Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Kottke discussion: "I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help."

His answer:

I'd start a shop that did nothing but boil water and then sell it. I'd market it as "de-spirited" water and sell it to midwives, priests, doctors - anyone who would be charged with the health of another. The boiled, micro-organism free water would dramatically improve the health outcomes for anyone with cholera or plague or infection. Even marginally better outcomes using clean water would bolster my reputation and business. Of course, barriers to entry would be pretty low in my business, but if I were widely copied, I'd start a health revolution. For that quantum timeline anyway.

Some of the comments are pretty good. I thought I would be okay knowing some French, but I found out that modern French didn't appear until around 1300. A lot of people recommend boning up on Latin. What do you guys think?


james said...

I've got it. I would take steroids to get really ripped- like Schwarzenegger size. I would look like no one else on the planet, and they'd think I was a God walking on Earth.

James R Harvey said...

Some think of helping civilization, some think of self vanity. ("…what I am wearing and nothing else.")

Actually, that is an interesting question. Around 1000 AD? Hmm…. Maybe I would look for transportation to the far east. Let me give it some thought.

Big Myk said...

According to James Reston's book, "The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 A.D.," Europe was a pretty chaotic place at the time. (Actually, I never read the book, but Sue read it and shared with me the best parts. It's a lot like Tom Townsend in the movie "Metropolitan" preferring literary criticism over the novel itself: "I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking.")

In any event, in the decades around A.D. 1000, the Vikings were ravaging Ireland, England and France; the Hungarian Magyars were laying waste to Germany and Italy; and the Moors ruled Spain and threatened the remnants of Charlemagne's crumbling domain. So, maybe I'd like to take up some fairly intense training in the use of the broadsword.

Along with that I'd want to get myself a really good nom de guerre. This was the era of colorful names: people like Gerbert "the Wizard"(a scholar so brilliant he was rumored to be in league with the devil), Sigrid the Haughty, and her husband Swein Forkbeard, Harald Bluetooth, Little Sancho of Córdoba, Ethelred the Unready, Henry the Quarrelsome, and the unforgettable Ragnar Hairy Breeks.

Peter H of Lebo said...

I'll have to check out James Reston's book. But I do know from studying Brian Boru that the Vikings were not ravaging Ireland, in fact were fully assimilated into the Irish culture. 1000AD was in fact the only time in history Ireland was unified under one leader. Also studying Jewish history, Spain experienced a Golden Age (though golden age is a fairly relative term) under Moors rule from 700s until about the middle of the 11th century/start of 12th century.

As for the scenario, I would take the opposite approach of the first answer by coughing all over everyone and hope the thousand year evolved killer pathogens would devastate the populace. This would create a labor storage which I could easily fill with my giant non-malnourished frame.

James R Harvey said...

Um…I appreciate the bravado, but I think you should be focusing on how ill-prepared your sweet suburban life has left you.

From experience I know it is not difficult to get used to no electricity or running water. But, as strange as it seems, you will have a tough time getting use to the food, especially when it is covered with flies.

I'm not sure the Europeans will be in awe of these whiney weaklings who know nothing of consequence--how to hunt, skin, make clothes, cook, or build cathedrals.

No one is going to be in awe, steroids or no. They may not be tall, but the warriors are massive--think of Casey Hampton. Try wearing armor for even an hour or two. They have been working and fighting since they were 10—no silly school here. You have a lot of catching up to do physically, but I"m sure you can start working 10-12 hour days as soon as you get there.

I think I would concentrate on music. The introduction of rock-n-roll (lutes and drums, …anything else?) should get me into any court, plus the ladies-in-waiting love it.

Big Myk said...

Pete, you're trying to pick a fight where there is none.

First, I said that "in the decades around A.D. 1000, the Vikings were ravaging Ireland, England and France." True enough, Brian Boru defeated the Vikings and their Irish allies in 1014, which began the decline of Viking presence in Ireland. But prior to that -- and particularly in an intense period beginning 914 -- the Vikings were doing plenty of damage in Ireland.

Second, I never said that things were unstable in Muslim Spain, but that the Spanish Moors were threatening Christain Europe at the time. I did some quick checking, and discovered that a general by the name of Almanzor ruled Al-Andulus at the height of its power in the 10th and early 11th centuries. During that time he expanded Moorish holdings by a series of campaigns against the Christian states of the Iberian peninsula. He conducted some 57 campaigns, and was victorious in all of them.

Reston's only point was that in the 10th and 11th centuries, at least for anyone who had a big enough picture, things were not looking up for Christain Europe, and that it did appear to many that the apocalypse was indeed imminent.

Let's not be so fussy.

Peter H of Lebo said...

I was not picking a fight. I am really honestly looking forward to reading Reston's book. I have a feeling however Reston's thesis will have more hole's Bonhomme Richard with such an encompassing topic . I was also trying to let you know that the Viking did far less harm to Ireland (Ireland's present day capital is thanks to the Vikings) than the Irish themselves. Brian Boru spent most of the time fighting the Irish and recognizing that the Viking were pretty much fully assimilated (after 300 years) in Irish culture and consider the danish/Irish hybrids as just another group to be brought under his control. The evidence indicates that the Vikings were not a separate political/power group but instead were fully ingrained in Irish Culture. Finally your first comment had never mentioned that Reston's thesis was only from the Christian perspective (my fault, I am not yet familiar with Reston's thesis). In terms of a world view the tenth and eleventh century experienced growth of knowledge and Kingdoms that rivaled the classical world in sophistication, which is why I brought up the moors. Though this was the Age of the Popes and the consolidation of their power allowed them to dictate foreign policies of numerous kingdoms (which does not indicate they were afraid of the apocalypse). Finally 1000 AD was no more chaotic than any other previous century. It actually could be argued that the early feudal system retarded warfare, death and mayhem though I will refrain.

Jim, I completely agree with you that the food would be gross. No spices, tomatoes, corn etc spoiled meat. I also agree most suburban kids would be severely in trouble but I think you sell James short. If you can dig a hole you are a highly prize commodity in Europe. James' knowledge from school actually can be very applicable. For instance, the average American Marine on patrol carries far more weight than the average foot soldier soldier in Europe (there was little plated armor, chain was only available to the extremely wealthy which only comprised of about 5% of the army) our understanding of a framed backpack could pay dividends. Also knowing that water is a better hydrator than mead would help. I could go on about the trivial things that could aid James adapting to a terrible difficult world but I have ranted long enough sorry.