Anglo-Saxons, Again

Some recent commentary on the alleged racism of “Anglo-Saxon”:

Charlotte Allen in Quillette:

Higher Education’s Medievalist Moral Panic

On September 19, the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS), a 36-year-old organization of academics specializing in the history, culture, and literature of England before the Norman Conquest, hastily voted to change its name. Indeed, the vote was so hasty that the organization had no idea what its new name ought to be (it is soliciting suggestions from members). Nonetheless, the majority of its 600-odd members were certain of one thing: they no longer wanted to be associated with the words “Anglo-Saxon.”

In the view of many of those members, that term had become tainted, appropriated by an assortment of white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis that calls itself the “alt-right.” During the Charlottesville, Virginia melée of August 11–12, 2017, which included a supremacist’s murder of a woman by car attack, the white nationalists who marched had carried banners and standards incorporating iconography that, if not always precisely Anglo-Saxon in inspiration, was certainly medieval: Templar crosses, the double eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, and in one case, a Germanic rune beloved of neo-Nazis that was used during Anglo-Saxon times….

A statement from the ISAS’s advisory board accompanying its September 19 announcement of the planned name change read: “It has sometimes been used outside the field to describe those holding repugnant and racist views, and has contributed to a lack of diversity among those working on early medieval England and its intellectual and literary culture.” But there was something more at stake: During the run-up to the announcement the majority of the board and at least one of its officers had resigned, some of them very publicly, issuing statements excoriating the organization for failing to tackle issues such as “racism, sexism, inclusiveness, representation” and turning a blind eye to sexual abuse of female scholars in the field. The ISAS’s executive director, Robin Norris, also handed in her resignation, stating in an email: “We made you wait too long for change.” The term “Anglo-Saxon” had become an all-purpose grievance nexus for the academic Left—and also a nexus of professional embarrassment and self-doubt for scholars who like to think of themselves as tolerant liberals and feel vaguely ashamed that most of the people taking an interest in Anglo-Saxon studies happen to be white and that a lot of them are men….

[But] it is fair to say that England during the half-millennium before 1066 did have a culture that could be called distinctly Anglo-Saxon. The Angles and Saxons gave their names to territorial swathes of England that persist to this day: Essex, Sussex, East Anglia. Their Old English dialects replaced other spoken languages in all but the remotest corners. Medieval monks writing in Latin called that tongue Anglice. Specifically, the West Saxon dialect spoken in Wessex, the southwestern English territory of King Alfred the Great (ca. 847-899), became the preeminent literary language of pre-Conquest England. Nearly all extant Old English prose and poetry, including the famous narrative poem Beowulf, were written down in that West Saxon dialect. There was even a distinctive “Anglo-Saxon” script for those writings, distinguished by the long, pointed tails of many of its letters; it looked completely different from the scribes’ Latin scripts. Poetry in Old English used a complex alliterative metrical scheme common to northern languages but unlike anything to be found in Latin or the languages of continental Europe. It was understandable that from 1983 until fairly recently the words “Anglo-Saxonists” were generally unproblematic….

Perhaps the ISAS, in rushing through a vote to change its name just a week later, was simply atoning for its distinct, if admittedly slight, association with murderers who might have seen a mangled version of a Rudyard Kipling poem about “Saxons” on the Internet. But it seems as likely that relentless ideological pressure from a rump group of leftist scholars with agendas and bullying issues of their own led the Society to capitulate to a passing social-justice fad that sees racism and misogyny everywhere. One thing is certain, though: It’s no longer okay in academia these days to call yourself an “Anglo-Saxonist”—even if you do happen to studying long-dead people who called themselves Angles and Saxons.

The editorial board of The Times:

The Times view on banning ‘Anglo-Saxon’: Normative Conquest

Historians who want to banish the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’ should think again

The great battles of history may be second in ferocity only to the battles within history departments. The latest row to grip the academic discipline in Britain and America is whether it should drop the term “Anglo-Saxon.” Some scholars allege it has racist connotations and want to banish it. It comes hard on the heels of a similar debate on whether statues linked to colonialism and the slave trade should be removed from universities. Those familiar with the Old English poem Beowulf will be equipped with an appropriate phrase: “O flower of warriors, beware of that trap.”

