Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Achievements of the Flemings

On a recent flight from Vancouver to Chicago I sat next to the CEO of a London-based consulting firm. A Canadian woman with an advanced degree, she asked me the ethnicity of my surname. When she heard the term "Fleming", she responded: "so that is what you call yourselves."

While hardly the response I would have hoped for, it reflects a broad ignorance of both the name and national origin. Had she been able to first peruse some London bookshops, she may have come up with a better line. In 1930 a diligent genealogist by the name of John Arnold Fleming sought to remedy this gap in human understanding with his two volume book, "Flemish Influence in Britain".

The book attempts to explain the history of the Flemish diaspora in the British Isles. While the author was not an historian, his work was pioneering. Fleming pointed out that those with his surname - and similar constructions such as Flemyng, Flemming, Flanders, etc. -  derived their name from immigrants who arrived from the Low Countries.

A simple online search for New York, Chicago, London and elsewhere in the English-speaking world reveals hundreds (if not thousands) of individual listings for the name "Fleming". These individuals carry in their name proof of their origins, yet are not recognized as such. Below I point out a few of the more prominent "Flemings".



Impressive British Roots
Because the appellation "Fleming" is an English-language term, it is in England and Scotland where we find the first examples and the largest numbers.

Although almost by definition the forefathers of these "Flemings" were common immigrants, some rose to high status.

Richard Fleming - Bishop and Founder of Lincoln College, Oxford (1385-1431) 

Malcolm Fleming - 3rd Lord Fleming and Lord Chamberlain (and son-in-law) to King Kames IV of Scotland (1494-1547)

Mary Fleming - daughter of Malcolm and lady-in-Waiting to Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-158?)




Later generations of British Flemings have gone on to recognition that is truly global:

Alexander Fleming - scientist Nobel Prize winner, inventor of penicillin the world's first and most widely used antibiotic (1881-1955) 

Ian Fleming - author "James Bond" series (1908-1964) 



Matthew Fleming - Ian's nephew and Chairman of the Professional Cricketers' Assoc.(1964-)

Colin Fleming - Tennis player ranked 26th in the world ()

As well as too many Scottish (Bernard, Charlie, Derek, Greg, Jim & Jimmy), English (Craig, & Terry) and Irish (Curtis & Gary) footballers to mention!



Quintessential Americans
Americans have also had one 'footballer' - called soccer here - who was a Fleming (Tommy) but he was born in Scotland. However, the quintessential American sports of baseball, basketball and American football have also seen Fleming athletes and Olympians. Beyond sports, Flemings have also earned a World War II Medal of Honor and a Miss America award. 


Captain Richard E. Fleming - Medal of Honor Recipient (1917-1942)    

Don Fleming - NFL Cleveland Browns Defensive Back (1937-1963)

Vern Fleming - Olympian and NBA point guard (1962-)

Dave Fleming - MLB pitcher for the Seattle Mariners (1969-)


Nancy Fleming - Ms America 1961 (1942- )  

Peggy Fleming - Olympic Gold Medal ice skater (1948-)


Lest others think this is not a melting pot, even a Native American mayor and an African-American politician carry the name...

Elaine Fleming - Native American mayor (?-present)  

Erik R. Fleming - African-American representative (1965-)  









Anglo-Saxon Notables
It was not just in the U.S. that Flemings in the diaspora made their mark. Throughout the Commonwealth - Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - Flemings have left a mark. In case you're wondering why Flemings seem to gravitate toward cricket, it might be because it was invented by Flemings!

Reg Fleming - a Canadian NHL player for American and Canadian hockey teams (1936-2009)

Donald Fleming, MP - Canadian member of Parliament for 17 years (1905-1986)  

Damien Fleming - Top Australian cricketeer known as "Flemo" (1970-)

Stephen Fleming - Captain of the New Zealand national cricket team (1973-)

Osbourne Fleming - Chief Minister of Anguilla (1940-)



Beyond the Commonwealth
The "Fleming" diaspora - like that of the broader diaspora of those of us with other Flemish surnames - has never been limited to the English-speaking world. Prominent "Flemings" have surfaced in Scandinavia, Latin America, and continental Europe.

Hendryk Fleming - Late 13th century Polish bishop (?-1300) 

Louis-Constant Fleming - French UMP Senator for Saint Martin near Anguilla (1946-)  

Rudymar Fleming - Venezuelan Silver Medalist in Judo at 2003 Pan-American Games (1980-)


Kieran Fleming - Irish Republican fighter who died fighting the British (1959-1984)







Surprisingly, neither of the Fleming historians (D.F. and Katherine) seemed interested in researching the Flemings. 

The above is only a snippet of what the Flemings, Flemmings, Flemyngs, Flanders, and similarly named have accomplished. If you are interested in a deeper dive, check out John Arnold Fleming's book - or look them up on Wikipedia

Copyright 2014 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without my express, written, consent.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Flemish Contributions to Columbus’ “Discovery” of America – Part 3

The fishmonger in 16th century Flanders

Today I am in Halifax, Nova Scotia on business (nothing to do with Flanders unfortunately). This is a place with an unshakable dependence on the sea and whose history is intimately tied into fishing. Flanders, a maritime nation, played a role in Europe’s seaborne history. Flemish expertise at maritime navigation – and the Flemish innovations that arose as a result – made a direct contribution to Columbus’ ability to ‘discover’ the New World. It is therefore appropriate that I continue my series (please see Part 1  and Part 2 ) with a reference to Columbus’ reliance on Flemish nautical innovations.

16th century European fishermen off of newfoundland

Fish and Flemings
As historian David B. Quinn has demonstrated, it is likely that Columbus sailed to Iceland and fished for cod.[i] In two places (his son’s biography and Columbus’ own annotations on the world map printed at Leuven) Columbus noted the corpses of two Inuit he saw washed ashore on the Irish coast, perhaps in the year 1477.[ii] The sight of their Asian features helped convince him Asia was not far off.[iii]   The amalgamation of these experiences – codfishing, proximity to northern fishing grounds, and the essential skills involved in navigating such waters – had an impact on Columbus’ calculations for the journey from Europe to Japan.[iv]

Beginning in the late Middle Ages meatless fast days occupied large swathes of Catholic Europe’s calendar – in some jurisdictions as many as 135 days of the year.[v] As the number of feast days expanded and populations recovered following the late 14th century bubonic plague of the “Black Death” (which curiously enough, originated in Asia) hit Flanders in 1349, courtesy of an Italian merchant ship, traditional fishing tools and methods were found inadequate.

Coastal regions, of course, could supply their own needs. But inland regions – especially in the warmer lands surrounding the Mediterranean were faced with not only the need to supplant meat but also the diffculty of spoilage. Consequently, sometime around 1350, Willem Beuckelszoon of Biervliet (then recognized as part of Flanders; today part of Zeeuws Flanders in the Netherlands) is credited with creating a tool to simplify the cleaning process for fish.[vi] 
Codfish in the North Atlantic

But herring – which for which the ‘herring jaws’ were invented – is a fish which must be eaten within a few days of capture, otherwise it spoils.[vii] Fortunately, God created cod.
Cod were a perfect solution to the problem of growing populations and unchanged resources. 

Found in vast schools across the North Atlantic[viii], codfish are high in protein and low in fat (which means that they can be dried and stored for years without becoming rancid).[ix] Perhaps equally important in the success of the cod, it tastes better than other salted fish.[x] Far-roaming (one tagged in the North Sea was later caught 3200 kilometers away, off of Newfoundland),[xi] cod tend to move parallel to coastlines and in waters of 120 feet or less.[xii] Cod became the food for the common man in late medieval Europe.[xiii]
The Flemish Cap, off of the Grand Banks near Newfoundland

While the Flemish may not have pioneered North Atlantic cod fishing, they were certainly involved. Hints of the Flemish importance appear in terminology surrounding cod fishing. Thus, the newly designed lines for catching mass numbers of fish included a “Flemish eye” or knot.[xiv] And the nearest point to Europe off of the Grand Banks, the place where the cod were caught off the Newfoundland coast, was (and still is) called the “Flemish Cap”.[xv] So perhaps it is no surprise that throughout Europe – and especially in southern Europe, where demand was great[xvi] – the term used for cod, ‘bacalos’, is, incidentally, derived from the Flemish term ‘bakkelauw’.[xvii]

Writing about the year 1450, Gilles le Bouvier noted that Icelandic[xviii]  ‘stocphis’ – what the English called ‘stockfish’[xix] and what we today call ‘cod’ – was brought directly to the marketplaces in Bruges and Antwerp.[xx] The vessels fishermen used to catch the cod were called the “Flemish buss”.[xxi] 
A Flemish buss

Maritime power can be projected far beyond the home port. Throughout the 13th century (and likely into the 14th century as well), the Flemish, from at least 37 Flemish ports,[xxii] dominated sea traffic into and around the British Isles.[xxiii] This practical presence led to ritual recognition. A noted authority on flags points out that “The first flags identifying nationality were used at sea. 

