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”
Because I will never know peace, and apparently the memory of most public commentators is the same length as my cat’s, the bad plague takes are sadly back. This time they come to us via – I swear to god – NBC News Opinion and one Michael Oren who is, as will become clear, emphatically not a medieval historian and could have just not written the garbage that I am about to yell about.Continue reading “On collapsing time, or, not everyone will be taken into the future”
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”
Being a medieval historian means quite a few things. Among other things, it means you get irrationally irked by the popular usage of medieval as a pejorative, make literally no money at all ever (Haha – I’m not joking, tho. HELP.), and spend a lot of time being frustrated with the concept of the Renaissance. Over this time, I have come to realise that the Renaissance is, in many ways, like the seminal classic Hey Ya by Outkast.
Now the thing about the Renaissance is that, much like Hey Ya, everyone can agree it is cool as hell. We’re out here enjoying that art and damn if it is not amazing.Continue reading “On the concept of the Renaissance and Outkast’s Hey Ya”
As a very serious adult, with a respectable career and life, and a healthy ability to let petty shit slide, I spent much too much time last week arguing with strangers on the internet who believe in the myth of the Dark Ages.
The arguments in question focused on a massively inaccurate meme, which some observers of the group pointed out was originally supposed to be about knowledge loss after the burning of the Library of Alexandria, but which some very cool EDGE LORD had changed to be about ‘The Christian Dark Ages’. Please feast your eyes on it in all it’s massive wrongness:
This is, pretty obviously, a bunch of honkey bullshit and also massively incorrect, as many important scholars have noted. As a result, I spent hours of my life – which I will never get back – pointing out repeatedly that the ‘graph’ in question has nothing to do with reality, and arguing with non-experts about the medieval period.Continue reading “There’s no such thing as the ‘Dark Ages’, but OK”