Day 19

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Today was once again, a good day. It is really nice out in Durham (65 degrees, really windy, partly cloudy, and a little sun here and there, so basically paradise here in northern England) and we had class about the Viking age. Namely, how most people interpret the Vikings as cold, brutal, ruthless warmongers who seek pleasure in killing Christians and pillaging for sport. When in all actuality, some Vikings did pillage (just like the Anglos and Saxons before them, and almost every group of people throughout history) while others traded (there were “nice” Vikings) and most ended up settling and easily becoming a part of the local demographic. However, it doesn’t seem this way because most historical accounts (correction, biased, Christian accounts coming from those who were pillaged) only talk of how horrible the Vikings were (since the Christians said  that these pagans were willingly killing and converting Christians, when in all actuality they were attacking places of wealth- see rich monastery on the holy island of lindisfarne – like all other raiders did). The only difference is the Vikings used a new tactic of sea invasions, which were quick and effective (they could strike and leave before you could raise an army to defend yourself). This also presented a problem because the kings, once they raised an army, couldn’t retaliate because they couldn’t sail to Denmark, and they wouldn’t know which group was responsible.

Then we looked at some primary sources: one of which was a confusing chronicle, the other two were texts by monks or bishops saying the Christians needed be better Christians in order prevent the world from ending (possibly a result of the Viking raids).

The last part of class was a debate and discussion of whether the Vikings were essentially “good or bad” with half of the group and I arguing they were bad. The debate unfolded in this manner: I argued that the Viking age did cause much bloodshed and turbulence that was severe enough to disrupt the historical records of the time; this was then refuted with the knowledge that the Viking attacks were just as bad as those of the Anglo Saxons (or really any other period in history) (this debate devolved into a bit of yelling); we then moved onto arguing how responsible the Vikings were for the increase in trade and wealth with our group stating that we lack historical evidence to firmly state the Vikings were responsible for any increase in wealth or trade; which was subsequently refuted by the knowledge of increased coin production in York and an apparently revitalized city of York; and after more debate, we settled on the fact that the Viking age did cause a drastic shift in the history of England which provided room for subsequent changes (like the creation of the state of England and then the conquest by William the conqueror).

On a side note, the Irish professor we have giving lectures is great: he has an awesome accent, he says groovy, cool, and swears a lot, and he is super sarcastic, but in a nondescript way that is very humorous (like, he has a vicious picture of a Viking with an axe in the midst of a raid, with the quotation” I’m here to trade with you”).

After class I decided to Climb the tower of the Durham cathedral, which offered a fantastic view of Durham. Once I got to the top I saw that work was being done on the top of the tower, which was originally restored in the 1870s or so. But what they were currently doing was removing a piece of the sandstone to use it to match a new piece that will be acquired from another quarry ( to get an exact match) in order to best restore the tower’s top. I also learned that the cathedral is primarily made of sandstone from the Isthmus the cathedral is made on (the cathedral is on a sandstone bedrock). And I took some great pictures!

Then later on that night I went to another pub quiz that was great! It was actually slightly feasible (they had two general trivia question groups (apparently Britain eats 5 million sausages a day – you would have thought it was more from our breakfasts – and it rains every 3 days on average – in Durham, it’s closer to everyday), one gangster movie group where we were given a line and had to identify the movie (I got Scarface because my group alarmingly struggled with “say hello to my little friend”), one horror movie group in which we were given the villain and had to name the movie  (I knew Jack from The Shining when no one else in my group did),  one music group in which a part of the song was spoken (in full, monotone, English accent) and we had to identify the song title (which had a girls name in it) and artist, and finally we had to identify famous actors based on their caricatures. We unfortunately got second (despite crushing the horror movie category – David and I benefited from having older siblings that traumatized us with such films) to another group of students at Durham (primarily because Bill, our program coordinator, knew gangster movies, actors, and general British knowledge). But, we actually tied for second with another team. So, to break the tie with a tie breaker, I represented our team in Rock, paper, scissors, and won it (scissor always beats paper). Oh and Elizabeth had the highlight of the pub quiz when she shouted “Garden” to answer a question (the only issue is, almost all of the other groups heard)

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