The oldest international legal obligation on record for ships to display flags as identification was agreed by King Edward I of England and Guy, Count of Flanders, in 1297.”[xxiv]
None of this proves that the Flemish had first crack at the cod. But it suggests a source for Flemish mastery of maritime mysteries. “The use of the initials of the Frankish names of the winds – N, NNE, NE, etc. – on compass cards, seems to have arisen with Flemish navigators, but was early [1400s] adopted by the Portuguese and Spanish.”[xxv] Parenthetically, the lodestone attached to the compass rose used to navigate was called the ‘Flemish needle’.[xxvi]

“Northern Europeans, particularly the Flemish, were not so casual [about navigation]. They not only wrote about these irregularities but published charts with true sets of losscodrones; one set for Italian compasses and one for Flemish compasses. The Flemish compass lines gave the correct variation.”[xxvii] As cited elsewhere, Columbus intentionally used both to navigate across the Atlantic. Even as late as the 1600s the Portuguese and Spaniards – credited with many of Europes’ overseas conquests during this era – used and adapted Flemish nautical terms.[xxviii]

William Caxton (who spent decades living in Flanders and imported the first English printing presses from Bruges), wrote about the Flemish mariners from a near-coastal point in the 1470s. “The Flemings are mighty, fierce fighters …they engage in trading, especially the wool-trade; they are very ready to risk adventure and danger by sea and by land for the sake of great profit; …they engage in deeds of arms as the occasion demands…They discern reliably what is done in distant lands, signs of peace or war, the state of the realm…”[xxix] Given Caxton’s long association with Flanders such an observation carries heft.

Flemish expertise was recognized by practitioners. Describing the half-century after Columbus, one American writer declared that “the Flemish mariner was distinguished for the intrepid spirit with which he pushed his voyages into distant and unknown seas.”[xxx] Columbus’ own codfishing experiences off the coast of Iceland, then, relied in part – whether overtly acknowledged or not – upon traditions and innovations linked to Flanders. 
Columbus' compass rose

During his first voyage to the New World, Columbus utilized the ‘Flemish needle’[xxxi] as a more reliable guide to ‘true north’. Like other Iberian seafarers he adopted the Flemish-language ‘compass rose’ as a time-and-distance navigational tool.[xxxii] In an attempt to prepare for what to expect when he landed in Cathay, Columbus carried a copy of Marco Polo’s travelogue. Heavily annotated (it is still extant), it was actually printed in Antwerp, in 1485.[xxxiii] All of these were helpful; none were essential.

Maps, for sea travel, are critical. The annotated world map in Columbus’ hands as he strode on the deck of the Santa Maria was printed at Leuven.[xxxiv] This is of greater importance than it seems.
Pierre d'Ailly's map printed at Leuven

From 1472 until 1500 there were 222 maps printed. Of this total, 154 were printed in Italy (and 1 each in Spain and Leuven). To offer another perspective, of the 30,000 books printed in the 15th century, 56 contained maps.[xxxv] Yet, among all the varied and different Italian and Portuguese maps available to this man – brother of a cartographer, no less – Columbus selected the Leuven-printed map as his guide to the New World.[xxxvi]  

My next post will credit the Flemish precursors that he himself acknowledged – and his Flemish seamates and relatives that he did not acknowledge.
 
A page from Pierre d'Ailly's book printed at Leuven. The notes in the margin are Columbus' handwriting

