Asians in C15 England

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Jim Smith
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Asians in C15 England

Postby Jim Smith » Wed Jul 14, 2010 1:57 pm

My group has a potential new member in a 23 year old Indian woman. She's a colleague of my wife's and is extremely interested in C15 English history, especially the WoTR. I have no reservations at all about her joining the group. The issue I do have is finding a role for her that either takes into account her nationality and skin colour or one which ignores it.

So i guess my question is this - is there anything that would suggest visitors from the Asian subcontinent being present in late C15 England? I seem to remember this idea being the premise for a Julian Rathbone novel I dimly remember reading around 8 years ago but would prefer something more concrete than that. Thoughts anyone?


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby James The Archer » Wed Jul 14, 2010 4:55 pm

Ignor it! or she comes from Spain and is an ex -more, we shuld not stop anyone enjoying our periode due to skin colour, and NO I'm NOT PC :D


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby the real lord duvet » Wed Jul 14, 2010 5:48 pm

best advice ever james

Anyone who comments should be called a bigot as you drive away?

No one comments that everyone in the group "red ball express" is white.

To not ignore her colour is to say depending on the period reenactment can be a white only hobby.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Type16 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 6:14 pm

Hi Jim,

This may be of interest. http://wapedia.mobi/en/Colonial_India#3.

There appears to me to be so many options if you want an early 15 C era.
EG. She came to the England on a Portugese ship; accompanying a Trader. Now she accompanies him in his travels around England........................................... So many options.

All the best to her.

If you like the concept .........mine's a pint of port :D

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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby latheaxe » Wed Jul 14, 2010 7:38 pm

According to the time travellers guide (don't know if you have a copy) Asians where present in this country in the 14th century.People travelled as far as China and Moscow too.I think it was Henry the 4th who had an elephant at the tower of London for 4 years before it died and Eddy 3rd had Leopards as pets too! So with the extensive travel that went on and the many trade links i would say it will not be a problem at all to incorporate anybody of any colour/creed into your group. :thumbup: :P



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:41 pm

Good on herself for taking the leap.
I meself have no problem with anyone of any colour, save perhaps Orangemen around the 12th of July. :wink:
I don't thinl you should even go down the route of "justifying" her role or ethnic background.
If you did then pointing out to any mouthy gobshite that there were African, Arabic and Eastern Europeans serving in the Roman legions and that there has been plenty of inter-racial mixing since then (even the Celtic Britons came from Spain and Alpine Italy).
My own thinking is that going the SCAdian route of inventing a background taking into her race sets her out as being an oddity, no matter how well intentioned or researched that may be.
After all no-one thinks I am really Italian dispite my outrageous accent.
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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby oakenshield » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:27 pm

i just asume that anyone who isnt from the northeast of england is cornish


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby KedlestonCraig » Thu Jul 15, 2010 6:39 am

Ignore it. I've got a Scottish accent but have never felt the need to portray a Scottish "character".


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby The Methley Archer » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:17 am

So to clarify,

Marcus is'nt irish, and I'm cornish. this is going well.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Nigel » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:46 am

oakenshield wrote:i just asume that anyone who isnt from the northeast of england is cornish


OR FRENCH BUT DEFFINATELY NOT RIGHT

My thoughts ignore it by calling it into view you highlight it and if anybody comments on it well tough its meant to be an all encompassing hobby isnt it


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Lonestan » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:47 am

If anybody comments, you could bring in the multi-cultural nature of medieval England (what with trading, etc); otherwise, just let it be.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Langley » Thu Jul 15, 2010 9:56 am

We have added some Roma to the group - not because we need to explain away the colour of two half West Indian members but because the family have many connections to Egypt and were fascinated by the "'gyptian" connection. since we startedf to research the history we have discovered some wonderful facts to support the contention that they were present and indeed in significant numbers depsite the first real documentatry evidence bing from Henry VIII reign. (It was a law limiting them so presumably that implies there were enough around already to have people complain!). There is plenty of other circumstantial evidence too. We are writing something for our website at present. One nice thing was finding evidence (admittedly from middle Europe) of Roma making cannon balls and we are (amongst other things) a gunning group! My research has convinced me it was a pretty multiracial society and no one made any comments - there was apparently nothing of prejudice about colour at the time from what I can see. Recall Jean Blanc who was a court trumpeter - his picture is in the Museum of London at a Mediaeval Court. Go for it. The more inclusive our hobby the better I think.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:45 pm

There was descrimination but it didn't always follow race or colour. Lowlander Scots hated Highlander Scots and they all hated Borderers but they could agree that so,metimes they hated the Irish and English more. Venetians hated Genoa, Pisians those from Florence, Milan hated Savoy, florence Rome, nobody liked Naples and everyone agreed that Germans were boring and barbaric. The High germans hated the Low Germans, the swiss and the Hungarians, Everyone in Frnace hated everyone else in France unless they were at war with the English who might be Welsh or Norman but also hated the English. All of Christendom hated all of the Ismalimc states unless they were Venetian or might be able to employ so,me Moorisco troops to fight some other "Spanish" king.But the Coptic Church was able to send delegates to the Pope and they were lost amonst all the other Arab and African pilgrims, priests, monks and bishops.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby the real lord duvet » Thu Jul 15, 2010 12:47 pm

there's less support for goths in reenactment then.

lets pick on them!



