Thursday, December 25, 2014

Movies and the US Constitution: Before the Norman Conquest of 1066: Vikings

This is part of a series of posts following this summary of movies that provide a chronological history of the U.S. Constitution.  Here's the summary.



Before the Norman Conquest of 1066

1.  Vikings (History Channel TV series; 2013-current): set in 793 and subsequent years
I have been able to watch only a few episodes of this show so I may be missing some of what happens in other episodes.  If you know a lot about this show, please let me know if there is something I'm missing.
                         
Relevance to the US Constitution
      
          A.            Rule of Law.  This show has been criticized for inaccurately depicting an autocratic leader, Earl Haraldson, instead of the democratic style councils.  What I find interesting, however, is that there is quite a bit of democratic process depicted in the councils, and they show that the leader did not have an expectation of absolute power.  The Vikings were not a literate society so there is not a written record or written law.   

The raiding in the British Isles is focused more on wealth held in Catholic Churches more than raiding of other wealth.  There are theories that this was a retaliation for proselytizing Catholic Christianity and the requirement of payments to Rome.  In any event it made Catholic religious authorities motivated to seek a status protected in the law if they did not already have a political agenda before.
  
           B.            Use of the Term "Person" Rather Than "Man or Woman" in Fundamental Rights and Responsibilities.   Women participate in the councils.  The depictions of women warriors or "shield maidens", including Lagertha, Ragnar’s first wife, show the Norse allowed women a status for women, particularly such women who exercised such status, that was more like that of men.  In Season 2, Lagertha takes the position of an Earl.  One purpose of the "shield maiden" role was to defend against the use of rape in war by recognizing and normalizing women defending themselves.

The weddings are viewed as mutual agreements.  When Ragnar married a second woman, his first wife marries another man as well. Some authorities have noted that dowry and bride price were not really used among the Vikings; both the man and woman would receive some support from each set of  parents as part of the wedding celebration, although this is not depicted in the episodes I've seen.

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Eventually in the next centuries prior to the Norman Conquest, the Norse, together with the other predominant tribes of that region, the Angles, the Saxons, and the Britonic Celts, would end up being part of the mix of the political economy in the British Isles. 

There later developed a difference between the Norse and the Normans, who had originally been Norse and who settled the northern coast of France, called "Normandy" in agreement for certain loyalties,  The Normans took on the Gaullic and Catholic ideology, whereas the Norse and the Saxons, in particular, did not readily do this.  

In the Norman Conquest, the Normans displaced the then Anglo-Norse-Saxon-Britonic Celt leadership in Britain.


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