I approach information I find on the web with, I think, informed skepticism. I don’t trust it unless I have confidence in its source. I am especially vigilant about Wikipedia, although I think it’s a wonderful idea.
So, browsing the other day, considering the term marches, meaning borderlands, I wondered what had been posted on the Wikipedia, since my usual sources were skimpy on the topic (especially the cascade of Chase-Dunn and Hall papers, and citations of them, and their new friend Turchin—more on the latter in a coming post, I suspect).
Mark or march (or various plural forms of these words) are derived from the Frankish word marka (“boundary”) and refer to an area along a border, e.g. the borderland between England and Scotland. During the Frankish Carolingian Dynasty, the word spread throughout Europe. In contrast to a buffer zone, a march usually clearly belongs to the territory of one state, and rather than being demilitarized, it is especially fortified for defense against the neighbouring country.
The Frankish word marka comes from Proto-Germanic marko, which itself comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *mereg-, meaning “edge, boundary”. The root *mereg- gave Latin margo (“margin”), Old Irish mruig (“borderland”), Persian marz (“border, land”), and indeed even English “mark”. It seems in Old English “mark” meant “boundary”, or “sign of a boundary”, and the meaning later evolved into “sign in general”, “impression or trace forming a sign”. The word “march” in the sense of borderland was borrowed from French marche, which had borrowed it from Frankish.
Boundary areas have different histories than neighboring regions, different tensions and economies. Their affiliations may be strong, weak, or, more frequently, fluctuating. Yet, activities in boundary regions have a great effect on core regions nearby. Hence my interest….