Archive for the ‘The Past Is Another Country’ Category

Future Shock In The Middle Ages

A major journalistic and Hollywood myth about the Middle Ages is that they were static. At worst, this is expressed in terms of a thousand years in which nothing much happened except peasants rolling in middens (one always wants to ask why) and witches being burned. In actual fact, just like almost all other ages […]

Posted on April 10, 2009 at 09:37 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, The Past Is Another Country

Those Modernist Medievals

We are led to assume that we are innovative and the Middle Ages were conservative. In fact, we are now probably the most heritage-worshipping culture there has ever been. Already we have forgotten the Modernist era, when everything poky and medieval was to be pulled down and replaced with something that lunged inspirationally at the […]

Posted on April 22, 2009 at 11:26 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 3 Comments
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, The Past Is Another Country

Mr. Speaker’s Taser

Before the Speaker of the House of Commons there lies a mace. Although no one much uses maces any more, and the average Briton may not even know what one is, that there should be a mace on the Speaker’s table is Tradition, and therefore sacrosanct. A bolshie minority that refuses to kow-tow to such […]

Posted on May 13, 2009 at 11:14 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · One Comment
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, The Past Is Another Country

Barbie And The Unicorn

Medieval ideals of female beauty were almost the same as those of parts of the twentieth century, before the craze for the enormous porn-star breasts set in: that is, slim, leggy and blonde. The subject of the “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries is as anatomically impossible as Barbie. Our canon is separated from their similar […]

Outside The Tiergarten

When I saw the gates of the Berlin zoo, which are topped by the stone heads of elephants and lions, I wondered what future archaeologists might say when they excavated this site. Will they not conclude that this was a temple of an animal cult? Alternatively, might all those booby-trapped Indiana Jones-type temples actually have […]

Two Medieval Misapprehensions

Those who make a fuss about the occasional woman found leading a medieval army into battle are being seduced by the glamour of the field force. For every noblewoman on horseback, there were a hundred holding castles against siege while their husbands were away. For the wife was your second-in-command, in charge of your base […]

Sleeping Alone

On some countries’ offshore oil platforms, organised labour agitates for the right of a worker not to have to share a cabin. We take it for granted that sleeping alone is a good thing, unless we are having sex; but in the early Middle Ages, sleeping alone was something really scary and bad. Warriors slept […]

City Defence And Abstract Threats

Once upon a time, towns and cities were self-governing, and the burgesses – that is, the chartered citizens, or shareholders as we might say now – had both valuable rights and onerous duties. For example, if the city was attacked, everyone had to get up on the walls and fight. The necessity of doing so […]

Posted on July 16, 2009 at 11:15 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · 2 Comments
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, The Past Is Another Country

The Adventures Of The Name Dionysius

Dionysus was the Greek pagan god of wine, excess and generally losing one’s head. A man called Dionysius, or “servant of Dionysus,” was St. Paul’s first convert in Athens; we know him as Dionysius the Areopagite. Several centuries later there was a citizen of Paris named Dionysius. He lost his head too, this time for […]

Posted on November 9, 2009 at 12:10 by Hugo Grinebiter · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: GETTING MEDIEVAL, The Past Is Another Country