VI. The Seclusion Era: Muggles
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
A set of simplified definitions which fits my own reading of the matter is:
SCIENCE is the progressive expansion of accurate observations, analysis and understanding of the working of natural law.
TECHNOLOGY is the craft of constraining these workings to serve the purposes of its developers.
MAGIC consists of giving the natural world instructions in terms that it cannot ignore.
One of the enduring beauties of the wizarding world’s Seclusion has been the generous endorsement that it has showered upon the mundane development of science, technology, and the evolution of human thought. This is a beauty which the Ministry of Magic has been at considerable pains to cultivate insofar as it has ultimately worked to the overall perceived benefit of the wizarding world. It serves as the clearest practical demonstration of the concept of “enlightened self-interest” as one is likely to find anywhere in the Potterverse.
Possibly one of the only such examples readily accessible to the wizarding mindset.
In the first place; about ten minutes after the wizarding world slammed the door, Muggles were making accurate scientific observations of the operation of the natural world. Observations which included no tampering on the part of some loopy wizard who wanted rainbows for his daughter’s wedding regardless of whether the sun was shining from the correct direction to produce rainbows or not. There was no contamination of scientific experiments by some self-centered magical who doesn’t happen to bloody care whether this is the way the world works naturally or not, so long as it does what he wants it to do, when he wants it to do it. The scientific process was now largely unimpeded by magic — the “anti-science”.
After about a generation of observing the world behaving as it was originally designed to behave, educated Muggles started rethinking rather a lot of the superstitions of their youth, witch-fever gradually abated, and the mundane world saw the first glimmerings of the Age of Reason. Which could hardly have gotten off the ground so long as wizards were out and about and meddling with everything in range. (It is arguable whether our own world would have ever had one of these had we actually had any functioning system of Magic.)
Oh yes, there were still witch trials throughout the 18th century. But there were progressively fewer of them as time went on, and quite a few, even if not most of the victims of these latter-day pogroms were those aforementioned deluded souls and declared Satanists who really did think they had made a pact with the Devil, or the rare, psychically semi-active Squib who had actually managed to call up a demon — to the usual disastrous effect. (We are talking about the Potterverse here, such things are hypothetically possible in the Potterverse.) In the England of our world most of the statutory Acts against witchcraft were repealed as early as 1736. Which considering that witchcraft had only been declared a capital offense in 1653 reflects an amazingly quick turn-about for the legal profession.
And, as time went on, more and more of the educated classes began to adopt a firm stance that magic simply does not exist; that superstition is a failing of the ignorant and of the credulous, and that the world behaves as the world behaves, with no exceptions. A great deal of what we think of as modern thought got its inception during this period.
When the groundwork set by the Age of Reason was amplified by the technological developments of the early Machine Age, it became easier to convince even the commonest, most uneducated Muggle to accept the idea that there was, somewhere, a scientific explanation for any and all observed phenomena, whether anyone had quite yet discovered what that particular explanation was or not.
From the Ministry of Magic’s point of view, these developments could hardly be improved upon. If Muggles were firmly convinced that magic is not real, they will not go looking for magic. If they are convinced that science has an explanation for all mysteries, then anything that seems mysterious must, ipso facto, have a scientific explanation. Somewhere.
Once the Ministry’s agents twigged to the direction that mundane thought was taking — and they would have realized this fairly promptly. They would have happily done whatever they could to tweak such viewpoints along their new trajectory.
If my postulation of a Ministry-approved wizarding import cabal and Ministry-sponsored undercover monitoring of the wizarding world’s security is on target, they would have been watching for exactly this sort of development, and they would have recognized that The Plan was working. Some of the Ministry’s agents may even have taken the rôle of agents provocateur in fostering it.
Here and there an observation of mundane science probably even crept into wizarding experiments and was incorporated into magical technology. Although the flow of information in that direction would have necessarily been sluggish in the extreme.
Still, while the Department of Mysteries probably took little interest in Muggle scientific progress, it would be a bit much to suppose that there wasn’t some rather more workaday R&D department that did take such an interest. The roots of what is now referred to as Muggle Studies undoubtedly got its beginnings during this period, for there had been no need to study what ones own neighbors thought or did prior to this point. After all, such would have been common knowledge. It was probably not until the wizarding world was forced to accommodate an ongoing influx of Muggle-born magical children in the 19th century that these findings started filtering out to the rest of the population, however. The rest of the population (apart from those who still lived secretly among Muggles in semi-wizarding villages) would have been understood to have had no need of such information.
[Side Note: it is uncertain whether the post-Freudian development of thought which insists that literary fantasy and fairy tales are actively bad for children’s emotional development — which has recurred several times throughout the 20th century in our world — would also be a creation of the Ministry of Magic’s propaganda mavens in the Potterverse. It would certainly result in an ever-growing unfamiliarity with wizarding phenomena and a rapid dwindling of those traces of awareness of the hidden world which had been common “country” knowledge prior to the Seclusion.]
In any case, the benefits of wizarding Seclusion upon mundane society and technology is so all-encompassing that it is obvious that the very worst thing that could possibly happen would be for it to be abolished now. Although it has to be admitted that much additional benefit to both societies might well be accomplished by a very careful program of cooperative research between wizards and certain key “informed” Muggles.
This, however is a debate for another time and another generation. It is much too early to be considering such a project in the shadow of VoldWar II.
VII. The Seclusion Era: Wizards
Be Careful What You Ask For
If the current population of the wizarding world is estimated at 25% Muggle-born, and 50% halfblood (information as given us in a televised interview with Rowling some years ago) and that if — as some of us have been supposing — Muggle-born magical children have not actively been sought out and trained to be wizards throughout the entire period of Seclusion, then when would Muggle-born wizards first have started being aggressively sought out and recruited into the wizarding world? And how long has it taken for the current wizarding world population demographics to reach their present rates? What are some of the implications of all this?
In particular, how did the imposition of wizarding Seclusion affect the population of the wizarding world?
To me it seems all too likely that the effect of Seclusion upon the wizarding population was devastating.
In the first place; outside of a half-dozen or so semi-wizarding villages, there were suddenly virtually no Muggle-born magical children identified and assimilated into the magical community. Despite the fact that magical traits were as prevalent in the Muggle gene pool as they had ever been. The wizards and witches who had formerly served their community by identifying such children had relocated to other areas or retreated within the secluded world, and if any other wizards had taken their places in the local vicinity they were so determined to conceal their identities as wizards that they dealt with the surrounding community of Muggles as little as they possibly could. Since the smaller population of Britain at that time suggests that there would have been a correspondingly smaller number of Muggle-born magical children born, several of the one or two per year that were born may have slipped through the cracks undetected.
Of far more importance, however; there were suddenly next to no new halfbloods.
This, allow me to remind you, in a society which, below a certain point in the upper-middle classes, had previously been almost entirely composed of halfbloods.
Wizarding security was now tight enough that any number of isolated witches and wizards who would formerly have married one of the neighboring Muggles, now often simply did not marry at all rather than to allow their identity as wizards to become known outside their own family’s households. The Ministry short-sightedly appears to have strongly encouraged, if not actively enforced this practice. Hogwarts, once again, probably was serving as much as a marriage brokerage as a magical training center.
We have seen something of the residual effects of this stance in the fact that a dismaying number of witches and wizards even to this day have been noted as marrying or otherwise partnering Muggles without informing their Muggle partners that they are magical. From Rowling’s website and from within the books we know of at least three separate confirmed uninformed magical/Muggle pairings, and a suspected fourth. This is probably only the tip of the iceberg. In the early days of Seclusion when revealing your identity as a witch or wizard to a Muggle may have seemed tantamount to suicide, few would have risked such a marriage.
