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Handling history in a permanent Migration Period

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Yora, Feb 4, 2020.

  1. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    I got this idea that the people in my world are stuck in a permanent state like in the Migration Period. People get regularly uprooted and move to other areas, where they push out the local population. Then they hang around for a few centuries until someone else shows up who pushed them out.

    The main effect is that few population reach a point where they start building large permanent constructions. Most big temples and castles are simply repurposed for their own needs. In this world this happens so frequently that nobody really knows who originally build them and for what purpose. When Group A moves in, they might have some certainty that it wasn't build by Group B, but generally don't know if Group B took it over from the original builders, or if Group C also only found and restored it.

    Everyone is very much clueless about history more than three or four centuries ago, and it's not something that many people consider relevant in any way.

    While I think this is pretty cool as an approach to long term history, I still think setting with depth greatly benefit from having at least some short term history that provides a context for who is who and why different groups have various opinions about each other.

    What kind of history would benefit such a setting? I guess having the last two or three displacement events still be fairly well remembered by elders would be something to be expected, but I think it would be quite monotonous to have much more than that for this type of event.
     
  2. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Folklore. People are storytellers and story lovers, as such we remember information hidden in narrative form. Over time stories will turn fuzzy, details that are not vital to the narrative will be forgotten, but the core developments of the past remain at the core of folk storytelling. A warrior tribe who displaced your tribe 4 centuries ago will have their name and features changed if not forgotten, and their feats will be embellished by generation after generation, until they have morphed in folk memory into great and powerful demons descending from the skies. Their history is still with the people, it has simply grown into a new form.

    As for the more modern and recent history, you can still turn to folklore, but I see you want key events. What about floods, droughts, famines, fights for rulership, tales of courtship,discoveries of new routes and places, splits within the tribes leading to new tribes? So many events to go with.
     
  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    I’ve always liked the idea of migrant groups splitting-up, going two different ways and then reuniting with each group bringing something back from their journeys.
    So, some stories about schisms, the new places the other group explored, the culture they developed for themselves and then them reuniting with the original group could make for some interesting history.
     
  4. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    The thing I am feeling the most unsure about is how history would become relevant to society as it is now. Creating historic events that happened is pretty easy, but if they don't have immediate consequences, I see little point in writing them.
    I think history as backstory has the most purpose when it explains something that is present in the world, which characters encounter and interact with with some frequency.

    One idea that I've come up with is to have a kind of Beaver Wars scenario in one region. Something happened relatively recently that devastated the region which is now quite depopulated, with the remaining people not being in great shape. People from across the mountains come over because there's a valuable resource that the locals now have little use for. The foreigners see a much greater abundance than they can collect themselves, so they tell the natives they will buy everything they bring to them. That resource now becomes hugely valuable to the natives because they can trade it for goods from the outside they no longer have access to. And so the different groups of locals are at each other's throats, and everyone knows it the fault of the foreign traders. But everyone also wants the stuff that the foreigners trade.
    It also just happens that on my map, this area would be the only overland connection between the two main regions, which means it affects international trade everywhere. It makes the sea merchants happy because more goods are transported over sea, but also annoys the people who now have to pay more and wait longer for some foreign goods. And bloody money always makes for nice personal conflicts.
    The whole context of The Revenant is about this historic background. I think this should be pretty applicable even if the foreigners don't have guns to sell to the locals.
     
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Did you ever mark your height on the wall of your home as a kid growing up?

    Inhabitants have a way of leaving records of their stay. You could include some of this in your story. When Group A moved into a castle, they didn't destroy the statues, stone motifs, etc., left by the previous inhabitants. Three hundred years later, those still exist. Perhaps Group A has forgotten the significance of those traces or has "re-interpreted" some of those things incorrectly. Maybe Group A has preserved some things and forgotten others—for instance, some cavern is discovered below the castle and has cave paintings and/or statuary showing the then-recent history of Group B. Or of Group C. If any of these groups use writing to preserve a history, perhaps traces of this might have been left behind also. Like our world's Dead Sea Scrolls found in caves.

