Pandemic (Part 3)


The Black Death

In Pandemic Part 2 we saw how the Justinian Plague opened up the former Roman Colony of Britannia to domination by the more plague resilient Sub-Roman “English” of the East of the Island over the less genetically well adapted Sub-Roman “British” in the West of the Island.  Now we shall see the how the Mediaeval Black Death became a blessing in disguise for the Serfs of England who survived it, and was the catalyst that broke the back of Serfdom, freeing up the general English Populace to far greater rights and freedoms than they’d ever known before.

1340s  Worse than Mid-Summer Murders: The Lost Villages of England

vanessacuddeford

A few years back Time Detectives became involved in tracing the Family History of a UK TV presenter called Vanessa Cuddeford. An interesting name, with it’s origin being problematic. It appears to be derived from “Cuthbert’s Foird” Cudde being a nickname for Cuthbert, and on this reasoning we would expect it to have been derived from a village called Cuthbert’s Ford or Cuddeford. However such a place does not exist in the UK. A mystery to start with?
The only clue is a mention of a place called Cuddeford in a mediaeval text from 1301 referring to the De Clyfford Family who held lands and knight’s fees in “Cuddeford and Coombe” and , “Awlescombe” villages. None of these places now exist with those names, but “Awliscombe” is a village outside of Honiton in Devon, and it is therefore likely that there is a lost mediaeval village of Cuddeford in the same area. Awliscombe is about a day’s walk from the Exeter area where we first find the Cuddeford family.
It is very likely therefore that the Cuddeford family, were itinerant peasants without their own surname, who left their home village probably around the 1350s in the aftermath of the Black Death, when the population of England was reduced by a third. Whole villages were wiped out by this outbreak of Bubonic Plague., and once a village falls below a certain level there is little or no work and any survivors leave to other communities, generally within a day’s walk, and it is from this flood of local refugees going on a Journée  i.e. an old French word for a “the amount of travel covered in a day” (Jour = Day) that we get the English word Journey (which literally meant a day’s travel).  This combination of plague, and commercial necessity, emptied many villages across the English countryside, many were abandoned and never recovered, exactly as the Town of Silchester had at the end of the Roman Period (covered in Pandemic Part 2).  The village of Cuddeford disappeared perhaps in the space of a few weeks.

1300s A Mongol Khan decides the fate of a West Country Family

Mongols

The plague had originated in the Black Sea Steppes when the Genoese fortified trading post of Caffa was besieged by the angry Khan of the Mongol “Golden Horde” in punishment for the Italians ignoring his authority. Things took a turn for the worse when the plague erupted in the camp of the besieging Mongols, and in order to avoid both further infection of his own army, and to spread the infection among the Genoese, the Khan had the bodies of plague victims loaded onto his catapults, and hurled over the walls into the city. This is likely to be the first reliably documented case of Biological Warfare in History!

kaffaFleeing from the siege, the plague, and the Wrath of Khan, the Genoese put to see in their remaining galleys and headed off across the Black Sea to head back via Byzantium to Genoa. But the plague was with them, on some ships the entire crews died before reaching home, and large Genoese Galleys manned by blackened corpses drifted like ghost ships for some time on the Black Sea.
The few that did make it back, brought their diseased bodies, and flea infested rats with them to spread the plague in the major trading port of Genoa. Within months it had spread across the Mediterranean, and on to France, where a ship from Bristol was loading up with wine in a port in Gascony, one of the West Country sailors became infected with the plague here, and by the time the ship reached port in the coastal village of Melcombe in Dorset, he was badly sick, and the plague now taking the Pneumonic form spread on the breath, he brought the infection into the Kingdom of England, for good measure the ship sailed on to it’s home port of Bristol, ensuring that the plague would also have an entry point there.

peasantsploughing1
The plague averaged about a mile a day in its spread, the little village of Cuddeford lay immediately in its path from two directions, it would have taken about two months before the first signs of coughing and swellings at the armpits and groin would have manifested themselves in the village, and by the autumn of 1348 the Church graveyard would have been full, and by the winter there would have been corpses in the cottages, village lanes, and fields. There would not have been enough able people left to bury the dead. On average three quarters of people who came into contact with the disease caught it in it’s aggressive form, half of these died. That’s on average, however in small villages with many people marrying locally and effectively having little diversity in the gene pool, it was apparent that whole villages were dying out through lack of resistance.

plough

Every European alive today who had ancestors in Europe at the time of the plague is descended from someone with a degree of natural immunity, all others died out.  So who was left? In our case, Vanessa’s ancestors had enough immunity to survive and flee the dying village of Cuddeford for a thresh start elsewhere. We know they did this as their surname bears their heritage, i.e. the place they came from, not where they lived when they acquired the name. There is no point in calling everyone in a village by the village’s name, this only happens when they leave it for somewhere else.
The Cuddeford name, like many in England, therefore, in a very real way, owes its origins to a Mongol Khan’s attack on a Genoese trading outpost in the South of Russia.

