The purpose of this e-book is seek information based on the truth it a hobby based publication and it is not an academic book where it is important to avoid errors. Information is constantly added and if needed changed based on what I believe is relevant to the truthful representation of the subjects I research.


Of course we all have roots, we know that but what are they exactly are and how important are they? I see ‘roots’ as a place of belonging, a place to foster, a place you fell safe and at home. I think for most people the ultimate roots are their family; as this basically fits all the elements above.

But belonging can be more than that is being part of a greater social structure a country, a city a community, a club or social group.

So when people are uprooted from their roots that doesn’t necessary mean social disconnect or unhappiness. However, if this is done in a non voluntary way such as for example the case of refugees than this most of the time results in major social problems which nearly always lead to economic problems as well.

My roots are important to me and in this book I am tracing these roots. So what are my roots? Obviously my family, the Australian roots are rather new but nevertheless they are there, I lived most of my youth and early adult years in Oss, Brabant, Netherlands and spend a lot of time – while I was living there – exploring the history of that city. My parents and grandparents came from Ootmarsum, in Twente Netherlands  a place steeped in history, with one of the few places in the Netherlands were ancient traditions still continue, I do feel a strong connection with my roots here. All my previous known generations of family members back to around 1600 lived in Wietmarschen and Nordhorn, in Niedersachsen, northwest Germany, the current Budde farm is still occupied by Budde’s and this has been the case for the previous 400 years. Amazingly it are a Herman and Annie Budde who live here at present, the names of my parents are also Herman and Annie Budde.

Beyond Wietmarschen the roots become thinner, there are indications that family members lived around the Baltic (Rügen, Stralsund, Greifswald), perhaps before that coming from Scandinavia as my DNA indicates.

So my known roots are concentrated in northwestern Europe. It is against this background that this book has been written. The fact that it often focuses on these places indicate the strength of the roots, but all the time places and events are placed in a broader context.

DNA research from Oxford University indicates that some 45,000 years ago there is even a possible link between myself and the Cro-Magnon people arriving in the Balkans, but obviously there is no social or emotional root contact whatsoever with these place, but nevertheless I have a real interest to trace it back all that time and place my roots in some sort of context that makes sense to me. That brings us to the early people in Europe and their journey out of Africa and in that context we also cover some of human developments during the Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods and also briefly explore some of the geographic and climate changes that created the ‘home’ for these people in northwestern Europe.

This broader context is northwestern Europe, this book will not delve in the history of Egypt, India or China, but it will were applicable indicate roots linking back  to those place. Such as in relation to: language (India), pottery (Japan), migration (Huns/China) and religious concepts (Egypt).

The cut of date is more or less the end of the Middle Ages, it stops when we start moving towards modern times.

Paul Budde

The scope of the publication

Above all, this publication researches the people, their lands and the events that shaped them within the western civilisation as we know it today; it concentrates on the northwestern part of Europe; covering these places linked to my roots.

The history of this region is traced back to the environment that started to make this region more habitable after the last Ice Age. For most of the period that this book covers, it was this environment that shaped everything that evolved from it, its people, its social, political and economic systems. It set the boundaries of the lives and shaped the known world for the people who lived in it.

However, it is important to note that the western history is very closely linked to the eastern history and in general that these global developments more have to do with the biological nature of humans rather than by the individual cultures that groups of humans have developed over time within certain geographic areas. Basically the developments of  human societies started at the end of the last  Ice Age fueled by agriculture based cultures. The societies and cultures as we know them now, have their origin in the first millennium BCE when significant cyhanges in society started to occur:

  • state development, with military organisation, bureaucracies;
  •  significant  intellectual advances  started to occur based on writing, debating, philosophical thoughts (the start of science) ;
  • Expansions from the core of the early centers of agriculture with cities, states, empires;
  • Economic growth started to occur (be it from a very low base in terms of modern economic development).

