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Alternate History

New Wessex 776

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The POD for this ATL is double: 1) the invention of the sail by a certain West Saxon in prior to 776 2) the colonization of the Wiko Miki River in what would have been southern Maryland in 776.

History

776-1000

In 776, a group of Gewisse, the predecessor tribe of the West Saxons, tired of the rule of Offa of Mercia. Their Bishop, Cynegils, had a dream that three ships from Brendan's Island would sail up the Severn and greet his people, to whom they would teach marvellous arts. This occurred, and the bishop's dream prevented the immediate slaughter of the foreigners, with the proviso that the foreigners had to aid the flight of the Gewisse. The foreigners, in gratitude, complied. The Gewisse had heard of a land across the sea that Brendan the Irishman had (allegedly) reached in 642. Therefore the men and their (Roman Rite) bishop landed by the grace of God upon the shores of Brendans Shore. The bishop had another dream telling him that they would find their home on a great bay with a narrow entrance; so they travelled south along the coast until they discovered Bishop's Bay (Biscopes Bugt).

The timing of their departure meant that they had no knowledge of the following things: the Viking raids on England; the expansion of Wessex to rule all England; the rise of the Carolingians.

The Gewisse expanded from their initial base to dominate the area of the Lenape (OTL Delaware) tribe. The presence of smallpox among the New West Saxons devastated the indigenous 'Waelsc' populations and allowed the Gewisse settlement some breathing room, but the foreign sailors who had brought them all perished.

The Gewisse brought wheat-based horticulture with them, which became a stimulus for the expansion of wheat-based horticulture in opposition to maize-based horticulture, which started in Mexico. The expansion of horticulture induced a growth in the Gewisse and the Waelsc population and led to an early split in the northeastern tribes; some adopted agriculture, but others used horses and wheels to enhance their previous nomadism.

Year 1000

By 1000, when the Norse landed in the northern regions, a series of petty Gewisse kingdoms stretched from the initial settlement of Wick in the south to OTL Long Island Sound. The kingdoms had a small merchant fleet which could be used as the beginning of a military fleet.

There was a thriving Christian community among the Gewisse, but Waelsc converts were few. The bishops had temporal and spiritual power and were often indistinguishable from their secular counterparts. Often kings and noblemen would retire from constant fighting in order to become high ranked clergy and expiate the sins of their previous stage of life. The bishops administered themselves through a conciliar system. The bishops had adopted a provision that only one bishop needed to survive to consecrate others as a palliative to the Gewisse penchant for chopping up pagan sacred objects and killing sacred animals. However pragmatic this decision was, however, it would disqualify the Gewisse church in the eyes of Rome.

Contact between Saxon and Norse

Leifr Eiriksson's crew was composed of both Christian and pagan followers. The Norsemen were astonished when they encountered a Waelsc who could communicate in rudimentary Anglo-Saxon, since they had been expecting Gaelic if anything at all. Leifr sent a party down the coast in 1001 to investigate. This party reached the northern boundaries of the Gewisse kingdoms. Since the Gewisse had left before the Viking raids on England, they were more open to negotiations. The Norsemen informed the Gewisse of recent European history, including the resurrection of the Western Empire under the Carolingians. Some of the Gewisse interpreted the rise of a new power as a sign of the Millennium and therefore did not want to alert other Europeans to their existence. The Gewisse, displaying a stereotypical lust for shiny objects, agreed to sell grain to the Norse colonists in exchange for northern exotic materials and the exposed iron of the north. The Norse also kept the existence of the Gewisse kingdoms from Europe in order to lock the market. They used the grain they purchased to lure settlers to Greenland and then Vinland, which grew up around OTL Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Greenland's population, therefore thrived more than *here*.

Further Effects and Events

Knowledge of iron smelting and weaponry spread to the Waelsc nations, who therefore formed a force equal to that of the coastal Christian kingdoms. The Algoncwin tribes became sedentary grain farmers, but the need to create iron weapons initiated a program of deforestation. The introduction of the horse by the Gewisse had already led to an earlier and greater expansion of the Plains Culture under the aegis of the Mound Builders. The use of iron allowed the Mound Builders to make iron tipped arrows.

Plague

Although in OTL the Plague had little effect on Greenland, in this ATL, the larger number of colonists in Greenland and the continuation of the colony in Vinland allowed the Plague to spread to the Waelsc population. This devastation in numbers weakened all the chiefdoms and kingdoms on or near the coast. The most salient effects of this plague were the general adoption of an isolationist policy regarding Greenland and points west and the establishment of parity of technology among the kingdoms, which could no longer depend on numbers.

Horses

The reintroduction of the horse into the New World also produced dramatic effects. Although the Waelsc of the East Coast did not take to horses, tribes living closer to the Great Desert did; these groups also adopted the wheel. Raiding became a viable lifestyle.

Basque Discovery

At some point, Basque fishermen discovered the lands across the sea, but kept the knoweldge to themselves so that they had no competition for the abundant cod. Vinlanders who caught the Basque fisherman would kill them on sight. Therefore a legend arose of terrifying monsters in the western sea.

1492

By 1492, the Kingdom of All Gewisse extended from the territories around Bishop's Bay to Manatan. Some tributary chieftainships had been established on the far side of the semi-stripped Appalacean Mountains, since the introduction of iron into the competing chieftainships of the Mound Builder civilization had accelerated its rise and decline, as well as its geographical expansion. The Hereditary Chieftainship of Vinland controlled the entire coast of the Vinland Bight, while the Waelsc nations of the Haudenausee, the Abenacci, and the Pecwod lay between Vinland and Gewisse. The Southeast Waelsc nations were well-armed and well-organized. The Mound Builder-descended Plains Culture was amorphous but powerful. The Mescica (Aztecs) controlled a greater swathe of territory than OTL. None of the native nations thought much anymore of a white man coming from overseas.

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