First of all I would like to explain why I have been going on outings to Denmark and Germany. After all, I do reenact Swedish 14th century, not German and Danish. Yeah, that’s right.
But. Swedish 14th century reenactors (really most Swedish reenactors that reenact anything else than the 18th century and onwards) are having a bit of trouble.
– The Royal library burned down in the late 17th century (1698). The oldest (i.e. the medieval) accounts were stored in the back, and weren’t saved. Almost all medieval archives went up in flames that horrid night.
– The reformation was particularly ruthless up here. It was backed up by the sly and hard nosed king Gustav Wasa and loads of accounts were destroyed along with monasteries, churches and church art.
– During the Black plague (that reached Sweden in 1350) about 1/3 of the population died. And in a country the size of Sweden with about 1 million inhabitants, the blow was fearsome. There was hardly anyone left to build churches or to decorate them. And after the plague came the agrarian crisis…
– Sweden was a bit backwater by the time. For instance, we had very few knights, and the concept of effigies was little known. We had few mighty cities and as we were situated far in the north, influences from mainland Europe took time to establish themselves. What is left of church art during the 14th century is for the most part kind of crude and poorly kept.
These are some of the reasons for my fascination in German and Danish sources. We simply don’t have enough Swedish sources to work with when it comes to art and litterature (I can think of one single manuscript from 14th century Sweden that is adorned with miniatures).
Another reason is that we had lot of contact with both Danes and Germans. Particulary German merchants were abound in Swedish cities – it is even stated in laws from the time that a city can have no more than three German mayors – if there were more, the Germans would have too much influence. Also, in the mountain regions lots of German miners came to lead and develop mining. During the latter half of the 14th century even more Germans came. Sweden had seen German nobles before, but during this time I would estimate that the German nobles were nearly as many as the Swedish – they followed King Albrecht from his homelands in Mecklenburg to be in his service and to receive estates and wealth. Some names of these are Vicke von Vitzen, Rawen von Barnekow, Heyne and Gerhard Snakenborg and Heinrich Parow (the last mentioned is a bloody traitor, but that is a different story :-)).
A third reason is that the guys in Albrechts Bössor reenact so called ”Garpar”. A Garp is a word with the meaning ”a person that is a real pain in the ass”. It also means ”German person” or ”Person of German ancestry”. In other words – we reenact German or Swedish/German mercenaries serving the German elite in Sweden, including King Albrecht, who was a duke of Schwerin (and Rostock, I believe).
There you have it. This is why I am so German. I will tell you more about the circumstances under which I try to do research some time in the near future.