Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Great Also-Ran

I'm totally in the tank for those maps of Europe as it might have been, with all the also-rans in full majesty.  Ruthenia, Provence, Pomerania, that sort of thing.

Waverly Root understands.  In his Food of France, he explains Burgundy:
Burgundy is as much basic country, elemental country, country of long-rooted traditions as is the Ile-de-France and its attendant territories to the west, and if it is the latter territory which has been described as the most French part of France rather than Burgundy it is only because its continuous history has been attached longer to the name of France than has that of Burgundy. Burgundy's contribution to what is France today goes back as far and is of comparable cultural importance to that of the Ile-de-France, and its capital, Dijon, is one of the great cities of France, a sort of eastern Rouen, whose buildings attest to its rich past; but three quarters of its history was unrolled under a name other than that of France, and in the days of its greatness it was a dukedom that was the peer of the kingdom of France, and for all any fourteenth-century prophet could have foretold, seemed quite as likely to make France part of Burgundy as the other way around.

At a time when the Ile-de-France had added to its possessions only the Orléanais, the Berry, Champagne, and Normandy, Burgundy had expanded eastward through the Franche-Comté, and possessed also, on the far side of the territories of France, Picardy, Artois, and Flanders, a great part of what today is Belgium, all of Holland (which is to say, the southern half of the modern Netherlands)except an island around Utrecht, and the Duchy of Luxembourg.  The territories of Burgundy, more extensive than those of France, had the disadvantage of not being continuous; but they had the advantage of pinching France between them, which could be decisive in area with such well-developed means of communication as our own.  Even then France and Burgundy battled as champions, equally matched.  It was the Burgundians, you will remember, not the English, who captured Joan of Arc; the English only purchased her from her captors when Charles VII, the kind whom she had crowned,proved too parsimonious to pay her ransom.
 --Waverly Root, The Food of France 174-6 (1992)

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