Time travel back to 1000 A.D.: Survival tips

by on June 6, 2008 at 11:44 am in History | Permalink

Londenio, a loyal MR reader, asks:

I wanted to ask for
survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random
location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in
the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such
transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and
nothing else. Any advice would help.

I hope you have an expensive gold wedding band but otherwise start off by keeping your mouth shut.  Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church.  Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language.  You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won’t even think your jokes are funny.  Even if you can prove Euler’s Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation.  I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.

Readers, do you have any other tips?  Is there any way that Londenio can leverage his knowledge of modernity (he is, by the way, a marketing professor) into socially valuable outputs?  Would prattling on about sanitation and communicable diseases do him any good?

1 Mercutio.Mont June 6, 2008 at 12:01 pm

Could he attempt to reverse engineer or somehow build something which could conceivably be constructed and be useful in the year 1000AD? I’m thinking of something like a cotton gin or printing press?

2 ed June 6, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Here’s a similar post from Brad Plumer’s blog back in 2004:

http://plumer.blogspot.com/2004_12_01_archive.html#110342192640892811

3 Sebastian June 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

Learn the basics of making soap. Even if you can’t convince anyone else about good sanitation, you can still wash your hands.

4 Milan June 6, 2008 at 12:15 pm

How well does he remember the shape of the world? Someone with a good recollection of global geography could do very well selling accurate maps.

5 Bob Murphy June 6, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Interesting point about the notation, Tyler. I had been picturing geometry proofs but those might be more useful if you got sent back to ancient Greece.

Isn’t there some sense in which you would be more wily (wilier?) than people a thousand years ago? I mean, you’ve read about a lot more cunning ploys and flashes of insight than these folks have.

Was it in Guns, Germs, and Steel where they discussed the role of literature in the conquest of the Incas? Something like, the conquistadors had read about these things and knew men were capable of such treachery, whereas it literally might not have occurred to the Incas that these white guys would ride in peacefully and then just go nuts on them.

I guess I’m wondering whether your reader could decide to take over the world.

6 critic June 6, 2008 at 12:23 pm

Hasn’t anyone heard of Mark Twain?

7 Benedict Leigh June 6, 2008 at 12:26 pm

I think it’s probably a lot harder than people expect. My best guess would be get killed by disease or irate peasants within 3 days.

For a really good take on using knowledge of economic techniques in pre tech societies Charles Stross’s series The Merchant Princes is a fascinating exploration of the issues.

8 RZ June 6, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Make sure you can endure lots of difficult physical labor in case you have to spend all day working on a farm, building barns, etc. It might help to read some time-travel or historical fiction to get an idea of how different life was then. Someone mentioned Mark Twain. You could also try some of the Outlander Series books by Diana Gabaldon.

9 Al T June 6, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Assuming like many professor I know you have a belly and soft hands (relative to the peasants in 1000AD) I say try to fool the locals into thinking you’re a lost noble that’s been kidnapped and just escaped. You’ll provide them lots of wealth down the road if they help you know.

10 Varangy June 6, 2008 at 12:35 pm

Crichton wrote a very mediocre book on this very subject. The neat bit was how message were ‘sent’ forward in time.

My advice: Try to pass yourself off as a foreign noble and mooch off the nobility and clergy for a while. Then marry into nobility.

11 Sisyphus June 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Wouldn’t the easiest way to use future knowledge to your advantage in 1000 AD be to know well the history of the time period and use that to become a successful fortune teller? The comparative advantage that you were actually right would be huge. Presumably your timeline would diverge rapidly from ours, but you could cement your reputation early and coast for a long time on it. Then, just write what would have happened in future centuries and you will be hailed as the greatest psychic in history when at least some of it comes to pass. But remember to be vague to account for the divergence, except for things that are unlikely to be affected by human history (e.g. Little Ice Age, volcanic eruptions, Tunguska asteroid strike, etc.).

12 LizardBreath June 6, 2008 at 12:47 pm

In AD 1000, Europeans didn’t have Arabic numerals yet. That’s probably your best bet, as either a calculating prodigy/performer or working as a bookkeeper for someone rich. (This assumes you’ve solved the language problems somehow; without that, you’re just screwed.)

Bring a copy of Lest Darkness Fall with you; barring the specific politics, the problems are going to be similar.

13 Alex June 6, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Although I’m having trouble finding data to back this up, I believe people of average height today would be six or nine inches taller than average in 1000 A.D. (this is based on my recollection of the heights of doorways and suits of armor from the period). If this is the case, it’s very likely that you will stick out where ever you go, and you’re likely to be very intimidating. For a man, this height may end up being a big advantage (if it doesn’t get you killed), and for a woman, I’m not really sure.

In any case, I think that pretty much anyone from our time ought to claim that they’re Chinese, or from some other land “far, far away”. You’re going to look very different from them anyway, and the foreigner card will probably excuse some of the inventing that here seem to want to do. I don’t think you need to look Chinese at all in order to try this — and if you’re uncomfortable with all this, you could just make up a non-existent region that’s far away.

As for what to do, I would consider trying to get people to keep cats as pets (“as they do in my home country”), since the cats will help with rat problems, and may help to stem the tide of the coming bubonic plague. I would take a look at http://www.krysstal.com/inventions_08.html for ideas on what you might want to invent, but I agree that things like mass production and boiled water (and crop rotation, etc?) are nice ideas too, and aren’t going to show up on this list.

14 max June 6, 2008 at 12:59 pm

Didn’t Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi already answer this question in Army of Darkness? Just make sure you bring a shotgun, a chemistry textbook, and an Oldsmobile.

15 Brett Dunbar June 6, 2008 at 1:08 pm

The printing press isn’t much use without paper. Parchment is so expensive that it is the main cost, the copyist was a smaller expense, the shortage of writing materials limited output. If you know how to make paper that should be a good job to get into, not too physically demanding and a product that has a large potential market.

16 Michael F. Martin June 6, 2008 at 1:09 pm

MOVE TO CHINA!

17 Chet June 6, 2008 at 1:10 pm

Join a monastery and become a brewer. Do some easy home-brewing now, and you should be able to pick up everything you need in situ, since they were doing it anyway. But the knowledge of brewing that you could pick up on the Internet this afternoon were religiously-guarded secrets and recipes in 1000, or else completely unknown. Just some simple sanitation techniques would produce a revolutionary product, compared to the swill they had to drink back then.

Other than that, please don’t try to invent the steam engine or the computer or whatever, as a favor to the rest of us here in uptime. It would be nice if you didn’t change the entire course of future history. Isn’t that Rule 1 of polite time-travel?

18 J. June 6, 2008 at 1:15 pm

If you are transported back in time, then it’s already the case now (in 2008) that time slices of you existed in the past. Accordingly, we know already that you did not invent any amazing machines early, or, if you did, they didn’t catch on. (See David Lewis’s “The Paradoxes of Time Travel”.)

However, from this no particular practical advice follows, except that if you try to change history, you won’t succeed.

19 LemmusLemmus June 6, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Become the world’s first financial consultant. Advise local businessmen, such as smiths or taylors. You have a knowledge of marketing, at least basic economics (if you’re often sold out, your prices are too low), and you know at least basic arithmetics.

If that doesn’t work, try to capitalize on knowing how to read and write.

(offtopic: It would be nice if the blog actually remembered my “personal info”. This works with other typepad blogs.)

20 Paul F. Dietz June 6, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Cats are actually not very good at killing rats. Rats are too big and vicious.

Cats are a good vector for catpox, which can protect against smallpox.

21 MostlyAPragmatist June 6, 2008 at 1:21 pm

It will be difficult to pass as Christian if you are a man and you are circumcised.

Making use of your education is a great idea. Also, trying to invent a better plow, spacing the planting of seeds, and saving the best seeds to plant next year’s crops (instead of eating them) should prove your usefulness to the peasant population. If you have any mathematical skills at all, you could probably be useful to a King as a cryptographer if you could make your way to a suitable court. If you wear glasses, you should try to learn lens-grinding from someone at the time, or you’ll be impaired as soon as your glasses break or you need to change your contact lenses. Then you could invent the telescope. If you have a watch, then you can use it to tell longitude and that would be worth quite a lot, too.

22 bob June 6, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Don’t step on any butterflies.

23 James D. Miller June 6, 2008 at 1:35 pm

He might be able to use his knowledge of probability theory to make a lot of money gambling

24 Robin Hanson June 6, 2008 at 1:38 pm

If you had a year’s warning to prepare yourself you might stand a chance, but if you were moved back without warning it would be pretty hopeless without that strong back.

25 Hap Allen June 6, 2008 at 1:44 pm

All the above suggestions are fascinating.

But the first thing I would do would be to tune into the current reality upon arrival. First things first. What’s possible given the constraints I become aware of. Immediate needs: water, food, housing. Instead of grandiose plans, first do what you HAVE to, Then do what you WANT to.

26 Mikko June 6, 2008 at 1:56 pm

I would recommend a trip to local grocery store before leaving. Buy as much spices as you can – mostly they are much better currency than gold. :)

27 Jim Glass June 6, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Most of these comments seem to focus on how to become a success and influence people back then.

But your first task is survival. Get every vacination you can think of right now (though many won’t be much good due to the evolution of disease over 1,000 years) and carry as many antibiotics as you can on your person at all times so when you are *poofed* back there they go with you.

Europe was a cesspool of diseases back then that came in from all directions (Africa, Asia, etc.) Life expectancy was short, and yours is going to be shorter due to your total and utter lack of natural immunity to the rhapsody of local plagues. (Think of what happened to the Native Americans when the Europeans visited — that’s you.)

Be very wary of drinking the water (you know what people did in it), drink beer. Figure out your other survival strategies on your own.

28 Ryan Waxx June 6, 2008 at 2:15 pm

Most of you are acting as if corruption didn’t exist – understandable given your modern perspective, but it WILL get you killed.

You ‘invent’ something, you better have a noble patron who has the power to protect the invention and the profits, because any official can take the former and tax farmers will take the latter.

29 Great Zamfir June 6, 2008 at 2:25 pm

I wonder if we are not gravely underestimating the people from the middle ages. Some people suggest beating them at their own trades, by knowing more about
warfare or marketing than medieval fighters or market salesmen.

But that seems unlikely to me. Those people have spend years or decades on their trade, and learned from experts. Whatever you know about theory will be likely to overwhelmed by your lack of practice. Plus both warfare and trade are typical ‘know your opponent’ jobs, something you are going to be bad at.

I guess your best bet is to become a clerk/assistent to someone who also requires some number crunching, as that is perhaps the only skill you have that is obviously better than medieval expert level. So my advice: practice your handwriting.

30 Great zamfir June 6, 2008 at 2:48 pm

oooh. i think DJ superflat just nailed the issue. If this is indeed Terminator style time travel, and you arrrive in the middel of a city naked surrounded by lots of lightning, I think we do not need to discuss survival changes any longer.

31 jorod June 6, 2008 at 2:51 pm

PS If Obama is elected, we might go back to living like the middle ages.

32 Great Zamfir June 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Which made me realize that when you travel back in time to the year 1000, actually being a Terminator would solve a lot of your problems. Like the disease, and what to do when the kings do not repay your loans.

33 mk June 6, 2008 at 3:03 pm

If you can bring stuff back, textbooks, boyscout style how-to manuals, info on metallurgy, basic machinery, electricity, and natural medicine. Aside from that, a good knowledge of medicine or engineering would prove very useful (a doctor going back will have more valuable skills than a sociologist.)

Finally, if you CAN bring stuff back, a sturdy handgun and a sturdy rifle (with plenty of ammo) will take care of the “burn as a witch/heretic” and random murder problems.

34 Jacob T. Levy June 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm

The power of the metal fastener-screw is still unknown in Europe 1000. Even a non-machine-tooled mold and a soft, low-melting-point metal like lead could mean that you could, e.g., build boats that would hold together a lot better than the status quo.

But it’s also a very simple technology– once people see how it works, you have no intellectual property in it.

No one’s yet mentioned Alan Lightman’s entertaining response to Twain, “A Modern Day Yankee in a Connecticut Court.”

35 Jim Wise June 6, 2008 at 3:18 pm

Oh, and don’t take the above advice of setting yourself up as a new profit seriously unless you _really_ have been meaning to work on your tan.

36 Jim Wise June 6, 2008 at 3:25 pm

err, `prophet’. Sigh.

37 John June 6, 2008 at 3:26 pm

Bring a working watch, preferably something mechanical that could be copied. Not only is the development of a watch incredibly important, but any many with a boat would find you incredibly useful since they could use it determine their distance traveled in longitude.

38 Alistair Morley June 6, 2008 at 3:41 pm

I think a lot of us >could< go down the war machine route. There are many military technologies and innovations that would be easy to construct and seriously impact medieval warfare: 1) Trebuchet: Premier seige engine which I believe isn't around in 1000 AD. Trivial to build from rough timber and easy to scale-down for mini "demonstrator". 2) Gunpowder: everyone knows the formula and how to source the materials, right? 3) Crossbow: Again, a powerful weapon to make Cataphract-kebabs not in contemporary existance. 4) Re-curve bow: Exists, but not in Europe yet. Again, all you need to know is the principle; the engineering is relatively easy. Don't forget bodkin arrowheads for extra penetration. 5) Hot air balloons (actually, Hydrogen should be possible with acid + iron). Fantastic recce, demoralising for opposition, and again requiring no detailed engineering knowledge. 6) Telescope lenses. You can grind glass, right? 7) Triangular sail. Need I say more? When you combine these with simple innovations in combined arms and logistics (camp organisation and crude sanitation alone will cut your casualties by >50%) you could fashion a pseudo-15th century army capable of wiping the floor with any 11th century force. Seriously, once a wealthy patron could be persuaded/sees the efficacy of just one idea, then you’d rapidly be given funds (and credibility) for another, then another. There was a big market for military engineers, especially down around Italy; you’re not creating a new market, just taking over an existing one. Be sure to trade up patrons to the King Or Pope, and you will have the resources/contacts/credibility to diversify into other technologies with more social applications. Once at this stage, simple innovations in agricuture, sanitation (“bacteria are evil spirits that live in dirty water”), mechanics, medicine and metalworking (primitive blast furnace), maths, accounting, and navigation should be easy to do, demonstrate quick returns, and see you set for life.

As many people observe, the first few days/weeks will be the hardest. So this would be my plan:

Providing you can speak “local” if not latin, why not tell tales, or sing songs for your immediate upkeep? Peasant life is boring; and travellers from distant lands may at least be fed for the benefit of their stories and news. The “son of foreign nobleman” ruse sounds good (I’m on pilgrimage, but was robbed by brigands who took my horse). As for origins, I’d say Kingdom of Prestor John and keep the Christian angle too.

