Archive for the ‘European History’ Category

What I want for Christmas

My European Union Citizenship Rights returned to me.

Yet another reason I love the EU (and call myself European)

I think I’ve mentioned before that since Modern Europe is basically a very recent thing: I don’t have an actual ethnic heritage. That means I have a lot in common with the founders of the European Union, in particular Robert Schuman who moved between Luxembourg, Germany, and France.

I just learned about Euroregions, which usually refers to a transnational co-operation structure between two (or more) contiguous territories located in different European countries. Euroregions represent a specific type of cross-border region.

So, one of my ethnic lines is SaarLorLux, which is described as

There is no well-defined structure of SaarLorLux nor even an exclusive definition of its size. Instead, there exist multiple forms of cooperation and contractual relations among all or several members. Sometimes instead of SaarLorLux, the term Greater Region is used, short for the more formal “Greater Region of Saarland, Lorraine, Luxembourg, Wallonia and (Western-) Rhineland-Palatinate”.

That pretty much sums up one ancestral line really well, which makes me French-German. While France is the only static nation in this batch of little city-states, it now would comprise parts of Switzerland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, and Belgium. And the languages would be French and German, with a few other dialects tossed in for good measure. This thumbnail from the history of Metz pretty much sums up the situation:

With the signature of the Treaty of Chambord in 1552, Metz passed to the hands of the Kings of France. As the German Protestant Princes who traded Metz (alongside Toul and Verdun) for the promise of French military assistance, had no authority to cede territory of the Holy Roman Empire, the change of jurisdiction wasn’t recognised by the Holy Roman Empire until the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Under French rule, Metz was selected as capital of the Three Bishoprics and became a strategic fortified town. With creation of the departments by the Estates-General of 1789, Metz was chosen as capital of the Department of Moselle.

The fun thing is that some Euroregions can be within other ones! There are at least two regions which overlap in my “ethnic hertiage”. I’m not sure how up to date this list is: list. And they are in a couple of Eurodistricts to boot! It also explains yet another reason I like the Euro currency so much:

The launch of the Euro gave the citizens of the border region the possibility to trade across the border without the need for advanced arithmetic operations to calculate the price, when one German mark was about three French francs and about twenty Luxembourgian francs or Belgian francs. The Euro negates the need for SaarLorLux to have currency of its own.

I remember crossing the border back into France from Germany and literally having the cashier at the bureau de change toss about 7 marks worth of change at me (about 3.50€ or US$4). [1]

Anyway, it’s a lot easier being European (and speaking English, even though I can handle French and German with some others tossed in there for good measure) than the nationalistic alternative.

[1] I was a poor student at the time, so the amount of money he tossed at me was significant. It could have bought a decent meal at an inexpensive restaurant.

Actualités de Brexit

Now, I know where my news about Brexit will come from in the most part: Le Figaro.

Now I’m really surprised that I never made anything of my degree in European Legal Studies. Toss in my thesis for my JD dealt with fisheries. Maybe I should have asked the Greenpeace chief in Brussels for a job instead of hoping for big bucks in the world of business when I found out he was a neighbour (and all round nice guy).

Ouaip, Je reste en place pour l’instant.

One reason I really hate the “mesures sanitaires” is that they cut down somewhat on my movement. I still am able to get around more than the average person, but there are still limits. At least, I’m not like my friends who were given a few days to pack up, find a flight, and go back to the US after a year long course. Still, it looks as if travel is limited as I prepare to visit my mother.

My wife said this to me in an e-mail this morning:

You indeed have led a very privileged life in comparison to my very humble upbringing…..I was never even on an airplane until my mid-twenties……….

To which I responded:

And I was on one when I was a couple of months old. Prop plane, so not a jet setter.

Yep, my first trip was to my dad’s family on a prop plane. I grew up speaking three languages: English, German, and French. Toss in phrases of others with the fact that Spanish and Italian are similar to French. But, I will admit to usually speaking English whenever possible.

Anyway, it looks like movement is going to be cut back for a while longer until the “crise sanitaire” is “resolved.”

Love-Hate about the US-Europe

I have a long post simmering where I get into some of the things I don’t like about the US. Some apply to Europe as well, but that’s easy since Europe is basically a bunch of countries which have banded together because they finally figured out trying to kill each other made no sense. Although, there are a few people who still think it does. Part of this is due to watching (wasting a couple of hours) the first two episodes of something called “Tribes of Europe”. Europe has survived serious destruction without ending up like that series.

