Discovery of 17th century mass grave reveals tragic remains of child soldiers

Discovery of 17th century mass grave reveals tragic remains of child soldiers

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Archaeologists say they have verified that skeletons unearthed in a mass grave in northern England were Scottish prisoners, including child soldiers as young as 13, who died after capture in a 1650 battle of the civil wars. Up to 6,000 Scotsmen were captured and many taken to Durham, England, where they perished under hard conditions.

Using scientific analysis and dating and historical records, researchers concluded that the only plausible explanation is that the people in the mass grave had been taken captive in the short but bloody Battle of Dunbar and died later in Durham.

“Cromwell at Dunbar,” 1886 painting by Andrew Carrick Gow ( Wikimedia Commons )

Archaeologists at the University of Durham in northern England came across the mass grave in preparation for construction of a café at the university library. At least 17 bodies were buried in the grave, but there may be as many as 29. All but one were exhumed.

“Although the exact figures are not known, it is thought that around 1,700 Scottish soldiers died of malnutrition, disease and cold after being marched over 100 miles from the South East of Scotland to Durham, in North East England, where they were imprisoned in Durham Cathedral and Castle, by then disused for several years,” says an article at the University of Durham’s website . “What happened to their bodies has been a mystery for almost 400 years, but the Durham University researchers believe they have begun to solve the puzzle.”

Radiocarbon dating after the bodies were unearthed in 2013 indicated an earlier date of death than 1650. But scientists selected four more samples more carefully and again used radiocarbon dating that shows the boys and men were buried between 1625 and 1660. Analysis of elements in the bodies showed they were likely Scottish. That evidence, plus the presence of clay pipes that were in use in Scotland from 1620 onwards helped archaeologists in their conclusion that the people buried there, all males between 13 and 25 years old at the time of death, were prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar.

A view of Durham Castle, left, and Durham Cathedral, where some 3,000 Scottish prisoners of war were imprisoned after the Battle of Dunbar. The bodies were found near Durham Cathedral on the campus of the University of Durham. (Photo by Steve F-E-Cameron/ Wikimedia Commons )

“The Battle of Dunbar was one of the most brutal, bloody and short battles of the 17th Century civil wars. In less than an hour the English Parliamentarian army, under the command of Oliver Cromwell, defeated the Scottish Covenanting army who supported the claims of Charles II to the Scottish throne,” the University of Durham article states.

The university’s senior archaeologist, Richard Annis, said the find is extremely significant and added there may be other mass graves of the Battle of Dunbar under university buildings.

Historians give a wide range for an estimate of the number who died in the battle—between 300 and 5,000. Modern scholars have calculated the English took 6,000 Scottish soldiers prisoner, though about 1,000 of them were sick or wounded and were released.

Another 1,000 may have died on the road to Durham from Dunbar in Scotland, from hunger, exhaustion and gastrointestinal problems that likely included dysentery. The English executed still others, and some escaped, leaving about 3,000 imprisoned in Durham Castle and Durham Cathedral. The cathedral was empty on Cromwell’s order, as all English cathedrals were, as Catholic worship was being suppressed and clerics driven away. About 1,700 prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar died in Durham.

“Their burial was a military operation: The dead bodies were tipped into two pits, possibly over a period of days,” Annis said. “They were at the far end of what would have been the Durham Castle grounds, as far as possible from the Castle itself—they were out of sight, out of mind.”

Canon Rosalind Brown of Durham Cathedral said the cathedral will work with interested parties to rebury the bodies appropriate to their Christian tradition, which was likely Scottish Presbyterianism.

Featured image: A skeleton of the one of the young men buried on what is now the University of Durham campus (Photo by Richard Annis).

By Mark Miller

Thirty Years’ War

The Thirty Years’ War was a 17th-century religious conflict fought primarily in central Europe. It remains one of the longest and most brutal wars in human history, with more than 8 million casualties resulting from military battles as well as from the famine and disease caused by the conflict. The war lasted from 1618 to 1648, starting as a battle among the Catholic and Protestant states that formed the Holy Roman Empire. However, as the Thirty Years’ War evolved, it became less about religion and more about which group would ultimately govern Europe. In the end, the conflict changed the geopolitical face of Europe and the role of religion and nation-states in society.

The Pilgrims arrived on these shores in 1620 in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their children while being able to worship freely and in peace. Undoubtedly the most famous colonists in world history, their faith and fortitude are legendary. Their perseverance laid the cornerstone of a new Nation. The Pilgrims' courage, gratitude to God, and love for one another still inspire people today. The story of Mayflower and her tumultuous trans-Atlantic crossing, Plymouth Colony- with its tragic first winter, treaty with the Wampanoag People and celebrated First Thanksgiving echoes down the ages and around the world. Regardless of anything that came before or after, Plymouth is the 'once upon a time' to the story of the United States -- the symbolic, if not literal, birthplace of our Nation.

In describing the emotional worship service before the Pilgrim church's departure from Holland, Governor William Bradford wrote that Reverend John Robinson:

&hellipspent a good part of the day very profitably and suitable to their present occasion the rest of the time was spent pouring out prayers to the Lord with great fervency, mixed with abundance of tears. And the time being come that they must depart, they were accompanied with most of their brethren out of the city, unto a town sundry miles off called Delftshaven, where the ship lay ready to receive them. So they left that goodly and pleasant city which had been their resting place near twelve years but they knew they were pilgrims, and looked not much on those things, but lift up their eyes to the heavens, their dearest country, and quieted their spirits.

