20 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About the Middle Ages

20 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About the Middle Ages

Steve - January 11, 2019

20 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About the Middle Ages
“Othello’s Lamentation”, by William Salter (c. 1857). Wikimedia Commons.

1. Despite common representations in media, Europe was not homogeneously white but was surprisingly ethnically diverse during the Middle Ages.

When author George R.R. Martin was criticized for depicting his fantasy reproduction of Medieval Europe as overwhelmingly white, the author replied that his creation “fantasy analogue of the British Isles in its world” and was historically accurate. Despite being a widely held idea of Europe, regarded as only diversifying in recent decades, Europe has, in fact, always been a melting pot of demographic diversity. Race was not viewed conceptually in the same manner that much of humanity does today, with racial slavery not yet introduced, and whilst tensions and discrimination existed communities co-existed relatively peacefully.

Large portions of Iberia remained under Islamic, namely Arabic and Berber, control for much of the Middle Ages, only ending in 1492. Throughout this period Jews, Muslims, and Christians co-existed throughout Spain. When Jews were expelled from Christian Spain after the Reconquista, they migrated throughout Europe and North Africa. Meanwhile, migrants from Central Asia, fleeing the Mongol hordes, entered Eastern Europe, forming communities in modern-day Russia, Ukraine, and the Caucuses. Shakespeare’s Othello, among other works, makes notable reference to the existence of non-whites throughout European society, with individuals like Saint Maurice celebrated in spite of their physical diversity.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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