“Anglo-Saxon” traditionally refers to tribes including Angles and Saxons who came to Britain from across the North Sea after the end of Roman rule and their descendants until the Norman Conquest. But in September the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists voted to remove “Anglo-Saxon” from its name, saying that it had led to a “lack of diversity” among those working on the subject.

The row intensified on Monday when the historian [sic] Mary Rambaran-Olm wrote that the term was pseudohistorical, claiming it only became popular in the 1700s and 1800s as historians sought to connect white people with their supposed origins. This was followed by a backlash from some British historians but endorsed by a Harvard academic, who tweeted that the term “gives aid” to white supremacists.

While efforts to prevent racism may be laudable, editing history is not the answer. The historian Tom Holland said that dropping the word would be “mad as a bag of ferrets.” He tweeted that “Anglo-Saxon” was historically accurate because it was used by the Anglo-Saxons themselves. Besides, even if the word emerged later for racist purposes, this should also be of interest to historians. The job of academia is not to obscure the truth by banning historical phrases. It is to ferret it out.

Michael Wood on History Extra:

There are storms buffeting the world of Anglo-Saxon studies. Like the narrator of the Old English poem The Seafarer, many scholars are feeling battered by “dire sea-surges” and “bitter breast cares”. And the waves are coming from across the Atlantic. In the United States the academic Anglo-Saxon studies establishment, white-dominated and long perceived as excluding of BAME scholars, is now facing a backlash. The first target is the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (ISAS), a body predominantly concerned with Old English literature and culture, which over the last 35 years has done a great deal to further knowledge of the pre-Conquest period but which now stands accused of institutional racism. Recently, one of its vice presidents, a woman of colour, resigned describing the field as “rife with antiquated views – prestige, elitism, sexism, racism and bigotry – which have seen many good people leave the field”. On 19 September, after a torrent of recriminations on social media, ISAS announced that it will poll members on a change of name.

But the argument is about much more than a name. And it is by no means an issue confined to the US, though there it has gathered a particular intensity. American critics of ‘Anglo-Saxon studies’ feel the subject is by definition racist, that it has never escaped its roots in 18th and 19th-century colonialism when ‘Anglo-Saxonism’ in both the USA and Britain was used to endorse white supremacy. The slave-owning Thomas Jefferson, after all, founded the republic on imagined Anglo-Saxon roots, based on laws supposedly lost in 1066. This latter-day Anglo-Saxon commonwealth would come to be summed up in the acronym WASP – White, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant – a code for racial purity that white supremacists and neo-Nazis have embraced. And this situation, critics allege, is still implicitly underwritten by a white academic establishment that has failed to move with the times and embrace diversity, both in appointments and ideas.

All due respect to Michael Wood, but somehow I can’t see neo-Nazis embracing the term “WASP,” which in America connotes east-coast establishment types like the elder Bush. 

Has the time come to retire the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’? Is it a bar to understanding and communication, imprisoning us in the racist views of the past? We can’t answer these questions without acknowledging the fact that, contrary to what some people have been stating on social media, the Early English did use the term ‘Anglo-Saxons’ of themselves. On the continent in the eighth century, Paul the Deacon speaks of the “Anglisaxones”; Alfred and his successors used “King of the Anglo-Saxons” as a title for their new order. We may drop ‘Anglo-Saxonists’, then – we may prefer ‘Early English’ – but we cannot dispense entirely with ‘Anglo-Saxons’.

Outbreeding

From the Washington Post:

Medieval Catholicism explains the differences between cultures to this day, researchers say

A sweeping theory published Thursday in the journal “Science” posits a new explanation for the divergent course of Western civilization from the rest of the world: The early Catholic Church reshaped family structures, and by doing so, changed human psychology forever after.

