TUESDAY, JULY 13, 2021
First-graders, listen up!: This morning's New York Times should become source material in Grade 1 World History class.
Some very old coins have been found in Poland. They help shed light on some events from world history.
You don't want to hold the truth back from kids! It's never too early for this:
HIGGINS (7/13/21): One theory, promoted by a Polish archaeologist leading the hunt for an explanation, is that the silver coins date from one of Europe’s earliest and most traumatic episodes of armed extortion—when an invading Viking army laid siege to Paris in 845, and had to be paid off with more than two tons of silver to prevent it from destroying the city.
The Vikings—Scandinavian warriors greatly feared because of their unruly habits and military prowess—later systematized what became an elaborate protection racket in the 11th century by imposing taxes in England known as Danegeld, tribute payments in return for safety.
What happened to the huge ransom they received for sparing Paris in 845, however, has always been a mystery.
The Vikings had a major trading post called Truso just 30 miles from Biskupiec, the Polish village where the coins were found. That has led some experts to speculate that the silver extorted in Paris made its way there and then spread into nearby areas as part of a flourishing Baltic-region trade, whose main commodity was slaves.
Mateusz Bogucki, the head of the laboratory, said he was skeptical about the Paris ransom payment theory but said the coins were still a very significant find, indicating the reach of the Carolingian Empire far beyond its heartland in Western Europe.
The coins, he said, have little financial value and would most likely fetch under $200 each on the open market, “but their value as a source of information is absolutely amazing.”
Particularly important, Mr. Bogucki said, is the light they shed on medieval trade routes, many of which revolved around the buying and selling of local people who had been captured in battle and sold or forced into bondage by slave merchants.
The Vikings played a major role as intermediaries in a brutal business fed by a voracious appetite for slaves from Europe among wealthy Muslims in the Middle East and later Central Asia. Silver coins found previously in the area have mostly been Arab dirhams, used by Muslim merchants to pay for human chattel.
This helps provide a lot of context for first-graders as they assemble their fully contextualized understanding of world and American history. This material would be especially important for first-graders who identify as Scandinavian, Viking, Middle Eastern or wealthy Muslim.
First-graders of the nation, unite! You have nothing to lose but your lunch!