Milestones in global human developments

Continent Modern Humans BCE Agriculture BCE City States Proto States BCE
Africa 100.000 6,000 Egypt 3,000Ethiopia 500
M.East 100.000 9,000 Mesopotamia 3,500 Hittite 1650Persia 550
Europe 35,000 7,000 Crete 2,000Greece 1,500Etruscan 850 Roman 750B – Franks 800CE
Asia 90,000 8,000 Indus 2,500China 1,900 China 1800
N.America 15,000 4,500
S.America 11,000 4,500 Tiahuanaco 250ACMaya 100 AC Andes 500AC Maya 300AC
Pacific 60,000 Australia 7,000 New Guinea

The change from hunter gathers to agriculture based societies started to occur in northwestern Europe around 5,000BCE, however more longer lasting agricultural innovations started to reach this area a few thousand years later. A mixture of Germanic and Celtic tribal believes and traditions became the foundation of the peoples of north-western Europe and many of these elements are still very much part of its modern societies.

Prehistoric, Tribal and Feudal Europe (north western)

Key characteristics Timeline
Individual farmers 5000 BCE – 500 BCE
Tribal Europe 500 BCE – 500 AC
Roman Europe (north-west) 100 BCE – 400 AC
Merovingian unification 400 – 700
Carolingian Europe 700 – 900
Dark Ages of anarchy 900 – 1000
Feudal Ages 1000 – 1350
Age of Death 1350 – 1450
Age of the Peasants 1450 – 1550
Age of the City 1550+

Oss lays just south of the big river system that divides modern Netherlands in north and south. and became one of the early areas where agriculture started to take off. At the same time the extended river delta  was such an impregnable area that  for millennia remained a boarder between tribes, empires and countries. The river area just north of Oss was most likely the place where the final and very destructive battle of 55BC took place under Julius Caesar (as described in the Bello Gallico). The genocide that happened during a three day truce period organised by Caesar broke Roman Law and he was summoned back by the Senate in Rome. He did this but again contradictory to Roman Law he let his armed troops cross the river Rubicon and thus heralding the start of civil wars in Rome.

While some 54,000 people were enslaved from Gaul from most likely the area of what now is Brabant, the arrival of the Romans also brought significant changes to farmers who had been living there at that time for over 2000 years. The area was now under Roman (military) control this created economic activity (supplies to the troops) and of course there was further contact and trade; all of this shaped a different society that started to evolve. See: On the Roman Limes

These changes were less prevalent in Ootmarsum and Wietmarschen as they lay outside the Roman Empire.  The hilly area near Ootmarsum also attracted some of the early farmers. Wietmarschen on the edge of one of the largest bogs in Europe suffered the longest from the effects of the Ice Age. The Germanic tribe (Tubantii)  here were able to maintain their own culture and many tribes were able to maintain a significant level of independence. See: Barbarians rule

Already before the final total collapse of the Roman Empire Oss depopulated  – around 250AC., most likely at least as part of some climate changes. With a siftened border, the Germanic tribes of the Salii, which also included the Batavii, moved into Brabant and the region became a core part of the emerging Merovingian (Salian) Empire.

It was until Charlemagne that the more eastern tribes, by than collective known as the Saxons, were conquered and only from that time onwards formed all the three towns in question part of one political entity the Carolingian Empire. See: The Rise of the Carolingians

Ootmarsum starts to emerge from its misty past around that time, its first timber church was drawn by the monk Beda in 732, however legend has it that a local tribal chieftain Othmar founded the place in 125. During the Middle Ages Ootmarsum was the most important town in its region, Twente.

After the Treaty of Verdun, Oss  ended up in Lotharingia and Ootmarsum Wietmarschen in what would become the Holy Roman Empire. However, these borders remained rather fluid for a very long time. See: Lotharingia

Nordhorn also started to emerge in Carolingian times, after the Saxon conquest. Wietmarschen as a place started to emerge in the 12th century, when land reclamation stared to make the place more habitable.

In all these towns, the transition from tribal to central governance caused also many problems. Power also corrupt and most ordinary people became slaves (serfs) of the powerful lords and monasteries that started to emerge between 800 and 1200. Wietmarschen was one of the last places in western Europe where the feudal system continued to well into modern times, the Budde family here didn’t become ‘free’ until 1850.

