I decided that I was going to open the new chapter and see what I felt.
About five seconds later I was saying, “Oh, for fuck’s sake!” So here we are, doing After the Flood. For fuck’s sake.
Chapter 6 is called “The Descent of the Anglo-Saxon Kings.” It’s about…are you ready? The Anglo-Saxons. No, srsly.
Cooper starts out with a high school history paper introduction (he’s quite good at those).
It would not be difficult to go out and buy literally hundreds of books that deal with the history of the Saxons in England. It is a fascinating and popular subject, and the market abounds with books ranging from the seriously academic to 'coffee-table' books filled with pictures of Anglo-Saxon weaponry and other relics.
I don’t really have a problem with this. I just put it there so we can laugh at it. Oh, also because one teeny little bit of it is going to be kind of important in a few seconds. Because, see, Cooper does that thing he does where he manages to transfer from “pedantic but benign” to “oh, for fuck’s sake!” over the course of a paragraph. At least he got in a full sentence this time around.
Virtually all the popular works on the subject begin with the middle of the 5th century AD when the Saxons began to migrate to this country from their continental homes. Some books may even refer briefly to those continental homes in order to demonstrate to the reader that the Anglo-Saxons did not simply materialise but actually came from somewhere real. But that is virtually the only mention that is given to the pre-migration history of the Saxons. All that came before, we are left to assume, is lost in the mists of antiquity, and the pre-migration history of the Saxons is simply left as a blank page. Now why should this be?
Ooooh, I know this one! Because we don’t know a whole hell of a lot about the Angles, the Jutes, or the Saxons? Illiterate Germanic tribes weren’t big on the whole record keeping thing, after all.
There’s also that bit about how Cooper starts out talking about getting books about the Saxons that are limited in scope to the Saxon emigration to Britain. Now, take it from me, when you’re doing history you have to figure out how to limit yourself.
I, for instance, once did a series of posts about battleships. I originally wanted to write a post or two about a specific battleship. But I realized that in order to write about that one specific battleship I would have to explain how battleships came in to being. Then I realized that the story was only half over by the time we reached the USS Texas, so I had to carry it on to the end. Still, I limited myself in that I only talked about non-battleship developments if they were necessary and only as they related (the development of the cruiser from the jeune ecole’s long-range surface raider to the protected cruiser to the light cruiser/heavy cruiser split in WWII to the modern cruisers we see today, for instance, is probably quite fascinating. And it had absolutely nothing to do with anything).
I’m currently working on a series of posts about Byzantium. It’s lead to much discussion about the topic.
Anyway, the point is, if you’re going to write about the Saxons in Britain, it’s a really good idea to limit your topic of conversation to the Saxons in Britain. It’s also really, really easy to do that. We know they came from the continent. We know they were Germanic tribes. We don’t know much else. So if you slap on a quick introduction that basically says that, then you can go on to talk about what they did to Britain after moving.
That, of course, doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of works out there about the Germanic tribes in northern Europe. Some of those works might even be covered in the list of hundreds that Cooper just casually tosses out. We, of course, don’t know this because he used the high school history paper introduction.
Now, I’ve probably tossed some variation on the term “high school paper introduction” out during this project. I don’t know if I’ve ever actually properly discussed it, since it seems like the sort of thing that goes without saying. Of course, the high school history paper introduction often says thing that seem to be the sort of thing that goes without saying. So, yeah…
Either way, I’m sure anyone who was forced to write a paper or an essay back in high school knows how much of a pain in the ass they are. You’re handed a topic, like the development of agricultural practices in the Fertile Crescent. You don’t care about the development of agricultural practices in the Fertile Crescent. You’ll never care about the development of agricultural practices in the Fertile Crescent. And if you do get an A on a paper about agricultural practices in the Fertile Crescent the head cheerleader won’t fall madly in love with you and make out with you, so why the fuck should you care?
