On the myth of short life expectancy, and COVID complacency

When you are in my line of work, well firstly, you don’t have any. (Zing! LOL, help, join my Patreon.) Secondly you spend a bunch of time fighting against the myths about a thousand years of history or so that we have created to feel better about ourselves. One of the really rampant myths that I deal with on a regular basis is about life expectancy in the medieval period. What gets trotted out, over and over, is the idea that “the average life expectancy in the medieval period was 35, so when you were 32 you were considered an old”. Friends, this is extremely not true, and this myth is also damaging to us now. Allow me to elaborate.

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On history versus chronicles

I wrote a piece, years back at the beginning of the Trump administration about the difference between journalism -wherein facts are both reported and various narratives scrutinised to a larger public- and chronicles, a sort of narrative timeline wherein various theoretically important events occur. This week I have been thinking about this again, as well as the general public’s relationship to how we transmit information, given a fairly chilling announcement from the UK government.  

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On weather, winter, and changing climates

It is snowing in London, and just cold enough that a slight dusting has stuck to side streets and car roofs. In Prague the snow is coming down thick, and pictures of my old neighbourhood in the snow are making me a bit teary and resentful of all the travelling I cannot do. Snow in Europe shouldn’t be particularly newsworthy, but in a post climate change world these things are remarkable. Sitting as I am, in a medieval city (well, technically in a village just outside of the city, but still), and being who I am as a person, I have been thinking about winter and weather in the medieval period, and how its changes influenced society writ large.

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Podcast Alert: We’re Not So Different

Because of who I am at a fundamental level I have a new podcast with a mate of mine called We’re Not So Different where we will be intermittently discussing the ways that our lives and society is not that different to those of people in the past. Come hang out with Luke and I while we clear up common misconceptions about the medieval period and talk about the regular lives of boring people. It’s fun, I swear.

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On slavery, propaganda, and “apolitical” history

To celebrate its death throes, the other week the lame duck crypto-fascist Trump government came up one of the worst historical takes yet seen, a horrifying little dossier that they call the 1776 project. You can no longer read it, as it was rightly removed from the White House website, largely because it was a bit of racist lunacy that one can only come up with by specifically eschewing the works of any historians. I, however, am compelled to write about it, with the help of handy screenshots because I am one of those pesky historians that they decided to exclude while coming out with bangers like this:

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Podcast alert: Medieval sexuality on Tangentially Speaking

I had the distinct pleasure of talking to Christopher Ryan, whose work has been a huge influence on my own, on his Tangentially Speaking podcast. We talked about the misuse of history, how no one has ever been considered old at 35 ever, and of course George Michael. Check it out!

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Podcast alert: Gender and sex in Medieval Times – a conversation on Gender Stories

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining my mate Alex Iantaffi on Gender Stories, to talk about medieval history, societal constructs, and how we can change our relationship to them. Check it out!

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On treating sex with the utmost reverence

For my last post of this garbage year I wanted to write you something festive. Maybe about commemoration, or compilation, or Christmas traditions of some kind. Then I logged into twitter and well lord forgive me, but it is time to go back to the old me.

You see, the first thing I was presented with as my poor tired eyes struggled to adjust to the weak light of a December morning was this:

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