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.Continue reading “On colonial mindsets and the myth of medieval Europe in isolation from the Muslim world”
We have a lot of fun, don’t we, when we talk about how people argue that the medieval period was the Dark Ages based on the fact that the feel some type of way about it? Now, can I call people who think this ridiculously incredulous and basic? Yes. And I do. Thanks for asking. Having said that, the general ignorance of the medieval period is not from nothing.
On the one hand, you could argue that the idea that the middle ages was a bad time where people were generally stupid, unwashed, and rolling about in the muck on medieval people’s own conceptions of knowledge. As Sara has pointed out to us before, medieval people considered themselves to be attempting to access a perfect knowledge which had been deteriorating since the fall of man. As a result, they attempted to emulate the knowledge of the people who came before them – i.e. Roman and Hellenic thinkers. They thought that past systems of knowledge were inherently better than their own, and, well, it’s hard not to take people at their word, you know?Continue reading “On colonialism, imperialism, and ignoring medieval history”