This webpage is a placeholder for “The Emergence and Spread of Things” paper, which is being written. Things were ancient governance institutions, popular assemblies, that emerged and operated in northern and northwestern Europe beginning about 500 BCE. Things were quite democratic in that all free men (and in many instances women) willing and able to bear arms in defense of the society could participate.
Things were unusually powerful assemblies compared to the assemblies in the societies who lived adjacent to those who used Things.
– Elected their leaders (sheriff to king)
– Elected the general who would lead them in war
– Approved new laws and modifications to existing law
– Adjudicated some legal disputes
– Served as a witness to important events
– Local Things selected their representatives to a higher-level, regional Thing
Things were invented near Uppsala, Sweden and over 1500 years spread mainly westward all the way to Greenland (about 1000 CE). Two of them still function. Things converged in England from three different directions and served as an important, perhaps essential, foundation–local, democratic self-governance–for the emergence of what has become modern, representative democracy there beginning in the late 1600s. For example, the Magna Carta was signed at Runnymeade, a Thing meeting place.
I have assembled a dataset within Google Earth of 882 Thing places, where the Thing assemblies met. The paper describes the migrations, who and when they occurred, by which Things spread from Uppsala to achieve the observed geographical distribution.
(Thing is an unfortunate name for these assemblies, but Thing is pronounced with the hard ‘th’ sound of though, not the soft ‘th’ sound of thought (or thing as an indefinite object).