1300s -1600s The End of Serfdom

As the workforce in many areas had been wiped out, the small rag-tag band of survivors from the village of Cuddeford, now called “The Cuddefords” named after the village they had fled, suddenly became a commodity in great demand by landowners, . Although against the Law at the time for peasants to leave their home Parish and seek work elsewhere, many peasants fled their home villages and could find work for landowners who offered higher wages to those willing to relocate and risk the law in doing so. Once in the new area, these peasants would have been called by the name of their old village for identification purposes, and this would eventually have become their surname, especially once they were being counted for the Poll Tax in the 14th and 15th centuries and required a surname to be identified for tax purposes.

peasantsploughing2Although it would take some time and a peasant’s revolt in the 1380s to help achieve it, the Black Death, thanks to the Khan of the Golden Horde, would ensure that peasants in England would no longer be serfs, but would be free men and women. This the Cuddefords would be after walking for a day heading for the City of Exeter, finding their way barred by the panic stricken burghers of the city, afraid to admit more plague victims, they made it to the village of Ide just outside the City of Exeter, where landowners with a more pragmatic mind realised that if they weren’t dead from plague now, then they probably never would be, and were very welcoming of a fresh family to gather the hay and thresh the corn on newly inherited lands. every cloud has a silver lining, for those marked out by genetic luck and ambition. The family would remain in Ide (pictured below) for the next 300 years.

Ide_Ford

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Pandemic (Part 2)


 

In Part 1 of this series we spoke about the first Plague Pandemic for which there is reliable evidence.  This took place at the end of the Neolithic/beginning of the Bronze Age, and resulted in a 90% replacement in Britain of Neolithic Genes with Bronze Age Beaker Culture Genes from the near continent.  A catastrophic event for one population, but a golden opportunity for another.

We will now see how a similar event 3,500 years later would give similar results and change Britain into England.

Here Come The English

Englishsubroman2

The idea of “Anglo-Saxons” is largely a nonsense, a modern term with no real historical meaning when applied to a single population group. There were Angles, there were Saxons, there were Jutes, there were Frisians, there were Franks, and various other North German tribes originating from Denmark down to the Rhine and south into the Netherlands and Belgium who migrated to Britain during the later Roman period. They originally came over in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. a good 200 years before the popular histories would suggest that they arrived in the C5th.

They came mostly as settlers, traders, and mercenaries, in numbers that the Romans chose not to control, as once in Britain they could be taxed and recruited into Roman Army and Navy ranks.  The people they settled among in the South and East of Britain almost certainly spoke a Germanic derived Belgic language not that different from that spoken by the new arrivals, and not “Celtic” as was spoken in the West of Britain. It was most likely at this time English started to become adopted as an amalgam of the old Belgic and new North Germanic languages spoken by the dominant population of the South and East of Britain. This explains the rapid take up of English after the collapse of the Roman Empire, i.e. it had already been here for about 200 years.
This Germanic element to the Romano-British population was so important, and so dominant in the East of the Roman Province of Britannia that in 286 A.D. Carausius, a Belgic speaking German of the Menapian Tribe serving as an officer in the Roman Navy, mutinied, took the Classis Britannicus Fleet with him, and set up an Independent Sub-Roman state on either side of the Channel, but with Britannia as his main power base. His Kingdom lasted for 12 years until he was murdered by his Finance Minister, a man called Allectus, he lasted for 3 years, and was deposed when the Romans eventually re-invaded Britain.

carausius

Coin of Emperor Carausius

So by the C5th we have the scene set, with a Romanised, largely Belgic/Germanic speaking population in the East of Britain, and a largely Romanised Gaelic/Goidelic (Celtic) speaking population in the West of Britain, the educated parts of both populations would have been bi-lingual in the local language and Latin. Once the Roman administration left with the Roman Legions by about 410 A.D. a power vacuum formed and local tyrants filled it with their armed retinues.