Endnotes





[i] David Beers Quinn, England and the Discovery of America, 1481-1620, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974), pp.71, 105.
[ii] The Leuven-printed map was included in a book called the Imago Mundi. “The Imago Mundi of Pierre d’Ailly is claimed to have been practically the sole source from which Columbus obtained the ideas behind his project of discovery. The marginal notes on the Columbina Library copy of the Imago Mundi are supposed to reveal the steps in the formation of his plans.” George E. Nunn, “The Imago Mundi and Columbus,”pp.646-661, in The American Historical Review, Vol. 40, No.4, July, 1935; published by Oxford University Press,  p.646. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1842417  . Accessed: 20/10/2013
[iii]  “His [Columbus’] visit to Galway is attested in his own hand in a marginal note on his copy of Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi, which still survives. In translation it reads: ‘Men of Cathay have come from the west. [Of this] we have seen many signs. And especially in Galway in Ireland, a man and a woman, of extraordinary appearance, have come to land on two tree trunks [or timbers? Or a boat made of such?]’.” David B. Quinn, “Columbus and the North: England, Iceland, and Ireland” in The William and Mary Quarterly
Third Series, Vol. 49, No. 2 (Apr., 1992), pp. 278-297. Published by: 
Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture Article Stable URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/2947273, p.284
[iv] Surprisingly, given Columbus’ preoccupation with the place,  “Japan first appeared on a Western manuscript map in 1459 – on Fra Mauro’s map of the world – and it began to appear on printed maps in 1506. Until the middle of the sixteenth century, with the arrival of the first Europeans in Japan, its depiction was based solely on the mention in Marco Polo. Hence the various shapes [on maps] were purely the result of fantasy.” Walter Lutz, ed., Japan, A Cartographic Vision: European Printed Maps from the Early 16th to the 19th Century, Steven Lindberg, trans., (Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1994), Plate 1, p.93 (unnumbered).
[v] “The introduction of Christianity had an impact on the European diet…[meat] could be prohibited for up to 135 days during the year…the usual alternative was fish.”  J.Wubs-Mrozewicz, Fish, stock and barrel: Changes in the stockfish trade in northern Europe, c. 1360-1560”, in: Sicking, L. et al. (Ed.) (2009). Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850. (The Northern World) North Europe and the Baltic c. 400-1700 A.D. Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 41: pp. 187-208 p.188
[vi] There appears to be few references to Beuckelszoon in English  (a NYT article here: http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9907E4DB1E30E533A25755C2A96F9C94679FD7CF  )– and almost none in Dutch (neither in the Kroniek van Belgie, De Geschiednis van de Nederlandsche Stam, nor in the Winkler Prins Encyclopedia van Vlaanderen. A modest reference in Dutch can be found on the website of his hometown (Biervliet, Zeeuws Vlaanderen) here: http://www.biervliet.nl/Algemeen/Geschiedenis.aspx. The best English language summary is here:  “Willem Beukelszoon of Biervliet invented a method of gutting and barreling herring which preserved them for many months. The process was kept secret from other nations, which permitted the Dutch to build up a large export business throughout Europe, since the preserved herring could be eaten on many days of Christian abstinence from meat. The contribution of Beukelszoon was of such importance to the economy that, two hundred years later, the Emperor Charles V formally visited his grave to do him honor and ordered that a monument be raised to his memory as a benefactor of his country.” Charles Mckew Parr, Jan Van Linschoten: The Dutch Marco Polo, (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1964), p.5. Note: “Biervliet was at least for a short time the center of the production and the trade in Flemish cured herring.” Richard W. Unger, Ships and Shipping in the North Sea and the Atlantic: 1400-1800, (Alsdsgate, 1997),  p.328. For those who question my inclusion of Willem Beuckelszoon, Richard Unger concurs and offers a plausible argument that the entire tale is a fraud.
[vii] “As early as the end of the 15th century, the large-scale exploitation of cod began on the Newfoundland banks… The great problem was how to preserve and transport the fish.”  Ferdinand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life, (New York: HarperCollins, 1973), p.148.
[viii] “The Atlantic cod, Gadus morhua, flourishes over an enormous area of the North Atlantic, with a modern range from the northern Barents Sea south to the Bay of Biscay, around Iceland and the southern tip of Greenland, and along the North American coast as far south as North Carolina. Streamlined and abundant, it grows to a large size, has nutricious, bland flesh, and is easily cooked. It is also easily salted and dried, an important consideration when the major markets for salt cod were far from the fishing grounds, and often in the Mediterranean. When dried, cod meat is almost 80 percent protein.” Brian Fagan, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850, (New York: Basic Books, 2000), p.70.
[ix] The Atlantic cod “preserves unusually well because its white flesh is almost entirely devoid of fat. Fat resists salt and slows the rate at which salt impregnates fish. This is why oily fish, after salting, must be tightly pressed in barrels to be preserved, whereas cod can be simply laid in salt. Also fatty fish cannot be exposed to air in curing because the fat will become rancid. Cod, along with its relatives including haddock and whiting, can be air-dried before salting, which makes for a particularly effective cure that would be difficult with oily fish such as anchovy or herring.” Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History, (New York: Penguin, 2003), p.114.
[x] “Not only did cod last longer than other salted fish, it tasted better too.” Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, (New York: Penguin, 1997), pp.22-23.
[xi] “The record for long-distance travel belongs to a cod tagged in the North Sea in June 1957 and caught on the Grand Banks in January 1962 after a journey of about 3,200 kilometers.” Brian Fagan, Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting and the Discovery of the New World, (New York: Basic Books, 2006), p.228.
[xii] “Cod migrate for spawning, moving into still-shallower [less than 120 feet deep] water close to coastlines, seeking warmer spawning grounds and making it even easier to catch them.” Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, (New York: Penguin, 1997), p.42.
[xiii]  “It can be said that cod [was] the acknowledged staple food supply for the ordinary people.” Louis Sicking & Darlene Abreu-Ferreira, eds., Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850, (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p.269.
[xiv] “The Flemish Eye is the best method to attach hooks to multi strand wire. Its looseness acts like a spring and takes the pressure off the crimped sleeve.” http://www.getbentsportfishing.com/helpful/tips-and-tricks/fishing-knots/. Accessed August 12, 2013.
[xv] “The eastern most extension of what we today call the Outer Banks, the rich fishing grounds off of the coast of Newfoundland, have traditionally been called the “Flemish Cap”. This is the closest North Atlantic fishing ground for Europeans. European fishermen could fish there literally year-round. Even today, fishermen, when making for the Flemish Cap from Europe, would often say, “We are headed for Flemish.” Rosa Garcia-Orellan, TerraNova: The Spanish Cod Fishery on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in the Twentieth Century, (Boca Raton: Brown Walker Press, 2010), p.222.
[xvi] ”The Mediterranean Sea could not supply enough fish on its own, so countries in Northern Europe became a major source of fish for the region – primarily cod. Salt cod was traded for various goods including wine, cloth, spices and salt. When word arrived at the end of the 1400s of abundant codfish on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, fishermen were quick to respond.” RWA Rodger & S Spurrell, The Fisheries of North America (2006), p.1.
[xvii] “’Bacalao’ was the southern European name for cod, deriving from the Flemish word for cod, bakkeljaw.” Callum Roberts, The Unnatural History of the Sea, (Washington, DC: Island Press, 2007), p.382.
[xviii] Lest we think this unconnected with Nordic America, the term “buss” is derived from the Old Norse ‘buza’. See William Sayers, “Ships and Sailors in Geiffrei Gaimar's ‘Estoire des Engleis’” Source: The Modern Language Review, Vol. 98, No. 2 (Apr., 2003), pp. 299-310; p.307 Published by: Modern Humanities Research Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3737812 .
[xix] In Greenland and Iceland, “Stockfish, that is wind-dried cod… was split open and hung on a length of wood called a stokkr, hence the name stockfish.”Jesse L. Byock, Viking Age Iceland, (New York: Penguin, 2001), pp.52-53.
[xx] E.T. Hamy, Le Livre de la Description des Pays de Gilles Le Bouvier, (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1908), p.104. Source: Source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France. ftp://ftp.bnf.fr/011/N0112093_PDF_1_-1DM.pdf  Accessed August 10, 2013.
[xxi] “A Flemish Buss doth often take seven or eight Last [=14-16 tonnes] of herrings in a day. But if GOD gave a Buss, one day with another, but two Last of herrings a day, that is, twelve Last of herrings in a week; then at that rate, a Buss may take, dress, and pack the said whole Proportion of a hundred Last  [200 tonnes] of herrings (propounded to be hoped for), in eight weeks and two days, And yet is herein[after] allowance made for victuals and wages for sixteen weeks, as after followeth. Of which sixteen weeks time, if there be spent in rigging and furnishing the said Buss to sea, and in sailing from her port to her fishing-place; if these businesses, I say, spend two weeks of the time, and that the other two weeks be also spent in returning to her port after her fishing season, and in unrigging and laying up the Buss: then I say (of the sixteen weeks above allowed for) there will be twelve weeks to spend only in fishing the herring.” Edward Arber, Social England Illustrated, a Collection of XVIIth Century Tracts With an Introduction by Andrew Lang, (Westminister: Archibald Constable & Co., 1903), Forgotten Books Classic Reprint, p.284.   In general the Flemish buss was a modest vessel and after 1600 almost exclusively for fishing. However, “a buss of [the year]1523 was rated at over 200 tons. In 1570 there was a report of a buss which could bring home a catch of 140 tons. But from the 1570s size decreased and vessels of about 100 tons or less became the rule. The buss of those years would approach 25 meters in length and be over 5 meters broad with a depth of over 3 meters.”  Richard W. Unger, Dutch Shipbuilding Before 1800, (Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1978), p.30. In fairness, Richard Unger states that “the buss was built for use in herring fishing…[and] the herring buss appeared at Hoorn in the year before the introduction of the big drag net, that is in 1415.” Richard W. Unger, Dutch Shipbuilding Before 1800, (Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1978), p.29.
[xxii] In Medieval Flanders, there were “at least 37 smaller and greater ports” along the coast from Calais to Ostend that sent forth fishing fleets for cod. Dries Tys & Marnix Pieters, “Understanding a Medieval Fishing Settlement Along the Southern North Sea: Walraversijde, c.1200-1630,”Chapter 3 (pp. ) in Louis Sicking & Darlene Abreu-Ferreira, eds., Beyond the Catch: Fisheries of the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic, 900-1850, (Leiden: Brill, 2008), p.92.
[xxiii] “Into the thirteenth century Flemish boats dominated the carrying trade in the English Channel and to Gascony.” David Nichols, - David Nicholas, “Of Poverty and Primacy: Demand, Liquidity, and the Flemish Economic Miracle, 1050-1200”, The American Historical Review ,Vol. 96, No. 1 (Feb., 1991), pp. 17-41, p.33  Published by: The University of Chicago Press  Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2164016.
[xxiv] Alfred Znamierowski, The World Encyclopedia of Flags, (Leicester: Anness, 2008), p.44.
[xxv] Silvanus P. Thompson, "The Rose of the Winds: The Origin and Development of the Compass- Card," Proceedings of the British Academy 6 (London, 1918).
[xxvi] In fairness to the French (or Walloons), it appears that it  was actually a Picard (Pierre de Maricourt aka Petrus Peregrinus) who discovered the navigational benefits of the lodestone, while doing siege work for the French king in 1269. Lloyd A. Brown, The Story of Maps, (New York: Dover, 1977); reprint of the 1949 edition; p.128.
[xxvii] Christopher Columbus, The Log of Christopher Columbus, ed. & trans. By Robert H. Fuson, (Intl Marine Pub, 1991), p.42
[xxviii] Pedro de Medina, a cosmographer resident in Seville and attached to the Casa de Contratacion (which ensured pilots’ navigational tools were accurate and collected data from returning ships) published the early modern ‘Bibles’ of navigation:  Libro de cosmographia (in 1538) and  Arte de navegar (in 1545). In all of his books – which continued to be used for more than 150 years by Iberian mariners – the Dutch language terms for the compass are used. See for example pp.61,115,152,153, etc. of Pedro de Medina, A Navigator’s Universe: The Libro de Cosmographia of 1538, Ursula Lamb, trans. & ed., (London: University of Chicago Press, 1972).
[xxix] William Caxton (1418-1492), the man who literally brought the first printing press to England – learned the craft of printing at Bruges under the tutelage of a Fleming, .  Caxton: The Description of Britain by William Caxton; edited by Marie Collins , pp.109 & 114.
[xxx] William Hickling Prescott, The History of the Reign of Philip the Second, King of Spain, (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1883), p. 309.
[xxxi] “Northern Europeans, particularly the Flemish, were not so casual [about navigation]. They not only wrote about these irregularities but published charts with true sets of losscodrones; one set for Italian compasses and one for Flemish compasses. The Flemish compass lines gave the correct variation.” Christopher Columbus, The Log of Christopher Columbus, ed. & trans. By Robert H. Fuson, (Intl Marine Pub, 1991), p.42. Columbus’ realization that there is a difference between true and magnetic north aided his trans-Atlantic navigation. The best overview of this topic can be found in Lloyd A. Brown, The Story of Maps, (New York: Dover, 1977); reprint of the 1949 edition; pp.132-134.
[xxxii] Silvanus P. Thompson, "The Rose of the Winds: The Origin and Development of the Compass- Card," Proceedings of the British Academy 6 (London, 1918).
[xxxiii] “It was in fact an Antwerp edition [of Marco Polo’s Travels] from circa 1485 that Polo’s Genoese successor, Christopher Columbus, read and carefully annotated in preparation for his own historic voyage.”
Benjamin Schmid, The Dutch Imagination and the New World, 1570-1670, (New York: Cambridge U Press, 2006), p.9. An open page of Columbus’ annotated copy of Il Milinone can be viewed here: http://historyofinformation.com/images/marco_polo-Le_Livre_des_Merveilles-columbus.jpg accessed August 4, 2013.
[xxxiv] It was a Pierre d’Ailly world map printed in 1483 which appears in De imagine mundi et alii tractatus, (Leuven: Johannes de Westfalia, 1483). “This was the only map to be printed in the Low Countries during the fifteenth century.” Tony Campbell, The Earliest Printed Maps: 1472-1500, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), p.87. Popular references to this book usually call it the "Imago Mundi". Columbus clearly depended upon the map and the book in which it was included. According to one authority, "he made no fewer than 848 marginal notes and calculations" in the Imago Mundi. See Kirkpatrick Sale, The Conquest of Paradise  , (New York: Plume, 1991), p.30. For the record, historian Hugh Thomas dismisses the idea that the map Columbus carried on board was the famous Toscanelli map. See Hugh Thomas, Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, (London: Phoenix, 2004),  paperback ed., p.103.
[xxxv] Tony Campbell, The Earliest Printed Maps: 1472-1500, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), p.9.
[xxxvi] Data extracted from Tony Campbell, The Earliest Printed Maps: 1472-1500, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987),  Appendix, Table 2 “Summaries”, p.234. Note: this is not to say that Columbus did not own other maps – although the only reference I have seen to Columbus owning any other map explicitly is a copy of Ptolemy’s Geography, printed at Rome in 1478. See Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.336.

