The Middle Ages: A Time of Ignorance, or a Time of Civilization and Learning?

In many of the movies you see on the Middle Ages today, you will see a rather frequent stereotype: the Christians of Europe were a bunch of savage ignoramuses who just liked killing and reveled in war and bloodshed. Is this accurate? Allow me to elaborate.

In Ridley Scott’s 2005 “historical” epic Kingdom of Heaven, the knights of western Christendom are portrayed as savage beasts while the Saracens are portrayed as civilized and peace-loving. I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. Saladin was a jihadist, and, hence, a killer. Balien of Ibelin was not a blacksmith as portrayed in the movie. On the contrary, Muslim, I will say it again, Muslim chroniclers, said he was, “like a prince.” That is a high amount of praise coming from a people like the Muslims when describing a Christian warrior.

Also, it must be said, the Crusaders weren’t just in the Holy Land butchering and raping. In fact, the Knights Templars were said to have been very good negotiators. According to Templar historian Barbara Frale, the Templars actually negotiated alliances, I will say that again, alliances, with Muslim warlords. This shows that, far from being savage killers, the Crusaders were ready to negotiate with any Muslim who was willing, (“the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”)

Also you have to consider several prominent writers of the period. First you have the anonymous author of the Gesta Francorum, the chronicle of the First Crusade. Then you have people like William of Tyre and the Byzantine chronicler Anna Komnena who wrote there own chronicles of the Crusades.

I hope this sheds some light on a subject that is cloudy at best for most people. And I hope that you will read more about the Crusades. Two books that have been recommended are the New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden, and God’s War: A New History of the Crusades by Christopher Tyerman. Pick up some copies! You may find them helpful!

Then, I will leave it up to you: were the Middle Ages a time of darkness and ignorance, or were they a time of Christian learning?

Wargame Design

For those of my readers who don’t know, I’m getting into wargame design. In fact, I’m endeavoring to start my own business. My first game is going to be Hyde: A Wargame of Gothic Horror in Victorian London. The idea is that humans are going to be pitted against Robert Louis Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde and his ilk, which will also include Dracula and the Modern Prometheus, (Frankenstein’s monster.)

I’m supposed to have a book on wargame design coming. It’s written in part by Rick Priestly, the guy who developed the immensely popular Warhammer system. Unfortunately the book hasn’t arrived yet. We called Amazon and it may be arriving soon, but I’m not sure.

I also came up with the idea to include in the rules for Hyde quotations from classic horror novels such as Dracula and Frankenstein. That will be lots of fun. Just picture within the general rules a box in which there is a quote from one of those classic horror novels! That’s the plan.

So keep your eyes open. Hopefully, soon, there will be advertisements for Hyde: A Wargame of Gothic Horror in Victorian London. I also have some great ideas for historical wargames. Some of the ideas are as follows: Horse and Musket: Wargaming in 18th Century Europe from the War of the Spanish Succession to the French Revolutionary Wars, Pirate Wars: An Expansion of Horse and Musket, Blood and Iron: Wargaming the Wars of German Unification, 1848-1871 etc. Hopefully these will all be forthcoming, so, again, if you are into wargaming, keep your eyes open!

Upcoming Wargames

There are some up-and-coming wargames that look very interesting. As you may know, I’ve started a wargaming section on my blog, and this is my second post on it.

The first upcoming wargame that looks VERY interesting is the Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror by Joseph A. McCullough. As you may have guessed from the title, it’s set during the Napoleonic Wars, (1803-1815.) But their is a marked difference between this game and a regular Napoleonic wargame. Try to imagine the Battle of Waterloo between the Allies and Napoleon’s Grande Armee, but imagine it with vampires and werewolves. As the game hasn’t come out yet, (it’s coming out in October of this year,) I don’t know what the gameplay will be like, but I like to imagine what it will be like: I imagine the werewolves fighting with the Allies and the vampires fighting with the Grande Armee. I don’t know if that’s going to be the case, but that’s an interesting thought, anyway.