This passage from Bradford's manuscript Of Plymouth Plantation makes reference to the Epistle to the Hebrews 11:13-16. According to the Geneva Bible (1560), the translation preferred by most Pilgrims, this reads:

(13) All these dyed in faith, and received not the promises, but sawe them a farre of, and beleved them, and received them thankefully, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgremes on the earth. (14) For they that say suche things, declare plainely that they seke a countrey. (15) And if they had bene mindeful of that countrey, from whence they came out, they had leasure to have returned. (16) But now they desire a better, that is an heavenlie: wherefore God is not ashamed of them to be called their God for he hathe prepared for them a citie.

Bradford's description of Robinson's worship service first appeared in print in Nathaniel Morton's New England's Memorial (1669), a popular chronicle of Plymouth Colony written by the governor's nephew. It is on the basis of this excerpt that Mayflower's passengers first became known as the Pilgrim Fathers, or Pilgrims, in the late 1700s.

Who were the Pilgrims?

If we really want to understand them, we must try to look beyond the legends and see them as they saw themselves. They were English people who sought to escape the religious controversies and economic problems of their time by emigrating to America.

Many of the Pilgrims were members of a Puritan sect known as the Separatists. They believed that membership in the Church of England violated the biblical precepts for true Christians, and they had to break away and form independent congregations that adhered more strictly to divine requirements. A passage from the Second Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians gave urgency to their actions. The Geneva translation for Second Corinthians 6: 16-18 reads:

(16) And what agrement hathe the Temple of God with idoles? for ye are the Temple of the living God: as God hathe said, I wil dwell among them, and walke there and I wil be their God, and shalbe my people. (17) Wherefore come out from among them, and separate your selves, faith the Lord: and touche none uncleane thing, & I wil receive you. (18) And I wil be a Father unto you, and ye shalbe my sonnes and daughters, saith the Lord almightie.

At a time when Church and State were one, such an act was treasonous and the Separatists had to flee their mother country. Other Pilgrims remained loyal to the national Church but came because of economic opportunity and a sympathy with Puritanism. They all shared a fervent and pervasive Protestant faith that touched all areas of their lives.

As English people, the Pilgrims also shared a vital secular culture both learned and traditional. They lived in a time that accepted fairies and witches, astrological influences, seasonal festivals and folklore as real parts of their lives. They looked at the world they lived in not as we do today - through the eyes of quantum physics and psychology - but through the folklore of the countryside and academic traditions that stretched back to antiquity. They were both thorough Protestants of the recent Reformation and the inheritors of the Medieval worldview that infused the imaginations of William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

The Separatist Faith

The Separatists' faith experience was part of the larger English Reformation of the 16th century. This movement sought to &ldquopurify&rdquo the Church of England of its corrupt human doctrine and practices the people in the movement were known as &ldquoPuritans.&rdquo Separatists were those Puritans who no longer accepted the Church of England as a true church, refused to work within the structure to affect changes, and &ldquoseparated&rdquo themselves to form a true church based solely on Biblical precedent. Puritans rejected Christmas, Easter and the various Saint's Days because they had no scriptural justification, and in their worship services, they rejected hymns, the recitations of the Lord's Prayer and creeds for the same reason.

The Separatists believed that the worship of God must progress from the individual directly to God, and that &ldquoset&rdquo forms, like the Church of England's Book of Common Prayer, interfered with that progression by directing one's thoughts down to the book and inward to one's self. The only exceptions were the Psalms and the Lord's Supper, both of which had scriptural basis, and possibly the covenant by which individuals joined the congregation. As Pastor Robinson expressed it, even two or three &ldquogathered in the name of Christ by a covenant [and] made to walk in all the ways of God known unto them is a church.&rdquo

Sabbath services were held twice on Sunday in addition, sermons were often given on Thursdays, and as occasion demanded, Days of Thanksgiving or Days of Fasting and Humiliation were proclaimed. These latter were movable weekday holidays called in response to God's Providence. Both were observed in a manner similar to the weekly Sabbath, with morning and afternoon services. The approximate times were from 9:00 AM to noon and from to 2:00 to 5:00 PM. In Plymouth Colony, according to the famous passage from Isaack de Rasiere's 1627 letter:

They assemble by the beat of drum, each with his musket or firelock, in front of the captain's door they have their cloaks on, and place themselves in order three abreast, and are led by a sergeant without beat of drum. Behind comes the Governor, in a long robe, beside him on the right hand comes the preacher with his cloak on and on the left hand, the captain with his sidearms and his cloak on, and with a small cane in his hand and so they march in good order, and each sets his arms down near him.