The researchers claim that they can trace all sorts of modern-day differences between cultures – from donating blood to strangers to paying your parking tickets – to the influence of medieval Catholicism.

“The longer the duration under the church will predict greater individualism, less conformity and obedience, and more cooperation and trust with strangers. Our findings have big implications,” said Joseph Henrich, one of the researchers.

The research, conducted by George Mason University economists Jonathan Schulz and Jonathan Beauchamp and Harvard University evolutionary biologists Henrich and Duman Bahrami-Rad, tells a new story about how human cultures turned out so differently from one another.

That story begins with kinship networks – the tribes and clans of densely connected, insular groups of relatives who formed most human societies before medieval times. Catholic Church teachings disrupted those networks, in large part by vehemently prohibiting marriage between relatives (which had been de rigeur), and eventually provoked a wholesale transformation of communities, changing the norm from large clans into small, monogamous nuclear families.

That cultural overhaul, the researchers argue, prompted tremendous changes to human psychology.

Read the whole thing. I had heard that the Catholic prohibition on marriages under the fifth degree of consanguinity was at least partly responsible for the transformation of European tribalism into nationalism; it makes intuitive sense, and it’s good to see that the theory is getting some serious attention, although I’m sure that more research is needed. 

Neanderthals

From Phys.org (hat tip: Tom MacMaster):

Scientists link Neanderthal extinction to human diseases

Growing up in Israel, Gili Greenbaum would give tours of local caves once inhabited by Neanderthals and wonder along with others why our distant cousins abruptly disappeared about 40,000 years ago. Now a scientist at Stanford, Greenbaum thinks he has an answer.

In a new study published in the journal Nature Communications, Greenbaum and his colleagues propose that complex  transmission patterns can explain not only how  were able to wipe out Neanderthals in Europe and Asia in just a few thousand years but also, perhaps more puzzling, why the end didn’t come sooner.

“Our research suggests that diseases may have played a more important role in the extinction of the Neanderthals than previously thought. They may even be the main reason why modern humans are now the only human group left on the planet,” said Greenbaum, who is the first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher in Stanford’s Department of Biology.

Read the whole thing.

Hengist and Horsa

Richard Utz on Medievally Speaking:

Adventures in Anglalond: Angles, Saxons, and Academics

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress determined, among many other and more important matters, that a committee of three, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, should recommend a seal for the new United States of America. By August, each of the men suggested different designs, with scenes and symbols deriving from the usual suspects: Classical mythology, the Bible, and the Middle Ages. Adams settled on the figure of Hercules as he contemplated abstractions of Virtue and Sloth; Franklin imagined Moses extending his hand and destroying Pharao and his armies; Jefferson agreed with seeing Moses and Pharaoh on one side of the seal or medal they were considering. On the reverse, however, he added a surprise element: “Hengist and Horsa, the Saxon chiefs from whom we claim the honor of being descended, and whose political principles and form of government we have assumed.” None of the three proposals ended up being picked, and several other versions were also rejected, including one with a shield flanked by the maiden America and a medieval knight in armor.

Clearly, certain ideas and tropes of the medieval past loomed large in the imaginary of the country’s late eighteenth-century founders. Jefferson’s anchoring of American claims of self-determination with a pair of mythographic Germanic settler-colonizers, whom he seems to credit with creating a form of self-rule in early medieval Kent, is rather ironic. After all, his own grandparents on his father’s side had immigrated from Northern Wales, a region that became part of the “Celtic fringe” (roughly today’s Cornwall, Ireland, Isla of Man, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany) into which the indigenous Romano-Celtic inhabitants of the ‘British’ isles retreated as the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes expanded their territories.