Portrait de la contesse Fouler de Relingue

Anyway, it sort of comes down to four things: food, culture, distance, caring for cities and countryside, and transport. We could get into the Oxford comma as well, but that is francophony-anglophony. The French will eat Grandma, but prefer their lovers….

I’m not sure I should make “head” jokes, but I am very certain some of my ancestors made it through the Terror. They were able to enjoy the bals des victimes, but they exited stage right when it came to Les Mis. I’m posting the cleaned up version of coiffure à la Titus which was popular post-terror. My race memory clicked on the painting by Guérin in the Louvre.

I don’t relate to US history and always thought that the Civil War monuments commemorated the Franco-Prussian War, which was the Civil War for me. My relations fought on both sides. A direct result was that my great-great-grandfather shipped his son off to the States to avoid Bismarck’s Army. It also set off a chain reaction of events which would lead to my being born in the US. The Second World War led to my father coming to the States.

The thing is that I can get the things I like in Europe in the States/North America, and some of the things I hate about the States exist in Europe. Although, it’s hard to get something vaguely like Europe’s history in North America. People in the US prefer the myth and have done a great job of wrecking the real history, but that is changing. Just not fast enough for my taste.

Still, I would prefer Europe to the States even if there were TGVs, the cities ended at defined boundaries, and there were really cool small towns out there that had restaurants that served exciting local food. As opposed to restaurants that are exciting because everyone is carrying guns–that’s not they type of excitement I mean. I left out more obvous old settlements. Places like Cahokia and Cahawba don’t do it for me since they were ethnically cleansed from history.

I didn’t get the Hudson Valley School of Painting and the concept behind it until I spent a lot of time on the ground (can’t make a good pun of “sur-le-champ”). But no matter what the appearance is, natural resources are limited. While the Americas have been populated for millenia, the cultures that populated them have been ethnically cleansed. Or are seen as a quaint. This quotation about the “First Thanksgiving” gets to the point:

One is that history doesn’t begin for Native people until Europeans arrive. People had been in the Americas for least 12,000 years and according to some Native traditions, since the beginning of time. And having history start with the English is a way of dismissing all that. The second is that the arrival of the Mayflower is some kind of first-contact episode. It’s not. Wampanoags had a century of contact with Europeans–it was bloody and it involved slave raiding by Europeans. At least two and maybe more Wampanoags, when the Pilgrims arrived, spoke English, had already been to Europe and back and knew the very organizers of the Pilgrims’ venture.

Most poignantly, using a shared dinner as a symbol for colonialism really has it backward. No question about it, Wampanoag leader Ousamequin reached out to the English at Plymouth and wanted an alliance with them. But it’s not because he was innately friendly. It’s because his people have been decimated by an epidemic disease, and Ousamequin sees the English as an opportunity to fend off his tribal rebels. That’s not the stuff of Thanksgiving pageants. The Thanksgiving myth doesn’t address the deterioration of this relationship culminating in one of the most horrific colonial Indian wars on record, King Philip’s War, and also doesn’t address Wampanoag survival and adaptation over the centuries, which is why they’re still here, despite the odds.

I found that while looking for this clip. I saw it when I went to the Smithsonian Museum of the Native American the day my application for European residency came through. The speaker is Paul Chaat Smith (Comanche).

Unfortunately, the westward expansion of the English Colonies meant ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans.

Anyway, Paul, my family is supposed to have been there for that First Thanksgiving, but it’s a lot more difficult for a European to move back than most people realise. And changing North America for the better is tough with monied interests blocking the way.

Angèle – Bruxelles je t’aime

I learned about Angèle last summer. The person who told me about her said she was Dutch.

No, she’s Flemish.

I really understand this song: especially as I am now working on my being certified as a “Francophone”. This is despite having the French language foisted upon me.

I don’t have the same issue proving I am a German speaker.

Enjoy! Profitez! Geniet! Genießen!

Note that I posted that last bit in English!

BTW, the announcement in Flemish at the start of the clip relates to when the CD will be released. You can preorder it online. I did!


You might not think it from reading my posts at Penigma, but Brexit is far more of an issue for me than Trump. That’s because my right of free movement and residency are going away soon. Maybe it won’t be too much of a problem since the UK is not a party to the Schengen Area.

Citizens the only people who have a right to come and go into a country under international law. Let’s toss in that the right of asylum is covered under international law to make this an aside. So, I find the whinging by “liberals” about immigrants into the US to be amusing, but that is probably due to American Exceptionalism combined with the myth that the US has “always been welcoming to immigrants”.

Not really.