The second upcoming wargame that looks interesting is one that’s not going to be coming out for some time yet: Warhammer: the Old World. For those of you who have played Warhammer: Fantasy Battles, it’s basically going to be Warhammer with all the old factions, such as the Empire. One faction that’s going to be in that game that looks very interesting to me is Kislev, an impoverished but hardy faction based on Kievan Rus, (medieval Russia.) Apparently, in the original Warhammer game, Kislev got no more than, “a threadbare supplement in 2003.” Also, Kislev warriors apparently ride bears into battle, which will be very interesting.

So, wargamers, strap on your armor and shakos and grab your swords and muskets! It looks like the next few years are going to be very exciting for wargamers!

Warhammer: War is Brewing Between the Humans of Freeguild and the Children of the Horned Rat

I’ve decided to split my blog into two categories: history and current events on the one hand, and wargaming on the other. See, my brother Landon has gotten me into wargaming and modeling. I recommend you try it. It’s very rewarding to see miniatures glued together and painted.

The game of choice is Warhammer: Age of Sigmar. Now some of the wargamers that are hopefully reading this post may not be into Warhammer. They may be more into easier games like Burrows and Badgers. But that’s the road down which I’ve chosen to go. I love the Warhammer miniatures and I think playing with them will be very fun.

The two races I’ve chosen for this particular game are the Freeguilders, (basically, the humans,) and the Skaven, (flesh-eating rat-men who worship the Chaos deity known as the Great Horned Rat.) Unfortunately I haven’t really gotten into the actual game yet. That will come later. At this point modelling is the order of the day. So yesterday I just started gluing together the Skaven plague monks. Gluing is not the easiest thing in the world. Painting is a lot more fun. So it will be really fun when I start painting them. I also have the Freeguild Guard coming in the mail. Soon the Skaven and the Freeguilders will be ready for combat! It’s only a matter of time.

Rome and the Barbarians: Who Were the Real Savages?

I’m planning an expose on History Channel’s Barbarians Rising. See, from what I have seen of the show, (I’ve only seen one episode,) the show makes the case that the Romans were the real savages and that, “it was the barbarians who opposed slavery. They were the earliest freedom fighters.”

I’ve seen the first episode. It of course makes Hannibal Barca look like a noble warrior who was just defending Carthage. Meanwhile, the Scipio brothers are portrayed as these villainous soldiers with perpetual scowls on their faces. But was that really the case? Was Rome the big bad wolf while Carthage was this poor defenseless city? That’s not the image I’d use. See, the Carthaginians, like the Romans, were pagans. And while I believe that Rome did go bad in the long run, they weren’t always bad. The Carthaginians, on the other hand, were pagans par excellence, worshippers of Baal. As such, they practiced human sacrifice. Anyone who has studied the history of Rome knows that this was a level to which even the Romans, for all their faults, didn’t sink. So who were the real savages? You decide.

Tsarist Russia and Soviet Russia: Problems Solved, or Worsened?

In October of 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government of Alexander Kerensky in Russia. Led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, and supported by the army and navy, they took control of the government and established the Soviet Union.

The question is, which government was worse: that of the tsars, or that of the Bolsheviks?

Well, to start, one has to examine the history of tsarist Russia. And it’s not a pretty thing to talk about. To put it simply, the tsarist regime was rather tyrannical. One thinks here of tsars like Nicholas I and Alexander III who clamped down on dissent and employed secret police, (the Third Section under Nicholas and the Okhrana under Alexander,) to stamp out dissent. They were also very anti-Semitic. In fact, some of the worst anti-Semitism in Russian history occurred, sadly, under the last two tsars. Take into account, if you will, the May Laws of 1882, (laws which further restricted the already restricted Jews living in Poland,) the pogroms of 1905, (which are illustrated in Joseph Stein’s Fiddler on the Roof,) and the Beilis Affair of 1911-1913, in which the Jew Mendel Beilis was falsely accused of murder in a horrendous turn of affairs known as the Blood Libel, a horrific legend that Jews ritually murdered children in order to use their blood to make Passover matzah. Without question, the tsarist regime was quite tyrannical.

