The cultural struggle in which we find ourselves has its parallels in the Norman Conquest of Anglo-Saxon England. We look to that historical period for clarification of our plight, and inspiration for the way out of it.
Carolyn Emerick has a bachelor’s degree in literature, college study in historiography, and graduate training in archival studies. She edits and publishes Europa Sun and Mythic Dawn magazines, and has been a student of European cultural history for as long as she could read. See her work at CarolynEmerick.com.
In an era when the mainstream is disparaging ‘old white men’ at every turn with virulent hostility, I would urge society to remember our aged relatives not only with pride but with reverence. The older generations built our very nations, and they held wisdom, both that honed from experience as well as that passed down through Western culture from the generations before them. My own grandparents frequently said that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’. With a long-view of history, we find that there are numerous parallels and analogies to situations and issues that we face today. If we have a worldview that respects our ancestors and historical predecessors, we find that we can look to the past to glean insight and direction applicable to contemporary struggles.
Many of us would agree that we currently find ourselves in a great cultural struggle. What seems clear is that Western leadership at the highest levels has betrayed their sacred duty to protect their own nations. This betrayal moreover appears to be collusion between factions at the highest level of the socio-economic tier with well-connected families who consolidate power which is passed down generationally. If we look to history, we see that this is nothing new. In fact, many of these elites can trace their prestigious lines through centuries. So, in effect, one can make the argument that in some cases the very same people have been in power for centuries. Therefore, examples from history of the common folk acting in resistance against elite-driven oppression and/or forced social change is very relevant to our current situation.
Indigenous Teutonic Worldview
Among the many proud ethno-cultural groups indigenous to Europe are the Teutonic peoples. Looking to early Teutonic culture, we find that this was an ethnic group quite grounded in their own tribal ethnos. Freedom and autonomy of thought and action were essential values, but rooted firmly within a cultural milieu built around the bonds of kinship. Therefore, chieftains and kings were bound to the rule of law, but also duty-bound to act as protectors of ancestral foundations of culture. A king who betrayed his tribal ethnos could, and would, be overthrown by the noble warrior class.
This worldview does not fit the modern dichotomy of ‘capitalism (individualism) versus socialism (communism)’, but might be referred to as a ‘third position’ which respected the rights of the individual with the common good of the wider tribe in mind. One example is the concept of hunting grounds held in common by the community so that any man of freeman status had the right to feed his family off the bounty of the land. However, this did not counteract the right to private land ownership. These values are important to note as they pertain to the social engineering and massive elite-driven cultural changes that the Teutonic folk would later become subjected to.
The Enslavement of the Anglo-Saxons
When the Normans conquered England, it was not simply a change of leadership regime, but a complete paradigm shift. Christianity had, of course, found its way to England well before the Norman invasion. However, the Anglo-Saxons maintained an overtly Germanic cultural worldview which retained many of the aforementioned values. Indeed, their Christian practice consisted of a large number of pagan beliefs and practices simply modified with Christian imagery. Scholar Karen Louis Jolly says, ‘This is Christianity succeeding by way of acculturation and Germanic culture triumphing in transformation’ (Jolly, 11). This example is congruent with James C. Russell’s research presented in his book, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity, which discusses just how ‘Germanized’ Christianity had to be in order to be accepted initially by the Teutonic people.
The Normans were more strictly in line with the Roman Church and brought drastic changes to institutionally accepted theological perspective with them. Whereas the clergy had been comparatively more in line with the worldview of the common folk in the Anglo-Saxon era, Jolly says that ‘As the intellectual development of Christian doctrine increased in complexity with the advent of scholasticism in the twelfth century, the gap between the formal and the popular widened, causing some previously acceptable popular practices to appear ridiculous in the eyes of the new rationalists’ (Jolly, 26). She is speaking specifically of religious practice, but I argue that this is a direct result of, and in correlation with, the new Norman hierarchical structure which applied to both the religious and secular spheres. What she describes is a vast chasm between the elites and the common folk, which is precisely the scenario we encounter in the Robin Hood legend. She also describes a religious parallel to the secular example of the Norman nobility scoffing at cultural customs of the Anglo-Saxons – and, of course, we know that in the High Middle Ages the line between the religious and secular spheres was virtually non-existent.