As soon as you can, go to the local clergy. Show you can write your name and do long division. Even without latin you clearly have latin alphabet and education. You can also probably correctly ennunciate latin even if you can’t understand it. This is staggeringly unusual for laity circa 1000AD and with your clothes and speech should get you attention/audience with the next level up in the church.

Get yourself passed up the Clerical hierachy; at each stage, demonstrate your superior education. Geography and languages are a great way to show that you have travelled and make your story sound plausible. If you can, demonstrate a few “amusing tricks of my homeland” (NOT Magic – they will respect the difference) to keep yourself interesting. Paper planes, spinning optical bird-and-cage illusions, windmill/propellors, air pressure-glass-water or candle-air tricks, likeable tunes, modern chess or cards. It’s amazing how far a little novelty will go in that day and age.

Intermediate plan is to get to court travelling in some clerics retinue. Scope out nobles, and look for a employment as a squire or equivalent, as would often befit a foreign nobles younger son. Tell them about the trebuchet and get your first “commision”. The hard part is now done; follow instructions above and conquer world.

All in all I think if you can avoid quick death in the first few days or weeks, and have a bit of luck with disease I think the world-changing outcomes are not unfeasible. The difficult part is simply getting an audience with the small number of people with the resources and demand for your knowledge.

39 anomdebus June 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm

My advice: seek the protection of the church by being pious and start by specializing in something roughly done at the time, easy to practice and unsurprising. The first will probably be of best protection from retaliation for being an outsider. You are most likely not going to be able to get the protection of nobles without actually being at their level. The second will keep people from getting too scared of you. I would probably go the brewing route.

I don’t think the point is necessarily that you are smarter than people at the time, just you in theory stand on the shoulders of taller people. The smarts come in when you tailor your message for your audience. Hence: don’t go on about microscopic beasts but do recommend killing rats, for example.

40 PlanMaestro June 6, 2008 at 3:50 pm

1000 AD Europe?

Please find out who were the “Sea People”. Learn greek, “discover” the greek alphabet, and tell us about the “Dark Ages”. And if you can write the “History of the Trojan Wars” even better.

41 Andrew Lias June 6, 2008 at 3:58 pm

A fairly good list, Alistair, but the telescope is going to be problematic. The limiting condition is the quality of glass that you’re working with. The glass of that period was expensive and riddled with imperfections. You’d have bubbles and discolorations that would make any telescope you built fairly limited in utility.

I suspect that some of the other items on your list require much more knowledge than the basic concept. The triangular sails, for instance, would also require a good understanding of rigging that I don’t think most people who weren’t passionate sail enthusiasts would have.

Likewise, I understand the priciple behind a crossbow but could I make one using the tools of the time? I don’t think I could. I think that the fraction of people who would be able to is fairly small. I suspect that even a recurve bow would have a lot of hidden complexity that might defeat a lay attempt to introduce the technology.

I’ve already spoken to the problem of gunpowder. Making a neat pyrotechnic is one thing, but building a useful weapon to use the tech is much more difficult and potentially dangerous (I suspect that my first attempt at a hand cannon would blow my fingers off).

Of all the suggestions I’ve seen, bookkeeping seems like a capital idea. Any one of us would be fantastic at arithmatic because of our knowledge of decimal notation. If you knew a few simple accounting principles (such as double-book accounting), you’d be able to seriously leverage your influence and be able to put yourself in a position where you could have the money and influence to try more ambitious innovations.

It also occurs to me that anyone who knows modern agriculture might be able to accomplish a lot. If you know about complimentary crops, you could easily multiply the yields of your lord and thus your own place in the world.

42 Bruno June 6, 2008 at 4:05 pm

He’d write a book ( have a ghost writer to do it) and go to TV(?) shows to talk about how life was on 2000 AD. He’d make a lot of money and be famous, I have no doubt about it.

43 Bandwagon Smasher June 6, 2008 at 4:14 pm

I would think he would be best off becoming a doctor. Our modern rudimentary (high school) understanding of biology and how the body works is far superior to what they had in the Middle Ages. Even without a scientific background, our traveler could do a great amount of good treating illnesses. At the very least, he would know to sterilize wounds and advise about nutritional value and parasite risk.

44 PlanMaestro June 6, 2008 at 4:17 pm

And if it as 1000 BC Europe even better

45 Joshua Holmes June 6, 2008 at 4:29 pm

If you don’t know Latin, you’re pretty much dead. European languages have all changed drastically since 1000 AD. Since you can’t communicate with anyone, you’re going to have to use pointing and sign language to get help from anyone, probably the church. More than likely, you’re going to be enslaved or killed out of fear.

If you know Latin, you may be able to hit up the local church as an exotic pilgrim, and ask for sustenance and a place to stay. You may be able to get to Rome and get a job in the church hierarchy, but you’ll still have a couple of problems: you don’t speak Tuscan, so you’re in trouble dealing with the locals, and you’re not exactly 1000 AD orthodox Catholic. Sooner or later you’ll make some sort of flippant remark about germs or the Earth’s orbit, and you could end up dead, possibly worse.

46 Jack M. June 6, 2008 at 4:44 pm

A good plan would be pretend to be a crazy religious figure who has taken a vow of silence or have been “touched by God.” Take off all your clothes (yes, naked, this will help) and run inside the nearest church, but don’t say a word. Kneel down and start praying, or start waving your arms wildly.

If people try to talk to you, simply point to your mouth, point to the cross/sky, and start praying. Pray to God it works. Eventually, some church figure will give you clothing, and if thinks your devout, believe you.

Then find a picture of the local lord—and keep pointing at it and nodding your head and pointing to a cross until they take you there.

Then break your oath to the lord (pun). They will marvel at your language having been “changed” by God. Then bow to him and make gestures towards the cross to make him believe you are there to serve him and were sent by God. He will keep you, somehow.

Then use basic cleanliness to help him. Show them all to boil water–people will get less sick. Dress someone’s wounds. Wash food/cook well. Basic things to show that 1) you are there to help them with new found ways; and 2) not a threat. And perhaps if you know some science/magic tricks–making things disappear; making ice float; or basic card tricks—it might convince them (but be careful of witch craft!)

At this point, also be learning the language. When you learn enough, make up a story about a religious experience erasing your memory/language besides a saint telling you that you had to help this man. Say you’re from a far off land that was invaded by Muslims and the saint spirited you away to safety to this land to help the lord here. If you can, make it the local patron saint.

Now the lord should trust you, and you should have enough language skills to advise him on war/agriculture/industry/taxes in addition to medicine. After a while, get some land and follow the above advice I gave.

47 MW June 6, 2008 at 4:49 pm

And I guess, to actually give an answer to the question:

1. If you know a year beforehand, spend all your time knowing everything possible about the time and place you are traveling. Old Britian would be ideal where you could hopefully get some passing knowledge of olde english in a year’s time.

2. Most people were farmers then. Try to see if you can get food and shelter from some farmer in exchange for work. Hopefully you don’t die of disease.

From here on out, it gets tricky without any property rights. Any gains you get, people will probably invade your country for. Probably the best you could do is be an intellectual and “reason” modern economics and property rights. Basically emulate what Adam Smith did and maybe impress a King and jumpstart the industrial revolution by 800 years.

48 Anonymous June 6, 2008 at 5:18 pm

Since you will be much taller than anyone else, it will be completely impossible for you to disguise yourself as a peasant or go anywhere unnoticed. You will soon be discovered to have much better health and teeth than even local nobles, and soft hands.

Assuming you end up in Europe, your best bet would be to pass yourself off as a “holy fool” wandering madman of noble birth from a faraway land. Learn some basic prayers in Latin and make an extravagant show of Catholic piety, kneeling and praying and babbling incessantly in an incomprehensible language (modern English). Hopefully, this will ensure that no one will dare harm you. Use pantomine to beg for alms and food.

The extraordinary fact of your existence will ensure that you will soon be brought to the court of the local king. Become his mascot or court jester, slowly learning the local language. There will always be someone at the court who will be considered a scholar; ingratiate yourself with that person and teach them arithmetic using Arabic numerals (you don’t need to speak their language to do so).

As you learn the local language, invent a backstory to tell: you’re the son of the king of a wealthy foreign land, but were imprisoned soon after your birth by a usurper. Due to a soothsayer’s prophecy, the usurper felt compelled to physically treat you extremely well but denied you any contact or news whatsoever from the outside world. One day you were bound and blindfolded and taken on a very long journey by boat, and then on an equally long overland journey, during which your captors moved about only at night, in utmost stealth, and spoke languages incomprehensible to you. Then they abandoned you at the place you were found, and vanished.

Live out your life in the relative comfort of the king’s court. Cross your fingers and hope that barbarians don’t storm the castle and kill everyone inside. And remember that even the Queen of England died of smallpox as late as the end of the 17th century, so accept the fact that diseases might do you in no matter what.

49 Upset_Nerd June 6, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Trying to teach them useful ideas from economics and expecting them to make a difference seems fairly pointless considering how difficult that task is for economists even today.

As many others have said I’d bet that the biggest contribution you could make would be knowing about the importance of basic hygiene and somehow trying to leverage that knowledge as best as you could.

50 Michael Tinkler June 6, 2008 at 5:41 pm

The gold wedding band is a good idea. 1000 might be a little early for pepper, but I often think when I buy a container of green or black pepper just how far I could get in the late middle ages with this…

Train to become a master mason – growth field for the next generation…
Move to Austria and invest in silver mines…
Organic fertilizer and fallow ground…magic!

You want comfort? Head to Cluny in France – nicest monastery in Europe. Celibacy is a small price to pay.

51 Velireon June 6, 2008 at 5:46 pm

I wish people would do some research before answering this question! :-)
For example — I hate to pick on anyone, MW, so don’t take it personally, but English didn’t exist in 1000AD, not even “Olde” English. Britons spoke Latin, Saxon, or Angle-ish (both Germanic languages), or some perhaps even a Celtic tongue, depending on location. English is the result of William the Conqueror’s arrival from Normandy in 1066, and the subsequent fusion of (more or less) French & German.

52 Chris Durnell June 6, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Most of this advice is terrible. People are assuming that knowledge of basic scientific facts means the person could build these things – not so. Technological progress is a series of slow advances building on the previous successes. As an example – even if one could build a steam engine, the metallurgy doesn’t exist that could contain the pressure consistently. Your steam engine would blow up. Same principle applies to a lot (but not all) of the technological wonders people are suggesting one could “invent.” People are underestimating what materials they need to make these marvels work. Unless you are a trained engineer, I highly doubt you can make many of these things work.

Your ignorance on basic stuff that most peasants can do will likely reduce you to the status of “village idiot” fairly quickly. Can you thatch a roof, shod a horse, salt pork, protect the flock from wolves? Probably not – although you could learn quick. But people are unlikely to give you the benefit of the doubt that your fancy talk of thundersticks and flying machines is legitimate. And when will you find time to build such wonders when you need to work 12 hour days of hard labor simply to earn your meals?

Furthermore, people are recommending things the person to study now in preparation to go. Read the questions again, he asks what to do if he “unexpectedly” appears in the past. “Go back to the future and read more,” is not helpful.

Last, there is a lot of ignorance about European society and how easy it would be to be socially mobile. “Pretending to be a noble,” “become an advisor to a king,” “become a better merchant,” or “become a wizard” is not going to happen. THERE IS NO SOCIAL MOBILITY. Nobles will quickly figure out you’re a fraud, the king doesn’t pick nobodies to be his advisors, guilds don’t want competetion and are better capitalized than you, and circa 1000 AD the Church’s official position is that magic and witchcraft do not exist. You’re about 500 years too EARLY for people to believe in alchemy and hermetic magic. If you act too uppity, expect to be killed. If you start telling people God sent you or gave you secret knowledge, they’ll call you blasphemer. They know how a saint is supposed to ask, and 21st Century Americans won’t be acting like one.

The advantages you’ll have are:
1) You’re literate in the Latin alphabet even though you won’t speak the languages (probably not Latin, and the vernacular won’t be modern English even in England.) Eventually you’ll pick up the local language and be able to write it.

2) You do know Arabic numerals, and depending on the exact time you arrive, so may other people in Europe, but not many. This and knowledge of basic math (including algebra, if you still know trigonoemtry or better yet Calculus even better) will give you a real skill. The people who recommended being a bookkeeper are giving you a good advice.

3) You are probably much healthier, taller, and stronger due to better diet. You probably are in poorer shape because you’re not use to the huge amount of physical labor, but you’ll shape up soon enough. I wouldn’t worry about most diseases because you’re already immune to “killers” like measles and such although depending on how old you are, smallpox might get you. You going back in time is not the same as unexposed Indians being introduced to Old World diseases. Your bloodline is already exposed to those diseases plus any vaccinations and childhood diseases you’ve already had. I would pay attention to sanitation issues though.

4) You know rudimentary things that will help you. Importance of sanitation is one. Maybe you know the importance of crop rotation and soil depletion. Even things like moldboard plows and wheelbarrows may be new and useful. I think basic, simple things like this – that can easily be created without advanced knowledge – is more likely to generate improvements.

5) Much better understanding of geography and foreign cultures. I’m not sure of how practical that knowledge is, but it may come in useful.

Here is my advice.

1) Act like a doctrinaire Christian, show piety, and respect the clergy. If you are Catholic, you will learn quicker than if you are a Protestant. You probably lack an understanding of everything Medieval Christians believed, but some ignorance can be forgiven provided you show repentance and parrot the line once it’s explained to you.

2) Find a weapon of some kind for self-protection, even if it is just a big stick. There won’t be many roads, but find a river and follow it. Eventually you’ll meet people. They’ll probably want to avoid you, but follow them anyway – they’ll bring you to some village or town at some point. You’ll need to rely on someone’s mercy to feed and shelter you until you learn the language.

3) Be extremely courteous and respectul to any noble, or anyone riding a horse and carrying a weapon for that matter. Likewise, avoid any sexual relationship even if the farmer’s daughter is pretty and seems to like you. You’ll simply make people angry at you which could result in either exile or death.

4) Head to the cities as soon as possible. You won’t have much opportunity for advancement in the countryside, and it is a wilderness out there with bad weather, fierce animals, and bandits.

5) Your obvious skills – writing and math – would make you useful to merchants. The best place to go would be the cities of Flanders, Champagne, or northern Italy. They’ll provide the most opportunity for you. Whatever social mobility exists will be in these communes. Personally, I’d pick Venice or some other city in northern Italy.

After that, it really depends on how good you are at business and politics. If you stink, your knowledge won’t do you much good. If you are successful, you can rise up the ranks in your city state. I doubt you’ll be able to start a merchant business yourself, but if some family hires you to help with the bookkeping, you can marry into their family and hopefully make it prosper and inherit their connections.