Of course, historical accuracy and exact genealogy were not priorities when a late eighteenth-century politician yearned to demonstrate the manifest destiny of his nation. Jefferson’s priority was to unite the new nation behind what he felt was a linguistically and culturally plausible ‘English’ national heritage of entrepreneurial colonizers. And as nationalism gradually increased during the nineteenth and early twentieth-century, the practitioners of medieval studies in the U.S., European countries, and many of their colonies worked within similar nationalist paradigms. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that medieval studies would never have succeeded at finding broad acceptance at the modern university if it had not been in lockstep with these very paradigms: The heavy research focus on national epics (Song of RolandNibelungenliedEl Cid), the use of linguistics to prove ‘ownership’ of medieval texts (Beowulf as a Danish, German(ic), or English/British narrative), or nationalized methods of textual editing (Karl Lachmann vs. Joseph Bédiér) provide evidence for the long-standing interdependence of nationalism and medieval studies. Numerous critical evaluations, from Reginald Horsman’s Race and Manifest Destiny: The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism (1981) through Mary Dockray-Miller’s “Public Medievalists, Racism, and Suffrage in the American Women’s College” (2019) demonstrate the same interdependence in the area of “Anglo-Saxonism”. 

I did not know about Jefferson’s proposed seal, nor about the place of Hengist and Horsa in the American “imaginary” – although I would point out that Jefferson does not talk only of “descent”, but also of “political principles and form of government.” This may not have been entirely accurate either, but it was’t necessarily racial, as Tom MacMaster comments:

Respectfully, I think this post is both wrong and misleading. It misses the important dimension that Jefferson (et al.) weren’t particularly interested in the racial/ethnic identity of Hengist & Horsa but were steeped in ideas related to the English Civil War and the notion of the Norman Yoke. Occluding that discussion (which most of these endless discussions of the evilness of Anglo-Saxon have done) misses a really important aspect of the use of the term (when used as an endonym; quite a lot of the ‘oppressive’ aspect also is its use as an exonym, e.g. by French political theorists or sociologists like Andrew Hacker, the popularizer of the “WASP” acronym). Pretending otherwise only aids in pushing a mendacious narrative favored by a group of pseudo-leftist ideologues and stochastic terrorists who are bent on destruction of the academic study of the middle ages.

I would also like to say that Medieval Studies, as a discipline, may have been associated with nineteenth-century nation-building, but I take it for granted that the entire field is not forever tainted. I am glad for the existence of the publications of the Early English Text Society and the Rolls Series which, whatever their origins, are extremely useful in illuminating the past. 

South Africa

Congratulations to South Africa, whose national rugby team defeated England’s this morning in Japan to win the William Webb Ellis trophy, i.e. rugby’s World Cup. A post in celebration, featuring (what else?!) South African symbols.

Wikipedia.

South Africa has a pretty cool flag, which was adopted in 1994 as symbolic of the new political dispensation in that country. I knew the designer, Frederick Brownell, who sadly died earlier this year. He wrote that: “The unique central design of the flag, which begins as a ‘V’ at the flagpost and comes together in the centre of the flag, extending further, as a single horizontal band to the outer edge of the fly, can be seen as representing the convergence of diverse elements in South African society.” The colors (black, blue, green, “chilli red,” gold, and silver) have no set meaning, however, since “individual colours can have widely differing meanings for different people” and thus “may be interpreted freely” – although clearly black, gold and green are the colors of the African National Congress, and “chilli red” (halfway between orange and red) can represent the orange and red that have appeared in the Dutch and Dutch-derived flags that have historically flown over the country.

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s old flag, which waved over the Union, and then the Republic, of South Africa from 1928 to 1994, is almost universally known as the “Apartheid flag” and is not seen flying much these days. In fact, South Africa’s Equality Court recently ruled that public displays fo this flag now amount to hate speech, except for certain cases of “journalistic, academic, and artistic expression.” The flag was the (originally) orange, white and blue flag of the Netherlands, with the central band showing the flags of the three combatants in the Boer War: the United Kingdom, and the two Boer republics of the Orange Free State and the South African Republic (ZAR, or the Transvaal). These little flags were supposedly arranged in such a way that no flag had precedence over any other, and as you might expect this design was a compromise between the English and Afrikaners, reached after great rancor in 1928. Even those extremists who want their own Afrikaner Volkstaat aren’t likely to fly this flag, since the existence of the Union Jack on it has always annoyed them!

