Medieval Mental Illness and Care: The Case of Emma de Beston in 1383

Cases of people classified as mentally ill reveal medieval attitudes to mental illness, disability, and incapacity at a communal level. Introduction What happened in the medieval period when people became mentally ill? Modern advances in diagnosis and treatment, and a monolithic view of pre-modern culture, might entrench opinions that former attitudes to people undergoing the[…]

Tower Mills since the Thirteenth Century

It represented a modification or a demonstration of improving and adapting technology that had been known by humans for ages. Introduction A tower mill is a type of vertical windmill consisting of a brick or stone tower, on which sits a wooden ‘cap’ or roof, which can rotate to bring the sails into the wind.[1][2][3][4][5][…]

Windmills and Their Technology since the Middle Ages

Windmills were used throughout the high medieval and early modern periods. Introduction A windmill is a structure that converts wind power into rotational energy by means of vanes called sails or blades, specifically to mill grain (gristmills), but the term is also extended to windpumps, wind turbines and other applications. The term wind engine is[…]

Rights and Responsibilities under the Medieval System of Feudalism

Feudalism is the most distinctive and significant factor of the early and central middle ages. What Was Feudalism? Before the period known as the Middle Ages, the Roman Empire controlled most of Western Europe. Under Roman rule, Europe was organized and unified region. But in 400 A.D., the Roman Empire was split in two: the[…]

Viking Prophecy: The Poem Völuspá of the Poetic Edda

Every god has a specific enemy with whom they will do battle and many will be slain, including the chief god Odin. By Irina Manea Introduction The Völuspá (Old Norse: Vǫluspá) is a medieval poem of the Poetic Edda that describes how the world might have come into shape and would end according to Norse[…]

Competing Theories of the Medieval ‘Black Death’

Several possible causes have been advanced for the Black Death. Introduction Theories of the Black Death are a variety of explanations that have been advanced to explain the nature and transmission of the Black Death (1347–51). A number of epidemiologists since the 1980s have challenged the traditional view that the Black Death was caused by[…]

The Medieval West African Trading Empire of Ghana

The early West African societies of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai all created empires that gained much of their wealth from trade. Introduction The kingdom of Ghana lasted from sometime before 500 C.E. until its final collapse in the 1200s. It arose in the semidesert Sahel and eventually spread over the valley between the Senegal and[…]

The Salt Trade of Ancient West Africa

When exactly salt became a trade commodity is unknown, but the exchange of salt for cereals dates back to prehistory. Introduction Salt from the Sahara desert was one of the major trade goods of ancient West Africa where very little naturally occurring deposits of the mineral could be found. Transported via camel caravans and by[…]

What Did People Believe about Animals in the Middle Ages?

Lions, tigers, and dragons, oh my! By Erin Migdol, Elizabeth Morrison, and Larisa Grollemond During the Middle Ages (which lasted from the years 500–1500), people were as fascinated by animals of all stripes as we are—from snails to elephants to mythical beasts like unicorns and dragons. Animals represented themes and lessons from Christianity and were[…]

The Early Medieval Hiberno-Scottish Missions

Since the 8th and 9th centuries, these early missions were called ‘Celtic Christianity’. Introduction The Hiberno-Scottish mission was a series of missions and expeditions initiated by various Irish clerics and cleric-scholars who, for the most part, are not known to have acted in concert.[1] There was no overall coordinated mission, but there were nevertheless sporadic[…]

Missionaries and Manuscripts in the Early Latin West

Tangible evidence about Christianity’s spread from Rome to Canterbury and from Ireland to the Court of Charlemagne. Introduction As a religion of the book, Christianity established its roots and spread its message through texts. Manuscripts were as mobile as the missionaries who converted the pagan people in the name – and with the Word –[…]

Twentieth-Century Jewish Émigrés and Medieval European Economic History

Examining the significance of their intellectual contributions by uncovering the webs of meaning in which their work was suspended. Abstract This essay discusses the intellectual contributions of five Jewish émigrés to the study of European economic history. In the midst of the war years, these intellectuals reconceptualized premodern European economic history and established the predominant[…]

The Fear of Outsiders and Social Minorities in Medieval Europe

Of the many groups under pressure and persecution in this period were Jews, lepers, and homosexuals. Western Europe experienced a significant increase in discrimination against social minorities in the period conventionally labeled the long twelfth century.[1] This period was one of scholastic sophistication, urbanization, and consolidation of central secular and church power.[2] The very developments[…]

The Stone of Scone: Coronating Medieval Scottish Monarchs

Introduction The Stone of Scone (Gaelic: Lia Fail), also known as the Stone of Destiny or Coronation Stone, is a block of sandstone associated with the coronation ceremonies of the medieval monarchs of Scotland. These ceremonies were held at Scone, a prehistoric site in Perthshire. The Stone of Scone was removed from Scotland by Edward I of[…]

