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Another New England — in Crimea
Fleeing the Norman Conquest, English émigrés established a now-forgotten New England on the northern shore of the Black Sea.
“I don't want to change the world”, sang Billy Bragg in the early 1980s, “I'm just looking for a New England.” Some nine centuries earlier, that same thought must have crossed the mind of an obscure Saxon nobleman as he sailed away from his recently vanquished homeland.
The story goes that in 1075, a Siward, earl of Gloucester led a flotilla from England into the Mediterranean. Onboard was the flower of England's native aristocracy, disenfranchised by the Norman Conquest of 1066. They reached Constantinople, gaining permission from the emperor to settle in Byzantine lands on the Black Sea's northern shore — if they could reconquer them.
They did, and founded a Nova Anglia, the towns of which echoed the names of the ones the settlers had left behind. No trace of the colony remains today, but this New England (on the Crimean peninsula, and immediately to its east) must have survived for at least a few hundred years. Well into the 14th century, the New Englanders' annual Christmas greetings to the emperor were conveyed “in their native language, English.”
Chances are you've never heard of this earlier version of New England — a geographical concept now firmly associated with the Northeastern U.S . That's because the existence of Nova Anglia is only mentioned by two medieval texts, both far removed in time and place from their subject, and both possibly derived from a single source, since lost.
Hence New England's apocryphal afterlife, even though circumstantial evidence at least partially compensates the lack of tangible remains.
A home far away from home: England, New England, and the long voyage in between.
The older of both texts is the Chronicon Universale Anonymi Laudunensis, written in 13th-century France, referring to an English emigration of 4,350 individuals aboard 235 ships, arriving in Constantinople in 1075.
The later text is the Játvarðar Saga (the Saga of Edward the Confessor), written in Iceland in the 14th century. It mentions the death of Denmark's King Sweyn II Estridsson (in 1074, or 1076) as the catalyst for the emigration. Sweyn had been the Saxon nobility's last hope of liberation from the Norman yoke.
The Norman conquerors, no doubt glad to be rid of this troublesome bunch, may have directed the English émigrés to recent conquests by their kinsmen in the Mediterranean. En route to Sicily, the English fleet ravaged Ceuta, seized Majorca and Minorca, but eventually laid a course for Constantinople after hearing of heathens besieging the imperial capital.
If, as specified by the Chronicon, the English reached Constantinople in 1075, the emperor at the time was Michael VII (1071-'78) and the siege they helped relieve was of the Seljuk Turks — making sense of the Saga mentioning "heathenfolk."
But both sources claim Alexius I (1081-1118) was the emperor when the English arrived. That is but one of the inconsistencies in the texts , sometimes also with regard to each other. The Chronicon leaves the Danish king unnamed, nor specifies the flotilla's route through the Mediterranean. It replaces Sicily with Sardinia and renames Sigurðr (as Siward is called in the Saga) as Stanardus .
The date problem may be due to the fact that disgruntled Saxons had been travelling to Constantinople before the larger migration, joining the Varangian Guard .
But the main elements of the story are the same in both texts: the ships and its noble crew, their aid to the emperor of Constantinople, and his grateful offer to include them in the Varangian Guard. Other sources support the story so far, but what follows is only in the Chronicon and the Játvarðar Saga. The latter says that:
“Earl Sigurd and the other chiefs begged emperor Alexius to give them some towns and cities which they might own and their heirs after them. The emperor knew of a land north of the sea, which used to be ruled by his predecessors, but had been won by the heathens, who lived there still. The king granted this land to them and their heirs, if they could win it.”
“Some Englishmen stayed in Miklagarðr ['the great city,' i.e., Constantinople], While Earl Sigurd and others sailed north to that land and had many battles there, winning the land and driving away those that lived there before. They called their new land England. Its pre-existing and newly built towns they named after English cities – London, York, and others. The land lies six days and nights sail east and northeast from the City. The English have lived there ever since.”
The Chronicon adds that a tax collector sent by the Emperor Alexius to the Angli orientales (Eastern English) was killed by them, after which the English remaining in Constantinople fled to New England, where they took up piracy.
Things must have been patched up again between the New Englanders and the emperor, as they continued to supply men to the Varangian Guard — the last reports of Englishmen in the Guard date from 1404.
But where exactly was their new home? The sailing distance and time mentioned by the Saga corresponds with Cherson, the Byzantine province on the Crimea, which was lost in the late 11th century to an invading force of Cumans, a Turkic nomadic people.
The possibility that the English retook it for the Byzantines is supported by a number of 14th- to 16th-century maps of the area. Londina, Susaco, and Vagropolis are shown on an Italian portolan atlas of 1553 in the area around the Kerch Strait (a.k.a. the Cimmerian Bosporus), which leads into the Sea of Azov.