Copyright 2013 by David Baeckelandt. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted without my express, written permission.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flemish Contributions to Columbus’ “Discovery” of America – Part 2


 
16th century characterization of Columbus meeting the Tainos in the Caribbean

A few months ago (October 5th) I participated in a Seminar called “The Dutch Revolt and New Netherland”.[i] There I was asked to give my talk, “Flemish Contributions to the Discovery and Settlement of America”.[ii] Once up on the podium I narrowed the topic to a more directly relevant “The Flemish involvement in the Dutch Revolt and New Netherland”. Even then I was unable to cover even an abridged version of my research.

For the record, some of my claims concerning Columbus and the Flemish are already posted elsewhere on my blog. In an earlier post http://flemishamerican.blogspot.com/2008/10/flemish-contributions-to-columbus.html I reviewed a few pre-1492 ties between Columbus and Flanders. Here I hope to offer some detail on the Flemish involvement with Columbus’ actual and intellectual discovery of the New World. So without further adieu, please find below a snippet of the pre-New Netherland bit, somewhat after the actual Columbus Day, October 21, 2013[iii].

An early depiction of Columbus' 'discovery' of the New World


Introduction
Many of us know the official story of Columbus’ “discovery” of America. It can be summed up in the American schoolyard ditty (modified here):

“In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…
October 12 their dream came true, You never saw a happier crew!”[iv]

The essence of this rhyme is a reaffirmation of Columbus as hero. In an age of barbaric superstition and medieval ignorance one man – the Genoese Christopher Columbus – saw a way to sail west to reach the East. Our national myth also implies that this unique Italian made the solitary intellectual leaps that brought him to our shores. But it is wrong.

As more thoughtful scholars now know, Columbus’ decision to sail across the Atlantic derived from a mosaic of intellectual, navigational, cartographic, and other advances. Flemings and Flanders contributed to Columbus’ understanding of the world and in several instances directly influenced the path he took. These contributions originated centuries before Christopher Columbus lived. As award-winning historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto puts it (admittedly with a different emphasis): “What really happened to Columbus is far more interesting than any of the heroic myths his life has generated.”[v]

Permit me, then, to offer a survey of that background here.

 
Robert II, Count of Flanders, A Leader of the First Crusade


The Flemish Link to Asia – the Crusades
As most school children know, Columbus’ voyages were an effort to reach Asia – and its riches – by sailing west. This search for the East began centuries before Columbus. What we are not taught is that the Flemish played a role inspiring Columbus’ quest. This role was not a single strand but in fact a mosaic of contributions.

For several hundred years the one distraction generally successful in diverting generational waves European Christians from warfare with each other was sanctified conflict against non-Christians: in other words, the Crusades.[vi]  Carried out at the frontiers of Christendom, the Crusades offered participants the promise of eternal salvation in the afterlife enhanced by the possibility of booty and trade in this life.[vii]  

For nearly five centuries Flemings sent out soldiers on the Crusades.[viii] The First Crusade, which got under way in the year 1099, had a strong Flemish contingent. Five hundred Flemish knights followed Roberecht, the Count of Flanders, to the Middle East.[ix] Not all Crusades went to the Middle East. Perhaps prompted by dire conditions in Flanders[x], waves of West Flemings headed east into what is today Poland during the Wendish Crusade in  1147.[xi] At nearly the same time still yet another group of Flemish knights embarked by ship for the Crusades to the Holy Land. Flemish warriors left in such numbers that they made possible the Reconquista of Lisbon, Portugal from the Muslims in 1148.[xii] Just over fifty years later, in 1202, the Count of Flanders[xiii] led the Fourth Crusade. His victory over the Byzantine Grreks established a dynasty that ruled Byzantium[xiv] for 60 years at Constantinople.[xv]

Merchants and settlers usually were not far behind the marauding knights.[xvi]  Flemish merchants, like Stephen of Dendermonde (in East Flanders)[xvii], began to trade directly with Asian merchants at Black Sea outposts.[xviii] Generally these outposts – Caffa on the Black Sea and Tana, on the Don River near the Sea of Azov – were dominated by Genoans.[xix] So it is an almost natural outcome that at nearly the same time, in 1277, the first galley fleets from Genoa sailed to Bruges. [xx]  These ships brought alum – critical to the dying process of woolen textiles.[xxi]

From at least at the same time as Flanders exported priests and knights, Flanders exported cloth.[xxii]  It was Flanders’ most important export.[xxiii] While ubiquitous today, medieval cloth was a high-value-added product with weaves and styles that were as diverse as the number of municipalities involved.[xxiv]

In return, from Flanders to Italy and then onto Asia, came not only sophisticated textiles but also priceless re-exports (via Bruges) such as walrus ivory and gyrfalcons. When Philip, the Duke of Burgundy (and also ruling as the Count of Flanders) ransomed his son back from the Muslims in 1396, he did so with 12 gyrfalcons imported from North America or Greenland.[xxv] The contemporary market value of those dozen North American hunting birds was equal to 50 tons of grain.[xxvi] These rare birds were almost certainly purchased in Bruges, only a few miles from the Duke’s Wynaendaele castle near Torhout.[xxvii]

The western advance of Islam was halted at Tours in 732. Crusading counterattacks erupted in the late 11th century and crusader territory in the Middle East reached its greatest extent in the year 1144.[xxviii] The mix between Crusade and Jihad was complicated in the 1230s when advance elements of Mongol forces overran much of Eastern Europe, creating “the largest land empire in the history of the world, stretching from Hungary to the China Sea.”[xxix] It is at this point that a mix of fact and fantasy came together that inspired Columbus and others to sail west to get to the East.
Prester John the fabled Christian ruler in the East


Flemish Priests and Prester John
Clerics were the one class of Western European society almost certain to be literate.[xxx] Literacy gave priests and monks a certain monopoly as the compilers and conveyors of strategic information.[xxxi] The Christian religious orders that many clerics belonged to had established networks transcending national borders. In this way they also acted as reliable information conduits.[xxxii]

Leading Europe on the Crusades at the time of the Mongol invasions was King Louis IX of France. Acting on either astute intelligence or wishful thinking, King Louis IX, also known to history as St. Louis, learned that one of the Mongol chieftains professed to be a Christian. So in 1253 St. Louis hurriedly dispatched a Flemish monk, Willem van Rubruck, on a mission to the Mongols.[xxxiii] 
King Louis sends Willem van Rubruck to the Great Khan

During the spring of the year 1253 van Rubruck gathered supplies and strength at his first Asian port of call, the Black Sea port of Soldaia.[xxxiv] There van Rubruck preached and ministered to the small but important community of Venetian merchants. Among the Venetian merchants residing in Soldaia at that time was a certain Marco Polo. Polo’s nephew and namesake would later be known as il milione – ‘the man of a million lies’.[xxxv] 