Once they reached the meetinghouse, the men and boys sixteen and older sat on one side the women and children sat on the other side. John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, attended morning and afternoon Sabbath meetings while on a brief visit to Plymouth in October 1632. While de Rasiere described the manner in which the Pilgrims progressed to worship, Winthrop provides details on the order of worship. He pays special attention to prophesying. While no examples of prophesies have come down to us, it seems to have been similar in nature to a mini-sermon, consisting of a reading or quoting of a text and an exposition of its meaning and spiritual application, with some discussion of Christian doctrine:

On the Lord's day there was a sacrament which they did partake in, and in the afternoon, Mr. Roger Williams (according to their custom) propounded a question, to which the pastor, Mr. Smith, spake briefly. Then Mr. Williams prophesied and after, the Governor of Plymouth spake to the questions and after him the elder, them some 2 or 3 more of the congregation. Then the elder desired the governor of Massachusetts and Mr. Wilson to speak to it, which they did. When this was ended, the deacon Mr. Fuller put the congregation in mind of their duty of contribution whereupon the governor and all the rest went down to the deacon's seat and put it into the box, and then returned.

William Brewster served as the Ruling Elder of the Pilgrim church from its days in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England to Leiden, Holland and finally Plymouth Colony. Ruling Elders were responsible for the government of the congregation, but as they were laymen and not ordained ministers, they could not deliver the sacraments. Elders were often referred to as the "eyes of the church," governing and admonishing the congregation. In the absence of Pastor Robinson, who remained in Holland, Brewster preached and taught the in Plymouth. In memorializing Brewster after the Elder's death in 1643, Governor William Bradford also supplies additional details on aspects of worship in Plymouth:

In teaching, he was very moving and stirring of affections, also very plain and distinct in what he taught by which means he became the more profitable to the hearers. He had a singular good gift in prayer, but public and private, in ripping up the heart and conscience before God in the humble confession of sin, and begging the mercies of God in Christ for the pardon of the same. He always thought it better for ministers to pray oftener and divide their prayers, than be long and tedious in the same, except upon solemn and special occasions as in days of humiliation and the like. His reason was that the heart and spirits of all, especially the weak, could hardly continue and stand bent as it were so long towards God as they ought to do in that duty, without flagging and falling off.

Prayer, in keeping with Separatist belief, was completely extemporaneous. The Lord's Prayer was considered a model to be followed, but not slavishly copied. Prayer was given by the Pastor or Teaching Elder. At this point in the service, the congregation rose. The speaker removed his hat, raised his eyes and lifted up his arms toward Heaven, and spoke. At the end, all joined in saying, "Amen."

Scripture in the 16th century was often interpreted in a metaphorical sense scholars searched for hidden meaning. Separatists concentrated of the literal and historical possibilities, generally ignoring the metaphorical interpretations. During this part of the service, a passage of scripture was read and expounded upon in this literal manner by the Pastor or Teaching Elder.

Finally, Psalms were the only music allowed in the service. Hymns were rejected because they had no scriptural basis. The versions of the Psalms used in Plymouth Colony came from Henry Ainsworth's Psalter, in which he had "Englished" the Psalms in prose and metre, and set them to livelier music than had been heard before. These were sung, without musical accompaniment, by the whole congregation. Years later, in the 1670s, when the first generation of settlers--many of whom had musical training--had died, the colonists had difficulty with the music of the psalms. At this point, the practice of "lining" psalms began. In lining, each line of the psalm is first sung by the Pastor, then repeated by the congregation.

To learn more about the faith of the Pilgrims, visit us at Plimoth Plantation. See our calendar for information about our weekly programs on religion.

Timeline of the 16th Century

If you don't find what you are looking for here then jump into out Historic themes and Historic Periods timelines where you will discover a plethora of intriguing connections to the 16th century.