It also seems probable that truly and completely unanticipated magical children of non-magical parents had only tended to happen in those specific rural hamlets in which there already was a documented history of such occurrences, and, with about the same degree of frequency, in the towns. These births (or, rather these children’s discovery. Prior to the Hogwarts quill’s development, not all magical children of non-magical parents ever were identified) were rare enough that the Wizards’ Council ultimately decided that the present danger to the wizarding population as a whole was great enough that to lose these few children to the witch hunters was a price they would just simply have to pay in exchange for the safety ensured by a general seclusion of all known magical peoples.
It was the resulting loss of the halfbloods, who had always been the largest segment of the population, that resulted in a population crisis which had become apparent to those who were setting official Ministry policy at the time the aggressive identification and recruitment of all magical children into the wizarding world was officially adopted as a top Ministry priority — despite the considerable potential security breech which the contact with such children’s mundane families entailed.
Wizarding lifespans had increased somewhat since the days when the only magic was Dark magic, and this may have tended to encourage later marriages than were typically the case among Muggles of comparable social levels. At least to the point of allowing most witches to complete their magical educations. But the fact that wizards were no longer marrying Muggles, who not only tended to marry younger, but had never had a really reliable method of control over their fertility, concealed the fact that the birthrate of magical children was dropping.
In a magical/Muggle marriage, such as had been prevalent in rural districts before Seclusion, the number of magical children might be less than half of the total number of children, (not typically, however. Once a pairing demonstrates that it can produce magical offspring, the likelihood of producing additional magical offspring automatically becomes much higher. Typically, the magical children would have outnumbered the non-magical) but the total number of children produced by such a mixed marriage was usually considerably higher than was the case in a Seclusion-era witch/wizard marriage. Whereas a pre-Seclusion era wizard/Muggle union might produce a Weasley-sized brood, of which perhaps four or more children were magical, and a Seclusion era union of a witch and wizard might produce three magical children, the rate of magical children might now be 100%, but the end result is still one fewer magical child.
And even more than that, where before you might have had perhaps six wizard/Muggle couples raising six families, any of which would probably produce a wizard or two, you now had only three wizard/witch couples raising three families in which all children might be magical, but there are fewer potential children overall.
But, then, the above reasoning also assumes that to produce a magical child presents no more inherent risk than does producing a Muggle child. And that is not necessarily a safe assumption to be making. It is just as likely to be possible that under some circumstances once a pairing has produced a magical child, the likelihood of it’s producing any additional children at all may well be drastically reduced. If the principles that I speculate are being drawn upon in determining just how the Hogwarts quill operates are an accurate reading (examined below), there may be a very good reason why most of the wizarding families that we know about have been comparatively small.
A more limited number of potential partners for young magicals to choose from, combined with the knowledge that they were individually likely to live to what was accounted a great age in a world that was now safe from mundane persecution, but which still upheld the permanence of the institution of marriage, might have tended to contribute to a feeling that there was no particular hurry about settling down with one partner and starting a family. Particularly since I rather suspect that even at this time a witch had access to some fairly reliable methods of contraception, and felt no pressure to produce any more children than she chose to. Unfortunately, this reasoning does not take into account that while their lifespans could be reasonably expected to be significantly longer than that of the Muggles of that time, their fertility rate was not similarly enhanced.
This realization would have come soon enough. Medi-magical developments have probably made some attempt to correct this imbalance, but although the birth of non-magical children among wizards was now becoming extremely rare, the total number of magical children born was discernibly lower than in the days when wizards had lived openly among, and married Muggles. It is entirely possible that the wizarding world may have lost anything up to half the numbers it had originally claimed at the time of the formal establishment of Seclusion over the first century that they lived in hiding. Which, in those early days, had probably started from a distorted population count which had included a goodly number of non-magical family members in addition to the actual wizards.
And, by the end of the first century of Seclusion, it would have been evident to the bean counters, that their birthrate was vastly insufficient to sustain their population at a viable level. And that if they could not sustain their current population, they were toast as a culture. Because, if the population continued to dwindle at the rate it had done so over just the first century of their isolation, in another generation or two their numbers could be expected to fall to the point that the Goblins would finally overthrow them.
Forgot about the Goblins, didn’t you?
So had they.
Big mistake. The Goblins, who are very sharp, hadn’t forgotten anything.
And; given that Professor Binns typically has his 4th years writing weekly essays on the Goblin rebellions of the 18th century (i.e., the first century following statutory wizarding seclusion), it sounds to me as if the Goblins had been watching the decline of the magical human population of this secluded world with a great deal of interest, and were doing their part to assure that this downward trend would continue.
VIII. Redrawing the Boundaries:
By the early 19th century it had become imperative that human wizards stabilize and increase their numbers. Moreover, it was becoming evident that circumstances in the Muggle world were beginning to make it more difficult to keep their presence concealed. It was ultimately proposed that they must begin to aggressively seek, train and absorb into the wizarding world any magical child that could be identified.
That Muggle-born magical children were suddenly raising havoc out in the mundane world, producing highly noticeable outbursts of spontaneous magic to the point that such disruptions were beginning to require Ministry intervention, was an excellent rallying point for justifying that the wizarding world’s current practices as regarded their Seclusion be retooled to admit limited contact with these children’s Muggle families in the outer mundane world in order to remove a growing threat to wizarding security.
Particularly since there suddenly seemed to be so many of these children. And they were causing such a disruption of “natural processes” that they really were endangering the wizarding world’s continued security.
You can only maintain wizarding secrecy as long as there are no wizards out practicing magic in the full sight of Muggles. Intentionally or not, these children were setting off magical disruptions left and right in those newfangled factories, and this kind of thing was eventually going to seriously compromise the viewpoint among mundanes that magic does not exist — which the MoM had been at such pains to foster over the course of the 18th century. There is a very real limit to how much paranormal phenomena that even people who have been encouraged to anticipate a scientific explanation for all unknown phenomena can be expected to overlook...
For, meanwhile, outside the wizarding world, not all of that scattering of Muggle-born magical children being born outside the wizarding “world” had been discovered and executed by the witch hunters. And their fully functioning magical genomes had been being seeded back into the general mundane population for the past hundred or so years rather than having found patronage from some Great House, to be trained and absorbed into the wizarding population. All of which had somewhat raised the concentration of magical traits which were now being passed around the mundane gene pool in those particular districts.
And, then, around the turn of the 19th century, the Parliamentary Acts of Enclosure were forcing these people off the land and into the towns and factories. Where anyone carrying a partial set of magical traits had an exponentially higher likelihood of meeting and marrying someone from a district that had been passing around a different partial set that provided all of the missing bits. We still have no idea how few magical traits it takes to produce a functioning wizard.
Well, we do all know about the kind of bursts of spontaneous Magic that can be produced by a magical child when startled or frightened. And even the most cursory look at the kind of dangerously unsafe conditions of the early factories suggests that this was a positive invitation to the creation of such breakthroughs. Children as young as four or five were regularly employed in those factories.
But by that time the road to actively seeking out and recruiting these children would have been a bumpy one. In isolation, the wizarding world had grown accustomed to feeling that it would remain safe for as long as it had nothing to do with Muggles, and the wizarding public was probably a good deal more concerned with the threat of the dangerous Muggle mob than the threat of yet another Goblin uprising. I am not altogether certain that it did not actually take that last few Goblin uprisings before the danger represented by wizards’ precarious position of dominance became apparent to all. I tend to suspect that the average wizard, by this time was frankly terrified of the idea of opening their borders to any kind of Muggles. Even magical ones.
At this point in history any remaining descendants of the former landed wizarding aristocrats would, predictably, have been the group most in favor of the renewed recruitment of magical children born in the outside world. This segment of the population would probably still have remembered their long-standing tradition of noblesse oblige. Their attitudes on the subject were probably something on the order of “Muggle-borns? Well we really do need the additional workers, don’t we? And a fresh crop of capable retainers could hardly come amiss.”
