Well, history. “A long, long time ago. What exactly happened?” This is how Tom Waes begins the Flemish version of the history series that was hugely popular in the Netherlands last year. Then actor Dan Schurmans talks us through seven thousand years of national history, from hunter-gatherers, through the Golden Age and the Industrial Revolution to World War I 2. More than two million Dutch people watched it, I didn’t, because at that time I was still living a life outside of television.
After the first episode of Flanders story On Dutch Sunday TV, out of curiosity, I still have the first part of Holland story Watched (via NPO Start). The Dutch and Flemish manufacturers took a closer look at the Danish original from 2017, History of Denmark. The setting is akin to documentaries and cinemas, the music is sumptuous, there are actors in costumes – without script – re-enacting history and there is a well-known narrator who walks through the scenes in an anachronistic way while taking the viewer into the story. Tom Waes keeps his distance further than Daan Schuurmans, who quietly walks over to the stable where the hunter was born five thousand years ago in the hay.
For their story, the Flemings took their “biggest and hardest leap” back in time and begin the darkness of prehistory some 38,000 years ago. The 14,000 square kilometers of Flemish soil was frozen, cold and desolate. A polar desert in which no trees grow, only bushes and grasses. But then we see a Bedouin family, father, mother and three children entering the icy plain. “Bastards”, hunter-gatherers from Africa who arrived in the Maas Valley in South Limburg around that time. Their hair is black, their skin is dark, their offspring will get progressively lighter to survive in this area with little sunlight.
turning point in history
Across mammoths, Neanderthals, and the Ice Age, the Flemish story ends where the story begins in the Dutch version: five thousand years before Christ. A turning point in history, after which everything will change. Then the seeds were sown, the growth of which will keep us busy until at least 2030. Seven thousand years ago, the first farmers settled in Europe, bringing with them their grain, livestock, and knowledge from the Middle East. They were settlers, newcomers who cut down primeval forests to build farms. They grew wheat, peas, and flaxseed and roasted their domestic goats. Slowly but surely, the farmer replaced the hunter, gatherer, and fisherman. And about what that finally brought about, that’s what he’s into Buitenhof Left Sunday afternoon. Lots of livestock, barren soil, agricultural crisis, and farmers without a future.
Flemish and Dutch archaeologists and historians are not at all enthusiastic about the agricultural revolution in the distant past. The Flemish say that the life of a farmer was difficult compared to that of a fisherman. Constant battle against nature and climate. “Cultivation didn’t have many advantages.” But whoever started it was stuck with it at a certain point. “In a sense, people have become slaves to agriculture.” I should have told you that many centuries ago.
The Dutch version still insists on a “radically different mentality and way of life” of farmers compared to hunter-gatherers. “It’s all about possession.” Livestock, soil, land, growth and expansion. All of that has to be demarcated, defined and defended and that will automatically turn into a fight. Thus, the hunter’s ax became an instrument of war in the hands of the peasants.
“Unable to type with boxing gloves on. Freelance organizer. Avid analyst. Friendly troublemaker. Bacon junkie.”
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