Van Rubruck’s return – in late 1255 – may have inspired Europeans to travel directly to the Great Khan’s court. When Niccolo Polo, his brother Marco and son Marco (the younger) left on their presumed trip to Asia in 1260, they would depart also from Soldaia and return to Acre (as van Rubruck did) in 1269.[xxxvi] The earliest reference to “Franks” – Europeans, as medieval Asians referred to them – arriving at Kublai Khan’s court is June 6, 1261.[xxxvii]  

Over a nearly three year span, armed with diplomatic letters and gifts, Willem van Rubruck journeyed across Asia to the Mongol capital and back, in an attempt to recruit an Asian ally for the Crusades.[xxxviii] Although failing in the short term to strike an alliance with the Great “Cham” (=Khan), van Rubruck did convert six residents to Christianity. Although the Mongols did not officially ally with Christian Europe to battle their common, Muslim, enemy, the Mongols did press on in their attacks on traditional Muslim states, culminating with the taking of Baghdad in 1258, just three years after van Rubruck’s return. Perhaps not coincidentally, a Mongol embassy visited the King of France in 1274 – and accepted Christian baptism at Lyon.[xxxix] Sadly, Willem van Rubruck missed witnessing this event: he died around 1270.

As a man of the cloth van Rubruck no doubt would have viewed the conversion of the Mongol envoys as a consequence of his mission. But van Rubruck’s legacy was far greater in secular terms. His eyewitness account refuted a number of geographic misconceptions – he confirmed, for example, the fact that the Caspian Sea is landlocked.[xl] It may not be coincidence that Mathew Paris’ world map – part of the first English language encyclopedia of the world, created in the late 1250s and replete with details about foreign lands and especially the Mongols – was drafted at this time. But van Rubruck’s legacy, according to scholars, spills over into other areas of geography.

At about this time other Catholic clerics created the earliest existing maritime maps.  The first mention of a sea chart (portolan) seems to be directly connected with van Rubruck: some suggest that a voyage  King Louis IX of France sailed on at this time (during which van Rubruck was present) is the first recorded voyage to use one (although certainly they existed prior to this point in time. In any event, the earliest extant (unattributed) portolan (sea) chart, called the Carta Pisana (whose farthest, measured point is Flanders) is attributed to this time (1275-1300).[xli]
Petrus Vesconte, self-depicted on one of the oldest existing portolans

Shortly afterwards, about the year 1311, another Franciscan monk, Petrus Vesconte, incorporated van Rubruck’s geographic information into his portolan.[xlii] As cartographic historian Lloyd Brown observed:  “We find the first evidence of [van] Rubruck information in the maps of Petrus Vesconte and Paolino Minorita drawn about the year 1320; since Paolino was also a Franciscan he may have had information [directly] from Rubruck, as Professor Almagia has suggested.”[xliii]

The move away from myth to empirically-derived understanding is something closely associated with the concept of Humanism and the Renaissance. Humanism and the Renaissance are generally considered to have begun simultaneously: in late 13th century northern Italy.  The leaders of this movement were, contrary to popular perception, Catholic clerics. The trigger for the Renaissance and the concept of humanism is generally believed to be the rediscovery of the knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Interestingly, it was another Flemish prelate who was most responsible for translating Archimedes, other Greek writers and most notably, Aristotle: Willem (William) van Moerbeke.[xliv]
Roger Bacon's statue at Oxford University

One man heavily influenced by Aristotle was the 13th century English monk Roger Bacon. Friar Bacon was not only influenced by he lectured on Aristotle – at both Oxford and the University of Paris.[xlv] His belief that the knowledge of the Greeks and others from the East merited serious consideration, inspired Friar Bacon “to prepare a great synthesis of all scientific knowledge” which came to be called “Opus Majus”.[xlvi] Bacon’s “Opus Majus” of circa the year 1267 is credited with, for example, the first Western reference to gunpowder.[xlvii]

Gunpowder was arguably one of the greatest military innovations in history.[xlviii] More importantly, gunpowder was unquestionably invented in China – sometime before the year 1044.[xlix] Yet it was unknown in Europe until the Franciscan friar Roger Bacon published the formula in his famous Opus Majus.

At almost exactly the same time as the Flemish Franciscan Willem van Rubruck moved to the Paris residence of the religious order, the English Franciscan Roger Bacon was banished to the very same Parisian residence (that is, circa 1257).[l]  Bacon’s offense – curiously enough – was for his attempt to write and discuss the knowledge of the East – which suggests that the banishment had less to do with punishment and more to do with Bacon’s interest in debriefing van Rubruck. As one of van Rubruck’s modern biographers writes: “Roger Bacon met [van] Rubruck…and spoke to him about his adventures and discoveries. He also examined Rubruck’s travel record and made detailed notes which we find embodied in the famous Opus Majus.”[li] 
Mongol warrior using gunpowder rocket

Although Bacon never credited van Rubruck, since it is certain that Bacon met and knew van Rubruck (and in many cases copied verbatim knowledge from van Rubruck’s report), and since it is certain that the Mongols, through their Chinese subjects, both knew and used gunpowder[lii], and since the oldest Chinese tradition is a reference to a firearm toting Chinese escort accompanying van Rubruck back to Europe[liii], it is almost certain (albeit, unproven) that Bacon’s knowledge of gunpowder came via van Rubruck.

Van Rubruck’s report had other, far-reaching consequences.[liv] More than any single European visitor to Asia, Rubruck’s report made an immense contribution to Europe’s understanding of ‘Cathay’.[lv] Decades before Marco Polo claimed to have visited China,[lvi] this devout Flemish cleric described not only the court of the Great Khan, but also society, customs, and Asian trade routes.[lvii] Rubruck reported first-hand that there was a Christian prince in Asia making war on the Muslims.[lviii] It was this information, twisted and garbled by time and translation that became the basis for the medieval legend of Prester John.[lix]

Funneled through the Franciscan network of monasteries, a copy of Rubruck’s report (and possibly copies of the portolans) came to the attention – sometime after the year 1320 – of the Abbott of the St. Omer monastery, Jan de Langhe of Ieper (Ypres) in Flanders.  Jan de Langhe apparently had both time to write and resources to augment his reading list. Fascinated with reports from frontier missionary posts, he accumulated an impressive collection for the monastic library. Extrapolating from Rubruck’s report of the wealth of Mongol China, de Langhe wrote a fanciful tale of the riches of the East. Ultimately known as “The Travels of John Mandeville”, it tells the story of an English knight’s global journey, his journey over the ocean, the wealth he discovered, and the lands inhabited by a crusading Christian prince of Asia known as Prester John.[lx]
John Mandeville

‘The Travels’ was more than a good yarn. It became the medieval equivalent of a best seller.[lxi] A modern historian says that, “the most popular description of the East, published in 1360, was The Travels of Sir John Mandeville.”[lxii] For the casual reader the yarn included dog-headed men (and other monstrosities). But the book also convincingly described the fabulous wealth of Asian potentates – and how to reach that wealth.

What excited commercially-minded readers is this passage: “Beyond this land of Ireland are to be found neither lands nor other islands towards the setting sun.  And some say that if a ship was steered in a direct line for a long distance the ship would find itself in the land of Prester John.  And others say that it is the edge of the lands of the western coast.”[lxiii]
In short, “The importance of The Travels lay[s] in a single yet startling passage which set the book apart from all other medieval travelogues. Mandeville claimed that his voyage proved for the first time that it was possible to set sail around the world in one direction and return home from the other.”[lxiv]

Although it was most probably written for a prelate’s entertainment, it came to be viewed as gospel truth.[lxv] More importantly, as we shall see, it was used as an authoritative reference by European mariners for several hundred years. Professor Larner shows that Martin Behaim (on his 1492 globe), Ponce de Leon (when he landed in Florida in 1512), Hernando Cortez (in Mexico in 1519), Martin Frobischer and Sir Walter Raleigh (in the 1570s),  Richard Hackluyt (in the 1580s) and others all demonstrated a strong familiarity with and reliance upon Mandeville as their guide.[lxvi] 

One of those who took note of Jan de Langhe’s imaginary “Travels of Mandeville” and the suggestion that sailing west could be a shortcut to the East, was Christopher Columbus.[lxvii] De Langhe’s ‘Travels of Mandeville’ became an important Flemish contribution to Columbus’ understanding of the challenges and rewards before him. But Jan de Langhe’s “Mandeville’ was not the only Flemish component contributing to Columbus’ intellectual mosaic.

