Sunday 12 February 2023

Nerd Church - Versions of History

Warning: this post discusses various historical shenanigans, which means it ends up covering topics including but not limited to: racism, Homophobia, colonisation, and war.

Versions of History

The phrase 'revisionist history' is one I've seen crop up from time to time, usually from someone right-wing and ill-informed, when people are discussing diversity in history.

Since it's LGBT+ History Month here in the UK, and Black History Month in the USA (the UK's is in October,) - I've seen it more than once, in my online travellings, since the start of February.

And it's irritating.


For all those who assume that European history, in particular, looks a certain way, a few snapshots in time, from across the continent:

The North African general Ṭāriq ibn Ziyād invites you to the newly-gained territories of the Umayyad Caliphate.

The architecture and art is stunning. The mosques will be truly beautiful.

The influence of this caliphate will last long beyond its governmental presence, and help to make Spain a thriving medieval mix of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures and kingdoms.


Attila surveys the land. 

Centuries from now, they will debate what colour his skin is, where his people came from, whether 'Eurasian' tends more to the European or the Asian.

He does not care. What are these words to him?

They will try to define the Hun. And they will fail. The Hun is the Hun, and that is more than enough. For the glory of the nomadic Hunnic empire will not be denied.

Surveying this land, this Gaul, which one day they will call 'France,' Attila smiles. Maybe he will win this battle, maybe not. But for now, Attila stands in Rome's Gaul.


Leonardo Da Vinci knows so much and yet so little, and one day the world will know so much and yet so little about him.

But for now he has painting and designing and drinking to do.

For now, he has his Salai

That beautiful wild boy who he will draw intimately (though future centuries will debate and deny each and every picture,) - the perfect model for any portrait, Leonardo can even use his pretty features as a template for women, should he wish...


So Mrs Nightingale doesn't want Mrs Seacole's help. Mrs Seacole doesn't care - she'll make her own way out to the front.

There are boys and men out there, left out on the cold Crimean battlefields. It won't be said that Mary Seacole left those boys to die.

If those 'proper' English white ladies won't take on this Creole Jamaican doctoress, that's their loss. But she's not going to let those boys suffer for it.

It doesn't matter what the land is called - Russia, Ukraine, Crimea. She will help nurse those British soldiers back to health. And they will love her for it.


History is rarely simple.

History is complex because people are complex. History is messy because people are messy.

Nothing is 100% good or 100% bad (though some things, I grant you, come pretty goddamn close.) 

But no-one is served by denying the truth.

It's not 'revisionist' to point out that Europe has always been a mixture of races, ethnicities, sexualities, genders, disabilities, religions, peoples. 

Minorities, often, yes - but does that make their presence any less real? No. These were people. European people, at that.

They may be descended from Asian people, African people, Balkan people, Germanic people, Greek people, Middle Eastern people, Celtic people, Norse people, probably a bunch of others I can't think of right now... but all Europeans. 

You think North African and Middle Eastern Muslims lived in Spain for centuries and left none of their DNA running around in Western Europe?

You think the Roman Empire, spanning parts of Africa and the Middle East as it did, never involved immigration between its territories? 

(And to any right-wing a-holes about to raise the point: no, no matter what Boris Johnson says, immigration did not lead to 'the fall of Rome' you reductionist losers.)

You think that Eastern Europe and Turkey did their empire-based dances for centuries without swapping cultures and genetics from time to time?

The lines between Europe and Asia - and sometimes Africa - are blurred at best.

Not least because humanity came from Black African people - sorry-not-sorry white supremacists, you still suck - from Africa, humanity migrated to Asia and Europe. 

Some of the Asian and European groups interacted with other species of human (...which is a whole other thing I don't have the patience to explain,) resulting in ethnic variation, and evolved adaptations such as paler skin to allow us to absorb the scant Vitamin D available in Northern climates.

But all of us are descended, somewhere along the way, from Black African homo sapiens. Basically, Adam and Eve were Black. (And probably Steve too.)

So, while the question of why European history is often centred in Western media and culture, is valid to the utmost degree -

(especially in Western countries outside Europe, which have no reason to centre Europe over Asia, or Africa, or their own Indigenous peoples)

- you also have to ask... why is it only the one face of Europe that we're allowed to see?

...When, since antiquity - since pre-history, even - Europe has had so very many different faces.

Makes you think, huh?

And there's nothing 'revisionist' about that.

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  1. My dad is from Sicily and in his DNA there is traces of North African ancestry. Now obviously this doesn't give him the opportunity to claim he's oppressed or a POC, but, he has told us before that Italians from the North used to call him and other Southern Italians slurs because of this ancestry. It's so disturbing that white people will insult other white people for literally not being "white enough," as this definitely reinforces white supremacy and just general bigotry that occurs for people of colour in Europe.

    1. Yes, White Europeans are more than capable of ethnically and racially abusing other types of White Europeans. *sighs* I'm not pretending that prejudice doesn't happen in Africa or Asia, amongst different ethnicities of African and Asian peoples, but because of colonisation, it has a definite knock-on effect from Europe. I've seen claims that America 'invented' Whiteness as opposed to multi-ethnic labels - and it's partly (not wholly - nothing's ever that simple,) true. But Europe has definitely adopted it - and also kept our old, multi-level, ethnic prejudices *as well*. There were infamous (horrendous) signs for rental properties here in the UK in the 60s, for example, which said 'No Blacks, No dogs, No Irish.'

      What's annoyed me lately is people referring to White Americans as 'European' or 'of European descent' when they *specifically* mean *White* European descent - a) European history is not that simple, and b) there are People of Colour in Europe too! They are still European. *sighs*


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