Susaco, a.k.a. Porto di Susacho, is the earliest of five English-related place names that show up on portolans from the 14th to the 16th century. It could refer to "Saxons," or even to "Sussex."
On more detailed charts from the 15th and 16th century, Londina is shown close by Susaco. It is possible this reference to London, perhaps originally applied to a coastal settlement, was later transferred to the river next to it. Hence numerous references to Flumen Londina (the Londina river).
Extract from a Black Sea portolan map from 1553 by Battista Agnese, showing the area and some of the place names of New England.
Both places are located east of the Kerch Strait, while two other "English" place names are to its west, on the Crimean peninsula itself: Varangolimen and Vagropoli, respectively translatable as "Port of the Varangians" and "City of the Varangians." A third related toponym, Varangido Agaria, was placed near the mouth of the Don, on the Sea of Azov (itself labelled the Warang Sea on a Syrian map of c. 1150).
These must be the English Varangians, some academics argue, and their territory thus would have stretched from the southern tip of the Crimean peninsula via the southern shore of the Sea of Azov to east of the Kerch Strait.
Backing up that theory is a mid-13th-century report by Franciscan friars, speaking of a Terra Saxoni ("Land of the Saxons"), dotted with fortified cities and inhabited by Christians (as opposed to pagans or Muslims). The story of how they repelled a Tartar invasion suggests they were a formidable fighting force:
“When we were there we were told that the Tartars besieged a certain city of these Saxi and tried to subdue it. The inhabitants, however, made engines to match those of the Tartars, all of which they broke, and the Tartars were not able to get near the city to fight owing to these engines and missiles."
"At last they made an underground passage and bursting forth into the city they tried to set fire to it, while others fought, but the inhabitants posted a group to put out the fire, and the rest fought valiantly with those who had penetrated into the city and, killing many of them and wounding others, they forced them to retire to their own army. The Tartars, realizing that they could do nothing against them and that many of their men were dying, withdrew from the city.”
This would support the theory that fighting was the main industry of these Anglo-Varangians, regularly supplying the emperor's bodyguard with fresh fighters.
Very little else is known of this New England on the Black Sea, including when and how it ended. It is likely, however, that it eventually succumbed to another invasion of the Tartars, who would go on to found a Khanate in Crimea, and constitute the majority of the population on the peninsula — up until Joseph Stalin's deportation of the entire Crimean Tatar nation to Central Asia in 1944.
The Tatars were allowed to return from 1967. At the census of 2001, they constituted 12 percent of the population, with Ukrainians making up 24.5 percent and Russians providing a majority of 58.5 percent.
The remaining 5 percent was made up of more than a dozen more ethnicities, hinting at Crimea's colorful history. But among the Greeks and Koreans, Germans and Chuvash, Roma and Jews: not a trace of the New Englanders of old.
Strange Maps #715
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Mimicking the originals, New England is (mainly) to the south of New Scotland — Canada's province of Nova Scotia. There used to be a New Ireland in between: a British colony set up after the American Revolution and re-occupied in the War of 1812, but returned to the Americans both times. The area now is part of the U.S. state of Maine. There is also a new New Ireland, but far away: an island in the Bismarck Archipelago, part of Papua New Guinea.
 The Ecclesiastical History (ca. 1140) by Orderic Vitalis mentions that it was “Robert Guiscard, duke of Apulia, had rebelled against the emperor [Alexius] in support of Michael, whom the Greeks had driven from the throne. So the Greeks welcomed the English exiles, who went into battle against the Normans — too powerful for the Greeks alone.”
 Siward is a likelier name than Stanardus for a mid-11th-century Saxon nobleman.
 Founded in 988 by Basil II, the Varangian Guard served as the emperor's personal bodyguard. It was initially recruited among Varangians (the Slavic and Greek term for the Vikings who had settled in what later would become Russia and Ukraine), but also employed Northmen straight from Scandinavia. The Varangians were famous for their loyalty to the emperor, a quality enhanced by their detachment from Byzantine politics.
One of the most famous Varangians was Harald Hardrada, who became king of Norway and fell in battle at Stamford Bridge in 1066. His failed invasion of England contributed to the success, a few weeks later, of William's conquest. And that in turn led to the emigration that swelled the ranks of the Varangians with Anglo-Saxons. Some reports suggest that after 1261, when the Palaeologos dynasty recaptured the throne, the Guard was composed entirely of Englishmen. These Anglo-Varangians had their own church in Constantinople, dedicated to St. Nicholas and St. Augustine of Canterbury (today often identified with the Bogdan Saray church, the ruins of which are enclosed by a tire shop).
The Varangian Guard was last mentioned in 1259. As late as 1400, there were still people in the city self-identifying as "Varangians" — although probably no longer resembling the “axe-bearing barbarians” of a few centuries earlier. The Varangians in Constantinople eventually blended in to the Greek mainstream.