Details from Jan de Langhe of Ieper's Travels of John Mandeville

Endnotes





[ii] This powerpoint presentation also exists in Dutch as “Vlaamse Bijdragen tot de Kolonisatie en de Ontdekking van Amerika” . Please contact me at debendevan @ hotmail.com  if you wish to receive a copy of these powerpoints.
[iii] Technically, Columbus Day is the 2nd Monday in October in the U.S. However, Columbus landed on October 12, 1492 according to the Julian Calendar then current. Adjusted for today’s Gregorian Calendar (not adopted in Spain, Portugal, and the Low Countries until 1582-3), the date more correctly would be October 21st . [Note: the difference between the Julian and actual date widened by 11 minutes a year or 1 full days after every 134 years (following the Nicean Council of 325 AD).] cf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julian_calendar and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregorian_calendar. Accessed October 13, 2013.
[iv] http://www.teachingheart.net/columbus.htm . Accessed October 14, 2013.
[v] Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, 1492: The Year the World Began, (New York: Harper Collins, 2010), pp.177-178.
[vi] “The Moslems had ended their holy wars, which propagated the faith of Islam, when the Christians began theirs.” William Elliot Griffis, Belgium: The Land of Art, (Chautauqua, NY: Chautauqua Press, 1912), p.71. Curiously, it may have been Robert I, Count of Flanders (brother-in-law of William the Conqueror of England) who may have set the stage for the crusades during his pilgrimmage to the Holy Land from 1085-1091. His son and successor, Robert II, Count of Flanders, was one of the primary leaders of the First Crusade (which began in 1095).
[vii] “While it would be an exaggeration to say that the Crusades encouraged trading contact between Western Europe and the Islamic World, via Italian merchant ‘states’ such as Venice, Genoa, Pisa, Ancona and others, Crusading warfare rarely – and indeed only briefly – hindered trade across the religious frontier. Even Acre itself, effectively the capital of the Crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem from the late 12th century onwards, formed a vital link in this economic network.”David Nicolle, The Crusades, (Oxford: Osprey, 2001), pp.62-63.
[viii] Eighty-two Ghent volunteers, clothed in black with white crosses painted on front and a large “G” painted on back, embarked at Sluis on May 4, 1464. A further 3,000 were said to have been marching east on June 6, 1464. Within the year, the Flemish troops were back – and redirected against Christian France.  Richard Vaughn, Philip the Good, (New York: Longman, 1970). Reprint (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2002), pp.370-372.
[ix] Peter Frankopan, De Eerste Kruistocht: De Roep uit het Oosten, (Houten: Spectrum, 2012), George Pape, trans., pp.79-80.
[x] A three year famine hit Flanders from 1144 to 1147. P.161 in James Westfall Thompson, “Dutch and Flemish Colonization in Mediaeval Germany”, in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Sep., 1918), pp. 159-186. Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2763957 . Accessed: 06/08/2013 08:53. For my attempt to bring some order to the embedded facts, please see my “The Flemish Origins of German Americans” blog post here: http://flemishamerican.blogspot.com/2012/02/flemish-origins-of-german-americans.html
[xi] “The furious racial and religious war which broke out in 1147, known as the Wendish Crusade, devastated the whole eastern frontier of Saxon Germany from Magdeburg to Holstein…The effect of the Wendish Crusade in I I47 was to open large tracts of border land to occupation which hitherto had been still precariously held by the Slavs, and a wave of Dutch and Flemish settlers followed.”p.173 in James Westfall Thompson, “Dutch and Flemish Colonization in Mediaeval Germany”, in American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Sep., 1918), pp. 159-186. Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2763957 . Accessed: 06/08/2013 08:53. For my attempt to bring some order to the embedded facts, please see my “The Flemish Origins of German Americans” blog post here: http://flemishamerican.blogspot.com/2012/02/flemish-origins-of-german-americans.html
[xii] Curiously, the Kingdom of Portugal marks its beginning as 1143 (when Alfonso announced his kingship). This is almost the exact date when the Crusader states in the eastern Mediterranean reached their greatest extent in 1144. For a nicely crafted map of the later, please see David Nicolle, The Crusades, (Oxford: Osprey, 2001), opposite page 47.
[xiii] Baldwin IX was “One of the great French feudal lords, [and] perhaps the most powerful vassal of the King of France.” Robert Lee Wolff, “Baldwin of Flanders and Hainaut, First Latin Emperor of Constantinople: His Life, Death, and Resurrection, 1172-1225”, Speculum: A Journal of Mediaeval Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Jul., 1952), pp. 281-322; p.281. Published by: Medieval Academy of America  Article Stable URL:http://www.jstor.org/stable/2853088
[xiv] Although most of Europe considered the Western European attack and sack of Constantinople in 1202 a travesty, Baldwin IX had a very different opinion. “’This was done by the Lord, and it is a miracle above all miracles.’” Baldwin, Count of Flanders & First Latin Emperor of Byzantium, after the storming of Constantinople.
In Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade: and the Sack of Constantinople, (New York: Penguin, 2004) p.xvi
[xv] “For nearly sixty years [1203-1261] the city [of Constantinople] became the ‘Latin Empire of Constantinople’ , ruled by the Count of Flanders and his successors.” Roger Crowley, Constantinople: The Last Great Siege, 1453, (London: Faber & Faber, 2003), p.28
[xvi] A Flemish priest converted Norway to Christianity in the 990s. Flemings participated in overwhelming numbers in the 1066 so-called “Norman” Conquest of England. Flemish emigrants found homes in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland in the 1100s. They were enticed into France, Germany, Iberia and elsewhere in the 1200s. Again to England and even Greenland in the 1300s and possibly even Newfoundland, Labrador and – as we shall see – the Azores in the 1400s. Please see my “Flemish Contributions to the Discovery and Settlement of America” and my blog posts at http://flemishamerican.blogpost.com .
[xviii] “In the aftermath of the conquest, the prospect of land and money had attracted people…such as Stephen of Tenremonde [Dendermonde], a Fleming.” Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade: and the Sack of Constantinople, (New York: Penguin, 2004) p.306
[xix] Steven A. Epstein, Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), p.143.
[xx] “In 1277, the first of the Genoese Atlantic galleys sailed out of the Mediterranean and then through the English Channel into the North Sea and moored at the Flemish city of Sluis, the outport of Brugge [Bruges]. Brugge began its career as the new hub of international trade between northern and southern Europe.” Wim Blockmans & Walter Prevenier, The Promised Lands: The Low Countries Under Burgundian Rule, 1369-1530, (Philadelphia: U of PA Press, 1999), p.6. One of the most dominant merchant families in Genoa – and de facto lord of many of these overseas Genoan colonies, was the Zaccaria family. It is this family who controlled the Phocaea alum deposits so critical to the dyeing of cloth. See Steven A. Epstein, Genoa and the Genoese, 958-1528, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp.144, 177-184.
[xxi] They also brought unique financial instruments. “Thus we find the Genoese Benedetto Zaccaria selling, in 1298, to his [Genoese] compatriots Enrico Suppa and Baliano Grilli 650 cantari of alum – more than thirty tons – that a ship was getting ready to transport from Aigues-Mortes to Bruges by way of the direct sea route that until recently [1277] had filled the Italians with alarm. Zaccaria agreed from the moment of signing to buy back the alum in question as soon as it arrived in Bruges. The price of the repurchase was agreed to in advance: naturally it would be higher than the price of the sale. The difference between the two prices would be what it cost Zaccaria to limit his risks: between Aigues-Morte and Bruges he was risking nothing other than his boat….Selling alum in Aigues-Morte did not yield the money for repurchase in Bruges. In Bruges, Suppa and Grilli thus lent Zaccaria the sum needed for him to buy back the cargo from them. The loan was effected by a bill of exchange, payable in Genoa….It was a complex operation, involving both insurance and credit. Zaccaria had risked only his ship. For several months he had had the benefit of the price of a cargo of alum that he had sold for ready money and bought back on credit in order to sell it again for cash. As for Suppa and Grilli, they had earned 26 percent, more than twice the simple lending rate, in a credit operation without risk.” Jean Favier, Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages, Caroline Higgit, trans., (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1998), pp. 254-255.
[xxii] “Flemish cloth was being traded [by the 12th century] in Winchester, Novgorod and at the fairs of Champagne.” Paul Ablaster, A History of the Low Countries, (New York: Palgrave, 2006), p.58.
[xxiii] “Cloth of one sort or another was made in many places, but the chief areas of manufacture were in northern Italy, northern France, Flanders, Brabant, Holland, and eastern England. Of these areas, Flanders was by far the most important. Other manufacturing areas prospered in so far as their products were complementary to those of Flanders, and could be marketed there; indeed, the clothing areas together formed a more or less continuous region held together – despite constant internal friction – by geography, by economic interdependence, and by easy and cheap transport by sea and river.”  E.E. Rich & C.H. Wilson, et.al., eds., The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, Volume 4: The Economy of Expanding Europe in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), p.173.