Some people are recommending a political or warfare route. Don’t go there. The nobles know how to fight – it’s what they do – you don’t. They also won’t hesitate to kill you if you are a threat to their power. I hardly doubt you’ll ever be since they have the land, vassals, and an existing network of allies, but if you do seem a threat, you won’t live long.

And if you are a woman, decide whether you’d be happier being a nun or a whore. Or hope some nice free peasant marries you. You have my symapthies.

In short, survival will be hard enough. You have a slight chance of relative prosperity – which will be far more deprived than you realize. Chances for “real power” or “changing history” probably zero.

53 Jacob T. Levy June 6, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Velireon: I’m pretty sure that people use “Old English” to refer to the pre-Norman language of “Beowulf,” and that the subsequent infusion of French into that language created what’s referred to as “Middle English,” the language of the Canterbury Tales. Nothing hangs on the terminology, of course– it doesn’t matter whether we call the earlier language Old English or Anglo-Saxon– but it means MW didn’t misspeak.

54 Phil June 6, 2008 at 6:07 pm

Ah, it’s useless to try anything too impressive…just make really good sandwiches.

55 Steven Donegal June 6, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Build a distillery. According to Wikipedia, stills weren’t used in Europe until the 12th century. You’d be the most popular guy on the continent

56 alex Feldman June 6, 2008 at 7:04 pm

simple, claim you can predict the future and hope your knowledge of history is good enough; another option is playing Marco Polo card – telling people stories, etc.

57 alex June 6, 2008 at 8:27 pm

Basic ideas with large practical applications are the way to go. Most people today are familiar with what penicillium and vaccination have done to medicine. Just knowing of these solutions and some basics about them should be enough to make rather large progress – and at a far earlier time than in our history.

Alternatively if you wanted to be flashy using the fact hot air rises for flight – the hot air ballopn – was not achieved until the 18th century.

Depending on the level of superstition and people’s willingness to accept scientific inquiry – of which I have absolutely no idea – it might be particularly risky. But it could be fun.

58 Alistair Morley June 6, 2008 at 9:44 pm

Chris Durnell has some excellent points, especially about need for immediate self defense (although we don’t realise it, the early middle ages is roughly equal to South Central LA in terms of casual murder rates) and language. His “things to do first” is worthy reading.

Thinking about this I couldn’t do much about the brigands and animals, but fortunately I’m passably fluent in early-to-middle English. I have a smattering of latin too; enough to make simple conversation and at least get “noticed” by clergy. I appreciate it would be a fierce learning experience, but hopefully not a cold start.

I agree the first few months are really make or break but I feel Chris seriously underestimates the potential of the military engineer route (not that the bookeeper route isn’t a worthy and perhaps safer bet.) But for every $ the medievals spend in bookeeping-worthy activities, there’s another 10$ in war. It’s a larger market; the cities are only just recovering in Europe (Italy is better) and so “Kings Patronage” looks better in potential yield than “Merchants bookeeper”. The trick is;

1) Getting the audience (I’ll pass on this one)
2) Finding the historical knowledge to leverage

The main “military innovations” that could be made are not tactics or strategy (amateur stuff :-); the weakness of medieval Western European armies was logistics and siegecraft (if we’re dealing with the Byzantines, it’s another matter). There are relatively simple advances, like camp layout, sanitation, combined arms that require no physical and little social capital to implement but would have drastic effects on performance. I’m not even going to get onto the cheap battlefield tech like the trebuchet or gunpowder (and yes, I can build a stirrup crossbow).

Someone pointed out how dangerous some of this stuff would be to develop. True (Hint; Bell Foundry). Obviously, don’t try to build them yourself ab initio. Get patronage first using the safe and easy inventions, then have some other craftsmen build the difficult and dangerous ones. Think feudal!

Of course, both approaches could be combined; merchant first, to build capital and access, then branch into engineering and noble patronage.

And depending on the date, bankroll William of Normandy to the hilt. That’s solid venture capital!

59 sophie June 6, 2008 at 10:19 pm

He could just pass all his modern inventions off as Roman…or just dust off their ideas ie. plumbing, the wine press, the ballista, heated floors, saunas, hamburgers, restaurants, dice, windchimes, dog collars, leather bikinis…oh and the surgical tools are really amazing…you can see all this & more at the British Museum.

60 Joan June 6, 2008 at 10:38 pm

As I read the list of ideas about introducing new technology, I realized that I do not actually know how to build most of them. Unless I had advance warning so I could look up detailed information most of what I know is too general to be of much use. I think the best I could do is to become an assistant to a midwife and then introduce sanitary procedures in childbirth. Overtime this should make me a valuable because of the reduction in maternal mortality I would achieve.

61 Paul F. Dietz June 6, 2008 at 11:45 pm

I like the previous idea: tell everyone you are from the future. If you make enough waves, and get remembered in history, you may encourage future generations to take time travel seriously. When they invent a time machine, they’ll come back to talk to you. Go back to the future with them.

62 Happy Camper June 7, 2008 at 12:30 am

Grow some Pot!
Gringos love nothing more than illegal drugs. It would be another reason for the world, back in 1000 AD, to love America.

HC

63 J Kujala June 7, 2008 at 5:03 am

If this is how economists think the world works, then I have lost my faith in economists. Building a steam engine?

64 Andrew June 7, 2008 at 5:59 am

Is this the libertarian/sci-fi version of survivalism?

I wonder what the liberal version of survivalism is. “If global warming and corporations don’t kill me in the next 10 years, how will I survive without a cause ju jour?”

65 Ed D. June 7, 2008 at 8:29 am

Pencils. Invent pencils.

And better than that, discover graphite and the many uses of that. As in anything molded of metal.

Economically, rudimentary banking. Invent a sound money as a medium of exchange. That would enable trade, even in a small village, and you could take a minor cut of it all, establishing prices and of course, inventing the middleman who does nothing but pass goods from one hand to the other and takes a good profit for every trade.

In that vein, and as some above have pointed out, establish something like a grocery where the food is reliably untainted. Fresh and uncontaminated water. Stuff like that.

66 greatzamfir June 7, 2008 at 9:07 am

“Invent a sound money” Any suggestions how?

67 Endel S. Leinfiedtz June 7, 2008 at 10:52 am

Only what you are wearing and what you know? Well, I’m wearing a fully-comped Springfield DA in a shoulder rig, counterbalanced with three extra mags. I’ve got a Spyderco Police Model in the back pocket of my jeans, a pretty extensive magpie board in my wallet, and I know how to make grain explode. So, me, I’m headed straight for my new castle, comprende?

Ah, see, there ARE times when it really SUCKS to be a gun-hating liberal. (Basically, in ANY situation where your ass is on the line.)

68 meter June 7, 2008 at 11:05 am

“Ah, see, there ARE times when it really SUCKS to be a gun-hating liberal. (Basically, in ANY situation where your ass is on the line.)”

Wow. You aspire to be a BSD amongst the unenlightened (both then and now). Congratulations.

Some of us have evolved, moron.

69 LZ June 7, 2008 at 11:34 am

Easy. Invent the sandwich.

Credit to Douglas Adams.

70 Urstoff June 7, 2008 at 1:30 pm

Learn rudimentary optometry and lens grinding. Invent eyeglasses and sell them 250 years ahead of schedule.

71 ryan June 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Timeline of Historic Inventions from Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_invention

72 Anonymous June 7, 2008 at 11:59 pm

“In frickin’ Europe of all places – probably the most backward and ignorant place in the world at the time.”

Aaaah, a western civilization hater, sush a large crowd these days. Europe did not always lead the world, but since the ancient Greeks they have never been the most backward place in the world. The sentiment isn’t surprising though, probably high-end US education. Those graduates tend to be the most historically ignorant.

73 Rory Sutherland June 8, 2008 at 5:52 am

My brother asked me this question about thirty years ago. His suggestion – invent the bermuda-rigged sailing vessel and possibly the catamaran – was pretty good.

This would allow you to sail far closer to the wind at greater speed than trading rivals or military opponents.

74 bluewyvern June 8, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Get thee to a nunnery.

Hope that you get made an actual nun with whatever modicum of respect that entails, and not just used as a kitchen drudge for the rest of your life. Either way they will probably take you in and feed you, though. With luck, you can be one of those enlightened nuns that got to actually do things and be accomplished in all sorts of artistic and scholarly pursuits (can’t remember the name of a damned one, unfortunately, but there were one or two famous ones).

To anyone who has mentioned the possibility of having to live with celibacy in the church, or the prospect of marrying anyone — I don’t know about you, but I am definitely celibate the moment I land among those pox-ridden, hygiene-phobic, not to mention misogynistic, neanderthal stinkers. Not letting them anywhere near me. If we’re talking inventions, I just might invent the vibrator, and that will be my contribution to western civilization. I’ll just have to make sure to keep it hidden from the nuns. No, scratch that, they’ll probably be my best customers.

75 MH June 8, 2008 at 8:30 pm

Assuming you can work your way into some level of capital, sending messages into the future is your best bet.

1. Acquire paper, or make it yourself. Clay tablets will preserve far better than paper, but they take forever to write on. Work something out.

2. Write down your messages to the future. Protip: describe exactly where and what you were doing when you were transported to the past. Include instructions to your future self on how to avoid the time travel. If avoidance is not possible, instruct someone to send a letter to yourself ~2 years prior to the incident, warning yourself and having time to prepare. That way you can start over, this time equipped with plenty of knowledge and language, plus having a stash of gold/spices/etc on your person. You could also include a message to keep your writings around: if anyone ever invents time travel, have them come pick you up about 60 seconds after you arrive.

3. Go to France, find the Lascaux cave, stash writings there. ALTERNATE SITE: wherever they found the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Double bonus protip: Make multiple backup copies, ideally in several media. Don’t want your message to the future to be unreadable because some bat decided to shit on your letter.

If you can, create time capsules like this in several locations. Each one should include directions on how to find some of the others, but NOT all: you don’t want someone in 1432 to wander upon one and be able to dig them all up. You also don’t want them to be able to trace to each other: they should be set up in discrete networks, like terrorist cells.

Some knowledge of coding could work here. You could actually write it in computer code, to ensure the information won’t be useful until well into the 20th century. Esperanto works too if you know that.

76 Half Sigma June 8, 2008 at 10:28 pm

After reading all this, I figured out that the best course of action would be to seek out the Jewish community, recite the Sh’ma (the only thing I know in Hebrew), and hope that proves enough Jewishness that they take me in and teach me the local language.

77 winston June 9, 2008 at 10:52 am

If we discount the absurdity of the situation and assume you want to have a fair shot at survival:
1) strip naked and stash your stuff someplace safe and retrievable. (Reeboks and North face will get you burned)
2) FInd a monastery and throw yourself on their mercy.
3) learn the language, your education should help you out here.
4) They might have their own blacksmiths and trade workers so “suggest” small improvements to their craft based on whatever knowledge you possess. This should gain you some “street cred”
5) Cash in this good standing for a horse and provisiions and find a crusade to the middle east and set up camp out there where the civilized people are.
6) Use their advanced standing and education to “introduce” whatever small transferrable knowledge you have.
7) Be a “kingmaker”. Work behind the scenes as the advisor to whatever enlightened azir or sultan doesn’t kill you just for kicks.

78 richard June 9, 2008 at 6:49 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned this: one skill that almost every modern person has that was almost completely nonexistent in 1000 AD (everywhere) is the organization of information. We live in a database-driven world, and most of us have unconsciously absorbed at least basic principles of how to organize information (card-catalog system in libraries, etc.) Basic organizational tasks like indexing and categorizing were (I believe) unknown then. Obviously, having this knowledge and operationalizing it to one’s advantage in 1000 AD are two different things. Assuming one is able to survive for at least a month (I agree with other posters who consider this unlikely), use one’s education and good health/condition to be accepted in some relatively high-status situation, you could make yourself invaluable to a nobleman, king, merchant, or archbishop in the area of organized recordkeeping, and go from there.

79 John June 10, 2008 at 10:34 am

Learn Aramaic and the Bible and present yourself as the second coming. Powerful stuff in the millennial year. You will end up dead of course but it will be interesting times while it lasts.

80 Paul Breed June 10, 2008 at 11:53 am

Bring a Time machine to come home.
Our health, food,shelter, clothes,leisure time etc… etc..
are all far superior to the best the king could hope for in 1000AD.

If you could bring things with you I might bring antibiotics,
and a book or two of simple chemistry and or the history of the age.
Would you be willing to kill others to defend yourself?
If the answer is yes then a simple revolver with lots of ammo would help you live long enough to survive.

Are you willing to improve you lot by teaching the local nobleman to learn to kill other nobelman more effectively?

For trading I’d bring spices, more valuable than gold, and lighter.

In my mind a more interesting question would be how big of an expedition would be necessary to setup a self sufficient colony that could then work to speed up human development.
Could you do it with one person? Unlikely,
A young couple? better odds to go and live by them selves in the wilderness and develop simple technology.
A few young couples improves the odds if one dies in child birth, broadens the genetic mix etc…
2nd or third generation could make expeditions to the nearest town to trade and bring back more genitic stock.

A band of 100 probably could be successful.

81 evgen June 10, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Sorry Endel, but I think you are going to find that your modern weapon is less valuable than you think. You have a revolver which I will charitably say has an effective range of 100 yards and 24 bullets. Archers from that era will take you down before you get close enough to do any damage, or if you just want to impress the locals consider the fact that you are going to have to figure out what happens when you run out of bullets for your magic show. You have no way to reload your weapon. I have no doubt that you, like I, can make effective gunpowder — but do you know how to make a center-fire primer? Didn’t think so. I know how to make it but my chemistry knowledge is shallow enough that I would probably blow myself up trying to get nitric acid to the proper strength to make fulminate of mercury (which is a pretty scary primer but there is no way I could make lead azide or other similar compounds without a real chem lab.) It is these little details that make this question a lot harder than most people think.

You are going to have a short existence in 1000AD, but the locals will remember you for a generation or so :)

82 Kevin June 10, 2008 at 3:49 pm

I’d stick to the clergy recommendation and join a monastery. Play a mute — you won’t be able to speak anything resembling a language they’d understand, no matter how fluent you might be with a European language… but you might be able to understand them. Then, once you get the language, try and use the monastery to your advantage — spread the idea of sanitation… cleanliness is next to Godliness, after all. If you could make at least those in the monastery understand the importance of sanitation and waste disposal, you’ll definitely go down in history.

83 Florian June 10, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Sauerkraut contains high amounts of vitamin C, it lasts a long time and is/was common. You can use it to prevent scurvy which was extremly common on ships. Combined with a triangular sail you could travel nearly everywhere.

Maybe you could even get to America if you could gather some people.

Surviving the first days would be hard.