1500First design of a helicopterLeonardo da Vinci designed a helicopter
1502Marriage agreement between Margaret, daughter of Henry VII, and James IV of Scotland.He was 30 years old she just 13 when she reached Scotland for a wedding which a hundred years later would put a Scottish king on the English throne.
1502Pocket Watch, invented by Peter HenleinScience
1506Death of Christopher ColumbusExplorer
1509Death of King Henry VII and accession of Henry VIII The young King was 18 years old. On the first day of his accession he arrested his fathers most hated ministers Empson and Dudley, they were tried and executed. In June he married Catherine of Aragon.
1513Battle of Flodden Field This battle was fought at Flodden Edge, Northumberland in which invading Scots were defeated by the English
1513Discovery of the Pacific Ocean by EuropeansBalboa a Spanish adventurer first sighted the Pacific from Panama. 6 years later Magellan sailed down the south american coast until he found the difficult passage which led to the Pacific Ocean which would become known as the Magellan Straits.
1515Thomas Wolsey becomes Lord Chancellor of England Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, is made Lord Chancellor of England and a Cardinal by Pope Leo X
1516Book 'Utopia' by Thomas More The book is a socio-political satire, a narrative primarily depicting a fictional island society and its religious, social, and political customs.
1517Martin Luther at WittenbergMartin Luther nails his "95 Theses" against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences, on the church door at Wittenberg
1519Death of Leonardo da Vinci.Science Art
1520Field of Cloth of Gold: Francois I of France meets Henry VIII but fails to gain his support against Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V
1520Continent of America appears on map.A map is published by Peter Apian that shows the continent of America
1521Henry VIII receives the title "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo XRoyalty
1522The first Arithmetic book published in England, by Cuthbert TurnstallWriter Science
1522The Vittoria - first ship to sail around the world.Magellan's crew (he was murdered in the Phillipines) brought his ship home across the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope back to Spain.
1526Hans Holbein artist arrives in England and stays for 13 yearsArt
1527Thorne writes 'A Declaration of the Indies'First Englishman to write a book on exploration. This book urges King Henry of a north west passage to Asia.
1529Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey dismissed.Lord Chancellor Thomas Wolsey dismissed for failing to obtain the Pope's consent to his divorce from Catherine of Aragon Sir Thomas More appointed Lord Chancellor Henry VIII summons the "Reformation Parliament" and begins to cut the ties with the Church of Rome.
1530Death of Thomas Wolsey.Political
1532Sir Thomas More resigns over the question of Henry VIII's divorcePolitical
1533King Henry VIII married Anne BoleynRoyalty
1533Art limited to portraits and allegorical scenes, other subjects being banned after 1533 in Protestant England. Now painting was almost entirely in the hands of foreigners. Art
1534Act of Supremacy. King Henry VIII declared supreme head of the Church of EnglandLaw
1535Thomas More beheaded in Tower of LondonPolitics
1536Anne Boleyn is executedAnne Boleyn’s Execution Speech. Within 24hrs of the execution Henry VIII marries Jane Seymour dissolution of monasteries in England begins
1536St James Palace Westminster builtArchitecture
1536 - 1539Dissolution of the monasteriesDissolution of the monasteries and nunneries in order to fund the government.
1536 - 1543Welsh representationAlthough Wales was subjugated in 1284 a political union of Wales with England is forged giving Welsh representation in parliament.
1537Jane Seymour dies after the birth of a son, the future Edward VIRoyalty
1539Henry VIII dissolves Great Abbey of ReadingChurch and Religion
1539English bibleThe first authorized Bible in English.
1540King Henry VIII marries Anne of ClevesRoyalty
1540King Henry divorces Anne of Cleves and marries Catherine Howard Thomas Cromwell executed on charge of treasonRoyalty
1542Galileo diedScience
1542Catherine Howard is executedRoyalty
1543Death of Hans Holbein Art
1543Nicolaus Copernicus' published, "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium", the great book which changed our view of the universe, the Earth and other planets orbiting the sunScience
1543King Henry VIII married Catherine ParrRoyalty
1547Death of King Henry VIII King Henry VIII died at Whitehall Palace.
1547Edward is crowned King Edward VI and Duke of Somerset becomes Lord ProtectorRoyalty
1547Artist Nicholas Hilliard born. His inspiration Holbein.Art
1547 - 1553England becomes a Protestant nation.England becomes a Protestant nation with an English Bible and prayer book.
1551Leonard Digges invents the theodoliteScience
1552Christ's Hospital School builtArchitecture
1553King Edward VI died and Lady Jane Grey becomes Queen for nine daysRoyalty
1553Restoration of Roman Catholic bishops in EnglandMary deprived Archbishop Cranmer and the leading Protestant bishops were deprived of their sees. They were all sent to the Tower.
1553 - 1558Mary is crowned Queen of EnglandMary daughter of Catherine of Aragon was the first woman to rule England as Queen in her own right.
1554Execution of Lady Jane GreyRoyalty
1554Wyatt's RebellionThomas Wyatt led the 'Wyatt Uprisings' in London. A rebellion against the marriage of Queen Mary and Philip of Spain. The object of the rising was to dethrone Mary in favour of her sister Elizabeth.
1555 - 1558The Protestant MartyrsUnder Queen Mary's rule, England returns to Roman Catholicism. Protestants are persecuted and about 300, including Cranmer, are burned at the stake
1557Stationers Company London chartedMercantile
1558Death of Queen Mary Royalty
1558Elizabeth is crowned Queen of EnglandRoyalty
1558Repeal of Catholic legislation in EnglandLaw
1559Custom House builtMercantile
1559Act of SupremacyThis act declared the Sovereign to be supreme of all persons and causes, ecclesiastical as well as civil within this realm.
1559Act of UniformityThis act compelled the clergy to use the Prayer Book of Edward VI and it compelled the laity to go to church and hear the English service read. The Act of Supremacy and Uniformity brought about the the main thread of Elizabeth's Church Settlement.
1560Treaty of Berwick between Elizabeth I and Scottish reformersPolitical
1562Witchcraft is made a capital offense in EnglandLaw
1564Christopher Marlowe born in CanterburyWriter
1564William Shakespeare born in StratfordWriter
1564Michaelangelo painter and sculptor diedArt
1564Peace of Troyes between England and FrancePolitical
1567Murder of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots. There is a suspicion he was murdered by Earl of Bothwell and that he and Mary Queen of Scots were lovers. She then marries Bothwell, is imprisoned, and forced to abdicate. Her son James VI, becomes King of ScotlandRoyalty
1568Gerardus Mercator introduces the map projection that bears his nameScience
1570Queen Elizabeth I excommunicatedPope Pius V issued a Bull of Excommunication against Queen Elizabeth.
1571Johannes Kepler bornScience
1577Francis Drake sets off to sail around the worldExploration
1582Gregorian calender introducedEcclesiastical
1583University of Edinburgh foundedOrganisations
1584Expedition of Sir Francis Drake to the West IndiesExploration
1584Conspiracy against Elizabeth I involving Mary Queen of ScotsRoyalty
1584Roanoke ColonyAn English colony is established by Sir Walter Raleigh on Roanoke Island and is resettled in 1587. It vanishes without a trace by 1590.
1586Sir Walter Raleigh brings tobacco to EnglandExploration
1588The Spanish Armada The Armada is defeated by the English fleet under Lord Howard of Effingham, Sir Francis Drake, and Sir John Hawkins
1589Englishmen, William Lee invents a knitting machine called the stocking frame.Science
1593Galileo invents a water thermometer.Science
1594John Napier discovers and develops the logarithm, a brilliant method of simplifying difficult computations.Science
1596John Gerards 'Herbal' is published. A description of European plantsWriter Science
1597John Hartington, Godson of Queen Elizabeth I invents the first flushing toiletScience
1598Stow's 'Survey of London' publishedWriter
1599Globe Theatre opens on London's SouthbankArt