But as I said, that was a bit of an aside, but related to where I am going here. Brexit is going to screw up the residency of quite a few people of both the UK and the EU member states (with the exception of Ireland, but that’s a sort of). People who have been resident under the terms of the European Union membership are going to find they have to apply for formal residency.

Somewhat of a headache due to paperwork. Toss in that some places (E.g., Belgium) can be a tax headache if you are “self-employed”. Being retired is less of a problem since most places welcome retired people if you “aren’t going to steal jobs”. In fact most places welcome people who are willing to contribute to society.

That means going through some hoops to get in. Although residency usually isn’t hard. Citizenship is another issue: especially if you don’t want to get to the border and find they won’t let you in. Or hit you with penalties as is the case in the Schengen Area. Unlike the US, some countries actually have criminal penalties for violating the immigration laws.

So, what is the Schengen Area?

It was created by treaty and includes most of Europe. It’s basically a zone that once you don’t need a passport have entered it to move around. If you are a citizen of the Schengen nations.

OTOH, Nationals from some countries need to obtain a Schengen visa in order to enter one of its member countries or travel within the area. It is a short-stay visa valid for 90 days. It also allows international transit at airports in Schengen countries.  The US and UK aren’t one of those countries, but Citizens of non-Schengen countries which are not required to have visas still have to respect the infamous 90/180 day rule.

Another point where most multiple-entry Schengen visa holders get confused, as well as the nationals of the countries that are permitted to enter Schengen visa-free. Most people think that the 180-day period starts on the day you visa becomes valid, which is not true.

Actually, the 180-day period keeps rolling. Therefore, anytime you wish to enter the Schengen, you just have to count backwards the last 180 days, and see if you have been present in the Schengen for more than 90 days throughout that period.

And you are subject to a €1200 fine if you overstay your 90 days: even if only by one day! Loads of tourists complain that they were hit with a fine for leaving a day late! There are ways to avoid be in Schengen for more than 90 days in the last 180 days by jumping between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. Thus, stay in Belgium for 90 days, then go to the UK for the 180 days.

Of course, residency makes a whole lot more sense. Toss in the Schengen rules are a headache.

But that is going to be a major fuck over caused by Brexit. One of many fuck overs caused by Brexit.

People really don’t get what being European really means.

Prehistoric Brit

Scientists have reconstructed his appearance based on 3D scans of the skull and information from the man’s DNA and came up with the above image.

This changes this beliefs about Early Europeans:

It was initially assumed that Cheddar Man had pale skin and fair hair, but his DNA paints a different picture, strongly suggesting he had blue eyes, a very dark brown to black complexion and dark curly hair.

The discovery shows that the genes for lighter skin became widespread in European populations far later than originally thought – and that skin colour was not always a proxy for geographic origin in the way it is often seen to be today.

The Money Shot here:

Tom Booth, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum who worked on the project, said: “It really shows up that these imaginary racial categories that we have are really very modern constructions, or very recent constructions, that really are not applicable to the past at all.”

Yoan Diekmann, a computational biologist at University College London and another member of the project’s team, agreed, saying the connection often drawn between Britishness and whiteness was “not an immutable truth. It has always changed and will change”.

I really wish Pioneer Little Britain Europe hadn’t banned me from their face book pages because I would post this every place I could.

See also:

Why I consider myself European

OK, the current map of Europe is incredibly recent (last 20 years or so) and is still changing.   Most of my “German Ancestors” weren’t from Germany since it didn’t exist as such until 1871 (and Current Germany has only existed since German reunification on 3 October 1990) Also, there were lots of little realms prior to unification of Germany and Italy..[1]


Gaul is a Celt (Breton)

As Alfred Jarry pointed out in Ubu Roi, Pere Ubu is King of Poland, which is an imaginary nation since it didn’t exist as such when the play was written.  Some of the places my ancestors came from have been contested for ages (e.g., Lorraine).  There is this French-German-Burgundian thing going on for me, which is probably why Belgium is the Second place I relate to after Britain. Although there is strong Celtic heritage as well with ancestors hailing from Galicia (it was fun seeing “Pays de Galles” and realising that could be a lot of places besides Wales).

Yes, this map obsesses me in how fluid Europe is:

Anyway, one of the reasons for the European Union is the fact that European culture can be fluid, as the map demonstrates. Even being “French” or “British” isn’t all that straight forward, given I also have Welsh and Borders ancestry. There are three centres of gravity for me on this map: Britain, The Rhine Valley, and what would be Eastern Germany/Austria-Hungary.

There is  lot more to this, but the bottom line is that being “European” isn’t really a question of being from a place since the boundaries kept moving–as did the people.

[1] The same applies to Italy which didn’t unify until 1861.