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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old November 13th, 2015, 06:14 PM   #51
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Believe me, what we know in our current Western nations is an aberration. It will not last! But in older times most died of malnutrition. Too little food and a disease would take hold or a plague and then one would die
Not even close to true.

Pre-modern rural communities were well-fed, because they grew the food and had plenty to hunt. 'Malnutrition' was a surprisingly rare threat that came and went with famine, and disproportionately hit the very young and elderly.

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Let 55 year old Mr Higson warn you!
No. Humanity has been predicting the end of time since the beginning of it, and hasn't been right once.

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Old November 13th, 2015, 07:31 PM   #52
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Not even close to true.

Pre-modern rural communities were well-fed, because they grew the food and had plenty to hunt. 'Malnutrition' was a surprisingly rare threat that came and went with famine, and disproportionately hit the very young and elderly.
My dear Domhnall, and never a need for that endemic raiding of the buggers over the other side of the hill? Er? The famine and plague mentioned in history are merely fairy tails? And nobody ever left Norway because all things were plenty?

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No. Humanity has been predicting the end of time since the beginning of it, and hasn't been right once.
Humanity could flaunt fate a million times, but let fate ever get to grips with us and it will never let go.

Presently machine technology is stripping the world of commodities at rate that will see the Earth bare in a few centuries. Take lodes of iron ore, they are product of biological reefs from more than a billion years ago. Until now we have been used to ore that is 60% iron. After that comes lesser and lesser grades. Requiring more energy to process them. China buys much of the world's ore. China itself has plenty of iron ore but it is only 20% grade. Making it much more energy expensive to process. But eventually we'll be down to that and less. More energy will be required, but the energy will be less.

The Roman Empire fell in this way because stripped their surface earth bare of obtainable commodities. The efficient steam pump was invented in 1712 and access to deeper lodes was made possible. All this occurred because the Romans didn't take Germany or Scandinavia. There as the Barbarians became civilized they built iron industries using the methods of the Romans. In the late middle ages because there was a place exporting iron to the rest of Europe. A break through was made in the oxygen controlled furnace. It became possible to cast and case harden large piece's of iron. All this was done in pursuit of knights suites of armor. But the same technology became boilers for steam engines and the frames of machines.

Western Civilization Mk I fell. A thousand years later Western Civilization Mk II arose.

What do we rise with, after Mk II falls? For there will be little left to be accessed even with our technology.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 11:45 PM   #53

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Originally Posted by Domhnall Balloch View Post
Not even close to true.

Pre-modern rural communities were well-fed, because they grew the food and had plenty to hunt. 'Malnutrition' was a surprisingly rare threat that came and went with famine, and disproportionately hit the very young and elderly.



No. Humanity has been predicting the end of time since the beginning of it, and hasn't been right once.
Yep, archaeology shows medieval populations way better fed than later populations, once you had stand off weapons, like firearms, you did not need physically strong populations to recruit from.

55 is still a pup in my book.
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Old November 14th, 2015, 01:51 AM   #54
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Yep, archaeology shows medieval populations way better fed than later populations, once you had stand off weapons, like firearms, you did not need physically strong populations to recruit from.
That could be the case due the greater population pressure that came with time. England had about two million in the dark ages. Four million by the time of the Tudors, 10 million by the time of Napoleon. So the land was certainly under increasing pressure. It seems to be the case that the English fell in size and reached their shortest in the 18th century. A smaller man requires less calories to survive.
But could you say Japanese men weren't fine warriors? If that was the case Japan would have been overrun by somebody else and exterminated. It does seem short people are typical of heavily populated agricultural economies. However a short man is stronger in relation to his own size due to the cube-square law. A large size does help in relation to withstanding cold.
Interestingly in the Napoleonic era the sizes were divided into different tasks. Averaged sized men formed the main line. Small men have great stamina and better dexterity and tended to be the more accurate shots. And are quicker moving. And were considered best for the role of light infantry and given rifles. Indeed Mr. Colt might have made the smaller man more equal. Big men tended to be clumsier. These latter they made the Grenadiers and thought the best for charging the opposing line with Bayonets. They were also considered best for occupation and military police since their greater size was more intimidating.

Varangian Guards and Huscarles were the Grenadiers of their time and there peace time role was similar to that of a constable.

But I'd still bet it was the higher classes and men that had position that were the well fed. Certainly Huscarles would be well fed via a steady wage.

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55 is still a pup in my book.
So I can feel young again? Oddly enough people tend to mistake me for somebody much younger.
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Old November 14th, 2015, 03:51 AM   #55

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LOL. Hmmm…….Yes, all very interesting…. however, just to finally bring us back on track with this thread.

Are we then agreed that the claim (if it ever existed) that one Saxon Royal Huscarl was worth two Norwegian Huscarls, was not borne out of physical historical fact but more along the lines that the Saxon Royal household had the finances to potentially employ the best of the best no matter where they came from?