The preceding 15th century, closed with explorers, Columbus, Vasco de Gama, John Cabot, Cabral and many others besides, opening up new trade routes and discovering new parts of the world for European exploitation and as the century turned the corner, it seemed for the people of Europe, that they stood on the cusp of new beginnings, when so much more seemed and was possible.

The 16th Century became a hothouse for brilliantly creative minds.

Leonardo da Vinci completed the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo began work on the Sistine Chapel and Hans Holbein painted his masterpieces.

Erasmus was writing satire and Machiavelli was driven to write his book 'The Prince'. Thomas More published Utopia and Martin Luther his 95 Theses, Wittenburg. His beliefs cause great angst in the church and the Edict of Worms, declares him a heretic but could not curb the progress of Protestant Reformation. There was the beginning of a change in the way people were thinking, a slight but perceptible move from the magic and alchemy of the Middle Ages towards, science based on observation and reason but it would take the whole of the century before the new thinking gathered acceptance.

A peace at last was forged between England and France, following the alliance at the 'Field of the Cloth of Gold' but it would be fairly short lived.

The shape of the future Britain was created in the 16th Century

During this 16th century, Britain cut adrift from the Catholic church, carving out a new national church, the Church of England, with the monarch as it's supreme head. The actions of King Henry VIII resulted in the 'Act of Supremacy' and Roman Catholicism was banned. The Tudor dynasty was part of the greater Reformation movement of the rest of Europe, where the discontent with the Roman Catholic church of the previous century blasted through Germany and the Netherlands.

King Henry VIII now turned his attention to the wealth of the church and he stripped the cupboards bare.

Henry dissolved the monasteries, took their money and gave away their lands. The population were unhappy for they had no quarrel with the church but plenty to say about King Henry's reckless behaviour. England was on the verge of an uprising.

In the meanwhile, the Spanish and Portugese were amassing wealth from the gold and silver deposits they were discovering in South America. The Jesuits were founded and the great Copernicus was basing his new theory 'The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies' on observation (not necessarily his own) and the geocentric universe theory, exploded.

How much more could this 16th Century deliver?

The Mercator world map, the rule of Ivan the Terrible, the massacre of the Hugenots, the works of Titian, pirates and privateers upon the seas, a revision to the Julian calender, the founding of the Roanoke Colony in America, the Spanish Armada and .

William Shakespeare

So much in one century that remains with us to this day, the 16th Century is a period of time when so much divides and yet there is a coalescence of talent and thinking that reinforces itself from start to finish.

Our 16th century chronology and timelines are being created and curated but already via each century page you can quickly locate our collections for each 100 years of history. These evolve as we explore topical themes, but if you are looking for something you can't see here then please feel free to contact us and request, Thanks for taking a look.

Featured Print Books

Search OneSearch for books, eBooks and media items in COM Library.

Many Thousands Gone : The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America In the late 1990s, most Americans, black and white, identify slavery with cotton, the deep South, and the African-American church. But at the beginning of the 19th century, after almost 200 years of African-American life in mainland North America, few slaves grew cotton, lived in the deep South, or embraced Christianity. This text traces the evolution of black society from the first arrivals in the early-17th century through to the Revolution. In telling their story, Ira Berlin, a leading historian of southern and African-American life, reintegrates slaves into the history of the American working class and into the tapestry of the nation.

Siege on Brookfield:

On August 2-4, 1675, a company led by Captain Edward Hutchinson had arranged to meet with some Nipmucks, who claimed to be neutral, at a town called Quaboag.

En route to meet the Nipmucks, the company was ambushed by the tribe on a narrow trail surrounded by a swamp on one side and a steep hill on the other. Chaos ensued as the Nipmuck opened fire on the company with rifles. Eight soldiers were killed.

The survivors of the ambush fled to Brookfield, Mass where they gathered in a garrison house. The Nipmuck converged on the house, shooting flaming arrows onto the roof, firing at soldiers in the windows, beating on the doors with poles and clubs, and making repeated attempts to burn the house down.

The siege continued until August 4 when Major Simon Willard and his troops arrived from Lancaster, Mass and the Nipmucks withdrew.

On August 13, the Massachusetts Council ordered all Christian Indians (Natives who had converted to Christianity and lived in designated Christian Indian villages known as Praying Towns) to be confined to their Praying Towns.

On August 22, a group of unidentified natives kill seven colonists at Lancaster, Mass.

On August 25, a skirmish took place at Sugarloaf Hill, about ten miles north of Hatfield, Mass, after a band of Nipmucks being pursued by a company led by Captain Thomas Lothrop engaged in a three hour battle at the hill. Nearly 40 natives and several members of the company were killed.

