Friday, April 17, 2009
Bernard Cornwell's "Agincourt" is an excellent novel of that historic battle in the Hundred Years War. It captures a view of history from the eyes of a common archer, and as such, is a refreshing alternative to the telling of history from the eyes of the ruling class. The novel's graphic prediction of the violence of the Middle Ages clearly shows how far the old civilization of Rome had collapsed into the barbarism of its invaders. The fusion of the Germanic tribes into Roman order was truly catastrophic considering that indoor plumbing was just one benefit of the old empire which did not reappear for 1,500 years, even after a devastating plague wiped out more than a third of Europe. Reading Cornwell's work I wondered if the current situation in the West is but the early stages of another collapse in which the enemy this time is not across the Rhine but within us. Destruction is so much easier than building and recovery is almost impossible to achieve. "Agincourt" reveals the totality of violence 1,000 years after the collapse of Roman law. It shows a world in which children and women have absolutely no rights. Their abuse and murder is permitted despite the cries of the Church. It is a world of illiteracy and diminished life span in which each generation takes with it to the grave a piece of the culture and civilization that once was. I once spoke to an African-American parent in a poor urban zone. She told me that in her world the grandmothers were raising their grandchildren because a generation had been lost to drugs and violence. She wondered what would happen when the grandmothers died. When that moment came in the Middle Ages the rich fled to castles, and some people fled to walled cities. In our times we have opted for gated communities. Eventually, medieval castles collapsed and cities were sacked.