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More Posts you might have missed on the other site

Here, in order from oldest to most recent are the not-exactly-numerous posts that have appeared on the other site in the past two and a half...

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Alterity of the Past

We medievalists are always going on about how the Middle Ages are 'different'.  Indeed I have often tried to tell my students that the very obvious 'alterity' of the medieval past is one of the advantages of studying the period.  You can't get very far with the Middle Ages - especially the early Middle Ages - without noticing that there is something very profoundly different about them.  That, I think, gives the student some considerable advantages in approaching the topic.  The problem with modern, especially very modern, history is its seeming sameness (and therefore, ahem, its misleading claim to 'relevance'), obscuring its equal otherness.  I am not sure that I very often convince many of my students, or anyone else, of this.  So, to demonstrate the profound weirdness and alterity of the fairly recent past, check this out, especially the audience response at the end, which I guarantee is not the response that anyone (esp anyone under 21) who thinks that even 1974 is just like 2014 would expect.*

My thanks to Dr Simon Trafford of the University of London's popular Institute of Historical Research for drawing this to my attention.  And, erm, I actually quite like it.

* I think that that is indeed Gladys Knight introducing the act, thereby giving the clip the element of surrealism it was otherwise so sadly lacking.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

How Early Medieval Are You? Take our quick quiz and find out!

[This is a quiz I used to hand out in the last lecture of my sadly-defunct early medieval history survey course, 'Between Empires', for a lark and because getting the jokes relies on having paid at least a little bit of attention.  It is a bit old now (2009) and pretty York specific in reference to pubs and clubs, most of the latter having closed subsequently (!) but I am sure you will get the gist.]

Answer the following questions:

1: You feel as though you have a bit of a cold coming on.  Do you:
A: Go to the pharmacist and ask for the most appropriate cold medicine they have?
(1 point)
B: Ignore it.  It’s that time of year and it’ll probably go away? (2 points)
C: Go to the tomb of Saint Martin of Tours and lick some dust from the top of his
            tomb? (3 points)

2: You a see an unkempt man with dishevelled clothing and wild hair approaching you.  Do you:
A: Think ‘Goodness me, it’s a professor of history’ (2 points)
B: Prostrate yourself before him and beg him to bless this year’s harvest? (3 points)
C: Cross the road on the grounds that it looks like a bit of a ‘care in the community’
            case? (1 point)

3: You are down the pub.  As an opening gambit in a conversation, which of the following would you choose?:
A: So, doesn’t look like this’ll be a good season for The Blues, after all that. (2 points)*
B: So, anyone seen that new Jack Black film? (1 point)
C: So, the Divinity.  One nature or two? (3 points)

4: When considering Tony Blair and the Iraq war, your view is that:
A: It was an illegal war and as a so-called Labour prime minister he had no business
            going to war as Bush’s poodle. (1 point)
B: Well, it was an unfortunate business and it’s turned out as a bit of a mess but hey,
            wars are what heads of state have to do sometimes. (2 points)
C:  Consider him a craven coward and no sort of head of state by anyone’s definition for
            not leading the troops into the attack in person. (3 points)

5: A good night with the lads involves:
A: Getting tooled up, crossing the border into Scotland, carrying off anything that
            isn’t nailed down and setting fire to everything that is. (3 points)
B: Several rounds in the pub followed by a night of debauchery in Ziggy’s/Salvation/The
            Gallery (2 points)
C: Getting in some cans and watching the footie on Sky Sports (1 point)

6: At the next election you will vote for:
A: The Tories (2 points)
B: The Greens (1 point) **
C: Vote? (3 points)

7: Do you shower:
A: Every day? (1 point)
B: Only when it’s raining (3 points)
C: I prefer to have a bath, preferably with 50 of my best mates (2 points)

8a: Boys: Which of the following to you find most attractive? ***


A; 3 points, B: 2 points, C: 1 point.

8b: Girls: Which of the following do you find most attractive? ***



A: 1 point; B: 2 points; C: 3 points.

