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Top 10 Myths about the Middle Ages

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annis
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Post by annis » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 2:46 am

I can't help feeling that the women quoted in Myth 3 were probably the exception rather than the rule. It's also notable that the majority of these women mentioned were of noble birth, apart from Joan of Arc (though Dinah Lampitt aka Deryn Lake has an interesting theory about her - in her novel "The King's Women" Joan is the illegimate daughter of Duchess Yolande of Anjou and Arthur de Richemont, Constable of France) High birth and resources of wealth and influential relatives gave an advantage not possessed by average women. For every Eleanor of Acquitaine there were many who were subject to the will and disposition of father, husband and/or son, as ordained by the Church.

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Post by Ash » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 3:06 am

Thats what I thought as well. I also question the execution part; there were indeed many burnings, esp during the reformation by both sides. Not uncommon at all, unfortunately.

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Post by Margaret » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 6:58 am

This list makes very interesting fodder for conversation, but I'd have to agree that it goes too far overboard, fostering some new misconceptions in its attempt to debunk old ones. Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen and Elizabeth I were very striking exceptions to the general rule that women were considered inferior to men.

Joan spent about a year leading an army, but never got much support from King Charles, even though he could not have been crowned without her efforts. After she was captured by the Burgundians and turned over to the English, her refusal to wear women's clothing was a key part of her trial for heresy. She was burned at the stake, which doesn't exactly make her case a shining example of respect for ambitious and capable women in the Middle Ages.

Hildegard was a remarkable woman who spent the first half of her life in extreme seclusion as an anchorite, then suddenly blossomed, had her mystical visions approved by the religious authorities, founded her own convent, went on preaching tours, and wrote letters to popes and emperors in which she felt free to rebuke them quite sharply when they did things she didn't approve of. She's an exception that proves the rule, because women were not supposed to preach; Hildegard herself frequently paid lip service to the religious principle requiring women to be subservient to men, even while violating it herself.

And Elizabeth I frequently referred to herself as a weak woman. She often deflected criticism by exaggerating her femininity, and she played her suitors off against each other because if she had married, her husband would likely have taken the reins of power. Elizabeth was a political genius, and had to employ a good deal of that genius in holding onto her power in spite of being a woman.

I agree with MLE that peasants probably did not eat a great deal of meat or other luxury foods. Actually, their diet was probably healthier than that of the aristocratic classes, consisting mainly of whole grains, peas and lentils, cabbage and the like. I was surprised to discover that European nobility ate white bread long before the modern era - the flour was sifted to remove the bran.
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Post by Carine » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 7:09 am

[quote=""Libby""]I would count the Middle Ages from the Norman invasion of 1066 until the end of the Plantagenets in 1485, though it could be argued that the dissolution of the monasteries is a better cut off point.

What dates does the site give if any?[/quote]

I would've thought the Middle Ages start around 500 up to the Tudors.

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Post by EC2 » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 10:26 am

Sharan Newman has a list of myths about the Middle Ages on her website - or she used to - including the one about chastity belts. Yes, here it is. Six Fallacies about the Middle Ages.
http://www.sharannewman.com/history/fallacies.html

Edited to say that the chastity belts thing used to be on that list but it's not now.
Last edited by EC2 on Thu January 22nd, 2009, 10:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Libby » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 11:50 am

[quote=""Carine""]I would've thought the Middle Ages start around 500 up to the Tudors.[/quote]

I was referring to the 'Middle Ages' as defined by English rather than worldwide history:

Definition of the Middle Ages dates in England - 1066 - 1485
Their is some variance in the views and definition of the dates which encompassed the Middle Ages. We have included events in England from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and ending in the emergence of the English Renaissance period with the Tudor dynasty in 1485. To put this into perspective, and for ease of reference, the periods in English history have been categorised as follows:

Neolithic - Stone Age ( 3000 - 1800 BC )

The Bronze & Iron Age ( 1800 - 600 BC )

The Romans (600 BC - 410 AD)