[xxiv]To a very considerable extent, the precocious economic development, extensive urbanisation, and wealth of medieval Flanders, was based upon the production and extensive export of a wide range of essentially woolen-based textiles, from relatively cheap mass consumption products, e.g. the coarse and light says, biffes,  etc.) to extremely expensive and also very heavy woolen broadcloths, the most luxurious of which, the kermes-dyed scarlets, rivalled the best Italian silks in elegance, quality, and price.” John Munro, “Textiles as Articles of Consumption in Flemish Towns, 1330-1575,” Working Paper, June 18, 1998, NUMBER UT-ECIPA-MUNRO5-98-04, p.2. http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/public/workingPapers/UT-ECIPA-MUNRO-98-04.pdf  Accessed October 12, 2013.
[xxv] “As late as 1516 Archbishop Valkendorf was making plans to sponsor a trading voyage to Greenland. It would be hard to explain the archbishop’s eagerness to cash in on Greenland wares if the bottom had dropped out of the market for most of what Greenland had to offer as early as the beginning of the fourteenth century. It would be equally hard to explain why Hakon V Magnusson made a five-year trade treaty with Flanders in 1308 if Norway no longer needed to market luxury goods. What were the most important luxury goods that came from Greenland? Walrus ivory was one, and we have already seen that it was a Flanders merchant who bought the walrus ivory that came in from Greenland in 1327. The other was the white gyrfalcons called Greenland falcons because they were almost never found elsewhere. It is probably safe to assume that neither ivory nor gyrfalcons were ever traded cheek-by-jowl with codfish and sheepskins in the Bergen market.  Difficult to catch even in Greenland, gyrfalcons were worth a fortune by the time they reached Europe; the Duke of Burgundy is said to have ransomed his son from the Saracens as late as [in] 1396 for twelve Greenland falcons.” Kristen Seaver, The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America, ca. A.D. 1000-1500 , (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp.82-83.
[xxvi]  “The price paid by [the Hanse city of] Lubbeck to the Holy Roman Emperor as tribute in the 14th century – was 12 hawks. While seemingly a modest demand, the contemporary open market price for these hawks was equal to 50 tons of cereal grains. This foodstuffs supply could feed as many as 200 adults for a full year.” Klaus Friedland, “The Hanseatic  League and HanseTowns in the Early Penetration of the North”, Arctic, Vol. 37, No. 4 (December, 1964), p. 540.
[xxvii] From the Wikipedia article on the castle at Wynendaele: “The castle of Wijnendale was built by Count of Flanders Robert of Friesland in the late XIth century, according to a later chronicle. The oldest contemporary source mentioning the castle is the diary of Gaalbert of Bruges, dated 1127. The castle was often used as a residence by the Counts in the XII-XIIIth centuries; Count Philip of Alsace stayed there with his Council in 1168, while a chaplain, and thus a chapel, was mentioned for the first time in 1187. In 1297, Count Gwijde of Dampierre set up in the castle an alliance with King of England Edward I.
In 1298, the castle of Wijnendale was transferred to the Counts of Namur, a junior branch of the House of Dampierre. The castle was severely damaged after the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1302) and the Coastal Flanders Uprising (1325), but it was rebuilt, so that the family of Namur often stayed in the castle until 1366. In 1407, Count of Namur John III sold the castle to Duke of Burgundy John Fearless, who transferred it three years later to his son-in-law, Count (and Duke in 1417) Adolf II of Cleves.
Wijnendale was transferred in 1463 to the junior branch of the House of Cleves, the lords of Ravenstein. Philip the Handsome described the castle as "the most beautiful vacation residence in Flanders". During a hunting party in Wijnendale, Countess Mary of Burgundy fell down from her horse and died. Her successor, Maximilian of Austria, caused a revolt in the Low Countries; after Philip of Cleves had taken the insurgents' party, the castle of Wijnendale was sacked by German soldiers in 1488. The pride of the domain, the wealthy horse stables, were completely burned. Philip rebuilt the castle immediately. After 1528, Wijnendale was reincorporated in the possessions of the senior branch of the House of Cleves; the Dukes of Cleves did not stay there permanently but welcomed several guests, including Emperor Karl V and Governor of the Low Countries Mary of Hungary.
In the second half of the XVIth century, the Dukes of Cleves progressively abandoned the castle of Wijnendale; after the Wars of Religion and the uprising against the Spanish rule, the castle was plundered in 1578 and its donjon was burned down. The oldest known images of the castle dates from that period, that is a detail on the map of the Brugse Vrije made by Pieter Pourbus in 1568 and an anonymous drawing dated 1612, once (mis?)attributed to Jan Bruegel.
The [mentally diminished] Duke Johan Willem of Cleves died in 1609 without a heir. Several German princes competed for his succession. In 1614, the Agreement of Xanten granted the domain of Wijnendale to Duke Wolfgang Willem van Palts-Neuburg. However, Emperor Rudolf II had awarded in 1610 the domain of Wijnendale to Christian II, Prince-Elector of Saxe. Christian II lived in the castle until 1634, when the Court of Brussels definitively allocated Wijnendale to the Dukes of Palts-Neuburg. They kept the domain and the castle until 1669, and again from 1690 to 1795. The castle was seized by the French troops in 1668 and 1675, and then by the Spanish troops in 1676, 1689 and 1690. The same year, the French seized again the castle, burning the bridge, the chapel and the prison. The whole was rebuilt in 1699-1700.” Accessed August 10, 2013.
[xxviii] The Crusaders began to lose territory around Edessa to Imad al-Din Zangi in 1144 AD. See the superb map, “The Crusader States at their greatest extent, c. AD 1144” in David Nicolle, The Crusades, (Oxford: Osprey, 2001), p.46.
[xxix] Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade: and the Sack of Constantinople, (New York: Penguin, 2004) p.305.
[xxx] “Prior to the twelfth century, literacy was almost exclusively the province of churchmen.” Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade: and the Sack of Constantinople, (New York: Penguin, 2004) p.xvi.
[xxxi] For example, it was another Flemish monk who is generally linked to the ‘discovery’ and translation of Aristotle’s works – which influenced west European philosophy and thought. “Willem van Moerbeke,  O.P.,(Moerbeke Geraardsbergen1215 - Corinth, circa 1286) known in the English speaking world as William of Moerbeke was a prolific medieval translator of philosophical, medical, and scientific texts from Greek into Latin. His translations were influential in his day, when few competing translations were available, and, more to the point, are still respected by modern scholars….He undertook a complete translation of the works of Aristotle or, for some portions, a revision of existing translations. Van Moerbeke was the first translator of the Politics (c. 1260) from Greek into Latin….Moerbeke's translations have had a long history; they were already standard classics by the 14th century, when Henricus Hervodius put his finger on their enduring value: they were literal (de verbo in verbo), faithful to the spirit of Aristotle and without elegance. For several of William's translations, the Greek texts have since disappeared: without him the works would be lost. William also translated mathematical treatises by Hero of Alexandria and Archimedes. Especially important was his translation of theTheological Elements of Proclus (made in 1268), because the Theological Elements is one of the fundamental sources of the revived Neo-Platonic philosophical currents of the 13th century.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_of_Moerbeke   and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_translations_of_the_12th_century ,  downloaded April 9, 2012
[xxxii] “Given the restricted levels of literacy, messages to religious houses were often the main conduit of news to the West.” Jonathan Phillips, The Fourth Crusade: and the Sack of Constantinople, (New York: Penguin, 2004) p.19.
[xxxiii] “Rubruck was born in 1215 and died in 1270. He went to the East as an envoy of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France, who learning that Sartach, son of Batu the commander of Tartar troops in Russia, had become a Christian, desired to open communications with him.” Manuel Komroff, ed., Contemporaries of Marco Polo, (New York: Dorset Press, 1989), p.52.
[xxxiv] Today Soldaia is known as Sudak. Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.61.
[xxxv] Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.61.
[xxxvi] Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.66.
[xxxvii] Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.68.
[xxxviii] Toby Lester claims that Rubruck was dispatched on “the first expressly evangelical mission to the Mongols.” But this is contrary to the stated purpose and Rubruck’s own report. See Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.61.
[xxxix] Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.79.
