HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDS

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Introduction

With the discovery of fire - or more accurately how to tame fire - c1.5 million years ago, man began to improve his lot against nature. Fire gave him light and heat, which in turn kept wild animals away; fire also gave him time, because he learned to cook his meat, which in turn broke down the fibre and enabled him to eat more quickly. A side effect of cooked meat was the improved nourishment for the greater development of his brain. Fire led to the expanded development of art and then to industry as he learned to melt metals and later to produce copper, bronze, and iron. Our known family history does not extend back so far, but I have tried to correlate historical events with family activities.[1]

Our direct ancestors, and this holds true through my first cousins, are all primarily European and a majority are British. This fact has fired my interest in European history. The Mackenzies, Willisons Dicksons, Armstrongs and Campbells have Viking roots and are more recently Scots, so I have provided an introduction to the Scots’ history. In Gaelic the term 'scot' meant ‘bandit’ and the Scotti were a Celtic, Irish tribe from what is now County Antrim. This allusion to Ireland thereby introduces the FitzGeralds and Johnsons who come from that island. Since Sir Other FitzOthoere was Italian, the (de) Boltons originally Normans, and with the French-Swiss Briquets and Bossons and German Clauses and Weisenbergs, my interest includes the European Continent. The remainder of the family were thought to be nominally English - or at least British: the truth has proved otherwise. We are a polyglot mixture from across all of Europe and indeed much farther!

Hadrian's Wall

 

The Scots have been recognised as fierce fighters throughout their tribal and world histories. The early establishment of at least four separate Celtic tribes in Scotland led to a balance of power and also to endless fighting as a way of life. Largely isolated from southern Roman and Norman civilising influences, the Scots developed a warrior society. Since historical research records the earliest Mackenzie (FitzGeralds) and Boulton families from the Norman invasion, war is also a part of our family history. Family members participated in the crusades and I have speculated that the crusades figure in the reasons for Thomas de Bolton being appointed Sheriff during that era. That his family had no connection to crusading seems unlikely, because a Sheriff’s position was considered a politically powerful post - even if the appointment was in a remote, distant area.

Norman Sheriff’s posts were largely earned as rewards for services rendered, not unlike the motivating force of feudal Crusader support. The invading Angles and Saxons dominated the British Celts, the Vikings and Magyars invaded Europe, and the FitzGeralds provided men to at least the Third Crusade. Thus the known family influences include the struggles to dominate Britain and the Crusades, during which Templar Knights are reported to have also fought with the Mackenzies for Robert the Bruce against Edward II. The Crusades crystallised national and European identities, and therefore feudal influences were felt throughout our extended family. More recently, the European invasion of the Americas has radically changed world history and our families were also part of those struggles. Although the Romans had brought European civilisation to England, it came only slowly to Scotland.

Civilisation

Civilization is dependent on both a successful source of agriculture and thus a food surplus; and complex urban settlements of people living in close proximity in towns or cities. The food supply enables the support of skill specialisation in turn to support a government and security. The food surplus also creates the opportunity, which is further dependent upon a secure trade environment. Allocation of resources, creation of security and the direction of the implied military all require authorised government and powerful kings were widely created. In c12000 BC, people began to settle in the Mediterranean region, where the Natufian culture became sedentary and evolved into an agricultural society by 10000 BC. The importance of water to safeguard an abundant and stable food supply, due to favourable conditions to hunting, fishing and gathering resources including cereals, provided an initial economy that triggered the creation of permanent villages. Herein began an embryonic civilisation, which soon created the complex social hierarchy identified with civilisations.

Familes have many backgrounds and ours is no exception: it is not exclusively European and I have glanced at other peoples in Asia, and Mesopotamia, as well as the Americas. Our European heritage has many influences from outside Europe. Think of the series of invasions that led to the fall of Rome; remember that Ghengis Khan rolled out of Mongolia and briefly dominated much of the world stage. As well as the obvious Egyptians, recall the Alexander led his Macedonians across Persia to India. There were also the Indians and Chinese; and in the European search for a sea route to China the peoples in the Americas were all called Indians. Each of these different cultures developed their own view of civilisation and as they intermarried with Europeans invigorated our genealogy. I have identified some details of civilisations from outside Europe.

Historical Context

The Chinese Great Wall

 

I have made a brief look at some ancient civilisations and identified Celtic and German tribes to try to reduce the possible confusion in reading academic historical accounts. I have also identified the imperial Roman legions and given some account of their movements and major actions. This has led to the identification of the military structure of Orders of Battle (ORBATS). In order to identify the more modern military units, their commanders, movements, and major military events. I have attempted to document European ORBATS for military deployments in North America. Accurate sources are not readily available, but I have assembled data to identify European forts built in North America and units deployed from: Spain, France, England, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. I have also listed national military leaders in the British North American area. I have taken the geographical definition to include Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Felipe Fernández-Armesto noted that of Homo sapiens sapiens 200,000-year existence only perhaps the last 10,000 years concerns what he called convergence.[2] By that Fernández-Armesto meant that most of our human history since mankind left Africa traces our wanderings as mankind spread over the world.[3] In the process of this wandering different cultures evolved and only recently have people sought cultural exchanges. This last period of cultural convergence was enabled by exploration, and finally inter-marriage amongst those different cultures. In these exchanges family histories have become rich with different cultures.

These pages incidentally concern the development of Europe, North America, the British Empire, and the wider Mackenzie Clan. However, my children do not think of the same wars and issues which dominated my life: clearly perspectives change with the passing of time. Some recounting here of historical snapshots seemed useful to our own family analysis.

To help understanding of the Mediaeval world I have provided an introduction to social classes and heraldry. To provide an understanding of family actions I have linked names found in my text to the genealogical database also found here. Similarly I have provided an outline identification of the early exploration of North America - in particular of Canada. I have additionally digressed to document peculiar regional issues such as slavery, piracy, the origins of the European Balance of Power, and the rise of the English (later British) navy and the expansion of trade and empire. Necessarily I have spent some effort in identifying aspects surrounding the American Revolution, by far the most significant event to affect North America.

However, Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan were not Europeans. Their visits to Europe led many family pedigrees to Asia. The Vikings were serious travellers and widened bloodlines into Eastern Europe. Moreover, the Byzantine Greeks were neighbours of both the Macedonians, who conquered much of the ancient world, and particularly the Ptolemies who married into Egyptian and Middle Eastern families. Modern historical research is greatly aided by automation and has expanded my family focus.

ENDNOTES

1           See for example History, at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History; and Adapted from Grahame Clark, World Prehistory, In New Perspective; see also Civilization at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization; and Cradle of civilization at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle_of_Civilization.

2           Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Pathfinders, A Global History of Exploration.

3           See Human evolution at, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution#Genus_Homo.

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