But the few remaining descendants of wizarding aristocrats had lost a good deal of their traditional level of influence over policy in the century since Seclusion had been imposed. The governing body of the wizarding world was now quite solidly the Ministry of Magic, under the direction of the Wizengamot, whose centralized authority and bureaucratic underpinnings had already expanded to the point that it contained a high percentage of career civil servants descended, in about equal parts, from quasi-aristocratic younger sons of Great Families — which now also included the descendants of the most prominent and wealthy families of wizarding isolationists; the descendants of these Great Houses’ retainers, and the brightest and most talented children of plebeian wizards, “cherry picked” from among the newly qualified Hogwarts graduates. There was no longer a built-in consensus, nor were all of these groups prepared to follow the few remaining aristocrats’ lead.
Not to mention the potential public relations nightmare inherent in having to deal with some of the accumulated social consequences of a century of wizarding self-isolation. Which were not inconsiderable. Particularly given the underlying irrationality of the wizarding mindset.
You had not considered that, either, perhaps? Well, let us do so now.
• • • •
As a case in point, shall we consider the significance of robes?
We have been told that wizards in the late 20th century typically wear robes. In fact, we are given every invitation to believe that wizards have always worn robes. That, in fact, a traditional, pureblood wizard cannot imagine wearing anything other than robes.
Until you stop and take a reality check: consider that wizards still lived side-by-side with Muggles until at least 1690 or thereabouts. That by that point in “western civ” their lives sometimes depended upon how well they managed to blend in, and that by the year 1690 virtually nobody still wore robes.
Indeed, the common dress of the 2nd half of the 17th century is generally regarded as the point in time that the forerunners of Western modern dress (coat, waistcoat, trousers) had become firmly established — and have continued as such until the present day. The only persons still running about in robes by 1690 were the practitioners of a few established professions which had retained, as their badge of office, a traditional form of deliberately archaic dress! Surely not all wizards at the time of the establishment of Seclusion were practicing barristers and academics?
Of course not. Wizards must have adopted their robes at some point after Seclusion was established, probably in some muzzy-minded attempt to connect with what they believed to be wizarding traditions, and they have since managed to convince themselves that robes have always been the traditional wizarding costume. And even at that, such a practice would have only flourished among those wizards who lived in full seclusion away from any Muggle neighbors. Certainly not those who settled down in places like Godric’s Hollow or Tinworth.
In fact, I suspect that “costume” is probably the most accurate and applicable term. Another applicable term would probably be “eclectic muddle”. Wizards, after all, are demonstrably a class of people capable of convincing themselves of six (to us) impossible things before breakfast. I rather suspect that the mental image of wizarding society one should be carrying around is not all that far off of, say, the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.
Which is not to say that there had been no contact whatsoever with mundane society over the period that Seclusion was most rigorously enforced. Rather a lot of the wizarding population was clustered in and around those half-dozen or so partially-wizarding villages. And even in Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and any other fully secluded enclave the Ministry’s agents and the wizarding Traders’ equivalent of the East India Company would have kept at least a minimal pipeline open.
These agents would have needed to blend in whenever their duties took them beyond the safety of the wizarding districts. Nor would the divergence between underlying clothing styles of the two societies have been all that wide over that most critical first century of the Seclusion. It is obvious to anyone who has ever done costuming for historical reenactments that beyond a few stylistic differences in what you put on your head, and how long your pants are, the costume of the working man or working woman in Western Europe is pretty stable from around 1600–1840. It is hardly necessary to change the basic shirt pattern — at all — when going from American to English Civil War reenacting. Or to Medieval reenacting, for that matter. Nor is it necessary to alter the chemise pattern. The outer costume’s basics also remained fairly stable. At least among the working classes.
Where fashion did dictate the form, was among those upper-classes which jockeyed for position in the shadow of the Royal Courts. I suspect that few wizarding agents attempted to infiltrate the Royal Court.
But, around 1840, mundane technology started heavily impacting the development of mundane fashion. Fabric became cheaper, the sewing machine was invented, and printed publications about fashion became far cheaper and more widely dispersed. Yee-hah! Mundane fashions, all the way down to the poverty line begin to change every six months or sooner. Leaving even semi-involved wizards behind in the dust.
For example: to modern eyes, 18th century fashions look pretty much of a muchness in their underlying shapes from the beginning of the period up until the last 20 years or so of the century. There was a lot of variation in hairstyling and at least 2–3 different silly methods of pouffing out one’s skirts at varying times, but an underlying principle of bodice/skirt/sleeves for women and breeches/waistcoat/coat for men seems to have held remarkably steady.
And even these had all evolved fairly smoothly from the styles which were worn at the opening of that century, and with which the wizarding world would have been quite familiar. Consequently, by the end of the 18th century, I suspect that any wizards and witches who had not adopted robes, or who still wore their robes over other serviceable clothing, would have been perceived by mundane eyes to be fitted out like rather eccentric country people, woefully out of fashion, but still dressed in a manner that was both somewhat recognizable and perceived as respectable. Some mundane trends may even have crept into wizarding usage over this century without anyone even being all that much aware of it. Particularly among any wizards who were living out among Muggles and concealing their magical natures.
At this point in history, both mundanes and magicals were also still typically turned loose to create their own styles. Apart from a few tailors and dressmakers patronized by the Courts of Europe the fashion industry was still solidly “pre-industrial” and operating at a fairly rudimentary level, and, as such, the reign of “fashion” applied primarily to the hangers-on in attendance at the various Royal Courts, all of which had their own dress codes that had little to do with the dress of average people. Any Ministry agent or Trader who adopted what he thought to be a clever design noted in his ventures out among the Muggles might well have seen it copied inside the wizarding world. I suspect, however, that the 18th and 19th centuries saw mostly the wizarding adoption of the mundane world’s new machine-spun threads and machine-woven fabrics which were both plentiful, varied, and cheap rather than actual mundane dress styles, per se.
The 19th century would have been where the styles really started diverging. Although short-lived, the styles of the Napoleonic era were disruptive, and siegued into forms that were a considerable departure from what had persisted over the previous century. The mundane fashion industry also had finally gotten off the ground by the 1840s which is generally regarded as the dawn of the era of the great Couturiers, and mundane communications were now good enough to have most of the precursors to the international jet set all pretty much in step with one another.
And the demands of “fashion” were now being honored by a far wider segment of the general population, too. Comfortably middle-class Muggles who never had the slightest expectation of ever coming within hailing distance of a Royal Court in their entire lifetimes, were now assiduously following the fashions as depicted in broadly-circulated publications.
It also needs to be pointed out that it was the 19th century during which the largest divergence developed between fashion and clothing. Where, during the 18th century a certain number of mundane style innovations might have had plenty of time to creep into wizarding usage, in the 19th century, mundane styles came and went too quickly for anything other than the basic colors or materials to make very much of an impact upon even the most tolerantly-disposed wizards. Which may, when one thinks of it, have been what finally encouraged the adoption of all-purpose robes.
Still, the Dumbledore family portrait described in DHs would tend to suggest that among the wizards of villages like Mould-on-the-Wold contemporary mundane fashion was far from unknown. However, it should also be recalled that Madam Dumbledore was rumored to have been Muggle-born, and perhaps conversant with mundane fashion trends. For she certainly seems to have dressed herself and her children in the fashions of their day without making any of them look any more foolish than their Muggle neighbors.
However, by the end of the first third of the century it seems evident that the recruitment of young Muggle-born wizards and witches would have already been underway, and these youngsters would have brought some of the styles of their own upbringing into the wizarding world with them. Much as the jumpers and trousers of the mid-20th century have infiltrated even the dress of some of the young purebloods of Harry’s day. (It should be pointed out, however, that the jumpers and trousers produced by Molly Weasley for her children are almost certainly more stylistically consistent with those of the Muggle 1940s and ’50s, harking back to the ones a young Molly Prewett remembers being worn by her parents generation, or those worn by her brothers’ Muggle-born or halfblood friends during her own childhood than those of the Muggle 1990s.) Increasing the amount of muddle and anachronism which were soon being exhibited in wizarding clothing styles.