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Jim Smith » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:30 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:There was descrimination but it didn't always follow race or colour. Lowlander Scots hated Highlander Scots and they all hated Borderers but they could agree that so,metimes they hated the Irish and English more. Venetians hated Genoa, Pisians those from Florence, Milan hated Savoy, florence Rome, nobody liked Naples and everyone agreed that Germans were boring and barbaric. The High germans hated the Low Germans, the swiss and the Hungarians, Everyone in Frnace hated everyone else in France unless they were at war with the English who might be Welsh or Norman but also hated the English. All of Christendom hated all of the Ismalimc states unless they were Venetian or might be able to employ so,me Moorisco troops to fight some other "Spanish" king.But the Coptic Church was able to send delegates to the Pope and they were lost amonst all the other Arab and African pilgrims, priests, monks and bishops.



:D Superb Marcus... Touch of the Tom Lehrer creeping in there I think.

To everyone who's commented - many thanks for your comments and suggestions. Much appreciated.. :thumbup:


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Jul 16, 2010 1:22 pm

I know that there were Scarecen traders in England during the MA, as I've come across one of two in my reading. Also in the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries picture a number of men with beards and turbans on in servatns roles. I think that they may also be Scarecens, but I'm open to advice on that point.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Dave B » Tue Jul 20, 2010 4:21 pm

Langley wrote:We have added some Roma to the group - ..... since we startedf to research the history we have discovered some wonderful facts to support the contention that they were present ......


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Certainly they had got as far as Berne in 1485 if you believe Diebold Schilling.

I agree with Marcus. Make no comment on her colour or attempt to do a clever backstory. If people ask if there were people of different skin colour in england in the middle ages say yes, people and goods traveled from much of the world.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby behanner » Wed Jul 28, 2010 4:53 am

Dave B wrote:If people ask if there were people of different skin colour in england in the middle ages say yes, people and goods traveled from much of the world.


Actually that is a pretty bad answer. Outside of a few groups Italians mainly, maybe some baltic Rus you aren't going to find people who aren't NW European descent in England in the 15th century. And that doesn't even account for how xenophobic England was in this period. So saying that there were people of different skin color in England in the Middle Ages is saying something that isn't true.

Just be honest about it.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Dave B » Wed Jul 28, 2010 9:10 am

I'm prepared to stand corrected, I have to admit that I've never looked into any primary sources on this, and was making assumptions.

However given that 5% of londoners were immigrants in the middle ages, it seems surprising to suggest that not one of them was non-white. We traded with a huge part of the globe, and spain was a relatively 'local' trading partner with lots of moorish types. also we see laws start to be passed to control 'egyptians' relatively early in the tudor period, so by then there must have been populations sufficient to cause concern - you might imagine that this situation didn't arrive in a single generation from the first non european turning up.

So whilst we can argue about numbers, and I can see that non-whites would have been very rare, I'd be interested to know how you can be sure that there were no coloured people at all in medieval england.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Jim Smith » Wed Jul 28, 2010 10:09 am

Like you Dave, I'd be intetrested to know the sources that allow Behanner to be thatcertain. Anyway, the young lady in question is presently gathering her kit and will join us for her first (participating) event at Bosworth.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Langley » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:15 am

Have a look at the painting of Jean Blanc, trumpeter, at the court of Henry VII (IIRC) in the Museum of London.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Dave B » Wed Jul 28, 2010 1:24 pm

Surely with a name like that....


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Jul 28, 2010 7:00 pm

The term immigrant can be misleading Dave, in this case I would say it almost certainly refers to other English moving into London from outside of the city (given that the English often refered to those from other counties than there own as foreignors).
There could be black, arab, asian faces amongst the Italian communities of Southampton, London, Bristol, Coventry, Nottingham, York as it was not at all ancommon for Florintines and Venicatians to own non-Christian slaves (especially woman) who would then bear children who would be baptised and brought up alongside "white" bastard offspring-and of course Venice had a large over seas empire that certainly included ethnically arab and african people, while Italy itself has a history of being invaded by arabic and moor settlers prior to the 15th century.
I don't think you should try making up a back ground story to support any reason why the lass has a different shade of skin (mine has turned from pale blue to brown at last!) through a curve ball in if anyone says she looks different by replying "Does she I hadn't noticed.
As an aside I was saying the roasary to myself at Wrest Park because I couldn't get to Mass on the Sunday and a MOP smuggly told me that I should have been saying it in Latin, I told her I had been and that I was astonished at just how well she had followed it.