However, one has to consider this: did the Bolsheviks solve those problems? Socialist sympathizers will undoubtedly and enthusiastically answer: Yes! But in truth the answer is no! Undeniably and irrefutably, NO!

See, everything, EVERYTHING, the tsarist regime was guilty of was worsened by the Bolsheviks: the bureaucracy, the secret police, the censorship, the anti-Semitism, everything.

“Oh,” one might say, “but they dissolved the Okhrana!” Yes! And replaced it with the Cheka, and later the KGB! “Oh, but they can’t have been anti-Semitic!” Oh, but they were! Think of this angry quote from Leon Trotsky when someone, oh the horror, called him a Jew:

“I am not a Jew, but an internationalist.” (A Concise History of the Russian Revolution by Richard Pipes, p. 261)

Then there’s the prison camps. The tsars ran an extensive system of prison camps that, in the words of Mendel Beilis, were called “Katorga.” There was also exile in Siberia. The great Russian author Dostoevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison camp, and wrote about such things in works like House of the Dead.

Did this injustice stop with the Bolshevik takeover? By no means! The 20th century Russian author and Soviet dissident Alexandre Solzhenitsyn can attest to this, as many of his most beloved books, (One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, the Gulag Archipelago, etc.) were based around the theme of the Gulag, or Soviet prison camps.

I think I’ve said enough to show that, in reality, at best the Bolshevik system of government was no better than the tsarist regime, and at worst, it was worse than the tsarist regime. Therefore, be warned: socialism fixes nothing. It only makes things worse.

The History of Revolution and Police Brutality in Russia: What Americans Can Learn From It

The history of Russia is something few Americans will find interesting. In fact, history in general is something few Americans will find interesting. But it’s something we must know. If there are three countries I think every American should study, they are America itself, followed closely by England and Russia.

“But why Russia?” someone may ask. “Why should I care about the tsars and the revolutionaries and even the oppression going on there today?” Simply put, Russian history is repeating itself. It’s repeating itself in the west, and few people realize it.

In 1883 Inspector Georgy Sudeikin of the Okhrana, (the tsar’s secret police,) was assassinated by Russian revolutionary and, ironically, police informant, Sergei Degaev. Degaev went on to reinvent himself as Alexander Pell, a beloved math professor in the United States. But not before founding the Russian terrorist organization known as Narodnya Volya, or the People’s Will. This revolutionary organization’s core belief was that terrorist activity was the most effective way to force reform and overthrow the tsarist regime. Sound familiar? It should! For the People’s Will is little different from the Marxist-Leninist organization known as Black Lives Matter. Propagating the same lies, employing the same tactics, and most likely using police brutality as an excuse.

To be as fair as I can, the Okhrana had a reputation for brutality. I remember reading about the Beilis Affair of 1913, and Beilis’s own account of how the tsar’s police agents treated him. And thus, Russians in the late 1800s and early 1900s had a legitimate reason to accuse the police of “police brutality.” We don’t. We’re not under constant, 24/7 surveillance by the police as people in late tsarist Russia and, indeed, Soviet Russia were. We must, we MUST learn from history, or, as the old proverb warns us, we will, we WILL, repeat it.

