Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘medieval history’

Is Trump the new King Henry II?

By David Runciman

The testimony of Former FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee was a highly anticipated moment of political drama. There were many stand-out moments. But as a medievalist, it was particularly interesting to hear Comey and one of his interlocutors compare President Trump to King Henry II of England. So why was a medieval English king invoked in a modern American congressional hearing? And does the comparison provide any insight into what might happen next? Read more

The Late Medieval Christmas Feast

By Eleanor Russell

This article forms part of Doing History in Public’s Christmas series, which this year looks into patterns of consumption at Christmastide.

Like today, the most spectacular and anticipated part of the medieval Christmas was not the Mass, then mandatory, but Christmas feast, an event which offered not only an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ, reconnect with family and friends, and eat to bursting, but also  the chance to express social hierarchies and identity. Read more

Crying Wolf in the early middle ages?

By Robert Evans @R_AH_Evans

The chronicles and histories of the early middle ages have a reputation for describing somewhat unusual events. In his history of contemporary events, for example, Prudentius, bishop of Troyes (d.861) describes how, in 846

‘Wolves attacked and devoured with complete audacity the inhabitants of the western part of Gaul. Indeed, in some parts of Aquitaine they are said to have gathered together in groups of up to 300, just like army detachments, formed a sort of battle-line and marched along the road, boldly charging en masse all who tried to resist them’ (The Annals of St-Bertin, 846AD, p. 62). Read more

From ‘liquid flesh’ to chocolate – a brief history of Easter Eggs

by Elly Barnett – @eleanorrbarnett

Elly is an MPhil student in Early Modern History. Her current research focusses on the links between food and the English Reformation.

For most of us, the long Easter weekend was filled with family, drink, and an excessive amount of chocolate. Of course, Easter Sunday is the principal Christian feast in the liturgical calendar, a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Recent historians of the medieval and early modern period have recognised that religious identity is linked to the physical self rather than just the intellectual mind, involving taste, smell and touch.[1] With that last piece of chocolate egg remaining, then, I offer some thoughts on the history of Easter eggs in England and their importance to the religious experience of medieval and early-modern Christians. Read more

“In their reckless lust they forget their sex” – LGBT history in the Middle Ages

by Tim Wingard – @Physiololgus

Tim is a graduate of the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies. His research interests include issues of historical sexuality, the latin bestiary, and medieval travel writing.

There is a tendency in popular histories and in the teaching of the subject at school to assume that the Middle Ages were an inherently heterosexual era. The stereotype of medieval life involves hyper-masculine knights fighting each other for the affection of damsels, according to a code of chivalry that set strict boundaries for relations between the sexes. LGBT identities are generally regarded as a ‘modern’ phenomenon, something that simply did not exist in this premodern world. In fact, some of the most exciting research in medieval scholarship since the 1980s has been done on unearthing the ‘secret history’ of diverse medieval sexualities.

Read more

A Story about Exploding Bowels: The Bible, Hagiography, Monastic Foundation Documents and the Use of Historical Exemplars

By Fraser McNair

Fraser is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of History. His thesis is entitled ‘The development of territorial principalities between the Loire and the Scheldt, 893-99′.

When I originally wrote these words, on the 19th November, it was (so Wikipedia informed me) World Toilet Day. Yet the question of human faeces is not only a modern concern. It was also a surprisingly highly charged issue in the Middle Ages. Take, for instance, the late-ninth/early-tenth century First Life of St. Gangulf. Gangulf was a pious layman who discovered his wife having an affair with a cleric. Subsequently, he left his wife, inciting within her a ferocious desire for revenge. She and the cleric conspired to kill him, and did so. But in doing so, they incurred the wrath of God. After doing the deed, the cleric feels the call of nature: Read more

10 lesser-known medieval and early modern places in Greater London

By Spike Gibbs

Spike is a first year PhD student in working on office-holding in late medieval and early modern England.

London can appear to be an overwhelmingly modern city with its towering 20th century office blocks and grand Victorian architecture. Whilst there are some very famous medieval landmarks such as the Tower of London, and early modern ones such as St Paul’s Cathedral, these can appear to be oases in the capital. However, if you know where to look London has many surprises for the pre-1750 historian and here are ten of my favourites: Read more

Virtual History?

By Patrick McGhee | @patricksmcg

Computer and video gaming is now firmly a part of cultural, political and economic discourse. The financial and cultural power of video games is beyond dispute. The video games market will soon be worth $100bn and video games are played together by millions of people connected around the world. Gaming is also a billion-pound industry in the UK.

Video games also have a profound influence on public debates surrounding morality, social interaction, entertainment and humour. They are used to educate and entertain, to inspire creativity and innovation, and in some cases to encourage and support those with special educational needs. Video games even seek to provide commentaries of their own on some of the most complex and important issues faced in modern society, including political discord, race relations and morality. For example, the BioShock games have explored objectivism and theocracy in dystopian narratives that question the nature of free will and causation. Meanwhile, Grand Theft Auto has explored police corruption, caricatured American political parties and satirised religious extremism. The 2004 entry in the series also depicts a version of the 1992 Los Angeles riots set in the fictional U.S. state of San Andreas.

Read more

Bad Habit: A Wrongdoing Abbot in Tenth-Century Burgundy

By Fraser McNair

Fraser is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of History. His thesis is entitled ‘The development of territorial principalities between the Loire and the Scheldt, 893-99′.

