Editing old writing

After a long hiatus of not writing any new stories, I decided to go back and read Ravens Beneath the Ash today. I first wrote this short story over ten years ago. Life has kept me busy with other things the past few years but I thought I’d re-read some of my old writings to see how they feel today. Personally, I was surprised how it held up after all this time. There wasn’t much I wanted to change initially after a first read-through. I just broke up the paragraphs a bit more to make it read a little quicker. It’s always interesting to revisit old stories or poems and see how they feel after a long break. Most of the time I end up hating my older writings, but this story I still personally enjoy. Happy Thursday!

Immigration in Medieval England

I don’t so much care to discuss current immigration politics, but since that is all the news is covering lately, I thought it would be interesting to look up what immigration was like in England during the Middle Ages. The following article from medievalists.net references England particularly during the 14th – 16th centuries. This period was after the Black Death when the population across Europe was significantly lower and there was a lot more work available.

According to research provided by the Universities of York and Sheffield, approximately 1% of the population of England during this time was made up of immigrants. Today that number is approximately 12% according to this study.

About one out of every hundred people in late medieval England was an immigrant, according to researchers at the universities of York and Sheffield. They have also launched a new database that offers details about 65,000 immigrants who lived in England between 1330 and 1550.

The England’s Immigrants project was created by these universities with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It is led by Mark Ormrod, of the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies.

The database offers information on the names, origins, occupations and households of a significant number of foreigners who chose to live and work in England during the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries…

Read the full article at medievalists.net, which also provides links to the research database and other articles of interest.

Podcast Planet Money, Episode 742: Making Bank

From NPR:

During the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims en route to Jerusalem had a problem. They needed to pay for food, transport and accommodation during their journey across Europe, which could take months. They also didn’t want to carry large amounts of precious coinage because they’d become a target for robbers. This became an obstacle to worship.

That’s where the Knights Templar stepped in. The Knights Templar were a bunch powerful monks who defended Christian pilgrims. They had a solution to this cash issue. Pilgrims could leave money safely protected with the Knights Templar in England and withdraw it in Jerusalem. No cash needed. Pilgrims could just carry a letter of credit. It was basically a private bank before there was anything else like it. This was a pretty modern idea.

Listen to the full podcast.

Medieval books and Kindle Unlimited

I’ve had Kindle Unlimited now for about a year, and even though I don’t get a chance to read as much as I would like, I definitely think it’s worth $9.99 a month, especially if you’re an avid reader. Ideally, I wish it was maybe $5.99 or $6.99 a month, but if you read just one book a month, you’ve basically made up the $9.99 cost. I suppose you could argue that you could just go to the library and check out the books for free, but the library also doesn’t have the vast amount of titles that Kindle Unlimited seems to have. Also, you could use the lending library feature of Amazon but I think that only gives you access to one book at a time, whereas with Unlimited you can have up to 10 books at a time before having to turn one in.

With that said, I’m trying to keep track of medieval books I run across that i might want to read later. I plan to start posting my findings here on my site. Since I was recently reading about the Third Reich and how the First Reich began with the reign of Charlemagne, I thought I would see what books Kindle Unlimited has regarding Charlemagne. Doing a brief search for Charlemagne filtered only by Kindle Unlimited books, I came across this listing.

The Holy Roman Empire and the seeds of the Third Reich

Everyone is familiar with Hitler and the Third Reich, but why was it called the Third Reich? What were the First and Second Reichs?

We have to travel all the way back to the Middle Ages and the time of Charlemagne to find the seeds of what would eventually become the Third Reich under Hitler’s Germany.

The year 800 Christmas Day is the general date believed that ushered in the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. On this day, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne king of the empire. The territory covered much of western and central Europe and would last for over a thousand years. Charlemagne’s empire was vast and prominent during his lifetime, fell off somewhat after his death, but then was reinvigorated by Otto I around 962. This date of 962 is used by other historians to mark the date of the founding of the Holy Roman Empire. Whatever the actual date may be, it certainly had its roots in the crowning of Charlemagne, and in effect would last — at least in memory — up until the time of Adolf Hitler.

Part of Hitler wanted to resurrect the prominence of the Holy Roman Empire, to create an empire that would perpetuate the German master race throughout the entire world. He took a much closer example of this power and unification seen in the Prussian Empire in the 19th century during the Hohenzollern dynasty period. Prominent figures leading the rise to power of imperial Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Wilhelm I, Wilhelm II, and Otto Von Bismark. This was the Second Reich.

And out of the turmoil and chaos of World War I, the seeds that had been planted long ago, the idea of a powerful German state, of imperial dominance of Europe and the world, founded in the reign of Charlemagne, the state of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany came to fruition and burst forth from the smoldering ashes of a collapsed but proud nation.

And the world would never be the same.

The truth behind medieval chivalry

From Kathleen McGarvey, University of Rochester:

Our popular ideas of the chivalric world are off base, according to historian Richard Kaeuper. The gallant knights on horseback and banners unfurling before exciting tournaments largely come from people in the 19th century who saw the Middle Ages through a romantic haze.

Chivalry was a violent, often grisly, phenomenon. “It’s hands-on cutting and thrusting. It’s a very bloody profession, and [people from the last several centuries] admire it to excess,” says Kaeuper, a professor at the University of Rochester. But he also insists that chivalry is more than a timeless warrior code.

Read more…

Codex Gigas

The Codex Gigas is one of the largest surviving medieval manuscripts in the world. Believed to have been created by Herman the Recluse in the Benedictine monastery of Podlazice in Bohemia, the collection contains the Vulgate Bible as well as additional historical documents written in Latin. The monastery was destroyed during the Hussite Revolution. For more on the Hussite Revolution, I would recommend Victor Verney’s book Warrior of God.

The Codex Gigas is also commonly known as the Devil’s Bible due to the large illustration of the devil found inside. The manuscript now resides in the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm.

Stuff You Missed in History Class has a good podcast covering this topic as well as links to additional reading about the codex.

*image copyright, author attribution: Kungl. biblioteket

What did King Henry VIII really want from a wife?

From the BBC:

Henry VIII: Britain’s most famous king. Big, bold and brash, he is the epitome of ‘Merrie England’.

Ruling between 1509 and 1547, his marriages to a succession of six women became something of a Tudor soap opera and probably his most talked-about legacy.

So, as king of England and one of Europe’s most eligible royals, what did he want in a wife, and, more specifically, a queen?

Read more…

Why Are the Middle Ages Often Characterized as Dark or Less Civilized?

Good article by Tim O’Neill, M.A. in medieval literature, regarding several misconceptions about the medieval period.

It’s clear that there was a collapse in learning and much technical capacity as a result of the fragmentation and chaos that followed the fall of the Roman Empire in Western Europe. In places such as southern Gaul or northern Spain, this collapse was a slow decline over several hundred years. In others, such as Britain, it was much more sudden and catastrophic. Modern surveys of archaeological and documentary evidence, such as those summarized by Bryan Ward-Perkins in The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization show that this means a clear decline in material culture and technical capacity between the later Roman era and the seventh century.

The myth of the Middle Ages as a “dark age” does not lie in the fact that things declined markedly after the fall of Rome—they did. It lies in the idea that this situation persisted until the dawning of something called “the Renaissance,” which somehow rescued Western Europe from the clutches of the Catholic Church, revived ancient Greek and Roman learning, reinvented “good” (i.e. realistic) art and made everything OK again.

This is the part of the story that is the myth.

Read the full article: “Why Are the Middle Ages Often Characterized as Dark or Less Civilized?

*Cover photo by Wigulf, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License