84 perianwyr June 10, 2008 at 5:11 pm

Only what you are wearing and what you know? Well, I’m wearing a fully-comped Springfield DA in a shoulder rig, counterbalanced with three extra mags. I’ve got a Spyderco Police Model in the back pocket of my jeans, a pretty extensive magpie board in my wallet, and I know how to make grain explode. So, me, I’m headed straight for my new castle, comprende?

worst comment of the entire thread bar none full stop

There is some pretty awful garbage in here but this is the worst.

85 pete June 10, 2008 at 7:42 pm

invent the rim job?

86 Michael Ejercito June 10, 2008 at 9:33 pm

If you were to go to a city, try Constantinople.

It was the largest, wealthiest city in Europe in 1000.

87 S.M. Stirling June 10, 2008 at 11:40 pm

You’d be in a very difficult position and would be likely to die/get killed rather quickly.

Remember, you’re not in some trackless wilderness.

You’re in a society where everyone was expected to have a personal history, where ties of kinship and neighborhood were immensely important, and where hostility to outsiders was common; crime rates were very high and casual violence endemic.

And you don’t even know the languages.

(Although it would be easier to learn the ancestors of French or Italian, if you know the modern languages, than to master 11th-century English or German.)

You might find some clerics willing to take you in and feed you, on the theory that you’re mad and hence deserving of charity.

If you managed to get your feet under you, you’d have to be very, very careful not to PO the authorities.

Eg., no slanging the Church. Serious no-no. Become pious. Learn the local customs as quickly as possible and don’t do anything offensive.

You’d be well advised to move to a city, although the disease environment would be hideous and the difficulty of getting permission to settle or follow a trade would be extreme.

The rural world was even more clannish and generally rigidly stratified.

Constantinople would be the biggest and richest, outside the Islamic world, but Byzantine society was very tightly regulated even by medieval standards. Foreigners weren’t allowed to reside in the city without permission, and usually lived in corporate groups in their own quarters.

I’d prefer northern Italy. Cities were beginning to grow rapidly there in the 11th century, so immigrants were — relatively — common.

Or better still Sicily under the early Normans, if the timing was right. Palermo was very cosmopolitan, and by the standards of the day prosperous. A lot of Italians and “Franks” were moving in.

The most immediately useful thing you could introduce to make some money would be the pot-still; some methods of distilling were already known but that would be worthwhile, and it’s very simple. Wow them with brandy.

Or you could probably also sell gunpowder to the local military. Even as a simple explosive hurled by catapults or put in place by storming parties it would be immensely valuable. There might be difficulties with the Church but these people weren’t fools and didn’t attribute everything to magic.

Cannon would be much more complex but doable; it’s no harder than casting a bell, and much easier than a statue. Experiment cautiously!

And once you’d demonstrated the gunpowder you could probably get the authorities to finance the necessary experiments.

Roger II of Sicily certainly would, or Frederick Barbarossa.

Gunpowder’s not too difficult to make; I could do it, with a couple of carpenters and a smith to help and some time to experiment with the grinding and sifting equipment. Assuming I didn’t get killed in an accidental explosion, of course.

After that, paper. All you need is a hammer to pulp the linen rags and a mesh of wire or fabric — and again, time to experiment. I’ve seen the process and I think I could duplicate it in time.

And again there would be a ready market, although you’d have to be careful not to get scragged by the local parchment-maker’s guild.

Printing might come next, though in the 11th century there was still very limited demand — it was mostly an oral culture, outside the clergy, and there the scriptoriums represented a powerful vested interest.

If you were very lucky and hence survived the first year, you could probably become a rich merchant.

de Camp’s “Lest Darkness Fall” is still probably the best single-time-traveler story about it all.

88 rob June 11, 2008 at 2:56 am

Find a cave in a mountain and live as a hermit eating rabbits and squirrels and rats. You go near a city at all you’ll likely be dead not long after.

89 Dave June 11, 2008 at 5:12 am

Survival for humans hasn’t changed very much since before this period.
Find shelter
Find Food
Make fire
cook food
find mate
Reproduce
Tada

90 Matt McPherson June 11, 2008 at 7:11 am

Let’s see…I’m a chemistry undergraduate, so I think I could use a few modern methods to save my skin.
Work for a farmer for a share of his barley and hops while earning food and lodgings at the same time. Acquire yeast and begin the brewing industry, making beer, cider from apples and if there’s a decent method of fashioning it (I’m thinking carved wood?) create a distilling apparatus and cask up a bit of whisky and vodka when the potatoes are in season.
Vaccinations for smallpox aren’t too much of a problem though the risk you’d have to take would involve desecrating some human remains of a victim. Simply extract the fluid from the sores, boil it thoroughly and rub it through an open wound. While you’re at it, extract aspirin from willow bark and ply your trade as a healer, using basic sanitation and a pocketful of powder to appear to be a medicinal genius.
Also as a result of reading this article, I’ll be combing Wikipedia for days now, learning processes that I could put into practice should this ever happen to me…

91 Daniel Amos June 11, 2008 at 9:02 am

Ok, I am assuming that I have no time to prepare, I appear in a European city and that I can speak the language. It’s my fantasy and it’s no fun if you are screwed from the start.

I would try to make some money by singing Beatles songs or something in the town center until I could afford the 1000 A.D equivalent of a guitar. I would then (try to) attract the attention of the folk by playing the few songs I know. I would start a band with a drummer, pipe player and any other musical instruments available at the time. We would play at functions and taverns. When I had enough money, I would buy my own performance hall. I would have concerts and stage performances of modern day films like Star Wars, Reservoir Dogs and Dawn of the Dead (tailored to fit the era).

I would make (or if it’s easier buy) large amounts of alcohol, that I would mix it with juices. I would invest in some bass drums and wind instruments and teach my staff to play house and dance music. I would get the local glassier to make me some colored sheets of glass, with which I would make lights. I would be the creator of the first ever nightclub. I’d make a mint charging a gold piece cover charge. I’d open a few of these around the world and rake in the cash. I might even open a strip club. I’d use my modern day knowldege with the ladies to score as many hot 1000 A.D chicks as I could. I’m sure they weren’t treated well or sweet talked much back then. I would live out my days a happy man.

Is this not the best strategy you’ve heard?

92 karl kindt June 11, 2008 at 9:28 am

Oh – i forgot about he medieval internet and how to broadcast your presence and your skills and there are two methods – one is you recruit some loud mouthed street children – set them apart just far enough that they can hear each other and around about the city – this is wireless network but each hub (child) has to have good lungs and a loud voice and can’t be positioned too far from the next – then you give the message to the first child – “Here by the clock tower is a man who can show you how to make (insert here whatever you can make and demonstrate) come and see and learn” – the people of the city will flock to the clock tower and you demonstrate your skills or offer your services. Another medieval network was to set the children on hill tops and have them shout from one hill to another until the message got to the next village. You can expand this medieval internet as a service to others and your Baker street irregulars and you can move from town to town and offer your ‘advertising’ service to one and all for a fee.

93 peter June 11, 2008 at 9:56 am

I think people are jumping the gun by saying you’d be killed right away for being different. That said, Europe was a miserable place to be in those days, and so I would orient my efforts towards heading to the Islamic world. I speak Arabic, and that language hasn’t changed much in 1000 years since it is based off the Qur’an (which any scholar would have memorized). If you could get to this part of the world, it wouldn’t be a big job to avoid being killed for heresy, and they already understood the basics of scientific experimentation, which would make finding funding and a friendly ear for any of the inventions listed above much easier.

Once I was back in about 390 by the Islamic calender, I would tell them about the New World, and set up shop with some sort of entrepreneurial/scientifically minded merchant and go to town.

I think that the Islamic laws regarding slavery (which are quite humane by comparable standards in 1000 CE) would ensure that even if I was enslaved once I arrived in the Levant, Spain, or any number of other places more hospitable than Europe, I would be treated decently.

I think this idea is feasible, at least as feasible as conquering Europe, which, by the way, would be easier if you starting from the Islamic world anyway.

just a thought.

94 Adam Trotter June 11, 2008 at 10:17 am

I’ve seen “invent the telescope” mentioned a few times here. It’s not necessary to have access to large pieces high-quality glass (just a small lens for the eyepiece) — a reflecting telescope with a silvered mirror will do the trick. Market it first as a navigational and military aid; announcing moons around Jupiter or rings around Saturn might get you burned.

A simple pinhole camera, assuming you know how to produce and develop photographic plates, would at least bring in money at the village fair (if it’s not seen as witchcraft). And if you have some skill with painting, demonstration of the basic principles of visual perspective to a wealthy patron might well secure your fame and fortune as you decorate palaces with trompe l’oeil murals.

Save the life of a nobleman using CPR. Then introduce penicillin, smallpox vaccination and basic hygiene to his subjects, dramatically increasing their productivity, and his wealth.

95 chr11s June 11, 2008 at 10:53 am

two words: iphone, bitch! ;D

96 Ryan June 11, 2008 at 11:02 am

Remake all the movies you can think of as plays for kings and the wealthy. Sorted.

97 Brandon Wells June 11, 2008 at 11:07 am

Invent the internet and buy up all the domain names first!

98 eh June 11, 2008 at 11:21 am

Being a college-educated useless liberal with no knowledge of engineering, weaponry, strategy, chemistry, or banking, I’d use my knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew to set myself up with the local Jewish community/merchant class.
Possibly move to a nice Arab country with decent hygiene and beautiful poetry.

And then invent the other useful skill I have: cartooning.

I mean, ink and parchment and then put words and pictures together and you’ll revolutionize what literacy even means. Everybody loves cartoons.

99 hector_ka June 11, 2008 at 11:47 am

1.Stabilize
If you got outside civilization the dangers are :
-wild animals
-criminals
-weather
Are you injured ? Can you fix it?
Get something to eat. Get a stick , try to fish. Get a fire.
Explore the region. You might be anywhere on Earth.(Being in a region with cannibals will be bad luck )

If you got closer to some human community
-Try to hide and observe what kind of civilization is .What kind of race?
-if you are different, you might pass as a merchant, actor, circus performer
-try to get some food/money
-do you have anything valuable
22.Build you status-quo
Learn the culture.
What skills/information you have?
Mechanical:
-wooden products: spoons (simple to do with any sharp metal tool)
-pottery(trickier –needs an oven)
-wheels
-baskets(easy to do –even in a forest)
Blacksmithing:
-knives
-swords
-spears
Commerce
-sell bush meat(good way to start) ,furs

Any people/singing skills:
-dress bright and get any improvised musical instrument ,travel from town to town(For Europe)

Writing/Drawing
-get to a bigger community
-you might find some painting jobs(find colors)

3. Expand(if you can)

100 rebecca June 11, 2008 at 11:56 am

As a woman, and one lucky enough to have been taught Latin in school, I would start speaking to the first stranger I met, and hope I didn’t get raped before I got sent to the nearest nunnery. My backstory would involve bad times returning from a pilgrimage.
I’m also lucky enough to be an artist who knows:
– how to make paper from scratch – every monastery in the land would want some of this.
– weaving and complex loom building – noone has mentioned this, but being able to weave and build a loom automatically makes me a respected artisan – cloth was very expensive and hard to get.
– the basics of drawing perspective and anatomy would make me a more revolutionary artist for the time than Leonardo and Raphael were for theirs.
– the guy talking about prussian blue dye/pigment was right too: blue was the rarest and most hideously expensive pigment until the 1700s – being able to synthesize regular amounts of this would make you very valuable.
Women were allowed to be anonymous artisans during this period so I would be able to survive off these talents, although I would never be able to leave the nunnery (I don’t think women could own any property at that point).
I’m sure some guy would take my ‘discoveries’ and claim them as his own, but at least I would survive and be valuable enough to avoid the whore/breeder fate.
And of course, being a nun with present day knowledge of hygeine and first aid would make me very respected by the locals.
Its all about a) speaking Latin
b) surviving long enough to get to a nunnery

101 Sanna June 11, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Ignore the ‘Likewise’… clearly there have been new posts since I wrote the text.

Rebecca: you’ve inspired me to consider paper-making classes as self-defence, in case of accidental temporal dislocation.:-)

102 jonathon June 11, 2008 at 12:42 pm

@peter “I speak Arabic, and that language hasn’t changed much in 1000 years since it is based off the Qur’an”

Wrong on all counts!

Arabic has, according to Wikipedia, at least 27 dialects. Which do you speak? Egyptian? Maghrebi? Levantine? The spoken dialects differ radically from the literary Arabic. “In particular, while Middle Easterners can generally understand one another, they often have trouble understanding North Africans ”

2. While conservative when compared with Germanic and Romantic languages, Arabic has changed considerably in 100 years, alone, due to technology, geography and political forces. It’s inconceivable that the preceding 900 years would not have changed by at least a similar proportion.

3. The development of Arabic preceded the transcription of the Qu’ran by Mohammed’s companions by as much as 800 years. Even Literary Arabic is not based off the Qur’an.

The rest of the stuff, about slavery, etc, I won’t dispute. Not because I feel it’s true; I suspect in fact you’re probably parrotting some baloney made to induce guilt in westerners. I just can’t prove that the 9th Century CE Muslims were mean to their slaves.

103 Marty Busse June 11, 2008 at 12:56 pm

People are revealing that they know very little about what the world was like in the year 1000 ACE.

Fractional reserve banking is going to be denounced as usury, and will go nowhere.

The language barrier is going to be very difficult: even if you know Old English, Classical Greek, Koine Greek, Syriac, Coptic, Persian, Arabic or Latin, when you speak, you will find that people have a hard time understanding you. Unless you are into the Society for Creative Anachronism or the like, your writing will probably be difficult for people to understand, too-assuming you can find any writing materials worth bothering with.

Worry less about being accused of heresy or witchcraft (neither of which are all that great of an issue at the time-especially in the areas of Europe that are not Christian at this point, which are fairly extensive) and more about being attacked by random people. Crime was at levels that we moderns would have a hard time grasping (which makes travel very dangerous-there are lots of brigands about), and petty warfare is endemic.

If the people you meet don’t rob you and/or kill you, you’re probably not going to be able to communicate terribly well with them.

Assuming you get past that difficulty, you’re almost certainly going to swiftly find out that you know a lot less about how the modern world works than you think.

If you do survive, and don’t succumb to disease (you probably have more resistance to smallpox, bubonic plague, TB, and other fun things than the people living at the time do..but you’re going to soon be living in conditions that are terribly unsanitary and you won’t have access to antibiotics), and can manage to make yourself understood by the locals, good luck on not being enslaved or enserfed.

104 ron June 11, 2008 at 1:03 pm

use your knowledge of perspective and revolutionize art and drawing. use your knowledge of marketing and revolutionize commerce.