On August 24-25, raids on Springfield, Mass were carried out by bands of Nipmucks.

On September 1, 1675, Wampanoags and Nipmucks attacked Deerfield, Mass. The following day they attacked nearby Northfield. Half of the buildings in the town were burned and eight men were killed.

On September 4, a company of 36 men led by Captain Richard Beers headed to Northfield, Mass to rescue the survivors but were ambushed. Over half the soldiers, around 21 men, were killed, including Captain Beers.

Attack on the Wagon Train (Beers ambush), illustration published in Pictorial History of King Philip’s War, circa 1851

The survivors joined another company, led by Major Treat, and succeeded in evacuating the town on September 6. While evacuating the town, they discovered the mutilated bodies of the colonists slain by the natives, according to the book A Narrative of the Troubles with Indians in New England:

“Here the barbarous villains shewed their insolent rage and cruelty, more now than ever before, cutting off the heads of some of the slain, and fixing them upon poles near the highway, and not only so, but one (if not more) was found with a chain hooked under his jaw, and so hung up on the bough of a tree, (it is feared he was hung up alive) by which means they thought to daunt and discourage any that might come to their relief, and also to terrify those that should be spectators with beholding so sad an object: Insomuch that Major Treat with his company, going up two days after to fetch off the residue of the garrison were solemnly affected with that doleful sight..”

The area where the ambush occurred is now called Beers Plain. Beers was buried at the spot and his grave can be found next to the Linden Hill School near the intersection of South Mountain Road and Lyman Hill Road.

On September 9, the New England Confederation, which was a military alliance between the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Haven and Plymouth, officially declared war on the natives and voted in favor of providing military assistance for the war.

On September 12, colonists abandoned the settlements of Northfield, Deerfield and Brookfield after the earlier attacks there.

On September 18, the Narragansetts signed a treaty with the English in Boston. Meanwhile, Captain Thomas Lathrop and his company of 80 men were ambushed near Northampton while en route to harvest abandoned cornfields in Deerfield. Lathrop and about 60 to 70 of his men were killed.

On October 5, 1675, Pocumtucks attacked Springfield, Mass and burned 30 houses.

On October 13, the Massachusetts Council ordered all Christian Indians relocated and confined to Deer Island.

On October 19, a band of natives, led by Muttawamp, attacked Hatfield, Mass but were eventually repelled and retreated.

On November 1, the Nipmucks took a number of Christian Indians captive at Magunkaquog, Chabanakongkomun, and Hassanemesit.

On November 2-12, fearing that the Narragansetts were planning to join King Philip’s forces in the spring, the Commissioners of the New England Confederation ordered forces to attack the Narragansetts. Around 1000 soldiers were raised for an expedition against the Narragansetts.


Gillespie, Raymond. "Funerals and Society in Early Seventeenth Century Ireland." Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries in Ireland 115 (1985): 86–91.

Gillespie, Raymond. "Irish Funeral Monuments and Social Change 1500–1700: Perceptions of Death." In Ireland: Art into History, edited by Raymond Gillespie and B. P. Kennedy, 1994.

Fry, Susan. Burial in Medieval Ireland: 900–1500. 1999.

Tait, Clodagh. "Colonising Memory: Manipulations of Burial and Commemoration in the Career of the 'Great' Earl of Cork." Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 101 (2001): 107–134.

Tait, Clodagh. Death, Burial and Commemoration in Ireland, 1550–1650. 2002.

The peasantry

In 1700 only 15 percent of Europe’s population lived in towns, but that figure concealed wide variations: at the two extremes by 1800 were Britain with 40 percent and Russia with 4 percent. Most Europeans were peasants, dependent on agriculture. The majority of them lived in nucleated settlements and within recognized boundaries, those of parish or manor, but some, in the way characteristic of the hill farmer, lived in single farms or hamlets. The type of settlement reflected its origins: pioneers who had cleared forests or drained swamps, Germans who had pressed eastward into Slav lands, Russians who had replaced conquered Mongols, Spaniards who had expelled the Moors. Each brought distinctive characteristics. Discounting the nomad fringe, there remains a fundamental difference between serfs and those who had more freedom, whether as owners or tenants paying some form of rent but both liable to seigneurial dues. There were about one million serfs in eastern France and some free peasants in Russia, so the pattern is untidy but broadly it represents the difference between eastern and western Europe.

The Russian was less attached to a particular site than his western counterparts living in more densely populated countries and had to be held down by a government determined to secure taxes and soldiers. The imposition of serfdom was outlined in the Ulozhenie, the legal code of 1649, which included barschina (forced labour). One consequence was the decline of the mir, the village community, with its fellowship and practical services another was the tightening of the ties of mutual interest that bound tsar and landowner. Poles, Germans (mainly those of the east and north), Bohemians, and Hungarians were subject to a serfdom less extreme only in that they were treated as part of the estate and could not be sold separately the Russian serf, who could, was more akin to a slave. Russian state peasants, an increasingly numerous class in the 18th century, were not necessarily secure they were sent out to farm new lands. Catherine the Great transferred 800,000 serfs to private ownership. The serf could not marry, move, or take up a trade without his lord’s leave. He owed labour (robot) in the Habsburg lands for at least three days a week and dues that could amount to 20 percent of his produce. The Thirty Years’ War hastened the process of subjection, already fed by the west’s demand for grain peasants returning to ruined homesteads found that their rights had vanished. The process was resisted by some rulers, notably those of Saxony and Brunswick: independent peasants were a source of revenue. Denmark saw an increase in German-style serfdom in the 18th century, but most Swedish peasants were free—their enemies were climate and hunger, rather than the landowner. Uniquely, they had representation in their own Estate in the Riksdag.