As indicated it was the natural environment that dominated developments for the first 5000 years or so, next it was the Roman Catholic Churchwho became the most influential shaper of the region and its people. They were the first who started to implement systems into the local societies; they were the only intellectual source for both religious and secular developments for a thousand year. It was not until 1200 that its power started to wane and still another 400 years before reason started to take its independent place again next to faith; a struggle that still is taking place in modern times.

The arrival of cities (communes) from the 10th and 11thcenturies onwards added another dimension to the development of the region and especially Flanders and Brabant took some early global leadership in this development. Cities were more democratic than the feudal regional estates and that concept saw people taking more and more power away from the lords and clergy.

These cities were fertile ground for new ideas, innovations and a new bread of people.

In summary, the places that covers my roots are an integral part of the west-European history.

  • The region that includes Oss, Ootmarsum and Nordhorn/Wietmarschen became one of the most northern habitable areas after the last ice age.
  • Post Ice Age environmental elements were critical in the development of Oss (peelhorst), Ootmarsum (moraine hills)  and Wietmarschen (Bourtanger Moor)
  • As a border region of the Roman Empire Brabant became involved in some of the earliest organised warfare; the Gallo-Roman wars devastated the area and its people.
  • The Germanic tribe of the Salii (Franks) moved from the river IJssel to Brabant. They would become the most powerful of all Germanic tribes, later known as the Franks.
  • The Tubanti in Twente  became part of the larger tribal confederation of the Frissi, than in the 8thcentury of that of the Saxons to also end up under the Franks. Also Wietmarschen and Nordhorn fell within the tribal area of the Tubanti.
  • The Franks, under Clovis, had their first capital in Doornik. This was arguable the first time that a large part of what is now northwestern Europe was united under one ruler. The previous  Roman sphere was typically concentrated around the Mediterranean and didn’t not reach further than the river Rhine.
  • Leading Carolingians such as the Pippins had extensive property in Brabant. Charlemagne was probably born in Herstal (Luik).
  • Twente,  under the Carolingians, was given to the prince bishop of Utrecht.
  • The local dukes of Verdun, Leuven (Louvain) and Hainault were amongst the most powerful in northwest Europe. Under their leadership the political entity of Brabant started to evolve.
  • The Dukes of Brabant cleverly used the tension between East and west Francia (Germany and France) to its own advantage.
  • Some of the richest cities in Europe evolved in this region.
  • Ootmarsum was in its origin perhaps the most important city in Twente, later only 2nd after after its bigger sister Oldenzaal.
  • Brabant (and Flanders) formed the core of the emerging Burgundian Empire.
  • The future Habsburg king Charles V was born in Flanders ruled from Brussels in Brabant and called this region his home. Under his regime also Twente (Utrecht and Gelre) was incorporated in his empire.
  • The region became again a war zone during the 80 Years War of independence that saw the formation of the Netherlands. Ootmarsum also played a role in this war, when Prince Maurits captured the town in 1597 from the Spaniards. Wietmarschen suffered greatly both under the Dutch independence war as well as under the horrific Thirty Years war which killed 30% of the German population.
  • Brabant however, paid perhaps the highest price of all the provinces for the freedom of the country that would become the Netherlands as it again became a boarder region where wars were fought without having any saying in its own affairs at is was ruled as a ‘colony’ from Holland.


European history from the perspective of Brabant


Because of its rich history in particular during the High Middle Ages and the fact that while living in Oss I spend a lot of time studying the history of this place, this region takes a key role in this publication. Historically, Brabant has been the name of several administrative entities in the Low Countries (Netherlands and Belgium) while all within a relative small geographic area, the extent of ‘Brabant’ has changed right until modern times (the details will all be discussed further):

  • Since the last Ice Age and for most of its time, the region was only defined by its natural geography; the Rhine delta and the impregnable forest (Silva Carbonaria – coal forest – Ardennes).
  • With fluid borders the tribal Germanic and Celtic boundaries of the Eburones, Nervii, Tungrii and Frisii would have played a key role during their times in defining the region.
  • During the Merovingian and Carolingian era the axis Paris – Aachen defined the region and our region was part of Austrasia and Neustria, the first proto European countries.
  • It was during this period that the name Brabant started to emerge, but the name could perhaps date back to the late Roman period.
  • The first mentioning was that of the Carolingian pagus Bracbatensis, located between the rivers Scheldt and Dijle between the 9th and 11th century;
  • Brabant as a landgraviate, was the part of a smaller part of that pagus, the area between the rivers Dender and Dijle (from 1085/1086 up to 1183/1184);
  • The Duchy of Brabantwas established in 1183-84, covering approximately the present Dutch province North Brabant and the three Belgian provinces Antwerp, Walloon Brabant and Flemish Brabant, as well as the Brussels-Capital Region.