    These might be examples of one group having "more" (seemingly) history about some other groups than even about themselves. Could be an interesting dynamic.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
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  6. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    Having statues and wall paintings showing unknown people and made by unknown creators is a really cool idea I've not been thinking of yet. That's certainly something that would be expected in such a world and a good way to communicate this feature.
    I just was playing the old game Baldur's Gate 2 and there is a very fancy tomb holding an unknown sealed evil behind an unassuming door right in the sewers. That's just this kind of thing, only taken to another level.
     
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  7. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    I think your time line is too long for this to be really different from real history. a couple of centuries is a very long time for nations to exist, remain the same and in one place. Most of the nations you would name today have existed for shorter periods of time.

    Take the history of Byzantium. That empire did exist for a 1000 years, give or take. But in that period they had numerous new neighbors which arrived via migration. There were Huns, Mongols, Avars, Cumans, Goths, Magyars, Burgundians, Franks, Gepids, Heruli, Quadi, Rosomoni, Rugi, Sciri, Suevi, Taifali, Vandals and Alans. Which gives 50 or so years on average for each group.

    200 or more years is a very long time, 400 is an eternity in terms of nations and being in one place. 400 years ago, the Europeans started colonizing much of the america's, Japan closed itself off to the rest of the world, we started the scientific revolution and islamic powers ruled the Indian subcontinent.

    Most people today can name but a few items that took place in that 400 year period, many cities didn't exist in the same way or on the same scale as they do now. Whole castles have been built and demolished in that period and empires have risen and fallen. In my history lessons in high school, the period between the fall of Napoleon and the first world war was considered to be very peaceful for a very long time, and that was only 100 years. The EU a few years ago got the Noble peace price for keeping Europe peaceful for 6 decades (with only a minor war in Yugoslavia). I have trouble imagining the world my parents grew up in (with no TV, few cars, one telephone in the whole street, that sort of thing), let alone the world my grandparents grew up in.

    If you want to make it a defining feature of your world, you need the migration period to be shorter then 50 years (2 generations). Anything over that and you simply have countries and people who do stuff, regular history.
     
  8. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    That depends on how you define a nation. As a state with unchanging borders and a continuous government, 400 years is pretty impressive. But that's not what you're dealing with in Migration Period Europe, except for the floundering West Roman Empire. In this scenario you are dealing with ethnic groups, like Saxons, Suebi, Bulgars, or Avars. They don't have one centralized government or fixed borders. They are groups of people with shared cultures who stick together when they are forced out of the places they lived in. These are tribes, not states.
    Of course they change, split, and merge over time, but having an identifiable entity that persists over 400 years really isn't unusual.
     
  9. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Inkling

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    I actually think it's the other way around. The more migratory you are, the more likely you are to join up with another group, blend your cultures or accept another culture and move forward from there. Among the steppe people around 400 AD this was common to happen. The Huns of Attila assimilated many smaller tribes by being successful. They either conquered them, or smaller tribes allied themselves with the Huns because they were winning and everyone likes being on the winning side. These groups adopted many of the practices and cultures of the Huns, becoming more similar over time. Only when the Huns started losing did they split off again in groups, which were probably very different from those who joined in the first place. If you are stuck in one place, then you actually set down roots and you start to identify with the place and think in terms of this is us.

    Also, I think 400 years is too long to even count something as an identifiable entity. I don't think I would be able to identify with a dutch person from 1620. I only share a roughly comparable language with them and live in the same region of the world. Anything else will be different. In my opinion, anyone pointing back at some long forgotten people claiming that they share some values and saying how great they are is simply engaged in propaganda.
     
  10. Yora

    Yora Maester

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    It doesn't have to be the same entity. It just has to be the people seeing themselves as the descendants of the people who settled in the place 400 years earlier.
     
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