Through much of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal there was some form of rent or sharecropping. Feudalism survived in varying degrees of rigour, with an array of dues and services representing seigneurial rights. It was a regime that about half of Europe’s inhabitants had known since the Middle Ages. In England all but a few insignificant forms had gone, though feudal spirit lingered in deference to the squire. Enclosures were reducing the yeoman to the condition of a tenant farmer or, for most, a dependent, landless labourer. Although alodial tenures (absolute ownership) ensured freedom from dues in some southern provinces, France provides the best model for understanding the relationship of lord and peasant. The seigneur was generally, but not invariably, noble: a seigneury could be bought by a commoner. It had two parts. The domaine was the house with its grounds: there were usually a church and a mill, but not necessarily fields and woods, for those might have been sold. The censives, lands subject to the seigneur, still owed dues even if no longer owned by him. The cens, paid annually, was significant because it represented the obligations of the peasant: free to buy and sell land, he still endured burdens that varied from the trivial or merely vexatious to those detrimental to good husbandry. They were likely to include banalités, monopoly rights over the mill, wine press, or oven saisine and lods et ventes, respectively a levy on the assets of a censitaire on death and a purchase tax on property sold champart, a seigneurial tithe, payable in kind monopolies of hunting, shooting, river use, and pigeon rearing the privilege of the first harvest, for example, droit de banvin, by which the seigneur could gather his grapes and sell his wine first and the corvées, obligatory labour services. Seigneurial rule had benevolent aspects, and justice in the seigneurial court could be even-handed seigneurs could be protectors of the community against the state’s taxes and troops. But the regime was damaging, as much to the practice of farming as to the life of the peasants, who were harassed and schooled in resistance and concealment. To identify an 18th-century feudal reaction—as some historians have called the tendency to apply business principles to the management of dues—is not to obscure the fact that for many seigneurs the system was becoming unprofitable. By 1789 in most provinces there was little hesitation: the National Assembly abolished feudal dues by decree at one sitting because the peasants had already taken the law into their own hands. Some rights were won back, but there could be no wholesale restoration.

Besides priest or minister, the principal authority in most peasants’ lives was that of the lord. The collective will of the community also counted for much, as in arrangements for plowing, sowing, and reaping, and even in some places the allocation of land. The range of the peasant’s world was that of a day’s travel on foot or, more likely, by donkey, mule, or pony. He would have little sense of a community larger than he could see or visit. His struggle against nature or the demands of his superiors was waged in countless little pockets. When peasants came together in insurgent bands, as in Valencia in 1693, there was likely to be some agitation or leadership from outside the peasant community—in that case from José Navarro, a surgeon. There needed to be some exceptional provocation, like the new tax that roused Brittany in 1675. After the revolt had been suppressed, the parlement of Rennes was exiled to a smaller town for 14 years: clearly government understood the danger of bourgeois complicity. Rumour was always potent, especially when tinged with fantasy, as in Stenka Razin’s rising in southern Russia, which evolved between 1667 and 1671 from banditry into a vast protest against serfdom. Generally, cooperation between villages was less common than feuding, the product of centuries of uneasy proximity and conflict over disputed lands.

The peasant’s life was conditioned by mundane factors: soil, water supplies, communications, and above all the site itself in relation to river, sea, frontier, or strategic route. The community could be virtually self-sufficient. Its environment was formed by what could be bred, fed, sown, gathered, and worked within the bounds of the parish. Fields and beasts provided food and clothing wood came from the fringe of wasteland. Except in districts where stone was available and easy to work, houses were usually made of wood or a cob of clay and straw. Intended to provide shelter from the elements, they can be envisaged as a refinement of the barn, with certain amenities for their human occupants: hearth, table, and benches with mats and rushes strewn on a floor of beaten earth or rough stone. Generally there would be a single story, with a raised space for beds and an attic for grain. For his own warmth and their security the peasant slept close to his animals, under the same roof. Cooking required an iron pot, sometimes the only utensil named in peasant inventories. Meals were eaten off wood or earthenware. Fuel was normally wood, which was becoming scarce in some intensively cultivated parts of northern Europe, particularly Holland, where much of the land was reclaimed from sea or marsh. Peat and dried dung also were used, but rarely coal. Corn was ground at the village mill, a place of potential conflict: only one man had the necessary expertise, and his clients were poorly placed to bargain. Women and girls spun and wove for the itinerant merchants who supplied the wool or simply for the household, for breeches, shirts, tunics, smocks, and gowns. Clothes served elemental needs: they were usually thick for protection against damp and cold and loose-fitting for ease of movement. Shoes were likely to be wooden clogs, as leather was needed for harnesses. Farm implements—plows (except for the share), carts, harrows, and many of the craftsman’s tools—were made of wood, seasoned, split or rough-hewn. Few possessed saws in Russia they were unknown before 1700. Iron was little used and was likely to be of poor quality. Though it might be less true of eastern Europe where, as in Bohemia, villages tended to be smaller, the community would usually have craftsmen—a smith or a carpenter, for example—to satisfy most needs. More intricate skills were provided by traveling tinkers.