The Renaissance Queen Who Defied the Holy Roman Emperor

Queen Bona helps us understand how elite Renaissance women acquired, maintained, and negotiated power. Among the women of the European Renaissance, Bona Sforza is often stereotyped similarly to her aunt – the fabulous Lucrecia Borgia – as a dangerous and meddling femme fatale. Bona Sforza was the daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, the Duke of[…]

A History of Water Cistern Engineering since the Ancient World

Cisterns were not only used to store water but also as underground chambers, hiding places for fugitives, burial places, and prison cells. Abstract The use of water cisterns has been traced back to the Neolithic Age; this paper thus presents a brief historical development of water cisterns worldwide over the last 5500 years. This paper[…]

How Plagues and Disease Have Influenced the Arts since the Ancient World

Throughout history, writers and artists have explored the impact of plagues and pandemics on humanity. One of the things about literature is that it always responds immediately to what’s happening in the environment, says Associate Professor Justin Clemens from the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. “People started writing responses to[…]

An Introduction to Icons in the Medieval Byzantine Empire

Christians initially disagreed over whether religious images were good or bad, resulting in the iconoclasm controversy. What Is an Icon? In our time, we often refer to celebrities as cultural icons, pop icons, and fashion icons. Rebels are sometimes labeled iconoclasts. Icons are also the little images that populate the screens of our computers, phones, and[…]

The Chronological Periods of the Byzantine Empire

Introducing the periods of Byzantine history, with attention to developments in art and architecture. From Rome to Constantinople In 313, the Roman Empire legalized Christianity, beginning a process that would eventually dismantle its centuries-old pagan tradition. Not long after, emperor Constantine transferred the empire’s capital from Rome to the ancient Greek city of Byzantion (modern[…]

Giving at Christmas Time in the Middle Ages

Christmas gifts were a well-established part of the medieval year. The traditions of giving to the less fortunate is alive and well today and many of us will receive leaflets about Christmas charity campaigns through our doors this festive, and witness charity fundraising events whilst out and about. One tradition which has a long heritage[…]

Trotula: Medicine and Women in the Middle Ages

The “Book on the Conditions of Women” was novel in its adoption of the new Arabic medicine that had just begun to make inroads into Europe. Introduction Trotula is a name referring to a group of three texts on women’s medicine that were composed in the southern Italian port town of Salerno in the 12th[…]

Medieval Medical Prescriptions in the 15th and 16th Centuries

Knowledge preserved in medieval books enjoyed a longevity that extended beyond the period of the manuscript book. Abstract This article examines a fifteenth-century remedy book, Oxford, Bodleian Library, Rawlinson c. 299, and describes its collection of 314 medieval medical prescriptions. The recipes are organised broadly from head to toe, and often several remedies are offered[…]

The Advancement of Health Care in Medieval Venice

Venice’s embodied a unique combination that fostered innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity. When Venetians invented quarantine in 1348, the government proclamation was based on the fact that this cosmopolitan city could put two and two together. The Venetian Republic had based its thriving economy on trade by sea and it became obvious that when foreign ships[…]

Gothic Cathedrals: Architecture and Divine Light

The Gothic style was popular throughout Europe from the 12th century through the 16th century. By Hillary SmithHistorian Introduction Gothic cathedrals are some of the most recognizable and magnificent architectural feats. With soaring towers and softly filtered light streaming through stained glass windows, everything about the Gothic cathedral is transportive and ethereal, lifting the gaze[…]

Great and Gruesome Medieval Trials

The relatively sensible approach to crime found in Ancient Rome gave way to something much different in the medieval world. Introduction The year is 897, and Pope Stephen VI has ordered the eight-month-old corpse of his predecessor removed from its vault at St. Peter’s.  The former, and very dead, pope is clad in his old pontifical[…]

Crime and Punishment in Medieval England

Surreal legal concepts ran amuck throughout the epoch. By Lloyd Duhaime, J.D.Duhaime Law The origins of English law, aka common law, are decidedly murky as they were based on unwritten customs, passed down from generation to generation. William the Conqueror (1028-87), Henry I, King Arthur and King Alfred, Canute (995-1035), Ethelbert and Edward the Confessor – all tried[…]

Dominating Castles in the Medieval English Landscape

Castles are best seen as an architectural expression of the social status of their owners. Introduction The traditional view of a medieval English castle is that it was designed for warfare, suggesting that medieval lords were perpetually either at war or preparing for it. Until recently castles were mostly studied by military men or at[…]

The Public Acceptance of Women as Leaders in the Middle Ages

It can be hard to estimate broad social trends in the Middle Ages, but some sources allow us to get pretty good samples. Inheritance vs. Appointment This is a question which people have struggled with for a very long time, as a case of disputed succession from fourteenth-century France shows. In 1341, the duke of[…]

An Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Chinese Calligraphy

In the general order of their appearance, there are: seal script, clerical script, cursive script, running script, and standard script. Art of the Line Calligraphy is the world’s oldest abstract art—the art of the line. This basic visual element can also hold a symbolic charge. Nowhere has the symbolic power of the line manifested itself[…]