Apocalypse Now: Our Incessant Desire to Picture the End of the World from Medieval Times to Today

Each generation, each epoch, has seen themselves apocalyptically, albeit with great differences as to what the actual end will involve. Introduction As is typical of our time, over the past few months, many newscasters have used the words apocalypse or apocalyptic to evoke the negative implications of events as diverse as the threat of Grexit,[…]

The Medieval ‘Apocalypse Tapestry’ of Louis I, Duke of Anjou

Created between 1377 and 1382, it is the oldest surviving French tapestry. Introduction The Apocalypse Tapestry is a large medieval French set of tapestries commissioned by Louis I, the Duke of Anjou, and produced between 1377 and 1382. It depicts the story of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelation by Saint John the Divine[…]

Goldwork Embroidery of Kievan Rus’

In the time of Kievan Rus’, goldwork embroidery flourished in the lives of the feudal elite and occupied a significant role in their lives. A translation of Новицкая, М.А. “Золотная вышивка Киевской Руси.” Byzantinoslavica, 1972(33), pp. 42-50. Since ancient times, embroidery has served a large role in the life of all levels of society, serving[…]

The Pre- and Post-Kievan East Slavs

By 600 CE, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. Introduction The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking the East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the loose medieval Kievan Rus federation state[2], by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Belarusian, Russian, Rusyn and Ukrainian[3] people. Sources Researchers know[…]

The Evolution of Servile Peasants in Medieval Hungary and Catalonia

It was justified by reference to historical myths that nobles and servile peasants were separated by courage and cowardice. Introduction The Uprising of the Catalan servile peasants (remences) between 1462 and 1486 was unusual in the history of European insurrections. Waged by a surprisingly well-armed force of peasants who played an important military role as[…]

Medieval Castles, Caves, and Rock Shelters

A medieval world where caves and underground shelters provided refuge from raiders, allowing a threatened civilization to flourish. Introduction Southwest Georgia, close to the borders with Turkey and Armenia, is dotted with the remains of ancient defences. Many of these structures – great and small, highly visible or hidden away – reflect the near-constant conflicts[…]

Why Magna Carta Still Matters Today

Exploring the evolution of our rights and freedoms and the relevance of the Great Charter today. Introduction Magna Carta is a cornerstone of the individual liberties that we enjoy, and it presents an ongoing challenge to arbitrary rule. But over time, while not envisaged at the time of its drafting, Magna Carta has for many[…]

International Trade and Institutional Change: Medieval Venice’s Response to Globalization

Starting in 1297, a small group of particularly wealthy merchants blocked political and economic competition. Abstract International trade can have profound effects on domestic institutions. We examine this proposition in the context of medieval Venice circa 800–1600. Early on, the growth of long-distance trade enriched a broad group of merchants who used their newfound economic[…]

Exploring a Global Middle Ages through the Pages of Decorated Books

A wide-ranging new Getty book examines the role of text and image across cultures over the thousand-year span of the Middle Ages. Introduction Manuscripts and printed books—like today’s museums, archives, and libraries—provide glimpses into how people have perceived the Earth, its many cultures, and everyone’s place in it. Toward a Global Middle Ages: Encountering the[…]

Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Jerusalem

Jerusalem has been an urban center for approximately 5,000 years. Introduction Jerusalem is the capital of the modern nation of Israel and a major holy city for the three Western traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It sits on spurs of bedrock between the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea area. To the north and west, it[…]

Magna Carta and Jury Trial

The history of jury trials and their relationship to Magna Carta. Introduction From medieval justice to the trial of Charles I, and the trials of John Lilburne to the Human Rights Act, discover the evolution of one of the most venerated features of Anglo-American law. Trial by jury is the most venerated and venerable institution[…]

Magna Carta in Context

How Magna Carta was both influenced by, and impacted upon, the institutions and customs of its day. Introduction From the medieval Church to money-lending, feudal rights to the royal forest, discover how Magna Carta was both influenced by, and impacted upon, the institutions and customs of its day. Despite the enduring legacy of Magna Carta and[…]

The Early Medieval Persian Sassanid Empire

Although often engaged in conquest, the Sassanids also entered into peace treaties and engaged in widespread trade. Introduction Sassanid Empire or Sassanian Dynasty is the name used for the third Iranian dynasty and the second Empire. The dynasty was founded by Ardashir I after defeating the last Parthian (Arsacid) king, Artabanus IV Ardavan). It ended[…]