105 willis drummond June 11, 2008 at 1:21 pm

Well, let’s see … I realize things were different in the past, but folks: people are people. I’m a bit surprised that the posts here automatically presume everyone in 1000AD was a hair’s breath away from killing anyone and everyone they meet who may not exactly fit into their society. Maybe I’m naive, and yes war and violence were a lot more common back then than in the average european city, but I ask: would you automatically kill a stranger for no good reason? If not, why automatically presume that they would?

So with that in mind, in the short-term:

(A) be friendly. In the face of possible prejudice and fear of strangers, smile and nod politely at whomever you meet. Show happiness when you see children. When you speak, use positive sounding upbeat intonations with a friendly laugh. Even if the language is not understood, your demeanor will be.

(B) Look for opportunities to help. See some guy walking with a heavy burden? Use gestures and offer to help carry his load, so long as he doesn’t think you’re trying to steal. See some folks tilling the field? Offer to help. Or better yet, grab a shovel and start digging alongside the locals. Follow them back to the ale house and see if anyone offers you a cupful. And so forth.

(C) barter. Your clothes will be, relatively speaking, new and in very good shape. You could easily trade your sports jacket for something more local, and probably get lunch out of it, too.

For the longer term …

(D) think strengths, not weaknesses. Your overall health will likely be better than the locals, but your physical strength will be less. So it’s a toss-up whether a career of manual labor is for you. Your mental prowess may be better, I say *may* because I don’t necessarily suscribe to chronological ethnocentrism (“society gets more advanced every generation, and we’re more advanced than any other peoples in history”). I’m sure there were some very savvy folks back then, yes they had their myths and prejudices. We do too, just different ones.

A good option would be entrepenuer (sp?). Once you get your bearings, go to the local feudal lord with a plan for a business – brewing, manufacturing, etc. Focus on something basic, like the above post re: wagon wheels, avoid grandiose ideas like aircraft. Ask the lord to provide the capital and you provide the know-how. With the lord as your patron, this would provide a measure of stability and capital.

[ I suppose you could also become a Leonardo da Vinci type of guy, write and draw ideas for all kinds of advanced notions, and establish yourself as a scientist philosopher, and leave others to realize them.]

While doing this, try to help people – use the lord to spread your ideas: boiling water, regular bathing, basic hygiene, proper diet, avoid lead for cooking and drinking vessels.

Avoid creating weapons. Yes you probably could help invent gunpowder, the longbow, etc. and get rich and important doing it at the expense of scores of people’s lives, and giving an already undemocratic, arguably totalitarian government an even stronger grip on its people. But why? You’d have a good opportunity to help people, so why not take it.

106 Crestview, FL June 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

If you went back and told fortunes, you would instantly nullify your knowledge of the period, and possibly your own existence.

if you went back and invented weapons, you would be a VERY influential and possibly regarded as a rogue genius later in history (see leonardo).

if you went for the religion thing, you would probably lead a happy/wealthy life, but then again, you’d be fooling people into believing something that wasnt.

if you “invented” the concept of a steam engine, you might could steer away from industrialisation… i suppose…

you could introduce new ideas of governance and blended democracy…

somebody said maps, probably the best idea, since chances are your clients would never make it back to be angry with you, and if they did make it back, they would almost certainly be very happy with you.

side bar on the maps, there are all sorts of maps other than geography, such sea floor, or ocean currents…

and what if you just didnt do anything and learned to live the way they did? its pretty naive to think our lives are necessarily better, in a qualitative sense.

107 Srakkt June 11, 2008 at 2:20 pm

Thou shalt not violate causality within my light-cone.

108 zan June 11, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Piracy! Insanity is the best policy.

109 hexodus June 11, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Good practice for this would be to get dropped off in Somalia with no money, not allowed to use cell phones, and no pickup for a year or two.

110 JackD June 11, 2008 at 3:12 pm

Getting passed the nastiness of survival and assuming I could wedge a position where I had time to, I think I might try my hand at art. We get more of a grounding in perspective in 5th grade art class than most artists of the time had. The Renaissance was quite a ways off and any basic composition would at least be on par with the artists of the time.

111 Michael June 11, 2008 at 4:22 pm

There are many great ideas, but I am afraid the prophet/future historian idea is not one of them. You have to be alive during the time, or you would be just another nut-job wandering aruond muttering about Kings that aren’t born yet and world wars. If you think you might be successful anyway, what was verifiable in Europe in the year (exactly!) 1000? 1001? 1002? Being off by 10 years means that you would be completely ruined, unless you could survive 10 years and then still be influential enough to say the I-told-you-so.

112 David June 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm

Um…. Forgive me for bursting the “Alchemist/Wizard” bubble but you would quickly be put to death for Heresy, Witchcraft, and most likely being some sort of Demonic Spy.

The Church and any existing Monarchy would deem this lack of control from an unknown subject as a threat and Torture and Murder you. Maybe if you were lucky you might just rot in a tower somewhere until crows were done eating your eyes out.

This is why the term “I’m gonna get Medieval on his @$$” came from.

Dark Ages were Dark on purpose to keep the serfs in control with Disease, Propaganda, and Dominance via Terror. (much like today)

113 Anonymous June 11, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Here’s the harder question – suppose you’re a WOMAN, and you get transported back in time? Now, your chances of making it are VERY VERY low indeed, sadly. Probably your best bet is to play mute and take holy orders at a church as soon as you can. Then, at least, you can establish yourself as a holy fool or some sort.

114 Matt June 11, 2008 at 5:13 pm

In the year 1000 there was no islamic world you dumbass motherfuckers.

115 Richard Kirk June 11, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Dang! I have had to come back because I keep thinking of other things.
This is a splendid time waste.

I would probably go to Paris if I could not understand Middle English. I have school Latin and French is also vernacular Latin. The we could invent…

The Count Rumford chimney. Since my last post, someone else suggested chimneys. I was going to post that. Narrow flue means the thing draws better. Very counterintuitive, but a narrower chimney draws better. It means you get better use for your fuel.

The damp course. Use slates or tar (they had boats, so presumably they had tar. If not, the bit on the Devon coase where the Cobb in the French Liutenant’s woman is leaks oil slowly. Houses are less damp and warmer.

The flat arch. Bridges with semicircular arches are unnecessarily wide for their height. You can make much flatter bridges with the same technology. You could probably make flatter roofed buildings too, but churches use the height to impress, so maybe that wouldn’t be as popular.

Predict a comet for 1066 (or was it 1065). That’ll spook ’em good.

116 Kate June 11, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Make a study of agricultural technology history. Chances are good that you’ll end up engaging in agricultural activities, and, for example, being able to arbitrage your knowledge of ploughing improvements that are going to occur over the next 800 years could yield a much easier farming experience (not to mention a difference to your back).

117 ryan June 11, 2008 at 6:48 pm

“A lot of these comments presume that people in the year 1000 AD were stupid. It’s a very serious mistake to confuse stupidity with ignorance.”

Not necessarily. It depends upon who is making the claim.

Because the world population today is about 20,000 times that in 1000 AD (6.7 Billion vs. about 310,000), many in the extreme right tail of the sample today are likely to be more intelligent than everybody alive at 1000 AD.

Here’s what I mean:

First, suppose the intelligence level of every individual who ever lived is drawn from the same uniform distribution on the unit interval (you can use another distribution if you please).

In that case, the order statistics (1 being the smallest of the sample, 2 the second smallest, and so on) are Beta random variables with parameters k and (n+1-k), where k is the order statistic and n is the sample size. The expected value of the kth order statistic is then k/(n+1). For the year 1000 AD, the expected intelligence of the largest of the 310,000 people is 0.9999967. Today, with 6.7 Billion people, the expected intelligences of The top 21,612 are higher than that.

Finally, we all know that the most intelligent people alive read and comment at the Marginal Revolution, particularly on threads of this nature 😉 .

118 David June 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Composting could change the lives of a lot of people. Get them to save the muck when they clear out the stable they share with their domesticated animals, and teach them to use it to improve their land and multiply their crops.

Properly located, a clean compost could probably help them warm their stone hovels in the winter as well, since the temps at the middle of a pile stay about 128 degrees in a well-tended compost.
Even in winter.

The simplest things would probably go the farthest toward your survival.

119 ugh June 11, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Many of you underestimate the language thing. Sure, they might tolerate some pidgin-ey sounds for a while, but not if you’re a part of a community. To all the comments about “learn the language” – well, good luck. How long would that take? a year? 6 months? Not likely, for the average language-acquirer. Even full-immersion competence would likely take more than half a decade. To anyone of you who speaks “Latin” or “arabic,” and thinks that anyone will understand them – sorry. Anyone heard of the English Vowel Shift? This wasn’t noted in the nomenclature – even though the letters were written the same before, during and after – the pronunciation was vastly different. The same thing also occurs with consonants over long periods – like say 1000 years. This is to say nothing of syllabic structural changes in weighting and stress and changes in the mora and gemmination and elisions and etc. Your latin and arabic would be unrecognizable, even if uniformly so. You are confusing written language with spoken language – and as a linguist, I can happily assure you that they are vastly different animals. English today is closer to spanish (through gallic cognates) than the spanish of 1000 years ago is to modern spanish. It has been demonstrated that the fundamental word ordering in French has changed within the last thousand years from SOV to SVO. These are significant alterations. In short, unless you can acquire a brand new language successfully in the short amount of time that these 1000 a.d.-ers expect (i.e. sooner-than-average), you’ll be marginalized and never meet the King.

Of course, this is all meaningless – the germs would kill you in a fortnight. Disease resistance isn’t a cumulative process – we aren’t defended from all strains of an infection prior to version x.1 – we are simply immune to all the versions that we and our parents have been exposed to. Our immune systems don’t keep all the old reference material in the archives or anything – our exposure to a virus from 1000 a.d. is the same as our exposure to a virus from 3000 a.d. – it is a novel configuration that we are not equipped to deal with. The first one may not even kill us – but there will always be another.

All the preceeding neglects to mention the killer caffeine headaches which would prompt the local barbers to bleed out the ill humours from the strangely-dressed mumbling idiot.

120 Alex June 11, 2008 at 9:07 pm

Oh I think the approach here is wrong…live fast, die stupid.

1.) Speak only pig latin. You shouldn’t have to change, they should.
2.) Teach them the modern farming techniques you know – like how to make 1000 gold a day playing World of Warcraft.
3.) Smear yourself in faeces. Think of it as urban camouflage.
4.) The words “Out of my way you filthy ignorant barbarians!” sprinkled liberally through your conversation will ensure immediate respect.
5.) Assume the name ‘Sir Mixx-a-lot’. Best of all, he’s not famous yet.
6.) Pretend to be a magician. Sawing your assistant in half? No problem! They’ll also be amazed when you pull a rabbit out of a hat. Amazed and hungry. But mostly hungry.
7.) Watch Black Knight, and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure because historical accuracy should be important to you.
8.) Teach the peasants numbers. Stand back and watch the peasants revolt as they discover how much they’re really being taxed and how high their death rates really are.
9.) Find a humourous offsider. Name him Baldric.
10.) Mack on those medieval womens.
11.) Die riddled with disease.

Ok…I think I forgot about the ‘survive’ part.

121 Brant June 11, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Don’t drink the water. The locals don’t.

122 Singe June 11, 2008 at 9:38 pm

I’ve read many but not all of the comments here so I apologize if this has already been mentioned. If you are modestly skilled at drawing/painting (I’m not fantastic but I’m good enough) you could become the most famous artist of the period by introducing perspective drawing to the world. The nobles would love you to death (figuratively).

123 Keith June 11, 2008 at 10:04 pm

Lots of people seem to think that inventing gunpowder would be simple. It’s not. Charcoal is pretty easy to make, just burn wood with insufficient air. Sulfur would probably be a little tougher. Not too many places in Europe had handy volcanoes with brimstone laying about. Might try Mt. Vesuvius. But I think you might be able to find sulfur-bearing rocks and melt the sulfur out. It wouldn’t be very pure, but it ought to work.

Saltpeter, on the other handm, isn’t easy to make, you don’t just turn over a compost heap and find a few pounds of it laying there.
Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
——–
Historically, nitre-beds were prepared by mixing manure with either mortar or wood ashes, common earth and organic materials such as straw to give porosity to a compost pile typically 1.5 meters high by 2 meters wide by 5 metres long. The heap was usually under a cover from the rain, kept moist with urine, turned often to accelerate the decomposition and leached with water after approximately one year. The liquid containing various nitrates was then converted with wood ashes to potassium nitrates, crystallized and refined for use in gunpowder.

In more rural times, urine was collected and used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Stale urine was filtered through a barrel full of straw and allowed to continue to sour for a year or more.[citation needed] After this period of time, water was used to wash the resulting chemical salts from the straw. This slurry was filtered through wood ashes and allowed to dry in the sun. Saltpeter crystals were then collected and added to brimstone and charcoal to create black powder.
——–

Sounds like fun, eh?

I’ve seen accounts of modern people trying to recreate black powder from scratch, and even with modern knowledge and reference books, they had a hard time making poor quality saltpeter. You’re not going to just whip up a batch and impress the local Lord your first week in town.

124 Anne June 11, 2008 at 11:01 pm

Be careful of being too knowledgeable. You don’t speak the language or know the local customs sufficiently, know where local food comes from grown, caught, hunted or gathered or what animals have been domesticated. Most people have never seen a book other than one seen from the all-powerful clergy and some royals. The average person does not know or understand printing presses. It would be best to not show all your cards, literally, at once. If not, your head will be on a pike rather than offering potentially helpful information.

They already have beer/grog. They use herbs and local fruit. They dry or use salt to smoke meats. They know how to and why pigs are slaughtere in the fall I’d suggest learning the local ins and outs before moving on to another town where you can offer a few helpful suggestions. Anything you suggest may be helpful, especially hygiene.

It might also help to bring along the Foxfire books and Mrs. Grieve. Better keep them hidden though. You definitely don’t want to get caught with too much “magic† taken from a strange flat collection of leaves with black marks on them ~

The best thing you could give them, however, may be the ability to write, how to read and how to pass on information from one town to another. Fashion themselves more like Alexandria than London. Set yourself up as a scribe.

125 Angry Sam June 11, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Pass yourself off as the gibbering, good-natured buffoon who collects and piles animal dung and food scraps. You’ll probably have to live off of those food scraps awhile until you can figure out how to secure yourself some squatters’ rights and plant something. Composts and bladders of super-concentrated manure “tea” could net you decent profits – or perhaps just steady meals – if you’re smart enough. If you can fashion or purchase the proper containers, sale and/or use of methane could put you in very good business.

Attempt, maybe, to apprentice with or work for a stone mason or builder. Demonstrate your knowledge of geometry to any learned persons if and when possible. There’s a chance one of them will cut you a break.

Stay out in the country always. You’ve a better chance of avoiding getting sick.

126 andyman June 12, 2008 at 12:10 am

Most of these ideas are ridiculous and WAY too hard.