• • • •
But robes are essentially a minor issue. A far more important issue of wizarding mindset was that after a century of isolation even most of the plebeian wizards, ones with no direct connection to the faction of wizarding isolationists, had started thinking of themselves as purebloods (like the great wizards of history!), and generally dismissing the consideration that their own ancestry was quite thoroughly mixed.
A particularly self-deluded sector of plebeian families which could have readily pointed out Muggle and mixed-blood family members at the beginning of the Seclusion, had gradually stopped thinking about that part of their bloodlines, as the original Muggle family members who had accompanied them into seclusion died off, and as fewer and fewer of their children failed to be magical. The first century of Seclusion would of necessity have seen the deaths of all of the Muggle husbands, wives, elderly parents, siblings and even the non-magical offspring which might originally have accompanied the wizards and witches into their isolation. It would have also seen the deaths of nearly all of these families’ original wizards, who would have been identified almost universally as halfbloods.
In their absence, gradually, all of these Muggles’ and halfbloods’ living mixed-blood descendants began to regard themselves as now being effectively pure-blooded wizarding stock.
They did so not altogether without reason. The birthrate during the first century of the Seclusion was far too low to maintain the population at the numbers it had claimed at the establishment of Seclusion, but there was, indeed, a far higher rate of wizarding blood purity in that society’s numbers as fewer and fewer of their children failed to be wizards. Rowling herself has confirmed that halfblood status is perceived to gradually fade out over ensuing generations. By the end of the first hundred years of Seclusion, virtually every child that was born in the wizarding world would have been a magical child. Those few exceptions which cropped up were now being referred to as Squibs. And they were understood to be rare. And they were indeed, exceedingly rare.
The descendants of the old-school isolationists might have been quick to depress any such presumption of pure-bloodedness on the part of such plebes, but these diehards had never been numerous enough to see their higher standards of pedigree adopted by the majority — who, after all, stood to benefit not in the least by doing so — and, for as long as strict seclusion had been the case, it had scarcely mattered except in their own tiny minds.
It was among the descendants of the pureblood isolationists and the pure-blooded retainers of the great wizarding estates that the most determined resistance to the widespread recruitment of the children of Muggles into the wizarding world arose.
The isolationists’ stance needs no further amplification — apart from pointing out their severe disgruntlement to find such a possibility even being raised after a century of believing their battle won. This point in wizarding history was the high-water mark for the pureblood isolationists. At that point, their numbers stood at a higher percentage of the total wizarding population than they had ever done since the beginning of the world, and it was certainly higher than it has been at any time since the gates were thrown open to Muggle-borns.
Even at that point the isolationist faction still probably stood at less than a third of the total wizarding population. Their subsequent bitterness in seeing their influence and their representation in society being whittled away by successive waves of interlopers has a very real basis. If they perceive that the official policy of inclusionism is gradually forcing them into a position of social irrelevance, it is because this is, in effect, true.
By contrast, the Great House retainers’ descendants, who the most fanatical of the isolationists still probably regarded as some degree of halfblood, opposed such wide-scale recruitment of Muggle-born magicals in very much the manner that the first residents of a suburban development with a fine view of the countryside will oppose the development of a newer housing estate which will deprive them of it. They also had a point, just not an especially defensible one.
This particular class of wizards, unlike their aristocratic sponsors, did not have any entrenched tradition of the patronage of those less fortunate to draw upon, and they had no intention of sharing their own advantages with nameless mongrels whose magic came from who-knows-where. Some of this resistance (which was shared by the isolationists) was also based upon the very real fear that these children of Muggles would be bringing dangerous Muggle-think, no respect for, nor any true increase of Magic into the wizarding world, and would, moreover, compete with their own children for positions of influence.
It must also be pointed out that since — so far as the wizarding public was aware — at no time during the period of Seclusion had Ministry Aurors ever been called upon to go out and neutralize a self-taught Dark wizard who had gone rogue outside the wizarding world, the possible danger of leaving the magical children of mundane parents untrained was considered to no longer be an issue. It was, understandably, not widely known within the magical community that such children were being misdiagnosed as epileptics, or even dying in violent, spontaneous encounters with Wild Magic.
• • • •
At this point, one must also wonder about the looming social presence of Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital and all the rest of the wild confusion of psychiatric problems that existed in mundane society throughout the 1600–1800’s. Could the sudden reduction in the number of people in madhouses by the end of the 19th century be due not only to vitamin deficiencies being corrected and some more effective treatments for syphilis developed, but to the early identification and intervention in the lives of magical children before they were diagnosed as insane from a mismatch between their perceived realities, or by their sustaining neurological damage from a surge of Wild magic? It is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility.
Mind you, Muggle-born magical births have never been exactly common. Using the 270–300 students at Hogwarts estimate; even now when they represent 25% of an average Hogwarts year’s intake they only account for some 10 or so children per year in all of Great Britain and Ireland (and wherever else is within the Hogwarts quill’s range).
But once these children are again being located, trained and absorbed into the wizarding world, it means that wizards have to deal with these children’s families over at least a seven year period, and often longer.
In addition to the very real potential for a security breech, this sort of interaction was perceived by the isolationists to be bound to result in the sort of attachments which end in mixed marriages and a new influx of literal halfbloods (as opposed to technical halfbloods like Harry, whose parents were both magical, but whose ancestry is half Muggle).
There is no question that sustained contact with the families of Muggle-born magicals could prove a serious threat to the wizarding world’s continued security. (OTOH, it also provides a climate furthering the likelihood of such attachments which might result in a new crop of literal halfbloods. Which, in the long run can be a Good Thing.) I tend to agree with those who hold that there would have been a considerable groundswell of resistance to any reintroduction of Muggle-borns into wizarding society over the course of the 19th century, and that this might very well have come into an open conflict once it was clear that these newcomers and their descendants were indeed encroaching upon the preserves which those more pure in bloodline considered their own (i.e., anything that wasn’t actually menial work).
There was also the unpalatable consideration within the Ministry that if contact was reestablished with Muggles it would entail some form of more active negotiation with the mundane government. Hardly a consummation devoutly to be wished for.
• • • •
Additional major contributing factors to the widespread — in some quarters — perception of the wizarding world in threat of being subject to an invasion of Muggle-borns would have come about as a result of the expansion of the middle classes, propelled by the Industrial revolution and supported by the rise of literacy across all segments of the mundane population. Even without overt wizarding interference, there was now an ever higher likelihood for any Muggle-born magical child to be identified as… different.
The 18th century had made great strides in bringing literacy to the working classes, and even though universal literacy was not yet a governmentally-sponsored priority of the British Commonwealth, the concept was generally being widely regarded as a Good Thing. (And might this not also have been a cumulative effect of the work of the Ministry’s agents? Encouraging people to send poor children into infant schools where any magical breakthroughs were likely to be witnessed chiefly by other children, rather than putting them to work in those dangerous factories? I could easily see a forerunner of Arthur Weasley being engaged in such a mission.) Once you start herding the children of the poor into classrooms, it becomes easier to recognize exceptional children.
And, also, once more common people start gaining affluence to the extent that they are able to afford to give their children the sort of education previously only offered to gentlemen’s sons — with the corresponding entrance of these people’s sons into the recognized professional classes, where they are also more noticeable on an individual basis, the identification of the talents of another sector of Muggle-born wizards also becomes more assured.
And, let us also not overlook the fact that the popularity of boarding schools themselves virtually took off like a rocket over the course of the 19th century. And that the offer of a place at one — particularly a non-fee paying one — was a mark of distinction that few Muggle families above the poverty line would have been inclined to refuse.