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s coat of arms underwent a similar transformation in 2000. The current coat of arms features central shield with two red-ochre Khoisan figures greeting each other. Other elements include elephant tusks, ears of wheat, a crossed spear and knobkierie, a protea flower, a secretary bird, and a Khoisan motto meaning “diverse people unite.” 

I confess that I like SA’s previous coat of arms better, if only because it’s more properly heraldic. The shield features an amalgamation of symbols representing the four South African colonies that were united and granted dominion status in 1910: the Cape Colony, Natal, the Orange Free State, and the Transvaal. But it’s more European than African in form, and since South Africa is now divided into nine provinces, its symbolism is also obsolete. 

Wikipedia.

South Africa’s parliament got its own emblem in the same style as the new coat of arms in 2007. A drum rises out of a protea flower, which is ensigned by a sun and rests on a book. The sun represents healing the divisions of the past and improving the quality of life for South Africans. The drum calls parliament to order, and the book at the bottom represents the constitution, whose initial words “We, the People” are prominently displayed.

Wikipedia.

The parliamentary emblem replaced one that had been in use since 1964, which featured (I believe) South Africa’s parliamentary mace crossed with its Black Rod mace, between the old coat of arms and the crest. (Needless to say, these maces have been updated too.)

Finally, we have the emblem of the team itself. South Africa’s national rugby team is known as the Springboks, and its logo is a leaping springbok. 

Wikipedia.

The logo appears on most things associated with the team… except for the front left of their jerseys. Like the flag, the coat of arms, and the parliamentary maces, the springbok, to many people, is representative of the old ways. Until 1994 the team was by policy all-white, and the ANC, which took power that year, saw the springbok as symbolic of this. If you’ve seen the movie Invictus (2009), you’ll be familiar with the story of how the sports ministry wanted to replace the rugby team’s springbok with the king protea, South Africa’s national flower, and how Nelson Mandela, in an attempt at reaching out to South Africa’s white population, personally intervened to prevent it. When South Africa won the World Cup at home in 1995, Mandela donned a springbok jersey to present the Webb Ellis trophy to the team captain Francois Pienaar. It was a great moment in post-Apartheid reconciliation. 

Telegraph.co.uk.

Classicrugbyshirts.com

You’ll notice, though, that the jersey at the time featured a springbok leaping through a wreath of protea flowers.

JG

The Springboks’ jerseys from 1999 also featured a protea in addition to its namesake bovid. (The photograph is from a replica jersey in our possession.) Clearly the team was trying to do its own outreach. 

Wikipedia.

The protea-springbok device was in use as late as 2007.

Footballkitnews.com.

But the ANC did not give up, and by the World Cup of 2011 it finally prevailed. With Mandela out of the picture, the party could finally force the team to decorate the fronts of its jerseys with the protea alone, although you’ll notice a small springbok on the left sleeve.

Wikipedia.

The team’s jerseys for this year’s tournament follow the same pattern – protea device on the front left of the jersey, springbok on the left sleeve. 

The South African.

Although for the Rugby Championship this year the springbok was on the front of the jersey, along with the protea (and a shirt sponsorship – can’t let any revenue escape!). As you can also see, the team is racially integrated these days – the photo is of Herschel Jantjies, a coloured scrum-half from Stellenbosch, who was one of ten non-whites on the thirty-one man World Cup squad. 

It’s nice that the springbok has not been entirely effaced. But whatever the symbol, there’s no arguing with success. Congratulations, South Africa! 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Thomas MacMaster writes, in reference to a recent death in Syria:

Am I the only one startled to see the lack of discussion over the death of a world famous scholar of the medieval world (BA, MA, & PhD as well as numerous publications) who probably did more to weaponize medieval studies in the past decade than anyone else?