As far as inventions/introducing new ideas, there’s not much I think anyone reading this website actually knows how to do. My ideas, which ANYONE can do, right now, are playing cards, frisbees, hula-hoops, sudoku, tic-tac-toe, the Dot Game, and, only because I play drums I would make a set of various things to hit, and perform drum beats.

So far, about the only good suggestion was a sandwich and a paper airplane. Most of you people are waaaay underestimating about how easy is it to make stuff from scratch. Even “simple” things like gunpowder, which was mentioned a dozen or so times. What are you going to do, walk up to a stranger and say, “Excuse me, do you know where the nearest volcano or hot springs is located?” Where are YOU going to get sulfur? Give me a break, don’t even talk about making a steam engine!! Come ON! No one on this forum can make a steam engine right now, in the present! Forget a steam engine–you can’t make metal or shape metal if you had it.

And even Paper…it requires a “mesh of wire or fabric”…YOU don’t have metal, you don’t have wire, and you don’t know how to make wire. A printing press? give me a break! Same goes with anything involving “grinding lenses.” Yeah RIGHT! If you knew how to make glass from scratch, which you don’t, I could give you a piece of glass RIGHT NOW and you’d have no idea how to make a lens.

And, yes, you people are also acting like you could learn the language in a week–I dunno about you but I took 5 years of Spanish from 8th grade until I graduated and I can barely say, “Where is the bathroom?” (At which point, they’d respond, “Bathrooms aren’t invented for a long time, buddy”)

The way to look at this isn’t “I know about all this cool stuff that they don’t know about like television, photography, telescopes, the internet, and steam power!”

Instead it’s, “What inventions require no skill and NO unavailable materials– but just require a simple idea? Like a sandwich. Anyone can make that, obviously (though I STILL think it’s hard because if I didn’t have a grocery, you can bet I’d have no idea how to make flour from wheat, to make bread. And I have no clue where yeast comes from so whatever bread I manage to make would be flat and probably tasteless.) Another example like the sandwich is the hula-hoop. I don’t know if it would be useful in 1000 ad, but it’s an example of something everyone at this website can make. Maybe with a hula hoop in 1000 you could do some street performance (but, personally, I’m shy, so I don’t think I could manage to not die from street performance!). Another example would be a frisbee. I mean…it’s just a flat circle! But it was invented in the 19th century! And playing cards–all you need is 52 flat things…I dunno, tree bark, leaves–and some way to write on them–carving, coal, or rocks.

Did they know about deep-fried foods? Stir-fries? I also liked the idea that someone made of making a flip book. (assuming you can get some paper and something to write with, which may be assuming too much). I would teach them tic-tac-toe and the Dot Game. Maybe they’d be interested in a Sudoku?

Personally, if I were going to learn something now to allow me to survive in 1000 AD, it wouldn’t be civilization skills, it would primarily be outdoor survival skills, like hunting, making clothing from animals, building shelter, subsistence farming, and avoiding local medievalites until, about 6 years later, I could speak the language fluently.

127 Fensty June 12, 2008 at 1:19 am

Uh….this has been done before.

Read a little book called, “A Connecticuit Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Mark Twain wrote it and described this very situation.

Sorry, I didn’t wade through all the comments. Maybe this has been said already, a few times. Hope so anyway, because this is one of Twain’s best books, hands down. My personal favorite.

128 anotherKate June 12, 2008 at 1:32 am

As for us women, I’m guessing we’d be lucky not to be stoned on sight for wearing mens clothing, which was definitely a crime back then. I’d see if I could stow away on a ship bound for Jerusalem & convert to Islam asap. At least I’d have some legal rights, and a much better chance of surviving childbirth.

129 3Pac10 June 12, 2008 at 1:33 am

Two words: PONZI SCHEME

130 Irreverenthope June 12, 2008 at 3:16 am

Forgot to mention…once you’ve collected some real wealth, you can use your enlightened future-mind to drag whomever is left near you into a more fair and positive way of thinking (personally I would retire to a nice vineyard and bottle some truly outstanding wines.)

131 diggable June 12, 2008 at 7:40 am

Three words….Pink…Sock…Millions

132 LyhjeHylje June 12, 2008 at 8:58 am

Some things I remember reading from science magazines
1. When compasses were introduced to west, most captains kept them secret out of fear being accused of witchcraft
2. I wish I could remember names, but some scholar/apprentice was quite amazed and scared when he saw his teacher reading book without moving lips

It would be fun to make, say, Oblivion mod with all the harsh realities talked about here. Plus all dialog would be gibberish.

133 Rumplestiltskin June 12, 2008 at 10:11 am

Stay away from coasts to avoid slavers, corsairs and vikings.
Avoid inland areas to avoid bandits.
Stay away from villages to avoid pitchfork wielding mobs.
Keep out of towns to avoid disease.

Look… Just run, my friend. Run and don’t look back.

134 Dave June 12, 2008 at 11:52 am

Luckily for me I’d be transported back to the pacific northwest. Mild summers and winters, relatively friendly natives, plentiful seafood (I know how to fish, crab, and collect shellfish).
I think I’d make my way south (kayaking in a dugout along the coast) and eventually end up in Cabo, where I’d invent margaritas, the bikini and the Bloody Mary.

135 Andrea June 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

unfortunately – prostitution. but that might not even work.

136 Phoenix June 12, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Considering all the people participating in this thread, has anyone considered what to do if _several_ of us end up transported (separately) into the past? We should pick out a meeting place, to coordinate efforts, that sort of thing.

I vote for the Parthenon. Any other suggestions?

137 luctus June 12, 2008 at 2:00 pm

Oh, and I forgot about malnourishment and malnutrition and what they do to you. I am sorry to do this to everyone who tries this out, but google “noma.” It’s a disease that third worlders still suffer from due to malnutrituion. It’s only one example, there are probably dozens of horribly disfiguring things that happen if you don’t get any vitamins, minerals, protein, etc. Vitamins, fortified foods, and other benefits, if in existence, were a luxury your poor funny talking self wouldn’t have access to.

138 S.M. Stirling June 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Languages: all the dialects spoken in 1000 would be incomprehensible to a modern, except possibly Icelandic, which is extremely archaic.

If you knew modern Icelandic you -might- be able to talk to a Norse-speaker in 1000, but you’d have a very weird and very thick accent. In any case you’d be able to learn Old Norse quickly.

Icelandic would also make learning any of the other Germanic languages of 1000 AD a bit easier, since they were much more similar to each other then. Low German/Netherlandish was still mutually comprehensible with Old English, for example, though just barely.

An Old English and an Old Norse speaker could probably understand each other, if they confined themselves to simple subjects, spoke slowly, and backtracked a lot.

The other languages wouldn’t be (quite) as hard as learning from absolute scratch, if you knew the modern version, but it would still be comparable to learning a new language.

The easier part would be the sound-shifts; you just have to learn them and apply them systematically. Grammar would be harder.

Unfortunately English has undergone the most radical transformation of all and would be totally incomprehensible — it’s roughly like the place of French among the Romance languages.

If you knew Italian (or another Romance language, except French) -and- Latin and had a good ear, you could probably pick up enough to be understood within a couple of months, given total immersion.

Your written Latin would be comprehensible to a cleric, though Church Latin wasn’t exactly the same as Ciceronian, to put it mildly. Of course, you’d also have to learn the conventions of the local script; they used the Roman alphabet, but it’s a bit different.

Spoken Latin would be a different matter, and you probably couldn’t speak to a local right off; however, if you were fluent in the Classical tongue you could learn the Church version fairly quickly.

139 S.M. Stirling June 12, 2008 at 2:35 pm

Culture shock: it wouldn’t be the personal cleanliness that would be the worst part. Anyone who’s spent some time in the field knows you get used to smells and dirt fast.

It would be behavioral stuff. For example, these people had a lot less impulse control than we do, even when sober. (And they drank a lot.)

There’s a late-medieval book of manners for courtiers that emphasizes things like not sobbing and bawling when you’re sad, not stamping your feet and screaming when you’re angry, and not sulking in corners and refusing to talk to people when out-of-sorts.

In 1000 AD, the behavioral changes implied in that book hadn’t started even among the aristocracy.

The people would (mostly, given individual variation) strike us as childish.

Great, big, hairy children with knives.

140 izengabe June 12, 2008 at 3:28 pm

Two Words: Toilet Paper!

141 Carney June 12, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Nathaniel, the Albigensian crusade was directed against a Gnostic cult that rejected the physical material world and the body, saying that only the spirit world was Godly. The cult preached against marriage and reproduction. In a literal and real sense, the first Inquisition was defending sex from anti-sex fanatics.

Furthermore, by rejecting all worldly bonds and obligations, these early doomsday-ers were also rejecting all forms of law, property rights, etc. Not a good formula for the survival of civilization. I wouldn’t throw my lot in with them if I intended to advance things.

142 Brian June 12, 2008 at 5:45 pm

Considering the new arrival’s disadvantages –– you’re alone, unknown, homeless, unskilled, unable to communicate –– the only way to survive is to beg or steal. Get used to it.

143 Anne June 12, 2008 at 10:13 pm

That’s all well and good about reintroducing languages etc, but while you’re busy with that, who is hunting down food for you? What are you dong to participate in their tough daily work? I doubt that any altruism you initially found would lose its luster pretty quickly if you weren’t participating. It took a lot of effort to provide enough food to eat and store for the rest of the year, especially if the town you dropped into was landlocked and thus eliminating the benefit of seafood.

It might be better to pretend to be dumb and learn what there is to learn, including the local dialect, the way things are done, who does what in the community, what they eat. Basically everything! That way you can be accepted as anything that would benefit them – a clergyman, a shepherd, a merchant, a jester, a traveling knife or cycle sharpener. The possibilities are endless.

When you move to your new village, walking in leather slippers on delicate 21st Century feet, you can participate in conversations when get there. You’d be far less suspicious keeping your mouth shut rather than blah, blah-ing with new languages. I doubt that that would fly with the locals or with the local clergy.

144 Andrew Nelson June 12, 2008 at 11:29 pm

I can’t believe I had to skim halfway before someone came up with storytelling. That’s the first thing I’d do after I learned the language, spin a few James Bond tales, When Harry Met Sally, Blade Runner. I could instruct minstrels on Beatles, Lenny Kravitz, orchestras, hiphop, techno :) . That, and reproducing art. I’m pretty sure noone would’ve thought of Warhol’s can of soup, either. Direct talented people and split the take with them.

145 Aurther Dent June 12, 2008 at 11:50 pm

DON’T PANIC, bring a towel

146 Jack June 13, 2008 at 1:10 am

Coming from a historian-in-training on peasant societies in Europe:
Basically you’d be fucked. In all probability you would be killed outright by disease within a very short period of time after arriving there, your body not being entirely accustomed to the environment and its pathogens. Second, this is turn-of-the-millennium France/Germany/England, so you would be unable to speak the language, inasmuch as most of it would be local dialects unknown today (note, for instance, that in southern France they would speak versions of French entirely unintelligible to today’s population, often closer to latin than French). It is possible that this lack of communications skills would lead to you being killed due to rampant xenophobia. Marauding bands of bandits could also be a problem.
Things only get worse. Food would be hard to come by, as any farmers would guard their stocks and there are few almshouses. Water would be even more difficult to access, as it is unlikely that you could use private or public wells, which would be fiercely restricted by the locals. Currency at this time was scatershot in terms of availability or uniformity, and certainly today’s coins would be worthless.
There are no employment opportunities to speak of. Becoming a farmer would necessitate access to land, which is in limited supply and strictly regulated (laws pertaining to property were the most sophisticated aspects of medieval/early modern societies). Trades such as blacksmithing, textiles, etc. would be in the hands of a small number of craftsmen who regulate entrance into the professions (i.e. guilds and their precursors), and you have no start-up cash to start a business.
Also, don’t be fooled by the idea of winning people over with your fancy future-knowledge. Remember, you can’t actually communicate with these people, unless you try and pick up the Langue D’Oc really quickly. Second, you would have few raw materials to work with, and few machines to manipulate them with. You can only access the work of a single man, yourself, after all.People would also see your attempts as a possible threat and probably kill you. Or ignore you and leave you to die. You might be accepted as a freak or something and get work as a jester, but this might be a fate worse than death.
So what do you do? Uh…have what fun you can? Enjoy the unspoiled natural beauty, try and learn a little, maybe freak people out with whatever shit you can think up. But, yeah, most likely you’ll be dead really quickly.

147 Alex June 13, 2008 at 2:44 am

That turn of the century is starting to get crowded.

I get the feeling that I’ll show up in the year 1000 to a giant manufacturing plant producing prussian blue, artwork, clean water and steam engines for Jesus.

148 Rosie June 13, 2008 at 9:09 am

Pushing 40, I’m still almost certainly better looking (own teeth, trim, wrinkle- and scar-free) and – more importantly – less fertile than the local young strumpets, plus I have the C21st’s porn-saturated culture to draw from.

That given, if I survived the initial language barrier etc, I’d forgo the nunnery and aim to get myself taken on as a high-class courtesan/mistress for the more lecherous local noble/s.

I like hairy men, and I’d take my chances that a few modern sex tricks would blow their minds sufficiently that I could live out my days decked in gold and furs, bestowed on me by grateful punters.

So, an encyclopedic knowledge of sexual behaviours would seem to be the best survival tool for any moderately attractive woman, when time travelling…

Should I pass any suspiciously clean looking guys doing card tricks for turnip peelings, and ranting on about saltpetre and printing presses, I’ll toss you bit of bread, of course!

149 Happycrow June 13, 2008 at 11:13 am

Actually, you DO have the basic tools, if you have friends, to make it rich… you’re slightly ahead of time to turn waterwheels into power hammers, IF you understand something about gearing.

Either way, no matter what your strategy is, you need to get into a community and demonstrate your value to that community. There is a rule fo law, but there is much less of a “state” than people expect, and since private war is very often legal, you need to be associated with one group or another.

150 Tenyears June 13, 2008 at 4:35 pm

Get to the nearest ale-house. Start drinking meade, or grog, or whatever’s on tap. Take up with the wenches. Pick out the biggest meanest looking mug and tell him his momma dresses him funny and he smells bad. Challenge him to a “duel” or a “joust” (assuming you can borrow a horse) … or better yet suggest arm wrestling or darts. After the “feats of strength,” you will have either vanquished your foe with deft and nuanced diplomacy and multilateral coalition building, or you’ll be dead and all your troubles will be over.

151 richard June 13, 2008 at 7:11 pm

I can’t resist some (rather disheartening) advice for time-travelling women:

Your first order of business should be to acquire a knife or dagger that you can use for suicide if your situation becomes unbearable, as it likely will very quickly.