• • • •
The crucial piece of information that we do NOT know, however, is just when the charmed quill that now records all magical births went into commission. Nor do we know who thought that piece of technology up, and what kind of situation was going on which allowed it to be implemented?
Because, right there, you have what was probably the single most paradigm-shifting element to have been introduced into the British wizarding world since wizarding Seclusion itself. (At the end of the series there is still no clear indication that the Hogwarts quill has Continental counterparts. Nor of when it went into commission.)
Because the ONLY purpose which that quill could have served, that was not already being served quite adequately within the secluded wizarding community already, was to identify every Muggle-born magical child to be produced within its sensory range.
This is why I have such a gut-level conviction that the quill was a piece of Magical technology which went into effect concurrent with and as a result of the Industrial Revolution as it developed in Great Britain, early in the 19th century. Because that period was the one in which Britain experienced a population explosion which was unprecedented. The fallout from the general stirring up and recombination of the available genetic potential as a result of the Acts of Enclosure, the higher birthrate, and the beginnings of getting a handle on reducing infant mortality, all occurring in quick secession are exactly the elements which would have contributed to a proportional increase of magical births, and, more to point, the survival of magical infants within the mundane population.
Given the generally crowded and unsafe conditions that the working class Briton lived in during this period, I would imagine that the (perhaps newly-formed?) Accidental Magical Reversal squad was being given a real workout and targeting potential trouble spots may have become a Ministry priority. I rather think that the Ministry’s Accidental Magical Reversal Department is a far more likely client to have originally commissioned that quill than Hogwarts School. That the quill, which chiefly records potential trouble spots, is now in Hogwarts’ keeping only indicates that the AMR now has some later, more finely-tuned monitoring system in place to flag the sort of surges of Magical energy they are most often called upon to deal with.
I also have my own theory regarding the manner in which the charmed quill actually works. I propose that the reasoning that went into its development progressed along something like the following lines:
Rowling has described the magical breakthroughs of juvenile wizards as magic gradually “building up” in the child until it explodes out of him, all at once, as in a sneeze. Reasoning from the starting point that; although it had long been observed that all magical children do not have an extensive history of magical breakthroughs, the generality is that they all experience at least a few of them.
Allowing this premise; at some point in the R&D stage, one of the project’s development team — probably an ex-Ravenclaw — followed that line of reasoning to its natural conclusion and hypothesized that;
IF the younger a child is; the more likely he is to be unable to suppress a magical breakthrough, AND;
IF the greater the [child’s perception of] danger/stress/fear/pain to which such an immature wizard is exposed; the more likely he is to generate such a breakthrough in the first place, AND;
The more immature a child’s nervous system is; the smaller the amount of Magical energy that can actually be channeled by such a breakthrough, THEN; IF;
The most likely experience held in common by all infant wizards capable of generating such a breakthrough is the stress/fear/pain undergone during the birthing process itself; THEN;
What the project’s developers are trying to identify are very low-level breakthroughs which channel very small amounts of Magical energy within a specific range of frequencies.
• • • •
From there it was only a matter of experimentation and monitoring to determine just what those frequencies were, and the trial and error needed to calibrate the monitoring spell to register and identify only breakthroughs occurring within that range of frequencies. Further development and testing was necessary to design and perfect the combination of secondary spells necessary to tag the source of each of these breakthroughs with a location spell and to record the identity of the transmitters, once they were given names. The children so identified would have soon (i.e., within a matter of weeks, or at most, months) developed neurologically beyond the point that they would produce breakthroughs within the target range of frequencies, but, by then, the AMR Department would know who they were and would have been able to set up some more exact monitoring system, if necessary.
Side Note: Such breakthroughs, however small, can hardly be conducive to an easy birth. While, by this time, there are probably medi-magical procedures designed to lessen the risks attendant to both infants and mothers by such natal breakthroughs which are routinely employed by Healers and midwitches it is quite possible that the lack of such procedures may have been a major contribution to the low family sizes generally believed to be prevalent within the wizarding community until a fairly recent date (this perception appears to have been somewhat counter-indicated by the information on the Black family tapestry sketch released in February 2006 in which the average family size over the past 150 or so years appears to have typically produced three children, with only children being quite rare).
It is certainly not beyond the reach of possibility that such a natal breakthrough may have contributed to the death following childbirth of Merope Riddle, née Gaunt; who gave birth to what is generally assumed to be an exceptionally magical child with no more assistance than that which was available through informal mundane birthing practices of 1926. However, now that we have been given the official Riddle backstory, it seems blindingly evident that Merope’s death was most probably due to a profound failure of the will to live.
While it is obvious that to birth a magical child does not usually result in the death of a witch, it is possible that until comparatively recently, it might well have sometimes resulted in such internal injuries as to make future children a remote possibility. While a fair number of current wizarding families (apart from the Weasleys) appear to have two or more children, there also appears to be a fairly high representation of “only” children among Harry’s current schoolmates, both wizard and Muggle-born. It might be interesting to know whether this impression is in fact, accurate, and whether this is a recent, or a long-established trend. Or if it is merely a blip in the continuum introduced by the 20-some years of an escalating wizarding war.
It has is also been suggested that by the late 20th and early 21st century, a few Muggle-born wizards may be falling through the cracks due to caesarian intervention having been implemented before the child has been subjected to sufficient stress necessary to cause the Magical breakthrough required for his birth to be registered as magical. Such a child’s subsequent neurological development would soon render any breakthroughs that he produced outside the range of frequency that the quill is calibrated to recognize. Such a situation may be the explanation for some of the rare, “late bloomers” which have reputedly been noted in recent years. (This assertion is based only upon interview data. It is not to be found anywhere in the official canon as it stands.)
Of course, once the quill actually went into commission, the result would be that even Muggle-born magical children who would otherwise have remained unidentified were now known and marked for recruitment into the wizarding world, at a higher rate than ever before.
And, once you stop keeping the Muggle-borns out, you find it increasingly difficult to keep the wizards in. By the end of the 20th century a fairly high percentage of wizards (even including such conspicuous examples as the afore-mentioned Mad-Eye Moody) have once again taken up residence in or adjacent to the Muggle world.
As we have already tentatively established in the preceding essay, at the start of Seclusion, those wizards who could do so, undoubtedly had taken up residence in Hogsmeade, or behind the barriers of wizarding-only enclaves in towns. But by the end of the first half of the 19th century, space within such fully secluded wizarding enclaves was probably at a premium. Although the overall wizarding population over the first 100 years or so had seriously declined, with Muggle-born recruitment and the sustained population explosion over the 19th century, the magical population of Britain would no longer have been able to maintain complete physical separation from Muggle society, even had it chosen to attempt it.
As time went on and as the wizarding population gradually rose over the 19th and 20th centuries, more and more magical families found themselves forced to take up self-secluded residences within Muggle towns or out-of-the-way parts of the countryside, where they proceeded to have as little as they could to do with their Muggle neighbors. All of this is in addition to those who have traditionally clustered in the areas in and about those half-dozen or so traditionally, partially-wizarding villages. However, even those traditional partially-wizarding villages would eventually become insufficient to absorb the increase, since those villages must necessarily remain both small enough, and isolated enough to avoid drawing attention to themselves from the wider mundane world. Or attracting the sort of interest which would result in suburban development.
Those purebloods who have married incoming Muggle-borns may have increased the spread of this outward migration by raising their own families away from the secluded enclaves. Ultimately, even some purebloods of pronounced isolationist tendencies have been shown to currently maintain residences in proximity with those of Muggles, possibly only by default as the expansion of Muggle towns and cities overtook formerly isolated hamlets and villages in which the wizards’ residences had long been established.
IX. Pseudo-“Racism” in the Potterverse; Isolationists, Inclusionists, and Supremacists/The Rise of the Death Eaters:
Of course the most fanatical of the isolationist faction can’t stand any of this. Even leaving aside that purebloods — in their sense of the term — were never numerous enough to keep the wizarding world running smoothly, and still aren’t, and never will be.