The COVID-19 pandemic is making health disparities in the United States crystal clear. It is a clarion call for health care systems to double their efforts in vulnerable communities.
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated America's health disparities, widening the divide between the haves and have nots.
- Studies show disparities in wealth, race, and online access have disproportionately harmed underserved U.S. communities during the pandemic.
- To begin curing this social aliment, health systems like Northwell Health are establishing relationships of trust in these communities so that the post-COVID world looks different than the pre-COVID one.
COVID-19 deepens U.S. health disparities<p>Communities on the pernicious side of America's health disparities have their unique histories, environments, and social structures. They are spread across the United States, but they all have one thing in common.</p><p>"There is one common divide in American communities, and that is poverty," said <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/about/leadership/debbie-salas-lopez" target="_blank">Debbie Salas-Lopez, MD, MPH</a>, senior vice president of community and population health at Northwell Health. "That is the undercurrent that manifests poor health, poor health outcomes, or poor health prognoses for future wellbeing."</p><p>Social determinants have far-reaching effects on health, and poor communities have unfavorable social determinants. To pick one of many examples, <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/09/27/913612554/a-crisis-within-a-crisis-food-insecurity-and-covid-19" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">food insecurity</a> reduces access to quality food, leading to poor health and communal endemics of chronic medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified some of these conditions, such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as increasing the risk of developing a severe case of coronavirus.</p><p>The pandemic didn't create poverty or food insecurity, but it exacerbated both, and the results have been catastrophic. A study published this summer in the <em><a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05971-3" target="_blank">Journal of General Internal Medicine</a></em> suggested that "social factors such as income inequality may explain why some parts of the USA are hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than others."</p><p>That's not to say better-off families in the U.S. weren't harmed. A <a href="https://voxeu.org/article/poverty-inequality-and-covid-19-us" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">paper from the Centre for Economic Policy Research</a> noted that families in counties with a higher median income experienced adjustment costs associated with the pandemic—for example, lowering income-earning interactions to align with social distancing policies. However, the paper found that the costs of social distancing were much greater for poorer families, who cannot easily alter their living circumstances, which often include more individuals living in one home and a reliance on mass transit to reach work and grocery stores. They are also disproportionately represented in essential jobs, such as retail, transportation, and health care, where maintaining physical distance can be all but impossible.</p><p>The paper also cited a positive correlation between higher income inequality and higher rates of coronavirus infection. "Our interpretation is that poorer people are less able to protect themselves, which leads them to different choices—they face a steeper trade-off between their health and their economic welfare in the context of the threats posed by COVID-19," the authors wrote.</p><p>"There are so many pandemics that this pandemic has exacerbated," Dr. Salas-Lopez noted.</p><p>One example is the health-wealth gap. The mental stressors of maintaining a low socioeconomic status, especially in the face of extreme affluence, can have a physically degrading impact on health. <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=123ECD96-EF81-46F6-983D2AE9A45FA354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Writing on this gap</a>, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, notes that socioeconomic stressors can increase blood pressure, reduce insulin response, increase chronic inflammation, and impair the prefrontal cortex and other brain functions through anxiety, depression, and cognitive load. </p><p>"Thus, from the macro level of entire body systems to the micro level of individual chromosomes, poverty finds a way to produce wear and tear," Sapolsky writes. "It is outrageous that if children are born into the wrong family, they will be predisposed toward poor health by the time they start to learn the alphabet."</p>Research on the economic and mental health fallout of COVID-19 is showing two things: That unemployment is hitting <a href="https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/09/24/economic-fallout-from-covid-19-continues-to-hit-lower-income-americans-the-hardest/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">low-income and young Americans</a> most during the pandemic, potentially widening the health-wealth gap further; and that the pandemic not only exacerbates mental health stressors, but is doing so at clinically relevant levels. As <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7413844/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the authors of one review</a> wrote, the pandemic's effects on mental health is itself an international public health priority.
Working to close the health gap<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5MDk1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTYyMzQzMn0.KSFpXH7yHYrfVPtfgcxZqAHHYzCnC2bFxwSrJqBbH4I/img.jpg?width=980" id="b40e2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1b9035370ab7b02a0dc00758e494412b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Northwell Health coronavirus testing center at Greater Springfield Community Church.