Forget “equal rights” – you don’t have _any_ rights, and as a woman you’re probably not even considered fully human (I don’t know enough ecclesiastical history to know when the question of women’s humanity was finally resolved in favor of women, but I suspect later than 1000 AD). The level of misogyny current then is hard for us to imagine – forget the Baptists’ “wives must be submissive to their husbands”, and think something closer to Afghan Taliban.

Your best bet (as I think has been mentioned) is to join a nunnery. Otherwise you will certainly end up as a sexual servant to some man who you will likely consider physically repulsive, if only in terms of hygiene. He will (probably) have zero interest in providing _you_ any sexual satisfaction. And unless you’ve had your tubes tied or had a hysterectomy, there’s the joy of medieval childbirth (which after all is your only real purpose then) to look forward to.

I guess this is rather bleak, but I think realistic. Forget about marrying some upper-class dude – you have no family and no land and therefore your only possibility would be as a concubine, which would be an insecure lifestyle at best (he would probably move on if you get pregnant, etc).

152 Dave June 14, 2008 at 2:35 am

Did anyone say weaving yet? A nice creek, maybe even a river, and you could make a few cogs turn. Money right there, eh?

153 Peter June 14, 2008 at 11:31 am

As appealing as the idea of joining a convent/monastery sounds, you generally couldn’t join one unless you gave land or money to the convent or monastery. Most monks were younger sons of gentry who wouldn’t inherit the property (it would go to the oldest) and who were accepted into the monastery because their father gave a donation of land or money.

154 S.M. Stirling June 14, 2008 at 10:56 pm

>at least had something like a rule of law

— no. They had laws, and courts, but not much even remotely resembling what we’d think of as a rule of law.

Eg., there were no police, and in many areas no person who was charged with investigating or prosecuting crimes. Later in the medieval period the English developed a system where all dead bodies had to be accounted for, and this was very advanced for the time.

If one local killed another local, the -relatives- of the victim could take the case to the relevant court. Or, in some areas, just launch a blood feud, something quite common in northern England until the 1600’s and much later elsewhere.

Access to various courts depended on your legal status — first and foremost, whether you were a member of the local community.

In 1000, if someone just killed a stranger who didn’t have connections or relatives, likely nothing would be made of it.

>and murder was definitely not socially acceptable.

— depends on your definition of “murder”.

Killing -by stealth- was generally frowned on. Many other forms of killing were, if not exactly encouraged, perfectly legal. Dueling of various types was very widespread.

Rates of violence were tremendously high by our standards.

>and probably wouldn’t have paid a funny-looking stranger much more than a curious glance.

— nope. Everybody knew everybody in most places, and strangers were regarded with intense suspicion. Call it “village xenophobia”. You couldn’t just settle down and live somewhere without permission.

Most people felt no moral obligations to those outside their community.

155 S.M. Stirling June 14, 2008 at 11:31 pm

To show what’s theoretically possible, consider the case of a Frenchman named Laborde, who worked in Madagascar in the 1830’s and 1840’s. (There’s a good Wiki article on him, some of which I reproduce here.)

Madagascar at the time was early Iron Age — much more primitive than Europe in 1000 AD. Simple iron tools, but no use of the wheel, no written language, no buildings but wattle huts, no use of animal draught, etc.

Laborde started with a technical encyclopedia, some artisan skills and a set of blacksmith’s tools, and the backing of the local king.

Within 6 years, he had blast furnaces with waterwheel-powered draught producing cast iron, puddling mills producing wrought iron, a steeling plant producing spring steel, a glassworks, brickworks and cement-plant, a heavy foundry capable of producing 24-pounder cannons, a musket factory, a gunpowder mill, a tower to make lead shot, and textile mills with power spinning and weaving.

All this was built up from scratch with unskilled local labor, which he trained himself, in an environment about as hostile as early medieval Europe would be for one of us.

(Even with modern medicine, Madagascar is still somewhat risky for someone from the temperate zone to visit.)

He had a robust constitution and lots of charm, too, of course.

Within about a decade he had a 10,000-strong work force producing most of the stuff of which Early Industrial Europe was capable.

Note also: the locals (except for the king and nobles) hated him and hated working in his factories, and destroyed it all by riot when he fell from favor.

156 ogie June 16, 2008 at 10:19 am

learn french! that was the predominant language of the time. Also as great as trying to invent something back then would be, getting the things you need would probably be very very hard. I suggest cooking. Even if you cook some of today’s simple dishes poorly it would probably be better than the food they are eating back then. You might find yourself the cook for the lord and lady of a near by manner, who will go to court with the king and brag about the wondrous things their cook does in the kitchen. then next thing you know you are the cook for the king.

157 Rosie June 16, 2008 at 5:42 pm

@ Richard, I agree with your thinking – mine is that any talented whore has a halfway decent chance of survival, it’s the (second) oldest trade, and we have all the tips on hand here in the C21…. albeit she’ll have to provide her own fireworks.

(Actually your post made me think of my early days as a rock n’roll groupie – the total lack of hygiene, rights, or mutual pleasure… but let’s get back On Topic…)

Off that, I’m NOW thinking that, male or female – bleach your hair. Or dye it black, red, purple, blue – because, when you go back in time (let’s ignore time machines and call it a wormhole, a rift in time) you can then grow it out to your natural colour, and call it a miracle.

Be sure to be pious enough in the correct manner, and attribute it to the local saint if you can (or, Pagan God, not all of Euprope was Xian in 1000CE).

You’ll be a novelty NO-ONE can explain though!

Get taken in by (yawn, I KNOW) the local monastery/convent/pagan temple after being able to talk religion in a funny accent, and then introduce your boiled-water-kills-bugs / brewery recipe / excellent gay tantric sex tips: and you’re gold.

158 Travel Promotion Codes June 17, 2008 at 4:40 am

Remember the area is constantly changing so always check the travel advisory.

159 Naomi June 17, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Get to Vienna somehow. Carve in stone everywhere in the city that the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts needs to accept and nurture an applicant in the year 1907 named Adolph Hitler. Let him teach some courses, give him a stipend, whatever. But keep him busy.

160 Marty June 19, 2008 at 10:35 pm

Since I didn’t know much about 1000AD before reading this thread, I couldn’t really comment, but at least now I’ve been entertained and informed. What I did know about that era is that it was right at the peak of the “Dark Ages” in Europe, which to me doesn’t leave you with favorable odds.

The comments that point out that life would be miserable and death would afford you with a hasty and painful exit, sound about right. But where’s the fun in that?

So here’s something no one has said. You’d go mad. If you didn’t drop dead from a Middle Ages pre-plague bug or act of violence soon enough, your descent into madness would be swift and certain. You can’t communicate, you’d soon be malnourished, and you’d likely be weak from exposure long before you made to the fabled King’s castle or monastery. The culture-shock would be so unlike what your soft little 21c mind could comprehend, and the sights, sounds and smells so overwhelming, that you’d be best off to escape into whatever wilderness remains in Europe, and stay hidden.

On that note, one comment mentioned you could enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the wild, which could give you comfort. But your woodland survival skills would need to be sharp enough to ward off wild animals, bandits, and other perils of the woods.

In all, best just to stay home.

161 Surfin' Through June 23, 2008 at 6:07 pm

I’m surprised no one has mentioned martial arts. That would take care of most human threats (but not all, of course — e.g. an archer could still take you out (unless you’re Leroy Green)).

Wilderness survival skills would allow you to stay alive on your own long enough to get a feel for things and the ability to be mobile enough to travel around until you found a suitable place to settle.

After that, rather than going in with pre-conceived ideas of what I should “invent” or introduce, I’d look around and see what’s *needed*. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. Then you’d have a much better idea of how to proceed. As someone else pointed out, your greatest advantage is that you know what’s *possible*. Many things weren’t invented or discovered before they were, simply because it never occurred to anyone (e.g. stirrups).

@Aloisius: While the OP did specify Europe, your scenario is interesting. You might want to check out Orson Scott Card’s “Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus”.

162 Sugar Fix June 24, 2008 at 12:25 am

I wanted to find a way to capture as much of the collective intelligence of this thread as I could in a handy easy to remember form — the pop song. Yes… this thread has been put to music. Enjoy. :)

1000 A.D.

163 Xurde June 24, 2008 at 3:14 pm

What about water mills? that is quite a powerful technology which you can “sell” to the smith’s guild and maybe get a living, once you have access to a smith’s workshop you can start making new tools to make newer tools and so on. Improved ploughs using horses or oxes can grant a huge improvement on food etc…

164 hideko June 24, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Just try to enjoy the Middle Ages !
Do all the funny things we sadly don’t practise anymore in our times:
BECOME A PIRATE, join a crusade, go raid the north european coast with some viking friends, live in the real wilderness just 5 minutes away from home,BECOME A PIRATE, eat LOTS of deers,boars and many other hunted animals, BECOME A PIRATE, go see the Parthenon before the turks broke it and the british loot it, go see the muslims ruling the most civilized places of the time, BECOME A PIRATE, reveal the pyramids (pile all the treasures, then do a barrel roll over above them), go for a *real* ride(better, go riding everywhere, even from your room to the hall), meet Soliman The Great and other people with fancy names…whatever. Then enjoy the 24/7 non-stop stabbing & raping life of the pirate.

The point is, why would you try to bring the nowadays things back then. Just use what you can for survival and get the best out the situation. You will die soon anyway.

165 Asier3D June 25, 2008 at 3:36 am

If you try to get success making an invention (a steam motor, a lighter or something electric) have for sure that you´ll end burned to “purificate” you soul.
The most sensate way to be success with less effort is:
– Make toys to sell in the local markets, having mechanical skills you´ll create something funny, so it will be not seen as a devil´s tool.
– The print. Be faster than Gutenberg, this is your chance to pass to history making something useful. You´ll must be priest´s and bishop´s friend so your invention have a good economical end.

166 zoe June 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm

Dude, just revel in the awesomeness of being in the Middle Ages. Sure, it’ll be smelly and you will probably die of the plague, but it’s loads better than a renaissance fair. I would not recommend saving the entire population of Europe from the plague, though. I mean, it would be nice, of course, but you might cause some kind of time paradox from over-populating the world and then the planet would overflow and there would be this epic spaceship crash and your grandfather would die (Grandfather Paradox!) and the only human left alive would be that creepy skin lady from Doctor Who. So don’t try your luck too much.

167 dantebronto June 25, 2008 at 6:25 pm

I admit to having entertained such thoughts many times before. I wonder if this line of thinking is invigorated by a perceived “unraveling” in modern day society. I just can’t help but think how the theme parallels present day survivalism. “What would I do if the shit hit the fan?” Admittedly, people are almost as ignorant today, so much of the advice remains the same, i.e. learn to brew or distill, make weapons, etc.

168 Anonymous June 26, 2008 at 12:49 pm

Fall in love. Live a quiet, unassuming life. Forget “the past.”

169 Araucaria June 26, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Oh darn … looks like the Radhanite trading pretty much ended by 900CE. Oh well, there could be worse places than the Rhone Valley. I might do some trading anyway, down to Spain and up into Normandy, Flanders, Belgium.

170 Rosie July 1, 2008 at 9:50 am

You’re laughing a lot if you’re a suicide bomber, aren’t you? I mean, you fall through to the year 1000, and you’ve already got your bomb-belt/really heavy suitcase – in the former case, you find the nearest seige and blow their minds with your plastique: in the latter, you work out the brisance and shatter potential, and with a few of those really impressive smarts in hand, you start off the Suez canal.

All of which would horribly change history – but hey, you’re a suicide bomber, that’s your aim! LOL

171 Me July 4, 2008 at 1:47 pm

Being burned as a witch might not be as big a problem as suggested by those above. Alleged hocus-pocus-ery was more or less tolerated until the 1400s. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchhunt

172 Mike July 8, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Here’s my 2 cents.

Assuming you have wound up on Earth in 1000AD, you don’t need to worry about survival at all.

If you ended back there by chance, it means you have also managed to travel billions of miles through the frigid outer space and remain reasonably intact. In this case, you should be pretty much invulnerable to anything 1000AD can throw at you.

If someone sent you there on purpose, you are either part of a massive gameshow or have a higher purpose. But rest assured you won’t be sticking around long enough to find out.
Since time travel technology will/have/does exist, the Time Patrol will find you in no time at all and send you back to your own era while also erasing your memory. Thank Poul Anderson for that.

If neither a or b is correct, you should start tipping your dealer better.

173 Anudder Perspective July 9, 2008 at 10:22 pm

If by chance you are a relative of the inventor of the time machine, you could change, or rather, create history with your intelligent horse-like companion and your unbreakable sword.

Especially if your name is Conrad Stargard nee Schwartz.

174 RogueAngyl July 13, 2008 at 12:31 am

Well first off let me say the further down the list I got the more alcohol I had in me.

Second, I had this idea after reading the first three replies.

As I recall, the pre-rennaissance began in the 1100s AD. Why not get a jump start on it? Someone much further back mentioned playing Beatles songs, it was the closest thing I saw before I started seeing blurs as the words scrolled past. Basically, TV and highschool have prepared us for this. Inside my head is countless tales from Shakespeare to Roddenberry, having a chance to retell “A Mid Summer Night’s Dream” and “Doctor Who” and the United States presidential election drama of 2000, all adapted for 11th century context. Granted, it would take some brushing up on my latin and eventually picking up the local tongue (figuratively I hope), but I figure one could start out as a traveling bard telling stories for coin and eventually fall into favor with a less aggressive lord and start a theatre or the such. Being mostly hygenic it shouldn’t be too hard.

175 Khadija August 4, 2008 at 3:39 am

Actually, you CAN be transported back to 1000AD. Just go to any Polish village south of Warsaw (the further south the better – Limanowa and surrounding villages recommended). Whay you do there is go to church every day, become a man of the cloth, and keep your big modern intelligent mouth very shut or (yes, even today), the priest will denounce you from the pulpit as an agent of SATAN! The locals will at best shun you, and/or burn your house down, as happens in reality!! Don’t believe me? Just try mentioning yoga, vegetarianism and reincarnation. If you want the full blast of the “Holy Mother Church”, establish an ashram. Democracy in the EU my ass.

176 Jhazline September 1, 2008 at 8:04 am

As a woman I will find a man and make it sure that he will marry me after we met. In that situation I don’t have to worry anymore, I will live in his house and treat him as my husband. I will just stay in our home, take care of everything and he will be the one to find food and money for us.

Jhazline

– – – – – – –
http://www.1explore.com
Your life deserves a place like this.

177 Hober September 4, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Hi.

While is posible i think after the first “learning” time, is better always work in same thing or related than your actual work. If you work in a restaurant, try ask work in a food house, and try improve methods (clean food and different cooked method), with the time, marry owner daughter (or son) and then perhaps bussiness is yours. Same thing for others works. You will have time pass your sons and daughter your “little secret” and all you remember about future world.

