Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Winners have Better Stories

How could you not like Paul Dirac?

It was he who understood that the laws of science are beautiful. The logical conclusion being that, the more elegant a law is, the likely it is to be true. The universe runs on good stories.

But there's a historical example I wanted to cite. One that is particularly relevant to those of us who live round here.

1500 years ago, the Husborne Crawley area was part of the kingdom of the Middle Angles. Not the East Angles (i.e. East Anglians) - nor the West Angles (the Mercians). Not the Angles from north of the Humber (the Northumbrians). No, we were the Middle Angles - the folk of a territory stretching through Leicestershire, Northants, and down through Bedfordshire towards St Albans.

You, historically-aware readers, are scratching your heads. You were taught at school that there was a Heptarchy in Anglo-Saxon England - a collection of seven kingdoms. And you are, I suspect, quietly confident that Middle Anglia wasn't one of them. You probably don't remember them all - you may have a cringing feeling that you laughed at school that so many at school ended in "-sex". But we folk of the Middle Angles weren't one of them.

And you're right.  The kingdom of the Middle Angles has been forgotten. And here's why.

The Mercians were ruled by a royal family (most famous of whom is Offa) who claimed their descent from the god Woden. In fact, all but two of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England had royal families descended from Woden. The Essex kings claimed descent not from Woden, nor even from an ancient Essex god called Wayne, but from Saxnôt - a god who subsequently became Woden's son.

Only one kingdom didn't have a god as the ancestor of their royal family. The Middle Angles. We were bigger than the Mercians, but their king was a son of Woden and our king wasn't. So we were taken over, and within 300 years, Offa (of dyke fame) had a palace in deepest Middle-Anglia, in Irthlingborough. We had been wiped off the map as a political entity, and wiped off the face of history. And why?

Because the Mercians had a better story.                

1 comment :

  1. Beauty - in stories or science - is not always obvious. I once took a physics course from someone who, after filling the board with equations I really didn't have the mathematical background to properly understand, would stand back grinning with obvious delight and say "Isn't that beautiful!"

    I never did see the beauty he saw, although I'm now at least willing to accept that he saw something I couldn't and never would, not unless I learned a lot more mathematics than I was ever able to learn.


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