If that is the case, then I believe the claim is unproven. It would have meant that the Royal Huscarls no matter how widely travelled and experienced in war, were no more than highly paid mercenaries and probably of diverse nationalities. Such people tend not to hang around too long when the chips are well and truly down, but we are informed that Harold’s Huscarls fought almost to the last man.

This does not sound like a seasoned foreign warrior thinking about his next wage packet, but more like a domestic Saxon warrior with a vested interest and duty in fighting for his King and his own land and family.

So again……could there be another reason why one Saxon Royal Huscarl was deemed to be better than any two Norwegian ones?

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Old November 14th, 2015, 04:32 AM   #56

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i highly doubt them to have been multi-nationality mercenaries... and i doubt snorri's claim in the first place. even with nearly half the size of Godwinson's army, Sigurdsson's much smaller force, even without the reinforcements held their line, and the battle didn't look bad for Sigurdsson til the point he was shot in the neck, with a mail coif he would probably survive this, of which he surely must've had either in York or in his Boat, as well as that of his men, of course. maybe with the point that the Norwegians didn't wear any mail that that day could give Snorri such an idea...
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Old November 14th, 2015, 07:36 AM   #57

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Ah! the arrows!

If William had died at Senlac...would that have been an arrow too?

Any ideas?


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Old November 14th, 2015, 08:59 AM   #58
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i highly doubt them to have been multi-nationality mercenaries...
Er, no! From the wikipedia. The Varangian guard is precisely an example of this.

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Immigrants from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland kept a predominantly Norse cast to the organization until the late 11th century. In these years, Scandinavian men left to enlist in the Byzantine Varangian Guard in such numbers that a medieval Swedish law from Västergötland declared no one could inherit while staying in Greece—the then Scandinavian term for the Byzantine Empire—to stop the emigration
And for a time Anglo-Saxon Huscarles fleeing the Norman conquest came to dominate the Varangians. It seems the Byzantine Empire highly valued these men and there was quite a demand.

Canute founded the force and is said to be 3,000 or 4,000 strong. Normally they seem to have been posted in forts throughout the kingdom. Most likely ensuing the kings laws were obeyed and taxes were collected.

It really does sound like "travel the world, meet interesting people and kill them"!

In most other places the best warriors were cavalry or knights. In the case of the Huscarles and Varangians we have particularly noted foot warriors even though they used horses for travel.

Norway had a population of 200,000 they say and England two million and much more wealth besides. There was always the problem of the younger brothers that might not inherit the land. Who sort employ elsewhere. It doesn't seem that Norway had anything like the wealth to support such a large force of permanent retainers.

Huscarles with land holdings were rare. It is a problem that men with land are more interested in the harvest than serving there king. The fact they lived purely upon their Lord's pay probably increased their loyalty. (not that I blame people for being more interested in their harvest than serving the latest upstart)

Again we come across the Jomsvikings, another specialist body of foot warriors who hired themselves out to who ever could pay.

One thing I recall is Phil Barker of the Wargames Research Group stating about Germanics in history, something that is particularly notable. It wasn't necessarily they were the greatest fighters around. However they were stubborn, they simply refused to crack. They would fight on and absorb losses with their enemies cracking at a lower casualty level.

It is simply the case we have a warrior devoted to his Lord's cause rather than his farm. A Huscarles living was doing work for his Lord. A Thegn did service because it was demanded and usually didn't get anything for it, other than keeping what he already had.

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Ah! the arrows!

If William had died at Senlac...would that have been an arrow too?

Any ideas?
Generally the opinion is that Harald of England had a strong force of archers. These he used at Stamford, but were left behind and so not present at Hastings. The opinion is he was hasty in dealing with the Normans. We don't know what drove him, but he was already flush with victory. Something that might be the case was that at Hastings he had come to fight in a very offensive manner and then found fate conspired to make him fight defensively. Confused orders might have been part of the downfall.

Last edited by Mr Higson; November 14th, 2015 at 09:23 AM.
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Old November 14th, 2015, 09:29 AM   #59
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My dear Domhnall, and never a need for that endemic raiding of the buggers over the other side of the hill? Er? The famine and plague mentioned in history are merely fairy tails?
Find a study of a medieval or ancient rural burial ground, and scroll to the stats. Then you'll see how big a problem 'malnutrition' was (i.e., not very).

Last edited by Domhnall Balloch; November 14th, 2015 at 09:32 AM.
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Old November 14th, 2015, 09:49 AM   #60

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In regards to which was more efficient and skilled - wouldn't the Huscarl, by such close connection to the King, be subject to the idleness and decadence of court life? I believe the same happened to the Praetorian Guard - who were certainly skilled, but grew spoiled and greedy by their connection to the Emperor.
Surely, the Viking would be superior - living a far humbler life, and in a more martial society?
Of course, that's not to say we English were a peaceful bunch, the Dark Ages were full of battles, power struggles, and rival claimants being killed or maimed. But a raider, by sheer virtue of his lifestyle choice, would be a hardier soldier than a royal bodyguard, with too much access to wine, fine foods and simple sloth.
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