Modern Brabant:

  • The Belgium Province Brabant, which in 1995 was split up into Flemish Brabant and Walloon Brabant.
  • The Dutch province of North Brabant, where I was born in the city of Vught and I grew up in Oss.

The book starts with at the pre-history of this region but becomes more detailed once the Germanic people are starting to emerge, especially those who lived under Roman rule and the consequent mixing pot that started to emerge when these tribes started to migrate first under the pressure of the Roman systems and than during the Migration Period after the collapse of the Roman Empire.

These developments certainly created new dynamics with new ideas, new cultures, and new structures. Under Merovingian and Carolinian rule, Brabant changed from a region with few permanent settlements to an increase in fixed settlement that started a ferocious process of land cultivation. This in its turn led to trade and Brabant rapidly turned into one of Europe’s economic powerhouses, thanks certainly also to the Dukes of Brabant who took a leading role in this process.

Interestingly these developments were bottom-up and these led to very early forms of democracies and especially the cities in this region where amongst the first in the world to see a relative significant participation in the political decision making processes. In all we can talk about the Golden Age of Brabant here.

While the region in and around Oss flourished when it became the boarder region between tribal Europe and the Roman Empire. It also had a rather peaceful period during Carolingian times and the early period of the Dukes of Brabant.

Unfortunately the region got marginalised during the wars between Brabant and Gelre; later between the Dutch Republic and the Spanish Possessions followed and consequently the Austrian Habsburg territories and even occasionally with France. In all of these battles Brabant was worse off with their lands ravaged and pilfered; their towns and village burnt; their women raped and their men killed.

The economic and government centres were often situated outside the current geographic entity of the region: Aachen, Brussels, The Hague.

In all the marginalisation lasted for more than 500 years (1350- 1850). It was not until the 19th century that slowly the circumstances were restored to those as they were in the 14th and 15thcenturies and again Brabant is beaming in a new Golden Age of economic prospects and an enviable lifestyle for the people who live here.


European history from the perspective of Ootmarsum, Wietmarschen  and Nordhorn

Ootmarsum and Nordhorn both profited from the fact that were situated on the important trading route Antwerp – Bruges- Ghent – Brussels – Utrecht– Bremen – Hamburg – Prussia. There are indications that this route could even have its origin in Roman times and that parts of it were used during the campaigns of Drusus, Tiberius, Germanicus and Varius into the Germanic lands.

Wietmarschen remained firmly in the grip of the local monastery until 1850 and remained an agriculture backwater.


Living the past

I have been back yearly and travelled widely through Brabant both North and South, but with this publication in mind I started to become more focussed and targeted in my travels since the 2000s.

The same applies to Ootmarsum and Wietmarschen that I try to incorporate as much as possible in our European trips. A highlight was a family reunion in 2007 where I was also able to show my children (and grandchildren) these important places of our roots.

While of course I have travelled widely through the Low Countries. More recently however, together with my wife Louise we have annually made a more focused trips:

  • Pre-history: Stone Henge, Orkney Islands, Hunebeds (Drente), Tumuli (Oss).
  • Budde family history along the Baltic coast (Stralsund, Rugen, Greifswald, Sareemaa,Tallinn, Riga). Also of course to Wietmarschen, Nordhornand Emsburen.
  • Roman history: Nijmegen, Kalkriese (Osnabruck), Saalburg
  • In the footsteps of the Dukes of Brabant: Den Bosch, Brussels, Antwerp, Mechelen, Leuven, Nijvel, Ename and of course also places such as Gent and Brugge.
  • Merovingian and Carolingian trails (Doornik, Aachen, Echternach, Prüm, Paderborn, Metz, Reims).
  • Following the Burgundian Dukes:Dijon, Beaume, Nancy.
  • The Hanse: Bremen, Lübeck, Kampen, Deventer
  • Dutch history: Delft, Dordrecht, Vught, Grave, Breda, Geertruidenberg, Bergen op Zoom, Münster, Deventer, Zutphen, Ootmarsum, Weerselo.