These “Tyranni” in the East started recruiting Continental German mercenaries just as the Romans had, and were very successful in using them against external threats from Picts, Irish, and Scots raiders, but became dependent on them, to the point where the newcomers took over in the East. Thus the Sub-Roman Eastern British swapped Latin speaking leaders for German speaking ones, but the bulk of the population remained the same Steppe derived genetic population that had come over with the Bell Beakers 3,500 years before. So how did this particular Belgic/Germanic “English” faction of the Island come to dominate?

Justinian Plague

Initially these Belgic/Germanic speaking Sub-Roaman groups made slow progress in pushing West against the Latin/Celtic speaking Sub-Romans on that side of the Island. These Western populations were descended from a slightly different genetic population, mainly Bronze Age derived again, but containing a large population input from Iberia rather than the steppes.

The big collapse of the Sub-Roman “British” or “Welsh” (Wealas the Old English word for foreigners, a cognate of Welsch in Swiss German) in the West of Britain, that allowed the “English” (misnamed Anglo-Saxons) to push them to the edges of the Island of Britain, and across the Channel to Brittany (which is named after them) came in the C6th. This date is important.

In 547 Maelgwn of Gwynedd known as The Dragon of the Island, a High King of the

Justinian

Emperor Justinian

North Welsh (British) with his seat of power on the Island of Anglesey, was struck down in the Church at Rhos by “The Yellow Plague” that then went on to ravage Ireland in 548-549 A.D., and reoccurred in Britain from 555-562 A.D.  This Yellow Plague is associated with the “Justinian Plague” so called because it was contracted by the East Roman Emperor Justinian (who survived it). This, once again, was Yersinia Pestis the Black Death, spread yet again by a movement of peoples, this time thanks to the Huns bursting into Eastern Europe and passing the disease onto German tribes who they either subdued, or pushed across the borders into the Roman Empire. The pestilence was low level and endemic for some time, before erupting with renewed virulence in the C6th devastating the Eastern Roman Empire and the Persian Sassanid Empire.

The Justinian Plague spread through Southern Europe, and from there reached the “British” ports in the West of Britain who had continued to trade widely with the Mediterranean, whereas the focus in the “English” East of Britain was trade with Northern Europe.  The Britons in the West of Britain, therefore came into contact with the Justinian Plague first and longest in the British Isles, because of its introduction via trade with the Mediterranean.  They also suffered more as they carried less genes from Steppe populations, with lower innate resistance to the plague that had built up in the Steppe/Germanic derived population in the East of Britain, now known as the “English”.
The plague therefore disproportionately affected the British and opened the way for an English resurgence, with Anglian, Saxon, and Jutish lead “English” armies (comprised numerically mostly of Steppe/Belgic derived East Britons) sweeping West.  The historical records reflect the impact of the plague; the major town of Caer Celemion in Hampshire (Calleva Atrebatum to the Romans, Silchester to the English) went from being a major organised Romano-British power, to total collapse around 560 A.D. Strangely, rather than being marched into and settled by the expanding English from the East, the Town was avoided by the English as being cursed for more than a couple of centuries.

silchester-south-gate

So instead of adopting the well defended walls and buildings as their own as they did in other conquered urban areas, the English shunned the site, concentrating on the former Roman Town of Winchester (Caer Gwent to the British, Venta Belgarum to the Romans – the main Belgic settlement, and therefore inhabited by a steppe derived population with some resistance to plague) and Dorchester-on-Thames, previously in Belgic Catuvellaunian territory prior to Roman Domination, and therefore again containing a population with steppe derived plague resistance. By contrast the devastated town of Caer Celemion, Calleva Atrebatum – the settlement of the Atrebates, was according to leading Archaeologists not heavily settled by an incoming Belgic tribe, rather it was taken over by an incoming Belgic elite, with many of the populations therefore carrying “Western British” genes – less resistant to plague.

The plague paved the way for Britain to give birth to England, and for the South and East of the Island to dominate the North and the West for the rest of its history.

Sutton_Hoo_helmet_reconstructed

In Part 3 we will see how the well known occurrence of the Black Death in the C14th century shaped the class population dynamics of Britain, and gave us very specific surnames.

