I wondered about this after mentioning him in the context of historiography in yesterday’s conversation with Jim Belshaw and Davo. I thought he would be in the UK by now, but maybe not. I see he is pursuing his buggers here in Oz still, or was in April this year. See Demonising Dissent.
Rachael Kohn: Among the many rude expressions that Aussies love, probably the favourite is ‘Bugger!’.
Hello, I’m Rachael Kohn and I confess it’s taken me years to get used to it. Well on today’s Ark, here on ABC Radio National, I finally get even. Thanks to my guest, [Delenio], a lawyer and historian pursuing a degree in Mediaeval Studies at the University of Sydney, the true origin of Bugger is revealed! As you might guess, it’s religious. Robert Le Bougre first emerged in the strange and turbulent world of 13th century Europe, when the church was beset by two major challenges to its authority, from the Bogomils and the Cathars.
[Delenio]: The Bogomils were actually a much older heretical sect, and they had their origins in the Balkans, in the region that we would now call Bosnia, which was of course, they were all called Bolgars at the time. They were a problem with the Eastern church, and the Eastern church dealt with them sometimes heavily and sometimes not so heavily. And so they did survive, and remnants of them survived all the way through to the Ottoman Empire…
Rachael Kohn: Well justice was done perhaps. Now you’re a lawyer [Delenio], and I want to know what makes you so interested in Mediaeval Studies?
[Delenio]: Well Mediaeval Studies is an area of history that really is challenging in a documentary sense. Quite like law work because compilation and simple hard work on the sources is such an important part of it. But also, they are so similar and yet so different from us at the same time, in a way that I think other areas of history may not be for me. So because of that I’ve always found the stories that come up in mediaeval history so fascinating.
Rachael Kohn: Do you find parallels with cases that you look at today?
[Delenio]: Well it’s hard to say the general cases in law. But of course people have made the link between witchcraft and terrorism in the past, and some of the methods used and some of the popular belief that you get in someone like Robert the Bugger, is quite like some of the witch trials, if you like, that people get in the modern age.