Key conclusions

The geographic nature of the broader region, dense forest and waterlogged river and sea delta regions made it more difficult for more widespread agriculture developments and also for centralised organisation.

More centralised government leads in general to more economic developments. Roman authority only started to occur in these regions at the start of the new era, but as a boarder region, centralised authority was never established in any serious way.

However, with  Roman military camps situated in the region there was an increased demand for agriculture and other products that saw a rapid increase in the very thinly populated region. This lasted for 300 years, when the military activities quietened down after 250AC, population decreased again. This only started to increase again after 800. Significant land clearing and deforestation took place around 100 but by 800,  that was mostly reclaimed by the forest.

It was until the early Middle Ages that the time was right for these regions to see the level of civilisation which had already been reached centuries earlier in the Mediterranean regions and the Middle East. However, real progress didn’t occur until the 10th century.

Centralised power started to re-occur under the Carolingians (Franks). This time concentrated north of the Alps. However, it can be argued that this had more to do with the increase in Christianity. It was this institution that brought with it a much higher level of sophisticated organisation, which it had safeguarded from the collapsed of the Mediterranean based Roman civilisation.

The more spiritual and mystic form of eastern Christianity that was brought to these region with the Irish missionaries travelling along the old Roman boarders and beyond  appealed to the leading women of the Merovingian and Carolingian society and they were the key drivers behind the early spread of Christianity through monasteries. These monasteries became centres of agriculture and economic activity as well as of intellectual and spiritual activities and from here new government strategies developed hand in hand of course with religious strategies.

Under the influence of the Church and their Episcopal system a more authoritarian system replaced the early more flexible Germanic/Celtic system. Power and wealth became the key drivers beyond Christianity and from 750 onward it were the local rulers who used the Christian religion as a powerful tool  to expand their power base.

The ordinary farmers were simple pawns in these developments, the ‘new’ religion was closely enough aligned to their pagan traditions to make a religious transition rather easy, at the same time many of these pagan traditions were simply maintained and others were  Christianised.

From 800 onwards there was little difference between religious and the state developments they were one of the same. While this severely undermined  personal spirituality it at the same time allowed for very strong centralised state developments and these in turn led to a boom in economic development.

This also very strongly influenced the western society as we know it today. While the development of Europe would not have happened without the dynamics that Christianity brought with it. Its violent nature certainly also had its dark sides.

It ended a century of Greek philosophy, based on reason and created a new society based on faith. Those who challenged the new society rapidly were expelled as heretics and not following the faith meant ostracism. Over the next millennium – through one of the world’s most successful secret services organised under the Roman Catholic Inquisition -thousands of people around the globe were killed all in the name of Christianity. Many remnants of that society are still lingering on in our society, with occasional renewals along fanatic religious lines.

The heartland of the early Frankish activities lay in Austrasia (modern southern Netherlands, Belgium, northern France and Germany west of the river Rhine). It was also this region that profited the most from the early Irish-based, more spiritual religious developments. Soon this region (Flanders, Brabant) became the economic powerhouse of Europe above the Alps, equal to the city state developments of north Italy where at the same time similar state/religion developments evolved.

This lasted until the Reformation; this development altered the very powerful state-religion axis. Slowly a more secular society started to evolve separate from the religious structure. This of course didn’t happen overnight and for the next 150 years the region was torn apart by (religious) wars. The results of this lingered on in Brabant until well into the 19th century. It is only since the last 150 years that the region has recovered from this and is basically reclaiming the important position it had until 1500.

Between 900 and 1200 most political boarders of the various countries and provinces were established, many still based on old Germanic tribal territories established after the big migration. It is quite amazing to see that most of these borders are still in place and that in the 20thcentury we have actually seen a revival of those old tribal and medieval territories, be in the Balkans, Belgium, the Baltics, the Soviet Union or in Spain, the Scottish drive for more autonomy and the revival of the Frisian language.

The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)