It is at this point that we abruptly, and finally come to a full realization that Rowling has misled us again. Although it is not certain whether this was deliberate on her part. It is entirely possible that we have chosen to lead ourselves up the garden path due to an unwitting limitation in Rowling’s vocabulary of metaphor. She may have used the term “pureblood” to signify rather more than what it is actually relevant to. We have come away with the impression that within the Potterverse there are only two major opposing factions. One which is spearheaded by a certain type of pureblood, and one which is supported by everyone else.
This is a fallacy. There are not two opposing factions within the wizarding world, there are, at the very least, three. And whether or not you are a pureblood has very little to do with the matter. The only connection that I can see is that a certain type of pureblood tends to be arrogantly loud and snotty about whatever side of the issue he has decided to back.
Nor are these three distinct factions necessarily the “traditional” ones. Indeed, it is clear that at least one faction is undergoing a long and painful transitional period and another has not yet fully developed into what it is trying to become.
Wizarding Isolationists are a faction with a long history. They are also dwindling into an anachronism, and careening into irrelevance. Their single, overriding issue is the separation of wizard and Muggle societies. And they are absolutely committed to it. Nothing, in their purview is worth the risks attendant to revealing the existence of wizards to Muggles. With the adoption of the Ministry policy to recruit and absorb every identified magical child born in Great Britain and Ireland, the Isolationists’ private war was irrevocably lost. Even though the ww continues to practice a reasonably high degree of seclusion from Muggle society, the borders are now permeable, and known to be permeable. Essentially, the Isolationists have lost the battle. And over the ensuing centuries their numbers have dwindled to an alarming degree. The families who were and remain committed to complete separation from Muggles are, by this time, indeed, almost universally purebloods, even if they might not have been so at the inception of this movement. Among some of them, the issue of blood purity has been conflated into that of continued avoidance of Muggle awareness, but not yet enough of them have adopted this stance as to promote another split between factions.
The policies of the Inclusionists over the period since the Hogwarts Quill went into commission has something to do with this. The Inclusionist faction are the inheritors of the position of those wizards who never objected to living among Muggles, or to dealing with them, and who had to be convinced against their continued resistance that seclusion was ever necessary. But that does not necessarily imply that the inheritors of this outlook are viewing the issue with the same clear understanding of their fellow humans that their forerunners did. The Inclusionists have also developed blind spots behind the barriers of seclusion, and they have developed into something their forerunners might not be best pleased to recognize. Their understanding of Muggles or mundane society is all too often laughable, for all their apparent good intentions. Their approach to Muggles is in many ways as insulting as Miss Granger’s mission to free the House Elves, against their will. This has had unforeseen results.
The Ministry of Magic, to the best of our knowledge, has been consistent in its intention to seek out and train all magical children in Great Britain and Ireland. To this end it has fostered a policy of deliberately soft-pedaling the risks of dealing with Muggles. Which has in the long run deliberately diminished wizard’s understanding of just what, or how much, Muggles are capable of. We do not know for just how long this particular policy has been in place. But the distorted “history” of the interaction between the two cultures as presented by Bathilda Bagshott has certainly been in use in the classroom since 1947. With such a background it is not astonishing that wizards find it all too easy to regard Muggles with contempt.
The third and most disturbing faction are the wizarding Supremacists. They are the new kids on the block, and they are not yet what they will eventually become. The misguided disinformation policies of the Inclusionist Ministry has gone a long way in creating them, and the Ministry appears to have not yet realized this, nor does it appear to have any clear idea about addressing the situation.
The mindset of a wizarding Supremacist is hardly new. I am sure that long before Seclusion, or most modern nations were ever established there were occasional wizards (not invariably evil Dark wizards, either) who took it into their heads that being able to conduct magic qualified them to rule everyone in their vicinity. Some of them succeeded. Some of them even ruled well. Many, however were tyrants, and eventually needed to be deposed. Their stories are the basis for any number of folktales. In those days they did not ever quite manage to group into a recognizable political faction, since they were not really interested in ruling as a group. Although it is possible that they came close to it a few times.
Within the secluded wizarding world they are now showing a disturbing tendency to do exactly that. They have merely not yet managed to succeed to the point that they have been able to legitimately put themselves into power.
And being a pureblood has nothing to do with it. In fact their wholesale adoption of pureblood isolationist rhetoric is probably the main thing that is still holding them back.
While it is fair enough in this day and age to refer to the Isolationist faction of the ww as the “pureblood” Isolationist faction, blood purity is not truly relevant to the underlying Supremacist agenda. And its current preoccupation with appropriating the status perceived to be held by the Isolationists within wizarding society has served their goals ill. Where the Isolationist is concerned primarily only with who should properly be regarded as a qualified member of the magical community, the Inclusionists and the Supremacists are at loggerheads in their beliefs of what should be the appropriate treatment of Muggles.
The wizarding Inclusionist typically believes that Muggles should be strenuously avoided but for the most part left to their own devices and not interfered with. The Supremacist believes that they should be brought under subjection and ruled by wizards.
Which is utterly impossible under any form of wizarding Seclusion. The Supremacists’ aims, therefore, while they may be in opposition to those of the Inclusionist, are absolutely inimical to those of the Isolationist.
Nevertheless, at this stage of their development, the Supremacists have adopted the Isolationists’ rhetoric. And for some generations they have been winning the hearts and minds of the Isolationists’ children. Rowling has never openly acknowledged this truth within either canon nor in her interviews. But it is nonetheless the case that while the Isolationist mindset has become irrelevant, Considering where Rowling left this world, the ever-growing Supremacist view is still in its developmental stages and eventually it will manage to legitimize itself. And by then it probably won’t give a damn about blood purity.
Where the Isolationist might legitimately, and historically view the Muggle-born as a threat, the Supremacist sees only a convenient scapegoat. He also (probably quite rightly) identifies this as the sector of the magical population least likely to support his aims.
A major current factor in this equation is the form that the initial fallout over the conflict generated by the Ministry policy to assimilate every magical child has taken. In her 2004 Edinburgh interview Rowling claimed that she did not originally have any particular model in mind for her Death Eaters and their interpretation of blood purity, but that an exhibit mounted by the Museum of Tolerance including the definitions set up by the 3rd Reich in Germany were very much in the style she had envisioned.
Some of the 3rd Reich’s guidelines in their exercise of attempting to define Judaism as a race went as follows:
From the First Supplementary Decree to the Nuremberg Laws:
(1) The provisions of Article I shall apply also to subjects who are of mixed Jewish blood.
(2) An individual of mixed Jewish blood is one who is descended from one or two grandparents who, racially, were full Jews, insofar that he is not a Jew according to Section 2 of Article 5. Full-blooded Jewish grandparents are those who belonged to the Jewish religious community.
As for who was to be regarded as a Jew in the first place:
(1) A Jew is an individual who is descended from at least three grandparents who were, racially, full Jews...
(2) A Jew is also an individual who is descended from two full-Jewish grandparents if:
(a) he was a member of the Jewish religious community when this law was issued, or joined the community later;
(b) when the law was issued, he was married to a person who was a Jew, or was subsequently married to a Jew;
(c) he is the issue from a marriage with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, which was contracted after the coming into effect of the Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honor of September 15, 1935;
(d) he is the issue of an extramarital relationship with a Jew, in the sense of Section I, and was born out of wedlock after July 31, 1936.
• • • •
However; regardless of how despicable the above unquestionably is, it is far more liberal than the legal definitions, and slave codes adopted across much of the antebellum American south which were used to define “Negro”.
In which it was stated that a 1/16th portion of “Negro blood” — i.e., one great-great-grandparent, or two great-great-great-grandparents — was sufficient to classify an individual as a Negro under the law and to be subject to enslavement and *sale*, unless he could produce documentary proof of having been either freeborn or legally emancipated.
