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What We Know About Vikings and Slaves

June 25, 2019 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

More than a thousand years after the Viking Age drew to a close, there’s still a lot we don’t know about these seafaring Norse warriors, who explored territory from the furthest reaches of Russia to the earliest settlement in North America and in April 2019, Raffield detailed what has been discovered so far, starting with a collection of iron collars and shackles found at several sites thought to be Viking slave trading hubs, like Dublin (Ireland), Birka (Sweden), and Hedeby (Denmark).

Though it’s been suggested the objects could have been used for restraining animals, rather than humans, Raffield argues that their presence in these urban centers (rather than rural areas), as well as their concentration near the harbors tends to support their use on slaves. “They look strikingly similar to all kinds of restraints that have been used on humans throughout history, from antiquity to the early modern period,” he says.

Aside from the collection of restraints, researchers have discovered what may be evidence of slave quarters—an arrangement of smaller houses surrounding a large house at Sanda, a Viking site in Sweden. “The few that have been excavated seem to have been used for crafting activities, things like textile making,” Raffield says. “They strangely look quite similar to what you see in the United States in the antebellum period.”

A need for women?

Scholars have long wondered why the Vikings suddenly emerged as a formidable raiding force in the late eighth century, starting with their attack on the Christian monastery of Lindisfarne, located on the northeast coast of England, in A.D. 793.

The answer might have been a need for foreign slave labor to help build their enormous fleets of ships and produce the textiles for their sails. Raffield and his colleagues see the desire to take slaves as a possible motivating factor behind the Viking expansion. “Fleets of hundreds of ships [were] sailing out of Scandinavia in the 9th century,” he says. “We wonder whether you would need a new labor force to produce the materials you need to do that.”

Slaves—who could also be traded at international markets—may have represented another type of resource for the Vikings, too. Evidence suggests Vikings often targeted women and girls in their raids, suggesting the existence of sexual slavery, as well as intermarriage. There is also some evidence supporting the idea that the Vikings practiced polygamy, which in …read more


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The Treaty of Versailles Punished Defeated Germany With These Provisions

June 25, 2019 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Some disarmed the German military, while others stripped the defeated nation of territory, population and economic resources, and forced it to admit responsibility for the war and agree to pay reparations.

In January 1919, two months after the compelled Germany to turn over its coal mines in the Saar Basin to France, although they technically were under control of the League of Nations.

“After a 15-year period, there was supposed to be a plebiscite and residents could choose whether to be German or French,” explains Karl Qualls, a professor of history at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. When the election finally was held in 1935, 90 percent of them voted to be part of Germany.

Article 51 took the territory of Alsace-Lorraine, which Germany had seized during the 1871 and gave it back to France.

Articles 42-44 and Article 180 forced the Germans to dismantle their fortifications along the Rhine river. Demilitarization of the Rhineland “was a big initiative of France,” says Qualls. “They were trying to prevent Germany from being an aggressive power again, and also weakening them by allowing for an invasion by France as well.”

Article 80 required Germany to respect the independence of Austria.

Treaty of Versailles with signatures of Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Bonar Law and James Balfour.

Articles 81-86 compelled Germany to renounce territorial claims and recognize the independence of Czechoslovakia, a new nation formed from several provinces of former German ally Austria-Hungary, whose western portion had a sizable minority of ethnic Germans.

Articles 87-93 gave what had been German West Prussia and other territory with ethnic German inhabitants to newly-independent Poland.

Article 119 stripped Germany of its colonies in China and Africa, which Qualls explains was a particularly humbling provision. Prior to the war, “if you were going to be a European power, you had to have colonial possessions,” he says.

Limits on Arms, Forces and Equipment

Articles 159-163 reduced the size of the German army, which had reached 1.9 million troops during World War I, to just 100,000, and mandated that the force “shall be devoted exclusively to the maintenance of order within the territory and to the control of the frontiers.”

It even specified strict limits on the number of infantry, artillery and engineers, and limited the officer corps to 4,000. The German military was just neutered, basically,” Qualls says.

Articles …read more


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How Dressing in Drag Was Labeled a Crime in the 20th Century

June 25, 2019 in History

By Hugh Ryan

In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, police arrested LGBTQ people based on an informal “three-article” rule. The Stonewall Riots helped turn the tide against these arrests.

Rusty Brown started dressing as a man, first as a disguise to get a factory job since she lost her , “by the beginning of the 20 century, gender inappropriateness… was increasingly considered a sickness and public offense.”

Existing laws against costumed dress, even if they didn’t specifically mention cross dressing—collectively referred to as “masquerade laws”—were increasingly pressed into service around the country to punish gender variance.

That these laws were often ill-suited to the task didn’t matter.

In Brooklyn in 1913, for instance, a person who we would today call a transgender man was arrested for “masquerading in men’s clothes,” smoking and drinking in a bar. When the magistrate noted that the state’s masquerade law was intended only to criminalize costumed dress used as a cover for another crime, the police were forced to let the man go. However, they promptly re-arrested him, charged him with “associating with idle and vicious persons,” and found a new magistrate to try the case.

When he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in a reformatory, the judge made it clear that despite the new charge, he was being punished for his dress. “No girl would dress in men’s clothing unless she is twisted in her moral viewpoint,” the magistrate proclaimed from the bench, according to a September 3, 1913 article in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Many men dressed as women were locked up on charges of masquerading and indecent exposure at the National Variety Artists’ Exotic Carnival and Ball held at the Manhattan Center in 1962. Police and detectives herded the costumed guests into police wagons in front of the ball.

Three-Article Rule Becomes Code

As America’s fear and panic over LGBTQ people became increasingly vocal and widespread in the mid-20 century, arrests like this became more and more common. Still, those arrests primarily revolved around 19th-century masquerade laws, none of which specified a number of articles of clothing to avoid arrest. So where does the idea of the three-article rule come from?

Kate Redburn, a JD/PhD candidate in queer and trans legal history at Yale University (who uses the gender-neutral pronoun, “they”), has discovered a few clues in their research. First, they say that mentions of the three-article rule are almost all …read more