On chronicles versus journalism, and ruling versus governing

Ohhhh there is a lot to say, is there not? You think that you have starred fully into the depths of the dumpster fire and fully appreciated its heat, its dazzle, its stench, but it just. keeps. burning.

As a medieval historian, one aspect of said dumpster fire that has interested me of late is the concept of ‘fake news’ and what Trump feels the purpose of the press is. More specifically, it is of interest that apparently Trump feels that the press should be taking on the same function during his presidency as commissioned chroniclers did during the medieval period.

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On the medieval separation of Church and state, or, putting the ‘holy’ in Holy Roman Empire

Sooooooooooooooooooo, current governments enacting laws based on religious ideology, amiright? Here in the modern Western world, we’ve grown accustomed to governments largely agreeing that we have freedom from and of religion, by and large.  Obviously, at some points (*ahem*), this doesn’t work out and particular individuals push for religiously motivated legislation. This usually doesn’t go well for us women. Funny that.

Often, people who want to do my head in will refer to this kind of religious influenced legislation (or, you know, executive order (*cough*)) as being ‘medieval’, which as I have pointed out several times, is not helpful. More to the point, in this case it’s not even accurate, because there sort of kinda was separation of Church and State in the medieval period, at least in the Holy Roman Empire, but it worked in the exact opposite way.

So the Holy Roman Empire was essentially established on Christmas Day 800 when Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III. Charlemagne was a total bad ass, as many important historians have noted, and had essentially united all of Western Europe under his rule, for the first time since the fall of Rome. Boy had his shit on lock, unlike Leo. Leo was, shall we say, not that popular. He showed up in Aachen because he got his ass beat down while on procession through Rome, and almost got his eyes and tongue cut out.

His beat ass showed up at Charlemagne’s court, looking for protection and Charlemagne was like, ‘Hey home boy while I’m here keeping you alive, why don’t you crown me Emperor?’ Leo was like, ‘Say no more, fam’. That’s where the trouble started.

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On the American election, teaching history, and why it matters

This election should not surprise anyone who teaches history. I teach medieval and early modern history at several unis in London.

The study of history in these eras shows us very clearly that Western society is built for white male protestant property owners.

This same society has been built over the bodies of black and brown people, and kept whites without property deliberately marginalised. Within it, the role of women has always been to be scapegoats for the worst of male excess, and vessels for sexual gratification/the getting of heirs.

You should not, therefore, be surprised to see a misogynist racist ruling what has always been a white supremacist society.

As historians, it is our job to show our students the roots of this society – SHOW them the thought processes that have built our world.

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On women and desire

Like many people, you may have been hearing for your entire damn life about the ‘mystery of the female orgasm’. Over and over again, we have been assured, that not only is it mysterious how women orgasm, but why they do.  We toss about at night, unable to sleep, haunted and desperately hoping for ‘seven weird tips to drive her wild’. More recently, a whole army of apps determined to show you how to ‘make’ women come, and sometimes enumerating the ways in which that can be done.  (Twelve apparently.  No more. No less.)

Like the mysterious female orgasm there is the twin scourge of ‘female low libido’ or ‘low sexual desire’, which is apparently common enough that if you google it in London an NHS webpage will pop up to inform you why you’re not feeling it.

Could women be disinterested because of the orgasm gap? And the fact that everyone goes around acting like whether or not women orgasm is a deep and unfathomable secret that could not be solved by paying attention to your partner(s) during sex?  WHO KNOWS.  IT IS SO MYSTERIOUS.

Obviously, there is a lot to unpack here, and like me, you may be sick to death of hearing about the whole goddamn thing, because who isn’t fucking tired of the patriarchy? (I’m weary.  So very weary.)

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Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power

As the world collectively crawls, gibbering and raving toward the end of the American presidential election, the medieval roots of society’s expectations of women are once again very firmly on display.

Case in point – the life and times of one of the three medieval women you have heard of – Eleanor of Aquitaine.  Eleanor was, by all accounts, an absolute bad ass.  She lead armies both in Europe and on the Second Crusade. She was a highly skilled ruler who reigned in her husband’s absence from the country. She was also a total babe.

For all these reasons, the modern imagination loves Eleanor.  She won Katherine Hepburn an Oscar, and pops up in most Robin Hood movies. (Yes, even that really bad Russel Crowe one.)  This is why you know her name.

Whilst we appreciate Eleanor, her mind, influence, and general kick-arsery now, everything we love about her now meant she was often reviled in her own time, and for decades after her death.

Eleanor managed to run herself into trouble because she was intent on exercising power in the public sphere.

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On power and entitlement to the bodies of lower-status women, or, the thing that IS actually medieval about Trump

Elsewhere, we have discussed why it is that the use of the word ‘medieval’ as a pejorative is, in general, quite lazy and a convenient way of distancing ourselves from the terrible things which take place in our own time.

Having said that, the medieval world still very much influences many of our political institutions, and our mind-sets.  If we consider, for example, that the Church and a universal concept of the West as the home of Christendom to be the overriding hallmarks of the medieval period, it helps us understand why for many people, theoretical Christian values are seen as an inherent part of being Western.

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On why the misuse of the word ‘medieval’ is a bad thing – part of an on-going series

At Going Medieval, we are loath to wade in on the whole Trump thing, as it is best not to dignify sentient dumpster fires with a response.

This guy though – this fucking guy – whilst attempting to draw attention away from that one time he got caught bragging about sexually assaulting women, (it is assumed that he’s done it plenty of times whilst not being caught), declared that the current state of the world  ‘…is like medieval times, we haven’t seen anything like this – the carnage all over the world’.

Presuming that Trump is not referring to Medieval Times – that fake jousting restaurant – this sort of idiocy is squarely in the Going Medieval wheelhouse, and we are forced to respond.

Using ‘medieval’ as a pejorative in this instance is profoundly lazy and dangerous, because it allows people to distance themselves from the horrors of the world as it currently exists whilst also throwing an entire millennium under the bus.  The terrible things that this bloviating comb-over is referring to are happening squarely in and as a result of modern, and indeed neo-liberal, political instability.

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