Credit: Northwell Health<p>Novel coronavirus may spread and infect indiscriminately, but pre-existing conditions, environmental stressors, and a lack of access to care and resources increase the risk of infection. These social determinants make the pandemic more dangerous, and erode communities' and families' abilities to heal from health crises that pre-date the pandemic.</p><p>How do we eliminate these divides? Dr. Salas-Lopez says the first step is recognition. "We have to open our eyes to see the suffering around us," she said. "Northwell has not shied away from that."</p><p>"We are steadfast in improving health outcomes for our vulnerable and underrepresented communities that have suffered because of the prevalence of chronic disease, a problem that led to the disproportionately higher death rate among African-Americans and Latinos during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Michael Dowling, Northwell's president and CEO. "We are committed to using every tool at our disposal—as a provider of health care, employer, purchaser and investor—to combat disparities and ensure the <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/education-and-resources/community-engagement/center-for-equity-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">equity of care</a> that everyone deserves." </p><p>With the need recognized, Dr. Salas-Lopez calls for health care systems to travel upstream and be proactive in those hard-hit communities. This requires health care systems to play a strong role, but not a unilateral one. They must build <a href="https://www.northwell.edu/news/insights/faith-based-leaders-are-the-key-to-improving-community-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">partnerships with leaders in those communities</a> and utilize those to ensure relationships last beyond the current crisis. </p><p>"We must meet with community leaders and talk to them to get their perspective on what they believe the community needs are and should be for the future. Together, we can co-create a plan to measurably improve [community] health and also to be ready for whatever comes next," she said.</p><p>Northwell has built relationships with local faith-based and community organizations in underserved communities of color. Those partnerships enabled Northwell to test more than 65,000 people across the metro New York region. The health system also offered education on coronavirus and precautions to curb its spread.</p><p>These initiatives began the process of building trust—trust that Northwell has counted on to return to these communities to administer flu vaccines to prepare for what experts fear may be a difficult flu season.</p><p>While Northwell has begun building bridges across the divides of the New York area, much will still need to be done to cure U.S. health care overall. There is hope that the COVID pandemic will awaken us to the deep disparities in the US.</p><p>"COVID has changed our world. We have to seize this opportunity, this pandemic, this crisis to do better," Dr. Salas-Lopez said. "Provide better care. Provide better health. Be better partners. Be better community citizens. And treat each other with respect and dignity.</p><p>"We need to find ways to unify this country because we're all human beings. We're all created equal, and we believe that health is one of those important rights."</p>
A study by UK archaeologists finds that longbows caused horrific injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- UK archaeologists discover medieval longbows caused injuries similar to modern gunshot wounds.
- The damage was caused by the arrows spinning clockwise.
- No longbows from medieval times survived until our times.
Battle of Agincourt.
The angle of entry into a cranium found during the excavation at a medieval Dominican friary in Exeter, England.
Credit: Oliver Creighton/University of Exeter
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Vegans and vegetarians often have nutrient deficiencies and lower BMI, which can increase the risk of fractures.
- The study found that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer fractures than meat eaters.
- Similar results were observed for vegetarians and fish eaters, though to a lesser extent.
- It's possible to be healthy on a vegan diet, though it takes some strategic planning to compensate for the nutrients that a plant-based diet can't easily provide.
Comparison of fracture cases by diet group
Credit: Tong et al.<p>The results showed that vegans were especially vulnerable to hip fractures, suffering 2.3 times more cases than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and pescatarians were also more likely to suffer hip fractures, though to a lesser extent.</p><p>One explanation may be that non-meat eaters consume less calcium and protein. Calcium helps the body build strong bones, particularly before age 30, after which the body begins to lose bone mineral density (though consuming enough calcium through diet or supplement can <a href="https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-Consumer/" target="_blank">help offset losses</a>). Lower bone mineral density means higher risk of fracture.</p><p>Protein seems to help the body absorb calcium, <a href="https://www.bonejoint.net/blog/did-you-know-that-certain-foods-block-calcium-absorption/#:~:text=Historically%2C%20nutritionists%20have%20warned%20that,may%20increase%20intestinal%20calcium%20absorption." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">when consumed in normal levels</a>. The recent study, along with past research, shows that people who don't eat meat tend to have lower levels of both protein and calcium. When the researchers accounted for non-meat eaters who supplemented their diets with calcium and protein, fracture risk decreased, but still remained significant.</p>
Credit: Pixabay<p>Another explanation is body mass index (BMI). Non-meat eaters tend to have a lower BMI, which is associated with higher fracture risk, particularly hip fractures. In the new study, vegans with a low BMI were especially likely to suffer hip fractures. That might be because having more body mass provides a cushioning effect when people fall.</p><p>Still, the study has some limitations. For one, White European women were overrepresented in the sample. The researchers also didn't collect precise data on the type of calcium or protein supplementation, diet quality or causes of fractures.</p><p>Another complicating factor: Producers of vegan products, such as plant-based milk, are increasingly fortifying foods with nutrients like calcium and protein, so modern vegans are potentially at lower risk of deficiency.</p><p>The researchers wrote that their findings "suggest that bone health in vegans requires further research."</p>