Thursday, August 31, 2017

For the Record: Leif 'Em Laughing

Why does he assume they didn't make a decision to stay on the west side of the Atlantic? Things seemed pretty good in North America back in the day, when there weren't any Europeans mucking it up.

Update: Smut points out in the comments that this is not quite true, and I can't believe I didn't even look it up. No enslavement, but the Norsemen and the native inhabitants of Vinland did not in fact get along perfectly. It's not possible to quantify from the sagas (written down from oral tradition 250 years after the events), but it seems clear that at least six natives and one Greenlander (Leif's brother Thorvald) were killed over the four or five years of the colony in a series of fights. It is likely that they killed more of each other, when Leif's sister Freydis led the Greenlanders in the party to slaughter all the Icelanders, including five women, in their sleep, for unexplained reasons—were the Greenlanders Odin-worshipers like Eirik the Red and the Icelanders all Christians like Mrs. Eirik? Eirik's Saga, in any case, says that "after several years away from Greenland, they chose to turn back to their homes when they realized that they would otherwise face an indefinite conflict with the natives," which proves my main point that they were morally superior to their Spanish, Portuguese, and English successors who chose genocide instead of retreat.

Leif Eiríksson, in Boston by Anne Whitney, 1887 (Amateur archaeologists were looking for Norse sites in Massachusetts at the time, in vain). Photo via Medieval Karl. It does not carry the motto, "Just because you're white doesn't mean you have to kill everybody," but it could. Nice work, Leif.

I wanted to write something about today's awful Bret Stephens column on how Hurricane Harvey is really OK because America is rich, but this thread seemed better than anything I was likely to come up with:

Also check out Seth Abramson on Carter Page:


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