The Normans brought with them virulent economic changes. South African writer, Stephen Goodson, explained the Anglo-Saxon position on usury in his article for The Barnes Review, ‘The Hidden Origins of the Bank of England.’ There he says:
From A.D. 757 to his death in 791, the great King Offa ruled the kingdom of Mercia, one of the seven autonomous kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy. Offa was a wise and able administrator and a kindhearted leader, though he could be hard on his enemies. He established the first monetary system in England (as distinguished from Romano-Keltic Britain). On account of the scarcity of gold, he used silver for coinage and as a store of wealth. … In 787 Offa introduced a statute prohibiting usury: charging of interest on money lent. The laws against usury were further entrenched by King Alfred (r. 865–99), who directed that the property of usurers be forfeited, while in 1050 Edward the Confessor (1042–66) decreed not only forfeiture, but that a usurer be declared an outlaw and be banished for life. (Goodson, 5)
Another author, David C. Douglas, discusses the close relationship between the moneylenders and the Norman monarchy in his William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England. According to Douglas:
It is doubtful whether before the Conquest there had been any permanent Jewish settlements in England, but the existence of a Jewish community in Rouen during the central decades of the eleventh century is certain. Nor is there much doubt that a colony of these Rouen Jews came to England in the wake of the Conqueror, and was there established at his instigation. … He facilitated the advent of Jews into England, and Jewry in England was throughout the twelfth century to retain not only a predominantly French character, but also special connexions with the Anglo-Norman monarchy. (Douglas, 314)
We can gain a glimpse at how this changed the lives of the peasantry in Elizabeth Caldwell Hirschman and Donald N. Yates’ The Early Jews and Muslims of England and Wales: A Genetic and Genealogical History, wherein the authors explain that William’s reason for importing these moneylenders was to establish a new system of taxation whereby peasants would be forced to pay ‘in coin rather than in kind’ (Hirshmann and Yates, 61). Under the Anglo-Saxon system, a portion of a freeman’s homestead’s yield could be rendered to the crown as goods. This is why in films depicting early medieval England, peasants are depicted carrying bushels of wool, carts of livestock etc. to their overlord. The Anglo-Saxons did, of course, use coinage, but the Normans enforced a coin-only taxation system. The relationship between the money-lending community and the Norman economic shift is further elaborated on in an article entitled ‘Brentry: How Norman Rule Changed England’, wherein a staff writer for The Economist describes the changes brought in under William the Conqueror:
Jews arrived at William’s invitation, if not command, and introduced a network of credit links between his new English lands and his French ones. Unhindered by Christian usury laws, Jews were the predominant lenders in England by the 13th century. The discovery of precious metals from central European mines also helped get credit going. Jews settled in towns where there was a significant mint.
The author goes on to explain that these sweeping socio-economic changes went in tandem with the implementation of Norman domination across the landscape. Norman castles still dot the English landscape today, standing as testament to the iron fist of Norman rule. What many today do not understand, however, is that the castle building went hand in hand with the razing of Anglo-Saxon churches. Tourists today marvel at the splendour and prestige of Norman architecture without comprehending that both castles and cathedrals are symbols of the Norman oppression of the English in mind, body, spirit and economy. As mentioned above, Anglo-Saxons maintained a heavily Teutonic-centred cultural worldview in spite of their conversion to Christianity. In fact, these Christianized Teutons remained deeply animistic, as is evidenced in their continued belief in wights and spirits of the land, plants, and magical practices associated with medicine. Many pagan agricultural rituals continued to be practised with indigenous European imagery and deities swapped out for Christian ones. In many cases, the Church itself was involved with these rituals, such as the Æcerbot (Field Remedy) which scholar Kathleen Herbert describes in detail in her Looking for the Lost Gods of England (Herbert, 13–14). The Normans completely decimated the Anglo-Saxon religious presence, destroyed their churches and deposed the native English clergy, which was then replaced by a Norman priesthood. This new Norman form of religion was much more heavily tied to Roman Catholic ‘Christendom’. The staff author at The Economist explains, ‘To fund the infrastructure heavier taxes had to be levied on peasants, which “forced them to work harder”’.
Of course, the Anglo-Saxons did not surrender willingly or easily. The Battle of Hastings in 1066 was only the first of many devastating blows. Today in the right wing, there is a lot of discussion of more recent Bolshevik-orchestrated atrocities such as the Holomodor, the man-made famine that killed millions of Ukrainians under the Soviet regime, and the horrors of Stalin’s work camps. But, the strong parallels between the havoc wrought by communism and the economic enslavement of the English and genocidal behaviours of the Normans is ignored. Not only did the Normans usher in a new religious ideology that was enforced by rule of law as a tool to control the populace, but what might be called the Holomodor 1.0 was unleashed against the good people of Northern England in what would be remembered as ‘The Harrying of the North.’ James Aitcheson, writing for History Today, says:
The Harrying, which took place over the winter of 1069–70, saw William’s knights lay waste to Yorkshire and neighbouring shires. Entire villages were razed and their inhabitants killed, livestock slaughtered and stores of food destroyed. This scorched-earth operation is one of the defining episodes of the Conquest, not just from a military-political perspective but also in terms of how it has shaped modern perceptions of the Normans as a tyrannical and merciless warrior class.