Socialism is a Farce

In this country today, you have so many ignorant young people screaming for the destruction of our nation and the resurrection of it as a socialist utopia. When that happens, a nation is always a zombie, a mere shadow of what it formerly was. Russia is one of the best examples. Out of Imperial Russia came some of the finest music and literature the world has ever known. One thinks here of names such as Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy. Russia also fought against Napoleon Bonaparte, the tyrant and upstart of the 19th century, and they defeated him, praise be to God. But what happened during the 19th century to mutate the Russian bear? Karl Marx and Friederich Engels happened. In 1848 they penned the Communist Manifesto. This was to have long-lasting consequences that reach into this present century. See, Marx and Engels may have created the Communist beast. But it was three Russians, Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin, who made Communism what it is today. When the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917, starting with the royal family, they began a campaign of terror, murdering anyone who got in their way. This went on until Lenin’s death in 1924. Then it continued with Stalin. Now, many people see Stalin as the architect of Communist atrocity. But in reality, it was Lenin and Trotsky who started all the killing. Another one of their royal victims was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, aunt to Tsar Nicholas II and sister to the Tsarina Alexandra. They took her and a group of her friends and threw them into a mine shaft with hand grenades hurled after them to finish the job. It was HORRIBLE! And as I said, the killing didn’t stop there. Then came the Russian Civil War, which lasted from 1918 to 1922. Interestingly, contrary to popular belief, the White movement in Russia was not Royalist, but Republican. The White Armies didn’t seek to restore the tsar, but to restore the constituent assembly, (the Duma, perhaps?) But they failed for lack of organization. And Communism reigned in Russia from 1918 to 1991. Now, people seek to implement the ideas of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in this country. But they mustn’t succeed. Communism has failed everywhere, destroying anything it touches. “Let us try again,” the Communists beg. “We know we can succeed if we’re just given a chance!” That is a bunch of malarkey. Government without God never, I repeat, NEVER, succeeds. So don’t fall into the trap of Communism and socialism. Please, please, PLEASE, heed my words: it will not work.

Christmas Carols and Historical Ignorance

This Christmas I’ve started to realize just how historically ignorant people are. Of course I knew there was a lot of ignorance concerning history in this country, but it’s much MUCH worse than I had previously assumed. How did I learn this? Through Christmas carols. Let’s start with a very well-known English carol: God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen. If you look up that carol in the hymnal at the bottom of the page you will see this: 18th century English carol. English? Absolutely. 18th century? Ummmmm…No. It’s much much older than that. And worse still, not only have we misstated the time period, but we also misinterpret the carol itself. “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen” does NOT mean “God bless you happy gentlemen.” In the old English “merry” actually means “mighty.” And “rest” doesn’t mean “repose.” It means to “make” or “cause to be.” So the real meaning of the carol is “God make you mighty gentlemen.” Also, “gentlemen” were the landed aristocracy, which I find interesting.

Now, let’s discuss the English carol “Masters in This Hall” by William Morris. Interestingly, while God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen seems to have been written for the higher classes in English society, Morris was an English socialist who seems to have written his carol for the lower classes. The idea of the song, at least as I hear it, is the poor coming into the halls of the rich and proclaiming the birth of Christ to them. Unfortunately, some have erroneously claimed that the song is French. If you study the history of the carol, the tune is French, but the carol itself is English.

In closing, I’ll just say this: know your history. Even small errors in historical analysis can be dangerous. And complete ignorance of history is EXTREMELY dangerous. So just take some time to do some reading. Read a history book that you find interesting or at least palatable. You’ll enrich yourself and you won’t be sorry.

Lenin and Stalin

I just watched a video on how Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin, quite possibly the two most famous leaders of the Soviet Union, were different. It was explained that Lenin and Stalin both killed people, but the difference was, Stalin actually enjoyed it, while Lenin merely did it out of “political necessity.”

Be that as it may. Okay, fine, Lenin may well not have been the sadist that Stalin was, but, two things must be taken into account: one, Lenin killed almost as many people as Stalin did, two, he was just as heartless. The very fact that he allowed, and may even have ordered (according to Trotsky,) that the Russian royal family be herded down into a basement in the dead of night and killed is completely barbaric, and utterly inexcusable.

We must always remember, even if the Russians don’t, that the atrocities committed by Stalin were preceded by atrocities of almost equal brutality, committed by Lenin. So, in closing, no one, I repeat, NO ONE, can excuse Lenin’s behaviour by pointing to Stalin’s and claiming it was worse. It simply cannot be done.