Once again, a story from a charter: in this case, from the record of the resolution of a dispute over land. In 997, Bruno, bishop of Langres, arrived at the church of Saint-Étienne of Dijon looking, so he claimed, to pray there. What he found, however, was the canons of the church complaining that they had been defrauded of the land which was supposed to support their daily necessities. He investigated the complaints, and found them to be true: one of the men of the church of Langres, Odo, and his sons, had expelled the canons from the property. Bruno admonished them. Did they not know that ‘they weren’t feeding their bodies, they were damning their souls’? Read more

Love Story or Western? Ducal marriage in Normandy

By Fraser McNair

Fraser is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of History. His thesis is entitled ‘The development of territorial principalities between the Loire and the Scheldt, 893-99′.

Ah, Valentine’s Day. You know, while the day has some bad press, I personally appreciate the opportunity to indulge in some soppiness and sentimentality. And what could be more soppy and sentimental than medieval property grants? Read more

Becoming a Lord in Three Easy Steps

By Fraser McNair

Social mobility is not new. Any medieval society was filled with as many ambitious people looking to make their way in the world as any modern one. What is more difficult to see, in many cases, is how a wannabe nobleman turned their dreams into reality...

Read more

Growing Up Without a Beard: Child Kings and Facial Hair

By Emily Ward

From discussions about how to decorate it for Christmas, to a phenomenon called ‘peak beard’, and even an entire forthcoming Somerset House exhibition, one thing is certain – beards are having their moment in the media spotlight. Facial hair has been linked with a range of characteristics across a number of studies, including one article in Behavioural Ecology in 2011 which noted that human perceptions of age can be augmented for those who have a beard. But, turning back the clock several hundred years, can the portrayal of beards in images in the central Middle Ages tell us something about age in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries?

Read more

Dimwit! Charles the Simple and His Nickname

By Fraser McNair

The Frankish king Charles the Simple (r. 898-923) does not have a posthumous reputation as the brightest king who ever reigned. The most famous episode with which he is associated is one in which he was flipped onto his backside by an insubordinate Viking, who was told to kiss Charles’ feet and did so by raising the foot to his mouth rather than by kneeling (the image above shows a typical later view of Charles the Simple, getting toppled out of his throne by canny Vikings). This story, first told about eighty years after Charles’ death, comes from the same milieu as produced his nickname, simplex, often translated ‘the simple’.

Read more

Remembrance, Re-launch and Richard III

By  Emily Ward

Doing History in Public (DHP) has been a fully-functioning, up-and-running collaborative blog project for the best part of a year. Those of us who have been involved with it since the start wear the ‘blogger’ badge with pride and have found blogging to be an excellent medium with which to pursue thoughts on a variety of historical interests, from personal research to current affairs or digital humanities. Hence a recent social media training session for first year Arts and Humanities Research Council PhD students provided the perfect opportunity for members of the DHP team to try to enthuse new graduates about the use of social media in an academic context. It also ended up providing an occasion to reflect on an exciting year past and to plug a new re-launch for the blog! Read more

The Stone of Destiny

by Emily Ward

Do you need a crown to be a king? The answer may seem obvious to those familiar with the concept of a coronation ceremony, like the recent one held in Spain, during which a crown is placed upon the head of the monarch-to-be as part of the recognition of their kingship or queenship. The image of the crown and its symbolic links to royalty are consistently promulgated in mediums from literature and artwork to films and even children’s dressing up costumes. But, when is a crown not a crown? …when it’s a stone.

Read more

Sir James Clarke Holt (26 April 1922 – 9 April 2014)

By Emily Ward

Sir James Clarke Holt, perhaps best known by his publishing moniker of J. C. Holt, died on 9 April 2014 aged 91. Holt’s contribution to the field of medieval British history has been vast. His publications span a period of over fifty years, from the early 1950s to his last article published in 2007. His research helped to elucidate a range of substantial and diverse topics, from setting the background and history of Magna Carta in its context to exploring the mythical figure of Robin Hood.

Read more

“There’s no such thing as the Middle Ages…”

By Emily Ward

What does the early Middle Ages have in common with the Illuminati, the moon landing and JFK? The answer – that, like the other three, it has also been the subject of a conspiracy theory – may come as a surprise. This conspiracy, often called Phantom Time Hypothesis, suggests that the early Middle Ages never really existed. When conspiracy theories like this come into direct conflict with accepted historical fact, how should we, as historians, approach them?

Read more

Jacques Le Goff (1 January 1924 – 1 April 2014)

by Emily Ward

On 1 April 2014, the French historian Jacques Le Goff died aged ninety. His life spanned the majority of the twentieth century and his contribution to the field of medieval history can only be revered and respected. Le Goff was born in Toulon on 1 January 1924. During his life he experienced the Nazi occupation of France and witnessed the “coup de Prague” in person in 1947-8. Le Goff held early career positions in several universities, including Lincoln College, Oxford, where he gained a research studentship for the years 1951-2. His principle publications came during the 1970s and 1980s and it was at the start of this period, in 1972, that Le Goff was made head of l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) located in Paris.

Read more

Medieval Mappaemundi (World Maps)

by Julia Bourke

Medieval world maps, or mappaemundi, are something worth sharing even today because of what they tell us about how medieval people viewed their world. While we have our own, modern techniques of map making, the mappaemundi provide us with a different vision of the world and its geography.
Read more