Buddhist Bodhisattvas and Christian Saints in the Western Medieval World

A rough genealogy of the way in which the central narrative of Buddhism ended up in a Christian hagiography. On a side of the baptistry of the Piazza Duomo in the northern Italian city of Parma, there is a portal designed and constructed in the late twelfth-century and into the early thirteenth by the architect[…]

Christine de Pizan and the Medieval ‘Book of the City of Ladies’

This is probably the best expression of of Pizan’s views of contemporary medieval women. The Woman Question In the late Middle Ages, one of the most popular books was the Romance of the Rose (Roman de la Rose), begun in 1237 by Guillaume de Lorris and expanded by Jean de Meun some decades later. The[…]

Medieval Economy: The Great Depression of the 14th Century

The economic decline was marked by a severe drop in population. By Dr. Murray N. RothbardHistorian and Economist Most people — historians not excepted — are tempted to think of economic and cultural progress as being continuous: in every century people are better off than in the one preceding. This comforting assumption had to be[…]

Medieval Enclosure: Wealth, Poverty, and the Road to the Industrial Revolution

Wealthy landowners enclosed (privatized) the commons for their own profits, impoverishing many villagers. By Jay Walljasper Medieval European agriculture was communally organized. Peasants pooled their individual holdings into open fields that were jointly cultivated, and common pastures were used to graze their animals.This system of village commons prospered for more than six hundred years at[…]

Armenians in the Ottoman Empire

They were part of the Armenian millet until the Tanzimat reforms in the nineteenth century equalized all Ottoman citizens before the law. Background The Ottomans introduced a number of unique approaches to governing into the traditions of Islam. Islamic culture did not separate religious and secular matters. At first, the Sultan was the highest power[…]

Byzantine Culture and Society

The Byzantine Empire had an important cultural legacy, both on the Orthodox Church and on the revival of Greek and Roman studies. Introduction People living under the early Byzantine Empire saw themselves as Romans, but the culture of the empire changed over the centuries. As it incorporated Greek and Christian culture, it transformed into a[…]

January Divorce Rush Dates Back to the Middle Ages

Medieval church courts in York shows that the same January divorce pattern prevailed as far back as the 14th century. January is a strain for most people. It’s dark and the festive lights don’t disguise this anymore. You’re back at work and the next holiday may be some way off. You’ve just had to spend[…]

Hindus and Muslims under the Delhi Sultanate in Medieval India

The Delhi Sultanate, which lasted from 1206 to 1526, is known as a period of cultural intermixing. By Christopher Klune The Republic of India stands as one of the most pluralistic nations in the modern world, with many people of varying faiths co-existing under one national identity. Part of the origin of this pluralism can[…]

Sacred Space and Symbolic Form at India’s Medieval Lakshmana Temple

The temples at Khajuraho, including the Lakshmana temple, have become famous for their amorous images. Ideal Female Beauty Look closely at the image above. Imagine an elegant woman walks barefoot along a path accompanied by her attendant. She steps on a thorn and turns—adeptly bending her left leg, twisting her body, and arching her back—to[…]

Staging Kingship in Scotland and England, 1532-1560

In terms of its staging of sovereignty, passivity distinguished the Scottish king from the English tyrant. Introduction ‘Quhat is ane king?’ asks Divine Correctioun in David Lyndsay’s Ane Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis before supplying the answer ‘Nocht bot ane officiar’ (1613),[1] thereby articulating a commonplace of medieval Scottish literature on kingship that the monarch’s[…]

Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ and the Will to Power

Shakespeare drew on earlier depictions of Richard III and other ruthless rulers in order to create his own power-hungry king, and it has influenced later depictions of megalomania. Introduction Richard III is early Shakespeare. Probably composed in the early 1590s, it’s the work of a playwright in his late twenties, author of two comedies (The[…]

Frances of Assisi and the Creation of the Nativity Scene in 1223

Nativity scenes first originated in the small Italian town of Greccio. Introduction Around the Christmas season, it is common to see a display of the Nativity scene: a small manger with the baby Jesus and his family, shepherds, the three wise men believed to have visited Jesus after his birth and several barnyard animals. One[…]

Christmas in Medieval Europe

Each season in medieval europe had its own special Christian celebration, often based on older pagan traditions. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Christmas was one of the highlights of the medieval calendar, not only for the rich but also for the peasantry. For the longest holiday of the year, typically the full twelve days of Christmas,[…]