The isolated villager might hear of the outside world from such men. Those living around the main routes would fare better and gather news, at least indirectly, from merchants, students, pilgrims, and government officials or, less reputably, from beggars, gypsies, or deserters (a numerous class in most states). He might buy broadsheets, almanacs, and romances, produced by enterprising printers at centres such as Troyes, to be hawked around wherever there were a few who could read. So were kept alive what became a later generation’s fairy tales, along with the magic and astrology that they were not reluctant to believe. Inn and church provided the setting for business, gossip, and rumour. Official reports and requirements were posted and village affairs were conducted in the church. The innkeeper might benefit from the cash of wayfarers but like others who provided a service, he relied chiefly on the produce of his own land. Thus, the rural economy consisted of innumerable self-sufficient units incapable of generating adequate demand for the development of large-scale manufactures. Each cluster of communities was isolated within its own market economy, proud, and suspicious of outsiders. Even where circumstances fostered liberty, peasants were pitifully inadequate in finding original solutions to age-old problems but were well-versed in strategies of survival, for they could draw on stores of empirical wisdom. They feared change just as they feared the night for its unknown terrors. Their customs and attitudes were those of people who lived on the brink: more babies might be born but there would be no increase in the food supply.

In the subsistence economy there was much payment and exchange in kind money was hoarded for the occasional purchase, to the frustration of tax collectors and the detriment of economic growth. Demand was limited by the slow or nonexistent improvement in methods of farming. There was no lack of variety in the agricultural landscape. Between the temporary cultivation of parts of Russia and Scandinavia, where slash-and-burn was encouraged by the extent of forest land, and the rotation of cereal and fodder crops of Flanders and eastern England, 11 different methods of tillage have been identified. Most common was some version of the three-course rotation that Arthur Young denounced when he traveled in France in 1788. He observed the subdivision and wide dispersal of holdings that provided a further obstacle to the diversification of crops and selective breeding. The loss of land by enclosure pauperized many English labourers. But the development in lowland England of the enclosed, compact economic unit—the central feature of the agrarian revolution—enabled large landowners to prosper and invest and small farmers to survive. They were not trapped, like many Continental peasants, between the need to cultivate more land and the declining yields of their crops, which followed from the loss of pasture and of fertilizing manure. Without capital accumulation and with persisting low demand for goods, economic growth was inhibited. The work force was therefore tied to agriculture in numbers that depressed wage rates, discouraged innovation, and tempted landowners to compensate by some form of exploitation of labour, rights, and dues. Eighteenth-century reformers condemned serfdom and other forms of feudalism, but they were as much the consequence as the cause of the agricultural malaise.

4. Plague of Justinian 541-542

Four hundred years after the disaster of the Antonine Plague, the Roman Empire (this time the Eastern Empire) was again crossed by the shadow of an epidemic. Rats in a grain shipment from Egypt brought bubonic plague into the Imperial capital of Constantinople, and around half of the population of the city was killed before the bacteria broke out and continued to spread.

As with the Antonine Plague before it, the pandemic would squelch the Byzantine Empire’s burgeoning Imperial power. The disease weakened Constantinople’s forces at a critical point and allowed the Goths to reclaim the initiative and prevent emperor Justinian from reuniting the Eastern and Western Roman kingdoms. The plague’s final death toll is estimated to have been between 25 and 100 million people in Europe and Asia.

This disease was a recurring nightmare for the Byzantine Empire, but after its last eruption in 750 AD, it seemed to be gone forever. Nevertheless, bubonic plague would reappear 600 years later in a truly nightmarish fashion…


South Coast region:

The Museums of Old York – York: Museums of Old York is nine historic buildings, including a Colonial tavern, an old jail, an estate filled with antiques, and a warehouse that once belonged to patriot John Hancock. Also on the site are a nature preserve, museum shop, contemporary art gallery, and restored gardens. Visitors experience more than 300 years of New England heritage and hear tales of sea captains and their families, jailers, prisoners, and others. Also on display are beautiful decorative objects and antiques, including the only complete set of 18th-century American crewelwork bed curtains known to exist. Museum buildings include the John Hancock Warehouse, Jefferds' Tavern, the Old Gaol, the Old Schoolhouse, the George Marshall Store, and others.Open June to Columbus Day, daily except Sundays. The museums host many seasonal and special events that bring history to life for adults and kids.

Acadia/Bar Harbor region:

Abbe Museum – Bar Harbor: The Abbe Museum opened in 1928 as a trailside museum at Sieur de Monts Spring. Its mission is to interpret the history and lives of the Wabanaki Indian tribe through exhibitions, events, archaeology field schools, and craft workshops. By the 1990s the Abbe's museum at Sieur de Monts Spring had become inadequate to house the growing collections, changing exhibitions, and research. In September, 2001, the museum moved in a new, larger space in downtown Bar Harbor. Among the permanent exhibitions is Wabanaki: People of the Dawn.

Watch the video: The 17th Century Crisis: Crash Course European History #11