The object of the campaign was two-fold. First, William sought to flush out and eliminate the Northumbrian rebels. More importantly, by destroying the region’s resources so comprehensively, he sought to put an end to the cycle of rebellions by ensuring that any future insurgents would lack the means to support themselves. The campaign was as efficient as it was effective. William’s armies spread out over more than one hundred miles of territory, as far north as the River Tyne. The 12th-century chronicler John of Worcester writes that food was so scarce in the aftermath that people were reduced to eating not just horses, dogs and cats but also human flesh.
We can see quite plainly that the Normans unleashed a campaign of terror against the good folk of England while also completely changing their economy and utilizing religious ideology as a means of enforcement. The similarities to both the Soviet regime and elite-driven social engineering today are striking. For an ethno-culture to whom freedom and individual autonomy were as valued as the bonds of kinship, and who cherished their cultural heritage and identity to the degree that heroic tales of valour from their origins in pagan Scandinavia continued to be told in the mead halls, this enslavement would have been insufferable. In addition to a new form of religion, confiscation of personal property, a new and foreign economic system, and the massive loss of life, the Normans also took away the beloved Teutonic communal woodlands.
A Legendary Folk Hero Arises
It is within this context that the legendary tales of Robin Hood would arise. While the Robin Hood figure with which we are familiar is legendary, most scholars are in agreement that the heroic figure was likely born from a historical person or is an amalgam of several figures who were known and remembered in folklore due to their resistance to Norman subjugation. This places the tale in the realm of mytho-history, as it discusses the life and escapades of figures who are impossible to verify; however, it is set squarely in a historical time and place and the themes rife within are perfectly in line with the concerns of the era. But separating what is fact from what is fiction is secondary from the lessons that the tales have to offer us as we navigate our way through our current society ruled by oppressive elites who seem hell bent on suppressing the white man while they socially engineer our nations through ideological psychological warfare and massive demographic replacement.
When we look to the character of Robin Hood, we see an archetypal woodsman who lives by an ancient primal code of honour. Rather than confronting the ruling class on their turf, he chooses to step outside of their matrix all together. He removes himself from economic dependence on the ruling class by living independently off the land, doubling down on the Teutonic ethnic traditional way of life. But he is not a lone-wolf, as it were. His ‘band of merry men’ remind us that while many of us today feel alone, we are not. There are others who see the tyranny, the social engineering, and who oppose it. Therefore we, too, can step outside of the matrix of these things and create our own communities based on shared values. We, too, can take from the rich to feed the poor by way of choosing how we spend our own coin. If we begin to see our brethren as ‘folk’ once again, we can turn our eyes upon our own community building. In Teutonic culture, bonds of kinship and tribe were considered something sacred. Therefore, conscious intention to spend our coin in ways that support of our folk who stand in solidarity against those who would see us destroyed can be considered a ‘folk tithe’.
But, Robin Hood’s primary function as an archetype of resistance to tyranny presents a message that is both basic and crucial. We must resist. We must resist at all costs the dark future that the social engineers are attempting to funnel us toward. Robin Hood, therefore, is a figure who embodies hope. His gang of unlikely brothers are not called the angry men, the depressive men, the hopeless men. No, they are the merry men. And why should they be happy living under the oppressive, murderous regime described above? Robin Hood and his merry men remind us that we have everything to live for. We are not yet dead. We are still standing. We have a glorious heritage and a beautiful culture. Again, looking to my own ancestors with the honour and reverence that they deserve, I remember when I had difficult times in my youth, my English-heritage grandmother always told me, ‘You come from strong stock.’
And I would say to you: We come from strong stock. And we will endure.
—Aitcheson, James. ‘The Harrying of the North’. 12 October 2016.Douglas, David C. William the Conqueror: The Norman Impact Upon England. University of California Press, 1967. Print.
—Goodson, Stephen. ‘The Hidden Origins of the Bank of England’. The Barnes Review XVIII.5 (2012): 5–14.
—Herbert, Kathleen. Looking for the Lost Gods of England. Anglo-Saxon Books, 1994. Print.
—Hirschman, Elizabeth Caldwell and Donald N. Yates. The Early Jews and Muslims of England and Wales: A Genetic and Genealogical History. McFarland, 2014.
—Jolly, Karen Louis. Popular Religion in Late Saxon England. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Print.
—Owen, Francis. The Germanic People: Their Origin and Expansion. Dorset Press, 1960. Print.
—Russel, James C. The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. Print.
—Staff writer. ‘Brentry: How Norman Rule Shaped England’. December 2016. The Economist.