[xl] Toby Lester, The Fourth Part of the World: The Race to the Ends of the Earth, and the Epic Story of the Map That Gave America Its Name, (New York: Free Press, 2009), p.63.
[xli]  Bailey W. Diffie and George  D. Winius, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 1415-1580, Europe and the World in the Age of Expansion, Volume I, (St. Paul: University of Minnesota, 1977) , p.129. Other scholars state that this first known portolan dates from ca 1290. See Richard W. Unger, “The Northern Mediterranean. Economic contacts and cultural exchange over the North Sea and Baltic 1550-1750”,  XIV International Economic History Congress - Helsinki,  SESSION 36, Helsinki, Finland - August, 2006,  p.25, http://www.helsinki.fi/iehc2006/papers1/Unger.pdf  Accessed August 17, 2013.
[xlii] “The earliest specimen [sea chart] extant is at present the chart of Petrus Vesconti dated 1311.” Lloyd A. Brown, The Story of Maps, (New York: Dover, 1977); reprint of the 1949 edition; p.121.
[xliii] Wilcomb E. Washburn (ed.), Proceedings of the Vinland Map Conference, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 93.
[xliv] “Willem van Moerbeke, O.P.,(Moerbeke Geraardsbergen1215 - Corinth, circa 1286) known in the English speaking world as William of Moerbeke was a prolific medieval translator of philosophical, medical, and scientific texts from Greek into Latin. His translations were influential in his day, when few competing translations were available, and, more to the point, are still respected by modern scholars….He undertook a complete translation of the works of Aristotle or, for some portions, a revision of existing translations. Van Moerbeke was the first translator of the Politics (c. 1260) from Greek into Latin….Moerbeke's translations have had a long history; they were already standard classics by the 14th century, when Henricus Hervodius put his finger on their enduring value: they were literal (de verbo in verbo), faithful to the spirit of Aristotle and without elegance. For several of William's translations, the Greek texts have since disappeared: without him the works would be lost. William also translated mathematical treatises by Hero of Alexandria and Archimedes. Especially important was his translation of theTheological Elements of Proclus (made in 1268), because the Theological Elements is one of the fundamental sources of the revived Neo-Platonic philosophical currents of the 13th century.” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_of_Moerbeke   and  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_translations_of_the_12th_century ,  Accessed April 9, 2012.
[xlv] John Fines, “Roger Bacon”, pp-29-30 in Who’s Who in the Middle Ages, (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995), p.29.
[xlvi] John Fines, “Roger Bacon”, pp-29-30 in Who’s Who in the Middle Ages, (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995), p.29.
[xlvii] Joseph Needham, Ho Ping-Yu, & Lu Gwei-Djen, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical technology, Part 7, Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.48.
[xlviii] See John F. Guilmartin, “The Most Important Military Innovations” [table], p.223 in Robert Cowley and Geoffrey Parker, eds., The Reader’s Companion to Military History, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996).
[xlix] The earliest written reference to the formula for gunpowder appears in the 武經總要;  Wǔjīng Zǒngyào, aka ”Collection of the Most Important Military Techniques” written in the year 1044. Please see Joseph Needham, Ho Ping-Yu, & Lu Gwei-Djen, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical technology, Part 7, Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.82. NOTE: in many secondary citations this reference from Needham is listed incorrectly as page 83.   
[l] John Fines, “Roger Bacon”, pp-29-30 in Who’s Who in the Middle Ages, (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1995), p.30.
[li] James Chambers, The Devil’s Horseman: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, (New York: Atheneum, 1979), p.52.
[lii] These include attacks witnessed by a Russian archbishop in 1244 as well as in the Mongol military campaigns against Persia from 1253 onwards. Joseph Needham, Ho Ping-Yu, & Lu Gwei-Djen, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical technology, Part 7, Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.572, note e.
[liii] Please see Joseph Needham, Ho Ping-Yu, & Lu Gwei-Djen, Science and Civilisation in China: Volume 5, Chemistry and Chemical technology, Part 7, Military Technology: The Gunpowder Epic, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.573, note d. Supposedly this escort’s name was Chi-Wu-Wen.
[liv] “William of Rubruck was, therefore, the first European to record his impressions of the Mongol capital.” James Chambers, The Devil’s Horseman: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, (New York: Atheneum, 1979), p.139.
[lv] “No one traveler since his  [William of Rubruck’s] day has done half so much to give a correct knowledge  of this part of Asia.” Historian William Rockhill, quoted in Manuel Komroff, ed., Contemporaries of Marco Polo, (New York: Dorset Press, 1989), p. xix.
[lvi] Although I would love for Marco Polo to have been influenced by a Flemish notary, as Professor Favier suggests below, I have found no corresponding verification. The passage, for completeness sake: “The Flemish notary Brunetto Latini chose to write his encyclopedia of c. 1260, Li livre dou tresor, in the langue d’oil, and it was used in 1298 by the Pisan notary Rusticello for his Devisement, the adventures of a Venetian traveler, one Marco Polo, whom he had met by chance and to whom the book has always subsequently been attributed.”Jean Favier, Gold & Spices: The Rise of Commerce in the Middle Ages, Caroline Higgit, trans., (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1998), p. 56.
[lvii] “His description of the islands on the way to the East is clear and specific, as is his account of the Venetian and Genoese trading posts of Tana and Caffa on the Black Sea, adding that the sea voyage from Flanders to Tana is ‘half the world’, while few westerners go there by Land because of the dangers of the trip, for the oncoming Turks now controlled much of This territory.” - Margaret Wade LeBarge,  Medieval Travelers: The Rich and the Restless, (1982) p. 11. Moreover, “He [William of Rubruck] was the first to give us [Europeans] an accurate description of Chinese writing as well as of the scripts of other Eastern races.” Manuel Komroff, ed., Contemporaries of Marco Polo, (New York: Dorset Press, 1989), p. xix
[lviii] Rubruck “was also the first to tell about the various Christian communities that he found in the Mongol empire.” Manuel Komroff, ed., Contemporaries of Marco Polo, (New York: Dorset Press, 1989), p. xix
[lix] There are claims that the concept of Prester John existed prior to Rubruck’s authorship but I have only seen that in one source (with no citations): “The legend of Prester John gained its greatest circulation with the publication, about 1165, of a letter purporting to have been sent by him to the Byzantine Emperor Manuel, of which almost 100 versions exist – or did before the First World War.” Eric Newby, The Rand McNally World Atlas of Exploration, (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1975), p.72.
[lx] “To return to the Netherlands, a far greater personage than John of Hese (or John of Utrecht) was John of Ypres or "Long John" (Jan De Langhe), who was abbot of the Benedictine house of St. Omer until his death in 1383. Long John was one of the first to appreciate the pregnancy of geographical discoveries and to collect travelers' accounts; this is very remarkable because the golden age of scientific discoveries had not yet begun (the usher of it was the Portuguese infante Henrique o Navegador, who was born only eleven years after Long John's death).“George Sarton,Introduction To The History Of Science Volume III Part II Science And Learning In The Fourteenth Century, (Carnegie Institute of Washington, 1948) p.10. Parenthetically, George Sarton, a Belgian, is the founder (for lack of a better term) of the subdiscipline of history focused on the evolution of scientific thought and achievement.
[lxi] “The sheer number of surviving manuscripts is testament to Mandeville’s popularity: more than 300 handwritten copies of The Travels still exist in Europe’s great libraries – four times the number of Marco Polo’s book.” Giles Milton, The Riddle and The Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), p.3.
[lxii] James Chambers, The Devil’s Horseman: The Mongol Invasion of Europe, (New York: Atheneum, 1979), p.166.
[lxiii] Margaret Wade LeBarge,  Medieval Travelers: The Rich and the Restless, (1982) p. 11
[lxiv] Giles Milton, The Riddle and The Knight: In Search of Sir John Mandeville, (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2001), p. 3.
[lxv] However, as early as 1450 a Bavarian monk called the Mandeville tale unreliable. John Larner, “Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville,” pp. 133-155 in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Ianucci, eds., (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), p.145.
[lxvi] John Larner, “Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville,” pp. 133-155 in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Ianucci, eds., (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), pp.146-148.
[lxvii] John Larner, “Plucking Hairs from the Great Cham’s Beard: Marco Polo, Jan de Langhe, and Sir John Mandeville,” pp. 133-155 in Marco Polo and the Encounter of East and West, Suzanne Conklin Akbari and Amilcare Ianucci, eds., (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008).

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