Permit me to point out that it is these codes that would have been the established precedent that would have been the most widely known and accessible of such statutes of exclusion at the date the Hogwarts Quill was put into commission.
(Demonstrating that if you really want to see statutory evil in action, you would be better advised to look for it among the interests of commerce than in the service of dogma.)
It does need to be noted, even if only in passing, that however comparatively liberal the 3rd Reich might have been in the identification and definition of “undesirables”, they were a good deal more exacting on the standards used to admit anyone to the inner circle of their ruling class. It required no fewer than nine generations of “Aryan” descent in order to qualify as representative of “pure” Aryan stock. Which does certainly set off echoes of Ernie MacMillan’s 2nd year boast that his family had been witches and wizards for nine generations.
Still, the American model, when translated to the wizarding world also thoroughly fits the requirements of what Rowling has shown us of the matter. Indeed, rather better than the policies of the 3rd Reich.
For one thing, for a full half of the current wizarding population to still be counting its decent from previous Muggle-born witches and wizards who have been absorbed into wizarding society over at least 150 years, would appear to require something more than a mere two generations worth of tracking. Particularly given that we get no indications that wizarding “breeding” generations are any longer than Muggle ones.
For another; the American model also owes some degree of its origins to a fairly widely-quoted (in more historical days) biblical exhortation stipulating that certain issues were to be extended “even unto the fourth generation”, which is certainly more in keeping with what is most likely to have been the kind of influences to have held sway at the time Seclusion was imposed, and to have remained current within the wizarding world throughout the period of “full” Seclusion.
And there is yet another rather closely related apparent American influence strongly in evidence regarding this whole issue, as it is presented in canon as well. One that it is not difficult to guess.
Intimately associated, in fact.
To be sure; the European model of the Nazi regime is the closest one to Rowling’s own vantage point when the time came for her to set up the basic template of the Death Eaters. And the IRA would probably also serve as a reasonable model for some of the Death Eaters’ public activities. But it is the United States model of racial relations, as observed over the past 150+ years which her construction’s philosophical basis and mode of operation most closely seems to be reflective of.
Say whatever you will about the Nazis; for most of their history they have been a legitimate and recognized political party which has typically functioned openly. They were a duly elected government and their leaders showed their faces publicly and you knew their names. They stated their objectives and they openly solicited public support.
Rowling’s Death Eaters resemble the Nazi party a good deal less than they do the post-bellum, and indeed most of the 20th century’s Ku Klux Klan. Which seems to have been founded expressly as a terrorist organization, dedicated to the suppression of the legitimate legal rights of those persons who fell outside their approved demographic. And, historically, although certain of their Leaders have been publicly known, they have most typically operated as terrorists, behind masks, even cultivating the practice of leaving a burning symbolic “calling card” at sites where the residents have attracted their disapproval.
Of course, being Muggles, the fire that they leave behind them burning doesn’t burn green.
Regardless of the continuing confusion in canon produced by the (possibly deliberately) contradictory statements concerning the period, until the release of HBP, it was generally believed that over much of the initial portion of his first rise, Lord Voldemort had managed to attract a great deal of popular support. Which would support the Voldemort = Hitler association that Rowling has admitted attempting to encourage.
However, once we were given a reasonably detailed overview of the first rise of Lord Voldemort in HBP, it became clear that this parallel could never have been the case. In HBP Rowling didn’t give Tom Riddle a Hitleresque backstory or history. Despite Rowling’s determination to abruptly flip-flop, and try to unwrite the HBP backstory in DHs, her subsequent assertions are not in the least bit convincing. I cannot believe that Tom Riddle and his followers, or their blatantly anti-Seclusion rhetoric, had ever enjoyed any degree of open public support inside the wizarding word. There is absolutely no suggestion that the *Death Eaters* had ever been a legitimate faction in wizarding government. The Ministry may not have stepped in to shut him up, until it was already far too late, but Riddle was not spearheading a legitimate political movement. He was rabble-rousing. If Regulus Black was making scrapbooks of Riddle’s newspaper cuttings, it was with reports of his statements that the Ministry had allowed to be printed in order to frighten people.
There is no reference, no, not one, anywhere in any of the six previous books of any legal restriction on Muggle-born participation, at any level in wizarding society, regardless of however solid the “glass ceiling” they need to navigate around in order to get ahead in the Ministry. Muggle-born wizards and witches are and have apparently always — at least on paper, or, rather, parchment — been fully enfranchised members of the wizarding world. The DEs had never been legally “in power”, even if some of their (covert) members probably held prominent positions in the Ministry. And over the whole course of HBP it was revealed that they are a criminal organization and their position within the wizarding world is, and has always been, that of wanted criminals.
Tom Marvolo Riddle is Public Enemy #1.
And when you pause to think about it. Something like the Klan could only have come about after the real war was fought and lost, and for the group to have been subsequently cobbled together by a lot of diehards who had seen their pet agenda snatched away, but who refuse to be denied, and are willing to force the issue, outside the law.
There had probably been forerunners of the Death Eaters who bore the same attitudes about incomers to the wizarding world. But I suspect that most of those did continue to support an Isolationist agenda. And others may have lacked a charismatic leader. Although we do have a couple of references in the first couple of books about a dangerous Dark wizard about 100 years earlier. But we are not going to get any further information on that head in official canon. That reference probably is a bit of flotsam that was originally supposed to lead us to Grindelwald before Rowling revamped the timeline.
The DE’s mindset also resembles that of the Klan in that it appears to be based upon of the losing side of a major social conflict which has conflated all of its anger, resentment and opinions about what is wrong with the world into a single issue. Society in general simply cannot sustain that sort of intensity of focus over an issue which has lasted 1000 years. Over 1000 years you get the kind of attitude you see from Ron Weasley regarding werewolves, or Fudge’s knee-jerk suspicion of Parselmouths. Something that’s thoroughly unfair, yes. But also totally accepted, to the point that no one born inside the wizarding world even thinks to question or examine it. And no one gets worked up about it.
Appearances, however are deceiving. The Death Eaters as defined by Tom Riddle himself are not the losers of some recently fought wizarding social conflict. They are something else altogether. They are a splinter group which is effectively attempting to overthrow wizarding seclusion and make war upon the Muggles.
A war which they haven't the ghost of a chance of winning.
If this much had ever been admitted inside of canon, right there we would have had all the explanation for all of those otherwise inexplicable comments made in passing about Lord Voldemort revealing his “true goals” and thereby rendering himself unmentionable that we ever needed. We might even have had something to pin Albus’s precious “11 years ago” reference upon.
But, no. This was never actually admitted. And to the final page Tom is lying in his teeth and claiming that his target is only Harry Potter.
Mind you, there might well be a wild card factor in play in the Potterverse related to the development of sociopaths. If the influences related to this factor operate as they have been postulated in the article entitled ‘The Pachyderm in the Parlor’, then there might readily be some widespread anxiety related to Muggle-raised wizards which could easily be tapped into. Particularly if Lord Voldemort is in fact not the first such to have troubled the wizarding world since the Hogwarts Quill was put into commission. But if this is the case it would not be Lord Voldemort or his supporters who would be raising this issue with the wizarding public.
No. The rise of the DEs is a fairly recent development, and their numbers are a good deal less than they appear. This is a group which has latched hold of a spuriously similar historical line of rhetoric, and is using that as justification to give their own views some pseudo-historical legitimacy. Much the way that Rowling tries to legitimize her plot lines by mimicking Real World issues.
No one apart from a few Muggle-borns (and probably not even Albus Dumbledore) even consider that keeping House Elves enslaved might be wrong. I am sure that any DE worth his salt can quote you chapter and verse as to exactly why Muggles, and Muggle-borns, and Muggle-thought must be expunged from the Wizarding World with fire and sword, and why Purebloods are qualified to rule over all humanity. That kind of effort put into what intractably remain demonstrably unsound justifications can’t be sustained over 1000 years by any viable society as a whole.
