European law and attitudes about law and the enforcement of law are related to Germanic and Customary law from the Dark Ages / Middle ages.11

As an interesting side note it appears likely that for the mass of the population their standard of living may have improved(!) with the fall of the Roman Empire. So that this great disaster which is still seen has a great retreat of civilization may have benefited most people.12

Thank you Michael Baigent for bringing back memories of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, that example of “scholarship” as cow muck.

1. See Here.

2. Baigent, Michael, Leigh, Richard, Lincoln, Henry, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Jonathan Cape, London, 1982.

3. See Pagels, Elaine, The Gnostic Gospels, Vintage Books, New York, 1979.

4. For example Peter de les Vaux-de-Cernay says concerning Cathar beliefs that:

Further, in their secret meetings they said that the Christ who was born in the earthy and visible Bethlehem and crucified at Jerusalem was “evil”, and that Mary Magdalene was his concubine – and that she was the woman taken in adultery who is referred to in the scriptures;… (From de les Vaux-de-Cernay, Peter, The History of the Albigensian Crusade, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge Sussex, 1998, s. 11, p. 11.)
5. Baigent, Michael, The Jesus Papers, Harper Collins Pub., New York, 2006.

6. To give but one example of this bias. See Gibbons The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. The chapter on the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire in the first volume is especially revealing of this attitude. Given that copies of The Decline … are so easy to find on the web I will not be posting links to it.

7. A couple of books that go into the establishment of Europe during the Middle Ages are, Heather, Peter, Empires and Barbarians, Pan Books, London, 2009, Lewis, David Levering, God’s Crucible, W. W. Norton, New York, 2008, Wickham, Chris, The Inheritance of Rome, Penguin Books, London, 2009, Heer, Fredrich, The Medieval World, Mentor Book, New York, 1962, Herrin, Judith, The Formation of Christendom, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 1987, Moore, R. I., The First European Revoolution, Blackwell Pub., Oxford, 2000.

8. Finley, M. I., Aspects of Antiquity, Second Edition, Penguin books, London, 1977. The essay Desperately Foreign can be found on pp. 11-15.

9. The Sociologist Sorokin quoted in Muller, Herbert J., The Uses of the Past, Mentor Book, New York, 1952, p. 115.

10. A good start on correcting this view is Dodds, E.R., The Greeks and the Irrational, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA., 1951.

11. See the books listed in Footnote 7 for more details.

12. See Wickham, pp. 203-231, Moore, pp. 30-47.

Pierre Cloutier