We should also acknowledge his leadership of one of the largest medieval re-enactment groups (with a serious commitment to using the digital humanities for outreach).

He makes a good point…

The John Inscoe Award

Very pleased to have attended the presentation ceremony this evening for the John Inscoe Award, which recognizes the best article published in the Georgia Historical Quarterly in the previous year. As reported, that article is entitled “Black Student Experiences in the Racial Integration of Reinhardt College, 1966-1972,” and was composed by Dr. Kenneth Wheeler and nine of his students in the fall of 2017. Seven of the co-authors were present tonight to receive certificates from W. Todd Groce, president of the Georgia Historical Society, in the Ken White Atrium in Reinhardt’s Falany Performing Arts Center. 

L-R: Kailey Payne, Madeline Gray, Madelyn Montgomery, Pres. Kina Mallard, Dr. Kenneth Wheeler, W. Todd Groce, Abigail Merchant, Aliyah Reeves, and Jessica Fanczi. Dane Nidal, David Busman, and Gladys Guzman-Gomez, unfortunately, could not attend. 

This is a great honor and a testament to the opportunities available at Reinhardt, where professors can work closely with students to produce genuinely original scholarship. Props to the African-American students who integrated Reinhardt in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as Stanley Porter and Jay Jordan, for their courage and for their willingness to contribute to this project. 

Steve Goodson

Enjoyed a great talk at the Funk Heritage Center last week when Steve Goodson of the University of West Georgia came to speak about the origins of country music. The story that everyone knows is that in 1927, Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company visited Bristol, Tennessee, placed ads in the local paper for musicians, and recorded those who turned up. This represents the “Big Bang” of commercial country music in the United States, and Bristol is proud to claim that it is the birthplace of country music. But Goodson pointed out that the first commercial country hit, Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” was recorded in Atlanta for Okeh Records back in 1923. For various reasons Atlanta was completely eclipsed by Nashville as the country music capital of the United States, but 152 Nassau St., where “Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” was recorded, is still with us – for now! It is currently being threatened with demolition to make way for a Margaritaville restaurant. Apparently Jimmy Buffett is unconcerned, but If you object, feel free to sign the petition

It was good to see Steve Goodson again, who was last on campus in 2007 as a speaker at that year’s Phi Alpha Theta induction, at which he spoke about the songs of Hank Williams as a window into Southern white working class culture. 

Against the Grain

From Slate Star Codex, notice of an interesting book by the same guy who wrote Seeing Like a State:

Why should cereal grains play such a massive role in the earliest states? After all, other crops, in particular legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and peas, had been domesticated in the Middle East and, in China, taro and soybean. Why were they not the basis of state formation? More broadly, why have no “lentil states,” chickpea states, taro states, sago states, breadfruit states, yam states, cassava states, potato states, peanut states, or banana states appeared in the historical record? Many of these cultivars provide more calories per unit of land than wheat and barley, some require less labor, and singly or in combination they would provide comparable basic nutrition. Many of them meet, in other words, the agro-demographic conditions of population density and food value as well as cereal grains. Only irrigated rice outclasses them in terms of sheer concentration of caloric value per unit of land.

The key to the nexus between grains and states lies, I believe, in the fact that only the cereal grains can serve as a basis for taxation: visible, divisible, assessable, storable, transportable, and “rationable.” Other crops—legumes, tubers, and starch plants—have some of these desirable state-adapted qualities, but none has all of these advantages. To appreciate the unique advantages of the cereal grains, it helps to place yourself in the sandals of an ancient tax-collection official interested, above all, in the ease and efficiency of appropriation.

The fact that cereal grains grow above ground and ripen at roughly the same time makes the job of any would-be taxman that much easier. If the army or the tax officials arrive at the right time, they can cut, thresh, and confiscate the entire harvest in one operation. For a hostile army, cereal grains make a scorched-earth policy that much simpler; they can burn the harvest-ready grain fields and reduce the cultivators to flight or starvation. Better yet, a tax collector or enemy can simply wait until the crop has been threshed and stored and confiscate the entire contents of the granary.

