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 Moreover, it was revoked almost immediately after it was issued by Pope Innocent III (c. 1160-1216), one of the most lawerly Popes ever, and a huge fan of getting involved in charter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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Podcast alert: Medieval medicine on Sick to Death

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!

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On colonial mindsets and the myth of medieval Europe in isolation from the Muslim world

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.

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Podcast alert: Medieval martial arts on the Sword Guy

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.

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On Masculinity and Disease

Over the past few days I have, of course, been laughing very hard as we collectively watch Miss Rona skip through the White House staff like, well, a highly infectious virus because that is literally how it works? ANYWAY, while that is very very funny, it is not the thing I have been thinking about this week. Instead, what caught my attention was the interest from a huge swathe of Americans in relating to illness and the vanquishing thereof as a specifically masculine trait. By this, I mean, all the insistence that Trump can just man his way out of a disease and that other men are feminine for doing stuff like wearing masks.

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On constructing the “ideal” woman

This morning I started my day by treating myself to a long read with my cup of coffee. In this case, the long read in question was Emily Ratajkowski’s excellent, disturbing, and important “Buying Myself Back”, an excerpt from her upcoming book of essays printed in New York Magazine. It is in many ways a harrowing read (Content Warning – it recounts a sexual assault), but I bring it up because Ms. Ratajkowski so deftly describes the personal experience of something that I have been writing about a lot lately: the male gaze and women’s ability, or indeed inability, to assert themselves against a constructed “ideal”.

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Podcast alert: A medieval Education on History Hit

Dan Snow was nice enough to have me back once again last week. This time we discussed medieval education, just in time for back to school. Don’t worry, I also yelled about the misuse of the word “medieval” some more as well. Check it out!

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On collapsing time, or, not everyone will be taken into the future

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.

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