[Ansteorra] Ixnay on the torches and pichforks, gang.

Peter Schorn peterschorn at pdq.net
Mon Jan 28 17:05:59 PST 2008

Guys, I've known Bors for 20 years: he's not making apologies for slavery,
nor would he ever.  He was just being an honest academic and refusing to
bowdlerize the quote.  He did not anticipating there'd be as much blowback
as there was, or that people could possibly think he was trying to justify
"the old dominion."

But he brings up a point: Southern secessionism was tied to what Mark Twain
called a "Walter Scott sickness" among the antebellum gentry.  Southerners
saw themselves as a new sort of feudal nobility, ruling over dark-skinned
people for their benefit just as England was then doing for the peoples of
India (to hear the English tell it).

Southerners had also had a particular affection for England, going all the
way back to the War of 1812 (much to Andrew Jackson's enraged disgust, which
finally found vent in his response to the Nullification Crisis*).  In the
run-up to secession they tended to romanticize and idealize the English
country gentry (their self-declared model) to the point of fetishism. This
was why the song "A Fine Old English Gentleman" was popular among
Southerners of the time--so popular that it made an irresistible target for

This "backward glance" is a part of Southern culture, just as it is in Welsh
culture, and for the same reasons: both Wales and the American South lost a
major conflict to outsiders with a different way of life.  But in Wales,
which practiced chattel slavery in the Middle Ages (making it one of the
last Western European nations to do so), there is absolutely no connection
between hiraeth, the native combination of nationalism and nostalgia, and a
desire for slavery.  There need be none in the American south.  Yes, the two
are sometimes connected there in certain groups.  But having lived and
played among SCAers in the Southern U.S. for thirty years, I can say with
some authority that Ansteorra is not one of those groups.

I *would* say, however, that a general nostalgia for feudalism seems very
popular among people who think they know what's best for everybody else.
This is why England's greatest fantasy novelist before Tolkien, William
Morris, could be both a medievalist and a Socialist.  This was why one of
the greatest medieval epics ever filmed, "Aleksandr Nevsky," was produced as
a propaganda tool of Joseph Stalin's regime.  This is why The Lord of the
Rings was so popular among the student revolutionaries of the 60's.

But is that why the SCA got its start in Berkley, California?  Ah, some
questions are perhaps best left unanswered ;o)

*The Nullification Crisis proceeded through three distinct stages:
1) South Carolina threatens to nullify the Constitution
2) Andrew Jackson** threatens to nullify South Carolina
3) End of Nullification Crisis.

**"Just who do you think you are--Andy God-damned Jackson?"
--John Wayne, _The Alamo_

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