Societies will retain the memory of such biases, yes. And society will undoubtedly include individuals who continue to uphold such biases in defiance of all common sense. But even a cursory overview of history will support my contention that society does not maintain a practice of this kind of pogrom over sustained periods of time. I think you’ll see if you investigate the matter, that the actual practice of genocide has always waxed and waned depending on some other factor which is going on in a given geographical area at the time. The most obvious parallel to this sort of cycle can be readily traced over a couple of millennia’s history of anti-Semitism.
Nor is it difficult to recognize where the foundation impulses for such biases come from. This is a completely natural response within the Them/Us reflexes that seem to be hardwired into the human psyche. Rogers and Hammerstein notwithstanding, you do not “have to be carefully taught” prejudice. Actually, it is wide-scale tolerance that must be taught, and taught repeatedly, before it has any possibility of ever sinking in.
To the Self, the ‘Other’ will always be a potential threat. The most basic method of reducing the threat represented by the existence of the Other to a manageable level is to diminish the Other as an individual entity. If he is inferior he is therefore less capable of being able to harm the Self — except when he is assembled in large numbers.
The developing Self first becomes aware of its Mother figure, then of the members of its immediate family, and later, over a subsequent period of association, socialization, and habit, of the tribe. All these levels of association are perceived to be to some degree extrapolations of the Self and are recognized as legitimate connections with whom the Self might reasonably identify, and toward whom some level of personal responsibility on the part of the Self is owed.
Anyone outside the tribe is automatically, at least upon first encounter, the Other.
In practice, after a period of adjustment and familiarization, many such Others are accepted as being additional members of one’s own tribe. Typically these are those Others who by appearance, speech or behavior give off the same unconscious signals as are given by the current members of the tribe. People with a significantly different appearance or those who send unfamiliar cultural signals typically remain the Other and are viewed with suspicion, and generally kept at a distance. Or they find themselves “colonized” and regarded as something in the nature of an exotic pet.
What is more, most humans actively go looking for artificial distinctions by which to distinguish the Other, and to thus limit the number of persons to and for whom they must admit some measure of personal responsibility. The typical human’s social awareness does not seem to be particularly well-calibrated for accepting large numbers of randomly encountered separate individuals as legitimate connections to the Self.
It has been the work of millennia to attempt (and NOT to succeed, or certainly not yet) to suppress the impulse to automatically read Other as “enemy”, and to attempt to derail the process of reading Other just as automatically as “inferior”. And we simply are not there yet.
Why should wizards be any different?
• • • •
Targeting the obvious outsider is a very cheap shot, but the behavior of society over time does tend to settle into exactly that kind of lowest common denominator. And, when you get a specific and recognizable group whose own internally mandated traditions pretty well demand that they openly demonstrate their difference from their neighbors, the combination is guaranteed to go toxic at irregular intervals. In the specific case of anti-Semitism, the history has always been one of periods of social assimilation alternating with periods of persecution. And the responsibility for this, to a large extent, falls upon both sides.
In every single case, the understood reasons justifying the individual rounds of persecution all probably boil down into “because They are not Us”. But while the actual claims invoked by each cycle have almost certainly differed from period to period, I suspect that the rhetoric of earlier periods has virtually always been revived, refurbished and echoed by later ones — again, in order to give the current pogrom some additional veneer of historical legitimacy.
And the anti-Semitism parallel is a particularly good one, too. For, again, there is no more outwardly visible difference between a Jew and his gentile neighbors, than there is between a wizard and a Muggle. Rhetoric and the delusions of the 3rd Reich aside, we are not dealing with issues of race here. It is the individual’s culture and practices which demonstrate his differences. In the wizard’s case, sometimes involuntary behavior such as a juvenile breakthrough of spontaneous magic.
But, if we intend to follow this parallel to its logical conclusions in search of further supportive data, we need to direct our attention, not only to the historic experience of the Jews in Europe and around the world, but to the development of policy within the modern day Nation State of Israel. Where, at least until fairly recently (and probably even as I write) just to be born and raised as a Jew is not enough to automatically make you an acceptable candidate for citizenship.
The official state religion of Israel, to the best of my understanding, is Orthodox Judaism. Reform Jews (who are hardly an insignificant percentage of the whole) or Conservative Jews, let alone the followers of Reconstructionist Judaism were/are not officially recognized as being Jews at all insofar as eligibility for Israeli citizenship is concerned (or at least not according to a classic rant from one of my oldest friends). But, at least in the case of the Nation State of Israel, one has the option of converting to the accepted State form of their co-religion. You cannot convert to being a pureblood if you are Muggle-born or of mixed ancestry.
Yes, by all means, I think that if we chose, we could indeed find several various real world parallels for the wizarding world and it’s opposing major factions...
• • • •
Speaking of which; the DE’s opposite number, those blood-traitors generally understood to be represented by Arthur Weasley and his cohorts with their dubious Muggle Protection Act, are probably another comparatively recent social phenomenon. They represent a polarized opposing faction to the developing Supremacist movement. And in a way, for all their apparent good intentions, their agenda is every bit as dangerous to their society as a whole as that of the Death Eaters. But, although comparatively recent in development, they are not exactly newcomers.
Cornelius Fudge’s most recent handlers notwithstanding, this is the faction which has held the upper hand in general Ministry policy, or at least among the Hogwarts Board of Governors since Albus Dumbledore was a boy, and they are beginning to lose their grip. Which means there is a power vacuum in the making. Bathilda Bagshot’s ‘History of Magic’ (c. 1947) with its watered-down official claptrap of how “We hid ourselves away to avoid being exploited” and its assurances that almost no real witches were actually burnt (actually true, if we’re talking about England), is an obviously distorted piece of whitewashing intended to reassure the young wizard (and, quite possibly Rowling’s perceived young reader) that the big bad Muggle is no danger to him. I have a strong suspicion that by the end of the 17th century (not Western Civ’s finest hour, shall we say?) the average wizarding view of Muggles was probably not all that different from its present opinion of Giants.
It needs to be pointed out that this crude and condescending attempt to rewrite their own history is surely no more of an inherent distortion than the rewriting of Muggle history that the Ministry appears to have already accomplished, in which the very existence of Magic in the world seems to have been successfully overwritten.
The resulting benefit to the development of Muggle society, and the improvement of Muggle welfare is unquestionable. But is it really just?
Do the ends really justify the means?
The corruption at the heart of wizarding society has reached the point that truth is something that no one will take the responsibility for preserving. Nor does anyone in authority recognize that truth even needs to be preserved. And that can only lead to disaster.
By the end of HBP I thought that the situation could only worsen. The removal of the threat of Lord Voldemort would not solve this problem. If anything, his removal would accelerate it. Which in the end will result in a society without truth, without justice, without any of the virtues which merit upholding. At the very best, a society of “nice” will have replaced whatever value is understood to be inherent in the concept of “good”. Let alone that of “best”. And all judgments will be subjective.
As it turns out, the situation at the end of DHs was even worse than I could have anticipated. Rowling has deliberately pushed the ww into the worst position it has been in living memory, and summarily left it there.
And then threw us a smarmy little epilogue in which it has been made clear that even 19 years later nothing has changed.
There should be a new Dark Lord coming down the track in about another 20 minutes.
Another factor that has also usually been called to general attention by this stage of an examination of the matter is that the point at which all these Nazi/Klan/IRA parallels irrevocably break down is when we take a reality check and admit that where the Nazi/Klan/etc. rhetoric can usually be said to be obviously in the wrong, given that there is absolutely no provable human quality in which their defined-as “inferior races” are deficient, from a wizarding standpoint, there is no question but that Muggles really are inferior in the only quality which distinguishes wizards.
At which point the issue resolves itself into the one overriding question of;
Who gets to define what constitutes “human”?