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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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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Magna Carta will not save us

This month I have been spending a lot of time talking 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.[1] 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.

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A brief introduction to Antipopes

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.

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My fav Saints: St Procopius of Sázava, a spooky saint

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.

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