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby behanner » Wed Jul 28, 2010 8:25 pm

Crap I just lost my post.

There is an article "Survey of the Alien Population in England in 1440" I'll post more details later since I lost them.
I'll just cover a couple things Marcus just brought up.
Because Venice used gallies and had huge crews these crews were diverse, so for a short period of time in one or two ports in England, Southampton and London, you would find a variety of men from all over. And yes they could impregnant someone. There are almost no Italians in England outside of London and Southampton. The Southampton italian community was only 10 men so it is rather unlikely to find many non-native Italians in them, although a half italian is certainly possible.
More later.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby KedlestonCraig » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:33 pm

behanner wrote:
Dave B wrote:If people ask if there were people of different skin colour in england in the middle ages say yes, people and goods traveled from much of the world.


Actually that is a pretty bad answer. Outside of a few groups Italians mainly, maybe some baltic Rus you aren't going to find people who aren't NW European descent in England in the 15th century. And that doesn't even account for how xenophobic England was in this period. So saying that there were people of different skin color in England in the Middle Ages is saying something that isn't true.

Just be honest about it.


The London subsidy rolls of 1483 lists two "Indians" apparently but the article I read about it contained no more info than this.

The Alien Communities in London: The Subsidy Rolls of 1440 and 1483-4, J.L. Bolton, 1998


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Falamin Stinkbeard » Wed Jul 28, 2010 11:52 pm

oakenshield wrote:i just asume that anyone who isnt from the northeast of england is cornish


Lets just say the deep south


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby behanner » Thu Jul 29, 2010 4:57 am

Survey of aliens living in England in 1440. Excluding London. Not including, Dutch/Flemish, French, Irish or Scots.

Cornwall 3 Portuguese 1 Guernseyman
Devon 1 Spaniard 1 Portuguese 4 Manx 25 channel islanders.
Dorset 30 channel islanders 1 Portuguese
Somerset 4 channel islanders
Hants 10 Italians 1 Portuguese 2 Guernseymen
Essex 1 Italian
Cambridgeshire 1 Swede 1 Portugese
Norfolk 1 Orkeney Islander 1 Icelander
Suffolk 1 Icelander 1 Spaniard
Northants 1 Icelander 1 Aragonese
Westmoreland 3 Icelanders 3 Orkeney Islanders 2 Manx
Not all aliens are identified by where they are from or are identifiable.



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Dave B » Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:03 am

So perhaps a reasonable answer to the question 'were there coloured people in england in the middle ages' would be:

There were plenty of people of african origin in spain.
There were a reasonable number of sinti gypsies in germany and some other european countries in the 1400's
There may have been coloured sailors landing in british ports as ships came from many places.
We cant be sure if any of these people came to or stayed in england, we do know that they did by tudor times.
If there were here they would have been rare.

Is that fair?


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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Fox » Thu Jul 29, 2010 7:41 am

behanner wrote:Survey of aliens living in England in 1440.

Do you know if this means people who were in those counties at the time of census, or people who were resident, or people who had re-settled?



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Re: Asians in C15 England

Postby Benedict » Thu Jul 29, 2010 2:06 pm

behanner wrote:Survey of aliens living in England in 1440. Excluding London. Not including, Dutch/Flemish, French, Irish or Scots.

Cornwall 3 Portuguese 1 Guernseyman
Devon 1 Spaniard 1 Portuguese 4 Manx 25 channel islanders.
Dorset 30 channel islanders 1 Portuguese
Somerset 4 channel islanders
Hants 10 Italians 1 Portuguese 2 Guernseymen
Essex 1 Italian
Cambridgeshire 1 Swede 1 Portugese
Norfolk 1 Orkeney Islander 1 Icelander
Suffolk 1 Icelander 1 Spaniard
Northants 1 Icelander 1 Aragonese
Westmoreland 3 Icelanders 3 Orkeney Islanders 2 Manx
Not all aliens are identified by where they are from or are identifiable.


The numbers of aliens in the 1440 survey seem absurdly low, even taking account of the limitations of administration (something I really wouldn't push - medieval states could be *very* effective). I'm not at all familiar with the survey or its context though it sounds very interesting.

Are there reasons why there might be so few aliens appearing? Was the survey done for tax or toll purposes, so there might be an incentive not to feature? Does the survey just cover the countryside - ie foreigners were concentrated in towns (London, Bristol, York, Winchester for example), which would make sense in an trading/specialist artisan context? Does the survey only reflect important aliens - ie 1 Italian might be significant enough to be noticed, but the twenty others in his retinue didn't count? The 25 Channel islanders in Devon and 30 in Dorset don't fit very neatly with this.

It does rather suggest that foreigners and towns went closely together. It's also very interesting to see that Flemings and French were so common as to escape notice, while Channel Islanders appeared.

Interested to learn more,


Benedict




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