9: In a closing-time fracas, a young ruffian punches you on the nose.  Do you:
A: Swear and cuss, but leave it – these things happen when you’ve had a few? (1 point)
B: Call ‘Injury Lawyers Are Us’ and sue their sorry ass? (2 points)
C: Get several of your mates together, wait for the culprit or any member of his family, kill them and hang their body on a fence, possibly burning their house down too for good measure? (3 points)

10: The most important quality you would look for in a mayor would be:
A: The ability to look after and effectively represent the interests of his or her
            constituents (1 point)
B: A refusal to take any crap from foreigners (2 points)
C: A hammer (3 points)

* If, by ‘The Blues’, you mean Chelsea FC deduct one point from your score; if, however, by ‘The Blues’, you mean the Blue circus-racing faction, add one point to your score.
** Unless, by ‘The Greens’, you mean the Green circus-racing faction, in which case add two points to your score.
*** With apologies for the shameless hetero-normativity of this question…

How did you do?
26-30 points: Congratulations! You really are a very early medieval sort of person, although perhaps not someone I’d like to get to know too well.  It might be a good idea to get a wash, too.  There’s a reason no one sits by you in the lecture.  You will go far, perhaps not far enough for your class-mates, but nevertheless with a good chance of ending up as Pope, Emperor, or at the very least, Vice-Chancellor.

21-25 points: Very good, but there’s still room for improvement. Perhaps, if male, you could invest in some edged weaponry or, if female, experiment with the erotic use of wildfowl when next on the dance-floor at Ziggy’s.

16-20 points:  Not bad but you clearly aren’t trying hard enough.  Try growing your hair longer and cutting some bits of it off or tying it up in an interesting ‘ethnic’ fashion.  Alternatively, why not try and start a heated debate on an obscure issue of Christology when next down at The Charles, preferably one that descends into a full-blown car-park barney? 

10-15 points: Rubbish. Not medieval at all.  You clearly invest far too much of your self-image on such flighty modern things as technology, labour-saving devices, health-care and personal hygiene.  I can see we have work to do with you !  There are things you can do to help yourself, though.  See below for our useful self-help advice.

How can I make myself more early medieval? 
You may well be asking yourself this.  Don’t worry, though: there are many things we can all do in a number of areas, no matter how un-medieval we might feel ourselves to be.
  • You could start by spending more time on Micklegate on a Friday night.  From there you could graduate up to The Spread Eagle or even, if you feel really confident about your growing early medieval-ness, The Beeswing. 
  • Remember, though, that small steps are always the best.  Gradually work your way down through un-perfumed deodorants eventually to none at all. 
  • You can change your diet, too.  Cut out modern imported fruit and vegetables from outside Europe (many of the things we take for granted in our cosseted modern lives were unknown to medieval folk: potatoes, oranges, tomatoes, etc).  Then cut out meat – remember only the rich could afford such luxuries.  Then cut out fish, and then cut out everything else except apples, lentils, cabbages and onions.  Don’t rule out the occasional treat though: feast on some road-kill cat once a month.  Every other autumn, you could go for a month or two without eating anything at all, except mouldy grain or grass.  Watch those pounds fall off! 
  • As a conversation-starter, try catching an amusing skin-disease, or the plague. 
  • But don’t neglect life’s little pleasures, like romance!  Boys, when you’re about twenty-five and tired of hunting, fighting and spending time with prostitutes, find a nice girl and settle down.  More specifically, a nice girl who has only just hit puberty – there are plenty to be found on street corners in the Tang Hall area.  Remember, boys, as a real early medieval man you don’t want them too old!  Girls, as unmarried 18- to 20-year-olds, let’s face it you are on the shelf but you can always take a life-style choice which is both rewarding and genuinely early medieval … and become a nun!
Good luck, but remember, above all, that we at the University of York Department of HistoryTM are always here to help!
© Ave! Magazine 2009

Monday, 14 July 2014

A survey on how dramatisations of history may (or may not) promote interest in the subject

If you have seen I Claudius and/or Rome and would be willing to spend a few minutes answering a questionnaire on the subject, to help one of our MA students in his research, please go to this link.  Thanks very much indeed.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

I support the public sector strike...

... So I am posting a link to this old piece, which may be one of my better efforts (though I later became more disillusioned with Occupy).  I expect all the same issues will arise so it'll save me from making all the same points again.