I highly recommend Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. My reading remained eager throughout and now I’m still reading it aloud to my beloved Jan. This morning a bit of cud regurgitated for further processing:
Speaking of the Saxon settling of Britain, Bryson says that there was little evidence of armed conflict. The Celts were there, and elsewhere. Others had come: the Danes, for example. Still others would come: the Normans, etc. Bryson imagines a Celt waking up to find a bunch of Saxons in his back forty, beginning to farm. Then there were more, and more. The next thing anyone knew there were so many Saxons they were ineradicable.
Sure there came to be battles, King Arthur and so forth. Sure the Celts won some of them, developed legends, nostalgia. I don’t doubt that some families of Celts went straight over to the would-be-farming Saxons and drew blood real quick. But Saxons gained a toe hold more often than not: or a lot more of the world would be speaking Celtic, and English wouldn’t have developed: for good, and ill. Some Saxons, bloodied, would have retreated, farmed elsewhere, some may have gone “home.” But the Saxons planted themselves, took hold, took over, lorded it here and around until William the Conqueror made them the weepers. So: what I’m wondering, and wish some Bryson-type would look into, or tell me that they’ve already looked into: was there some minimum number of Saxons breaking clods in the Celt’s back acres that made the Celt think that he might as well make do with his front forty?
On the savanna the hominid looks up and there’s a hyena eating a carcass. The hominid’s group is say three adult hominids and three immature hominids, the hyena, for the moment, is alone. Surely the hominids can chase the hyena, keep the hyena’s carcass for themselves: until the lion finds them. But three adult hominids and three immature hominids will think twice before shooing a half a dozen hyenas: or half a dozen of a different group of hominids.
You hear someone break into the house, you see it’s a skinny kid, you scold him, chase him, grab him by the scruff of the neck, even if you’re a one hundred pound female, showing another pregnancy. But, if you see that it’s three guys, all six feet, wearing ski masks and carrying big bore fire arms, you might want to go hide in the closet, and hope for the best.
So: it would have made a difference what the population of the group of Celts was: and what the population of the farming Saxons was.
Could a boatload of say six Saxons have a chance of surviving an attempt at farming in the back forty of a household of three Celts? Four?
What’s the magic number?
PS: I’m brave. I’m insanely brave in some circumstances: skiing, what I write, what I say … wade-fishing alone at night in Florida swamps, lakes, streams, Everglades … but when the FBI teamed up with the sheriff to arrest, jail, and censor me I was attacked by a dozen, a dozen-and-a-half men in flack jackets with assault rifles: I was sixty-nine years old, broke, going blind, going deaf, mostly toothless, and though I’m a fighter, my fighting has never been martial (it’s lacked a physical dimension), I went down on the floor as commanded, and went limp: as they handcuffed me behind my back. My only resistance was verbal, mere sarcasm: “It’s the fucking FBI!” I chortled.