178 Mike September 27, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I’d stay hidden and live off the land for a while….using whatever snippets I
remember from “The Army Survival Manual”

Remember, there’s fewer people and more venison back then. If you put yourself in the mindset of being behind enemy lines, always on the lookout, you might escape undetected.

Remember camouflage, like mud, during your nightly forays to the poor farmer’s henhouse. I dunno if covering yourself in mud actually masks your scent to the farmer’s hounds, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

Constantly moving, I would sparingly steal clothing items and weaponry and food. When I finally acquire a ‘period’ look, i would head to the nearest city and try my luck there as a traveler from faraway lands that speaks broken Latin (I speak three languages of Latin origin, and pick up new words pretty fast)

Of course, first I’d have to figure out where the nearest big cosmopolitan city is. Did they have roadsigns at major crossroads back then?

Then I’d just play it by ear….

179 Cody September 29, 2008 at 11:39 pm

If I were in this situation, I’d head to Byzantium. It’s the most powerful (and cleanest place) in Europe. I know Bbyzantine Greek, so that puts me in the running–PLUS I’m Orthodox. I wouldn’t be burned for heresy. I know some general metalsmithing, and general chemistry, and I’m good at talking to people. I also know a lot of random military stuff that would be applicable, I think.

I think I’d probably set myself up as a Historian, or, better yet a military advisor or general, since that’s what I know best. I’m not interested in fame, or fortune, but surviving comfortably. I could say “Here’s this thing that makes a big boom, now let’s get our people together to work on something to do with it,” which is, more or less, how the methods to utilize Greek Fire were developed.

I would NOT want to cross Basil II. He’s known as the Bulgar-Slayer for a reason. I WOULD, however, perhaps get in his confidence enough to be named as Heir, or marry one of his sisters. It’s a big if, but if I can do it, I could probably hold the empire better than his lousy successors.

This way, maybe, I could take the throne as peacefully as it’s possible to do so in Byzantium (which is to say, not very much), and perhaps see what I could do to hold the Empire together. No invasions to the west; but I’d focus on slowly retaking the Levant, piece by piece, city by city, battle by battle. No super-campaigns. I’d do it the same way Basil took Bulgaria.

Eventually, luck and my power holding, I’d have Jerusalem myself. I don’t know if I’d continue south into Egypt or not. It would be tempting; if I controlled Egypt, that’s a FABULOUS source of wealth, and the empire should be set, even against the Sejulks.

If I keep ahold of it, no reason for Crusades, for a while, anyway, and assuming I breed/groom a good heir, he’ll do a good job too. I’m not expecting to create a long-term dynasty by any means, just something that won’t fall apart as easily. Which it might.

But, I’d be equally happy in a position like Michael Psellus.

180 kicksonfire October 5, 2008 at 7:52 pm

Wouldn’t the easiest way to use future knowledge to your advantage in 1000 AD be to know well the history of the time period and use that to become a successful fortune teller? The comparative advantage that you were actually right would be huge. Presumably your timeline would diverge rapidly from ours, but you could cement your reputation early and coast for a long time on it. Then, just write what would have happened in future centuries and you will be hailed as the greatest psychic in history when at least some of it comes to pass. But remember to be vague to account for the divergence, except for things that are unlikely to be affected by human history (e.g. Little Ice Age, volcanic eruptions, Tunguska asteroid strike, etc.).
News about Air Force Ones

181 rcs October 6, 2008 at 12:48 am

what about this scenario?: traveling back in time to 1000AD but given a week of preparation

i know everybody here will choose to bring lots of guns, ammo,canned foods,tents,survival stuff.

as an electronics engineer i’d also carry useful gadgets, before you object:

searchlights: for nights, not need to start fires for light and able to travel 24/7

3 laptops: the war-journalist kind, encased in steel, solid state hard drive and resistant to water, heat, shock and even small arms fire, i’ll put in them all kinds of general knowledge (like the british encyclopedia)and everything from the army survival guide to long term items like papers on basic calculus, physics, medicine, metal working, and a scientific calculator software, detailed world maps, etc

I’m convinced this vault of knowledge will fit in 500 gigs of docs at most. They would be my most valuable posession and should be hidden for the time i adapt myself to a new village and get a suitable job (as an smith probably)

My plan is not just for survival, after settling i’ll find my way to become a court military advisor, with advanced maps and improved hygiene i’ll provide a very powerful army to the king.

As a reward i’ll ask for land,some gold to buy materials and a group of skilled crafters,and also the request to be left alone.

Finally, with my vault of knowledge,resources and people i shall found a very technologically advanced nation (for it’s time), eventually becoming the ruling super power, challenging the brits, french and whoever.

i think i have movie material here, if given the chance, how would you make it different?

182 Cook66 October 10, 2008 at 2:21 pm

I would use my knowledge to best earn myself a place with the rich or religious, then make a prophecy or trust fund await my eventual birth into the world making me that more rich and powerful, then go back in time again, repeat the process, only use what I learned the first time to make my second trip even more efficient, continue on with this until I had discovered the best and most effective way to forward information and wealth, then I furthered the human race, predicted and avoided disasters, and built the world in my own image I would do my best to not go back in time one last time and settle as the man who made the world everyone live in today.

😛

183 Jennifer October 12, 2008 at 6:49 pm

all of those ideas are all well a great but you would probally end up dead with in a few days. Just because you have be vacinated from modern diseases does not mean any thing. There are diseases that existed then that do not exist now that you would catch and die from. Barring that you would probally be burned at the stake for being a witch if you pulled some of those ideas. Also bathing back then if i remember correctly was actually considered to be bad for you because it washed off the skin. Actually though it was just washing off the dirt. If you were unfortant enough to get sent back the best thing that you could do would be to learn french cause if i remember correctly english was used by the pesentry only. If you were smart and carefully and managed not to catch the plague or any other disease then you may manage to survive.

184 Anonymous October 16, 2008 at 7:26 pm

BRING A TANK WITH UNLIMITED FUEL AND DESTROY EVERYTHING MAKE THEM BEG FOR MERCY

185 elcombatwombat October 18, 2008 at 4:46 pm

no one has yet attempted to elevate the ‘go global’ perspective beyond civilizations, but I think we forget that archaeo-anthropology tells us most ‘primitive’ hunter-gatherer societies comprised of peoples with longer natural lifespans, better health and nutrition, more egalitarian social structures, less work, and more free time than their ‘civilized’ contemporaries, all while enoying a cultural pastime of taking psychedelic drugs in communion with all things. Admittedly, Jared Diamond notes that murder was the #1 cause of death for adult males in most relic cultures in his studies, a relatively safe assumption to make for other pre-civilization cultures. However, we must also consider that explorers, settlers, and colonists throughout history have dealt with the epidemic of runaways into native hands who must be dragged kicking and screaming back into the ‘civilized’ camps full of disease, coercion, and death – these people clearly are fond of something the ‘savages’ have to offer. And we’ve already established that you’ll likely be burned as a witch, so the prospect of dealing with tribal ‘wars’ (with laughably low fatality rates) warms in comparison.

Just as today we have a hard time envisioning the individuals of 1000 AD, we have great difficulty in understanding the environment of 1000 years ago. Only 200 years ago in America the rivers and streams literally overflowed with salmon, eel, or molluscs while the sky would be darkened for days at a time with the passage of immense flocks of passenger pigeons. Nowadays you can’t drink from most waterways, much less eat the fish. The richness of the natural world before civilization was more than plentiful, it was a literal cornucopia. In 1000 AD you will have the opportunity to enjoy truly pristine and abundant resources and will likely be taken in and revered by the peoples who are part of those ecosystems.

i realize that exploring the possibilities of your own potential in a less technically developed culture than your own is the exercise here, and I have enjoyed all the suggestions so far. but i felt i needed to weigh in for the ‘other side’ of the historical context and advocate heading for the forests of Africa, Ireland, the Americas, or Australia.

But if you insist on remaining in Europe, I would like to recommend a few practices to greatly ingratiate yourself to the locals:

1) Cooking! the most popular condiment at that time was called Gar, a wet paste of old wine, salt, herbs and rotten fish entrails. fucking gross. cuisine was limited to the upper class, while the rest ate gruel. you can certainly do better than that with a little brush-up on your recipe cards, especially drawing on the immense cultural variety of the modern diet. you’ll be well ahead of New World arrivals like citrus, the tomato, or the potato, but you could swing down to Africa over a few years and retreive literally hundreds of varieties of exotic and delicious fruits and vegetables for cultivation along the Mediterranean.

2) Grow pot. Hashish and hemp products already exist at that time and the surprisingly fast rate of breeding for medical use in the 20th century suggests you could do a lot for potency in a few dozen generations. naturally you could use your knowledge of plant breeding and genetics for many other applications but this one is powerful. or, if teetotaling is your style, you could invent a primitive decorticator and dramatically reduce the effort required to produce hemp fibers and hurd, the valuable cellulose gunk which is a chemical foundation for many products. either way you’ll produce a lot of useful stuff for little investment and labor.

186 Nathaniel McNulty October 24, 2008 at 10:51 am

become a superhero. with your far advanced intelligence, surely you could become a type of robin hood/dick turpin/batman figure. plus, i think every male would be able to fulfil one of their boyhood fantasies by becoming something so great. simply using a long robe made from any available cloth(es. a hood, and some sneakiness. this would be my ideal solution to being transported back to that time.

187 nick November 4, 2008 at 2:33 am

bring modern day weapons back to 1000A.D and start wars with all the strong leaders and conquer Europe and become a king to earn a place in history

188 美容 November 4, 2008 at 10:42 am

People won’t kill you for being different. They will probably kill you for being a threat and/or a good loot. But not for being different.

189 dave craig December 4, 2008 at 2:51 am

you would know of the out come of much of what is to happen.you would be very well off. don,t make the same mistakes .try to help.watch what you do.you may end up on the end of a rope

190 invissnow January 14, 2009 at 9:44 pm

You have several options–

If you’re ambitious, go take over a country! If you get to Hungary before Christmas, Saint Steven (Istvan) won’t have gotten there yet and founded it.

Or, as people have mentioned above, pass yourself fortune teller, a bookbinder, a bookkeeper, an inventor, a wizard, an alchemist, a noble, or something like that.

Or, as I don’t believe anyone has mentioned yet, you could try to fit in and live a life not unlike those around you. You could eke out a living, make friends, be happy, and blend into the 11th century as if you were born there…enjoy yourself, you’ve done something no one else has ever done, so stop trying to change the very course of history and settle down!

(And by the way, if you find yourself in a fairy tale this’ll help you out:

http://www.endicott-studio.com/cofhs/cofinstr.html)

191 timmer January 31, 2009 at 11:42 pm

if you can bring a canister of pepper w/ you, you’ll have fabulous funds.

192 Joram Arentved February 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I don’t count on The Church any longer, therefore I’m contrarily happy to tell you
both any of my further & most relevant information, i.e. an issue, whereon you’re meanwhile absolutely welcome to receive my phone: 00562 558 97 91, a permission, which, however, also involves a good human-right-lawyer’s interest, maybe as a labor manager of mine etc., so that I can of course tell & e.g. help us all, whoever’s who, find out & our best answers to, what’s our just as good future, greetings, arentved@in.com, to be continued.

193 tn chaussures April 3, 2009 at 11:50 pm

Martial arts or tactics? Maybe knowledge of geography? Definitely first aid, especially the sort of thing they have in books like “where there is no doctor”. Definitely multiplication, geometry, trigonometry, and basic decision t

194 frada May 15, 2009 at 9:44 pm

you just imagin how to happen

195 conan June 19, 2009 at 5:27 pm

After you remove the spear from your chest that inevitably follows an abrupt appearance from thin air, you’ll still have to worry about how anyone will ever understand the words you shouldn’t be speaking.
I have keys, my fairly empty wallet, and a lighter in my pocket.
The lighter makes me a wizard so long as the fuel maintains. So only use that card when you know it won’t land you on a burning stake.
The keys are nothing special except they’re shiny and may be of barter use.
The wallet has pictures and slim, plastic cards with fancy foreign glyphs on them that are not discernible to anyone but me.
If by some magic you managed to escape the disease heading your way from modern vaccination and strains of yonder yore, you’ll likely face a none too distant death when you are dressed like an alien with machine stitched clothes, impressively constructed shoes and possibly a normal, everyday belt that is a marvel of design to their era. Everyone wants something shiny, so your foreign tongue, confusion, and fair assembly of neat objects in possession will probably be the very reason you die immediately.

You probably have a higher chance for survival if you avoid society, build yourself a hut in the woods with a river near by and live a long, hellish life all by yourself.

Now suppose you do manage to learn the language around you and not get killed. By the time you have submerged yourself in this culture and adopted at least a basic understanding of their language, you probably may not have a sharp recollection of any of the things you thought up when you first arrived.
Do you know how to make a printing press? I don’t.
Do you know how to make a cotton gin? I don’t.
I don’t know if I could bring anything at all to their attention that would make sense or that I would be able to convey.
Maybe a bicycle, since the resources are there and it is easy enough that anyone could make it, even if you don’t remember exactly how they were built.
If you managed to relocate to England, you could dedicate your life to writing down every word and definition in the English language. While guaranteeing your life in extreme poverty, you at least would have composed something that is not to be officially recorded for about 500 more years.

You could speculate for days on what one does with their new life in the past, but I think the majority of us would come to the same conclusion:

curl up and die.

196 Auto Insurance Quotes September 1, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I think that religion is always going to be the way to go. Knowing what hooks have caught people in the last millenium, you can easily start a cult within Christianity, which will bring you the power needed to have a great life.

197 generic viagra April 12, 2010 at 3:47 pm

Quantum mechanics has had enormous success in explaining many of the features of our world. The individual behaviour of the subatomic particles that make up all forms of matter—electrons, protons, neutrons, photons and others—can often only be satisfactorily described using quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics has strongly influenced string theory, a candidate for a theory of everything(reductionism) and the multiverse hypothesis. It is also related to statistical mechanics.

198 cheap airlines May 24, 2010 at 2:27 am

I believe people of average height today would be six or nine inches taller than average in 1000 A.D.

199 cheap airlines May 24, 2010 at 8:02 am

I believe people of average height today would be six or nine inches taller than average in 1000 A.D.

200 charlie September 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Use what you know, and what is universal. Read Casanova, memorize the kama sutra – give lessons to rich folks and get someone rich to take you on as a paramour. Read up on how Fleming developed penicillin and do likewise, a cure for vd is a winner.

Charlie

201 Dan December 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm

As far as making money, there may be some simple bar bets based on geometry you can win.

Bet someone that the height of their mug is smaller than the circumfrence of the mug. Use a string to prove it. Thanks to Pi, the circumfrence should be about 3x the diameter, but it looks like the mug is taller.

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