If you’re a smart high school student you’ll know a few things. First, you’ll know that there’s a format your teacher is looking for. I was taught you need an introduction with three points and a thesis statement, three body paragraphs which covered each of those three points, and a conclusion that re-stated the thesis sentence.
If you can come up with three points and a thesis you’re 90% of the way there. But in order to really make that grade you need a whiz-bang introduction statement. It should be something that’s vague but on topic. It should be something that’s catchy. It doesn’t have to be cited, since it won’t be graded, so you can also get away with some flowery (and space filling) prose. If all else (and I mean ALL ELSE) fails, it can include, “Webster’s Dictionary states that…”
You’re much better off stating the complexity of the problem, though. Or the fact that everyone in the world is really, really interested in learning about the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent. So if you’re smart enough to not define agriculture according to the handiest dictionary, you’ll probably end up with something like, “Everyone can agree that human society would not be where it is today without the development of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent.”
High schoolers can get away with that sort of utter crap. If you try to pass it through in a three or four hundred level history course, well, you’re basically going to get graded down. And your professor will probably take it as a sign that the rest of your thinking is equally as sloppy and sophomoric.
And if you attempt to write a book, chances are you’re going to be self-publishing on the internet for some snarky asshole to dissect at a later point in time.
Point is, Cooper tossed out a statistic (hundreds of books) to defend his point (they don’t talk about a topic that he says they should). We have absolutely no way of checking this, though, because he’s just making the sweeping generalizations we’d expect out of a high school history class and not someone who is, theoretically, serious and educated about the study of history. Of course, we know that Bill Cooper is not actually particularly educated or serious about the study of history, so that makes sense. Especially when we get to the conclusion of his high school introductory paragraph.
Is it because the Saxons themselves left no record of what came before? Or, as in the case of the early Britons, is it because what the Saxons did have to say about their own past, runs counter to the modernist creed?
Can Bill Cooper ever take Option 1? No, of course he can’t. We always have to go through the looking glass in to Crazy Cooper Conspiracy World where illiterate societies left perfect records going all the way back to the Bible itself, but the evil modernists have taken it upon themselves to destroy all records and make the baby Jesus cry or whatever the hell it is that those of us who understand history were doing while he was eating tree bark during recess.
After this random vomitus, Cooper tosses up one of his sweet, sweet genealogies. Apparently it was written by the Saxons. And apparently it goes all the way back to Noah. As proof, he offers two quotes from the year 1600 and “evidence” in the form of the fact that the Saxons’ favorite book of the Bible was Genesis.
No. Seriously. I’m beginning to see this as the plot to some novel or horror movie (like, I dunno, House of Leaves or any number of Stephen King novels or something) where the reader is actually watching a character slowly go from engaged in a fascinating puzzle to bugnuts fucking crazy. Cooper just gets nuttier with every chapter.
But we’ll get to that next time.
Stupid high school.
Interestingly enough, that’s still basically a useful format. I mean, it requires hefty modification to be properly used outside of a high school classroom, but the format fits. That’s probably why they taught it.
Yeah. I went there.
I tried to come up with a full alliteration for that. Nothing struck me.
I’m mean tonight. Probably because I’m out of bourbon. Yeah, that’s right. I’m a mean drunk of a historian, but I’m also a mean sober historian. In completely unrelated news, I’m also single.
*Totally unrelated to, well, anything: the movie Descent was on the station formerly known as "Sci-Fi" today. I've never watched the movie for more than about a minute and have no intention of ever watching the movie. But the description on the DirecTV guide was something about a woman plotting her revenge against a rapist, which fascinated me because it looked like a movie about a bunch of women in a cave, and from half-remembered previews from the better part of a decade ago, I think they ended up being chased by...y'know, cave things. So I looked it up on IMDb. There were four different descriptions, none of which agreed with each other and none of which seemed to have anything to do with the movie as I understand it.
What the hell is up with that? Is Descent like the Doctor's magic pad, where people look at it and see whatever they want? Because I have to admit, I looked at it and saw Doctor Who, but that's just because I then pressed play on, well, Doctor Who...