Compare this situation with, say, that of farmers whose staple crops are tubers such as potatoes or cassava/manioc. Such crops ripen in a year but may be safely left in the ground for an additional year or two. They can be dug up as needed and the remainder stored where they grew, underground. If an army or tax collectors want your tubers, they will have to dig them up tuber by tuber, as the farmer does, and then they will have a cartload of potatoes which is far less valuable (either calorically or at the market) than a cartload of wheat, and is also more likely to spoil quickly. Frederick the Great of Prussia, when he ordered his subjects to plant potatoes, understood that, as planters of tubers, they could not be so easily dispersed by invading armies.

The “aboveground” simultaneous ripening of cereal grains has the inestimable advantage of being legible and assessable by the state tax collectors. These characteristics are what make wheat, barley, rice, millet, and maize the premier political crops. A tax assessor typically classifies fields in terms of soil quality and, knowing the average yield of a particular grain from such soil, is able to estimate a tax. If a year-to-year adjustment is required, fields can be surveyed and crop cuttings taken from a representative patch just before harvest to arrive at an estimated yield for that particular crop year. As we shall see, state officials tried to raise crop yields and taxes in kind by mandating techniques of cultivation; in Mesopotamia this included insisting on repeated ploughing to break up the large clods of earth and repeated harrowing for better rooting and nutrient delivery. The point is that with cereal grains and soil preparation, the planting, the condition of the crop, and the ultimate yield were more visible and assessable.

Scott Alexander comments further: “In this model, the gradual drying-out of Sumeria in the 4th millennium BC caused a shift away from wetland foraging and toward grain farming. The advent of grain farming made oppression possible, and a new class of oppression-entrepreneurs arose to turn this possibility into a reality. They incentivized farmers to intensify grain production further at the expense of other foods, and this turned into a vicious cycle of stronger states = more grain = stronger states.”

Toronto Flaggery

I enjoyed a great weekend in Toronto, where I participated in the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada’s Study Day with a talk on symbols of Newfoundland (drawn in part from previous posts on this blog). It was nice of my parents to come in from Port Hope for the day. 

Photo: Robert Walsh.

In keeping with one of the themes of this blog, I took some photographs of flags that I saw.

This is the interior of the “Great Hall” of Union Station, which features a display of all the provincial flags of Canada.

Flag of Toronto, flying on University Avenue. This flag dates from 1974 and was the flag of the old City of Toronto proper, i.e. one of the constituent cities of Metropolitan Toronto, which included East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough, and York. With the abolition of these cities in 1998, the flag of the one part became the flag of all the parts, since the 1999 grant of arms to the amalgamated City of Toronto did not include a flag. The design references the distinctive architecture of Toronto City Hall.

Flying from the Ontario Legislative Building at Queen’s Park, the flags of Ontario, Canada, and Legislative Assembly, which consists of the arms of Ontario with crossed maces and an embattled bordure. This was granted back in 1992 and was somewhat controversial, if I recall correctly, since generally legislatures get badges, not full coats of arms. Plus, it seems that the actual flag granted to the Ontario Legislature was supposed to be square, not rectangular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyed a nice dinner at the Royal Canadian Military Institute, where the flags of Canada’s three armed service commands are prominently displayed in the lobby. 

Also on display at RCMI, a World War I era Canadian red ensign, complete with nine-quartered coat of arms. 

I walked by a renovated Varsity Stadium, the main sports field of the University of Toronto. Flying on Bloor Street were two U. of T. flags, one featuring the university’s coat of arms with a reversed background (nice effect!), and another athletic flag featuring a T and a maple leaf. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a flag that I did not know about. In front of the Legislative Building we encountered a protest in favour of Azad Kashmir, with numerous examples of its flag being displayed.