20 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About the Middle Ages
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:

“World Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends”, David Wilton, Oxford University Press (2008)

“Chivalry in Medieval England”, Nigel Saul, Harvard University Press (2011)

“European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution”, R.E. Oakeshott, Boydell Press (1980)

“Are Iron Maidens Really Torture Devices?”, Stephanie Pappas, Live Science (September 6, 2016)

“The Enchanting Sea Monsters on Medieval Maps”, Hannah Waters, The Smithsonian Institution (October 15, 2013)

“Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps”, Chet Van Duzer, British Library Publishing (2013)

“Where Be “Here Be Dragons”?”, Erin C. Blake, Map Historical Discussion Group (1999)

“The History of Spoons, Forks, and Knives”, Tegan Jones, Today I Found Out (October 3, 2013)

“The Cutlery Trades: A Historical Essay in the Economics of Small Scale Production”, G.I.H. Lloyd, Moulton Press (2009)

“The Curious Case of the Weapon that didn’t exist”, Dr. Paul B. Sturtevant, The Public Medievalist (May 12, 2016)

“Witchcraft in the Middle Ages, Jeffrey Burton Russell, Cornell University Press (1972)

“Not Peace But A Sword: The Great Chasm Between Christianity and Islam”, Robert Spencer, Catholic Answers (March 25, 2013)

“Are You Rapture Ready?”, Todd Strandberg and Terry James, Dutton Publishing (2003)

“Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse: The Official Field Manual for the End of the World”, Jason Boyett, Relevant Media Group (2005)

“Did Vikings drink from the skulls of their enemies”, The World Tree Project.

“Did People Drink Water in the Middle Ages”, Medievalists Magazine (2017)

“Warfare in the Medieval World”, Brian Todd Carey, Joshua Allfree, and John Cairns, Pen & Sword Military (June 2006)

“The Medieval Knight at War”, Brooks Robards, Tiger Books (1998)

“The Vikings: Conquering the Wind and Waves”, Robert Wernick, Time-Life Books (1979)

“The Vikings and America”, Erik Wahlgren, Thames and Hudson (2000)

“The Biology of Life Span: A Quantitative Approach”, Leonid Gavrilov and Natalia Gavrilova, Harwood Academic Publisher (1991)

“Did Vikings Really Wear Horned Helmets”, Elizabeth Nix, History Channel (March 20, 2013)

“Daily Life in the Middle Ages”, Paul Newman, McFarland and Company (2001)

“Clean: A History of Personal Hygiene and Purity”, Virginia Smith, Oxford University Press (2007)

“The Myth of Chastity Belts”, Massimo Polidoro, Skeptical Inquirer (September/October 2011)

“The Medieval Chastity Belt: A Myth-Making Process (New Middle Ages)”, Albrecht Classen, Palgrave Macmillan Books (2007)

“Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea”, Christine Garwood, Pan Books (2008)

“Europe: A History”, N. Davies, Oxford University Press (1996)

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