The Dark Ages - Anglo-Saxon England ( 410 AD - 1066 AD )

The Middle Ages - 1066 - 1485

The Renaissance Period in England starting with the Tudor Dynasty
Thats what I thought as well. I also question the execution part; there were indeed many burnings, esp during the reformation by both sides. Not uncommon at all, unfortunately.
That's true, but the reformation followed the Middle Ages, when there seems to have been a huge retrograde step in society as people's sense of justice and toleration was totally destroyed by most members of the Tudor dynasty. People were burned for their private faith - something which never happened earlier and many of these deaths were ordered by Elizabeth I.

Women were subservient to men because they were expected to obey their husbands and their property became the property of their husband. This did not change until the Married Women's Property Act of 1882 - well outside the middle ages! And until very recently most women vowed to 'obey' their husbands.
I agree with MLE that peasants probably did not eat a great deal of meat or other luxury foods.
When you take out all the penitential days when the eating of meat was not allowed I don't think anyone in the middle ages ate as much meat as you might at first think. Excavations of medieval villages show that people ate pork, beef and lamb as well fruit and vegetables and fish (even in inland villages). But of course there would be times of famine when food was scarcer.

As I said earlier, the term Middle Ages is so vast and unquantifiable that it's very, very hard to say what did and didn't happen during such a long period of time.
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Post by Rowan » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 2:42 pm

[quote=""Libby""]I would count the Middle Ages from the Norman invasion of 1066 until the end of the Plantagenets in 1485, though it could be argued that the dissolution of the monasteries is a better cut off point.

What dates does the site give if any?[/quote]


The site gives the Middle Ages as being from the 5th to 16th Centuries.

Also, the list was not accompanied by any sort of documentation supporting what the writer of said list was claiming. It was just tossed up on one of these list websites. I snagged it off another general forum as something for us to toss around in discussion.

Okay coming in to edit this to say that now I know where all of the naive people go to learn their history. They take it from lists that they go berserk over. :rolleyes: :rolleyes: :rolleyes:
Last edited by Rowan on Thu January 22nd, 2009, 2:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Misfit » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 3:17 pm

[quote=""MLE""]And about cleanliness. I stomp the wilderness all the time, and I can tell you from personal experience that bodily hygiene is firmly linked to how tired you are at the end of a day, how much trouble it would take to freshen up, and whether anyone near you would care. Y'all wouldn't want to be downwind of me after a five-day-trip unless you smelled the same. But those middle-age peasants might have higher standards than I do. :D [/quote]

Well, you should hear the stories we get from the boss when he comes back from his big mountain climbs - Everest for example. He pretty much said there's no pride left once that was over.

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Post by donroc » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 5:17 pm

Spanish Christians from the 15th centuries onwards generally avoided the Jewish and Moorish practices of washing and bathing for fear of denunciation to the Inquisition.
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Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Thu January 22nd, 2009, 6:06 pm

[quote=""donroc""]Spanish Christians from the 15th centuries onwards generally avoided the Jewish and Moorish practices of washing and bathing for fear of denunciation to the Inquisition.[/quote]

True, Donroc. Cleanliness and refusing to eat pork were quick identifyers for insincere converts of either Jewish or Muslim persuasion. Islam requires ritual washing before prayer, five times a day, with clean sand if there is no water. The hammam, or communal bath-house, was as important to Iberian Muslims as the sauna was to Scandinavians.
And ritual ablutions are an important part of Jewish religious practice as well.

The idea that 'dirtiness is next to Godliness' came from the ascetic traditions of the monastic community, with a lot of help from gnosticism, which held that the body is unspiritual. The monks would 'mortify the body' by refusing to wash and get extra points in the eyes of the people for the discomfort associated with dirt and lice. This opinion was by no means the position of most of the church-- in medieval times, the most-transcibed and sermonized book of the Bible was actually the Song of Solomon, which glorified the physical -- but it is also one of those 'medieval myths' which makes for attention-getting lists.

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