If you would like your own Family tree researched and your Family Biography published feel free to email us at: paulmcneil@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Published in: on October 26, 2018 at 6:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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Pandemic (Part 1)


A recent blog post Bring Out Your Dead brought up a topic that comes up in a number of Family Trees that I have traced.  This looked at the effect of various Pandemics on modern history, and this has lead me to write up in this blog post covering the surprising effects of Pandemics on the people of Great Britain.

The latest research on Ancient DNA has thrown up amazing insights in to the effects of ancient Pandemics on the people of Great Britain.   There have been three Pandemics that substantially affected the demographics of the British Isles in Prehistory to Historical times.

Pre-Historic Plague

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Whilst lounging by the pool in Lindos on the Greek Island of Rhodes reading “Who we are and how we got here”  by David Reich, I came across some startling facts about the pre-historic population of Great Britain.  The book is a very good read, with the caveat that the author has been forced to put a whole chapter justifying his socialist tendencies to the “Thought Police” within the academic community who have hounded him for some of his findings that don’t fit with their perverse world view.  So, putting such snowflakery aside, his actual findings are utterly fascinating.   The book is well worth purchasing for anyone interested in Genetic Family History.  Also I’d recommend reading it by your private pool at the Lindos Blu Hotel just as I did.

 

The passage that caught my eye was the following:

“… the bacterium Yersinia pestis was the cause of the fourteenth-to-seventeenth-century CE Black Death, the sixth-to-eighth-century CE Justinianic plague of the Roman Empire, and an endemic plague that was responsible for at least about 7 percent of deaths in skeletons from burials across the Eurasian steppe after around five thousand years ago.”

This was startling.  Let’s start with the earliest, Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Plague.  That Pandemic of plague was brought by the expansion of the Yamnaya Steppe culture in the Bronze Age, that saw a 90% replacement of Neolithic Genes by Bronze Age  Yamnaya Culture Genes showing a population replacement that separates the earlier periods of Stonehenge’s dominance to the later periods of Stonehenge’s adaption to a Bronze Age Culture.  This 9:1 distribution of genetic legacy is what is seen in modern indigenous British Citizens.

Genetic scientists working with Archaeologists have established that Yersinia Pestis the Black Death bacillus, has left its DNA in a large number of Yamnaya corpses, indicating that it was endemic amongst Steppe populations in the Bronze Age around 5,000 years ago.  However given that there was no population collapse associated with this infestation, it would seem that the Yamnaya Steppe derived population had built up a genetic resistance to the infection.

When these people moved West into Europe, they brought their steppe based disease with them, introducing it to Neolithic populations who had no natural resistance, causing population collapse within a couple of generations, and opening the way to their majority replacement by the Steppe Bronze Age Culture.  This first recorded Pandemic showed a pre-bubonic plague, i.e. the plague form spread by fleas, but still the pneumonic form that was spread but coughing, sneezing, and kissing.  This coincides historically with the rise of the “Corded Ware” culture that swept across central Europe around 4,900 years ago.

Bell Beakers and Language

About 200 years after this, around 4,700 years ago, the Bell Beaker Culture exploded across Western Europe, eventually making it to Britain.  Although the Bell Beaker Culture started in indigenous peoples in Iberia, it seems that by the time it moved North, it had been taken up by people with a steppe ancestry, not the previously indigenous Neolithic Peoples.  The Bell Beakers reached Britain, contrary to previous theories, not just by trade, but with a whole new population, this is apparent in the aDNA (Ancient DNA).   the people who brought the Bell Beakers had little if any Iberian or Neolithic Genes, their Genes were overwhelmingly from the Steppes.  Going by the genetic signatures, it looks as if this replacement population originated from the near continent, especially around the modern Netherlands.  Once again the dramatic, up to 90%, collapse of the pre-Bronze Age Neolithic population of Britain in the face of the Bell Beaker phenomenon, points to a disease driven reduction in population at the time, hosted by new immigrants.

Bellbeaker_map_europe

Bell Beaker Finds in Europe

This movement of people also explains the arrival of Pre-Celtic Indo-European Language families into the Eastern British Isles.  All thanks to the first wave of plague that we have discovered.

In the next instalment we will see how the next wave turned Britain into England.

If you would like your Family Tree researched, and your Family Biography published, then please feel free to contact Time Detectives at: Paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

 

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