Content Note: this post discusses the existence of sexual assault. It does not go into any detail, but does talk about it as a sociological and legal construct.
By now you have probably seen that there is a new show set in the Game of Thrones/ASOIAF universe coming up called House of the Dragon. This is OK news if you are me, because I am extremely going to watch that garbage one way or another. This is because of who I am as a person. I am not, however, gonna, like, get my hopes up that it will be good after … the unpleasantness of the ending of GoT. ANYWAY that is not what I am here to talk about today. Instead, I want to talk about the statement of one of the showrunners Miguel Sapochnik, who when asked why there was so much sexual assault in the upcoming series was heard to remark that, “You can’t ignore the violence that was perpetrated on women by men in that time”. And man, do I have something to say about this.
Every day I wake up with the grinding worry that some non-historian has had a very mad medieval history take, and every day that is true. Sadly, yesterday was one of those days once again as some basic wrote a bad take inThe New York Times about how the Black Death allegedly improved conditions for workers. This, of course, is something I have rebutted at length, both on here, and also in The Washington Post (because ya girl is fancy now). It is one thing to complain about how this is bad history that has been roundly debunked, as I do that all the time. However, today I want to talk a little where in medieval history we can look for good news.
Friends, my comic is officially OUT in the UK! (Americans and Aussie/Kiwi friends have to wait until September, I am very sorry.) To celebrate, or tide you over in case you are still waiting I thought I would give you my loves a peek inside, and give you a better idea of what happens when you put 1100 years of history into 176 pages, with pictures.
When you are in my line of work, well firstly, you don’t have any. (Zing! LOL, help, join my Patreon.) Secondly you spend a bunch of time fighting against the myths about a thousand years of history or so that we have created to feel better about ourselves. One of the really rampant myths that I deal with on a regular basis is about life expectancy in the medieval period. What gets trotted out, over and over, is the idea that “the average life expectancy in the medieval period was 35, so when you were 32 you were considered an old”. Friends, this is extremely not true, and this myth is also damaging to us now. Allow me to elaborate.
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.
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!
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:
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.