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:
As I write this I am fully aware that there are, as ever, terrible things going on around us, over which we have no control. In many cases I feel that these things can be connected to our social values and the cultural connections we have with our past. This week I don’t wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about a very pressing Twitter question. To whit: fellas, is it feminine to be born in the Summer? And more specifically is it feminine to be born in June and July?
This month I have been spending a lot of timetalking about something that is, in my opinion completely and utterly irrelevant and boring. I am, of course, referring to Magna Carta, a 1215 charter between a hated English King, John (1166-1216) and 25 of his most beef-prone barons. Magna Carta, as many historians, from David Carpenter to Nicholas Vincent, have pointed out was anything but revolutionary. It essentially just recorded the rights and duties that kings had toward the nobility throughout the majority of Europe, but had previously been customary. Moreover, it was revoked almost immediately after it was issued by Pope Innocent III (c. 1160-1216), one of the most lawerly Popes ever, and a huge fan of getting involved in charter chat.
Over the past few weeks I have had numerous people ask me about Antipopes. Can’t think why. I am joking, of course. People are interested in Antipopes because of the state of American politics, and the fact the medieval history is just way way to relevant anymore. You may or may not have noticed that Trump is currently on some next level nonsense and refusing to acknowledge that he has lost an election, essentially setting himself up to be an Anti-President, if you will. As a result, this week I thought I would do a brief introduction to Antipopes as a concept so that you, too, can make pithy historical bonne-motes in political conversations as the world burns around us.
This week I was lucky enough to be joined by Justin Hancock from BISH (where I have written before) for a discussion on the history of sexuality and how it is still playing out in the modern day, with particular reference to No Nut November.
We’re covering: ancient, medieval, and modern concepts of sexuality; the biopsychosocial approach to sex; and how to pronounce Graham Crackers. I hope you enjoy!
If you enjoyed this, please consider contributing to my patreon. If not, that is chill too!
There are a lot of medieval ghost stories. So many, in fact, that there is a whole really great collection of them, Andrew Joynes’s Medieval Ghost Stories: An Anthology of Miracles, Marvels and Prodigies, which I unhesitatingly recommend if you want some more medieval ghost content in your life. To surprise and delight you, I was thinking back through some of my favs to do some casual Halloween posting. Should I do the ghost story about incest? Some of the great Icelandic revenant stories? How about my fav Emperor Charles IV’s poltergeist story that he just throws in randomly in the middle of his autobiography? That’s when I realised that actually some of my scary stories are directly related to one of my favourite saints – St Procopius of Sázava, aka Sv. Prokop. So that is who we are going to talk about today.
I was lucky enough to chat with my friend Rebecca Rideal on the Sick to Death podcast about medieval medicine. It’s a really great podcast which focuses on telling history through objects. I hope you will enjoy it!
An idea that well-meaning people with no background in medieval history often bring up to me when attempting to relate is that the medieval period was certainly a glowing time for civilization – if one is explicitly and only discussing the Arab world. This idea gets hurled at me when I am pointing out what the term Dark Ages means, or discussing the bathing habits of medieval Europeans, or just trying to have a quiet pint in peace for the love of Christ. As I say, I do think it comes from a place of wanting to correct an inaccurate and overly European historiography. People want to prove that they understand there is more to the world than one peninsula and that multiple histories are available. They want to show that they understand that non-White people are capable of innovation. They also want to show that they have learned something and are able to critique dominant historical narratives. While all of this is all very charming, it is also inaccurate, and ironically ideas like this – far from elevating Arab history – simply play into a colonialist narrative in history, but from another angle.
I had the distinct pleasure of geeking out (HARD) about medieval martial arts with my colleague Guy Windsor on his Sword Guy podcast. We cover swordes, techniques, who it’s for, and how this relates to medieval society more generally. Yes I like martial arts. The end.