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Open the doors to medieval history! Discussions on history of the medieval period of the world, specifically Europe and Scandinavia. Hosted by Wendy Jordan, MPhil (Master's) in archeology from Cambridge University (UK) and BA in history from the University of Oklahoma. Produced by RDG Communications. Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/randy-gibson8/support
 
Ever wanted to understand the key themes driving over five hundred years of European history? In this album, architecture reveals the social, religious and economic fortunes of some of the most influential people between 1400 and 1900. By the end of the 19th century Queen Victoria presided over the vast British Empire. She looked out from London, the heart of her empire, with its buildings echoing Imperial Rome. Brussels’ architecture, like London’s, was also designed to show the world the p ...
 
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In 874 CE, the eleventh Imam died, and the Imami community splintered. The institutions of the Imamate were maintained by the dead Imam's agents, who asserted they were in contact with a hidden twelfth Imam. This was the beginning of 'Twelver' Shiʿism. In Agents of the Hidden Imam: Forging Twelver Shi‘ism, 850-950 CE (Cambridge UP, 2022), Edmund Ha…
 
A gulf of centuries separates the Byzantine Empire from the academic field of Byzantine studies. The Invention of Byzantium in Early Modern Europe offers a new approach to the history of Byzantine scholarship, focusing on the attraction that Byzantium held for Early Modern Europeans and challenging the stereotype that they dismissed the Byzantine E…
 
When he was in his late 30s, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri got himself into some serious political trouble and was exiled from his beloved Florence. While in exile, he wrote one of the world’s greatest literary works, the Divine Comedy. In the story, Dante, the main character, must pass through the nine circles of Hell, climb Mount Purgatory, an…
 
The Kingdom of Rye: A Brief History of Russian Food (U California Press, 2022) unearths the foods and flavors of the Russian land. Preeminent food studies scholar Darra Goldstein offers readers a concise, engaging, and gorgeously crafted story of Russian cuisine and culture. This story demonstrates how national identity is revealed through food—and…
 
During the thirteenth century, the Persian naturalist and judge Zakariyyāʾ Qazwīnī authored what became one of the most influential works of natural history in the world: Wonders and Rarities. Exploring the dazzling movements of the stars above, the strange minutiae of the minerals beneath the earth, and everything in between, Qazwīnī offered a cap…
 
“All men must die”: or “Valar Morghulis,” as the traditional Essos greeting is rendered in High Valyrian. And die they do – in prodigious numbers; in imaginatively varied and gruesome ways; and often in terror within the viciously unpredictable world that is HBO's sensational evocation of Game of Thrones. As acclaimed medievalist Professor Carolyne…
 
Frans Camphuijsen explored records from the law courts of York, Paris, and Utrecht and used them as a base for Scripting Justice in Late Medieval Europe: Legal Practice and Communication in the Law Courts of Utrecht, York, and Paris (Amsterdam University Press, 2022). Late medieval societies witnessed the emergence of a particular form of socio-leg…
 
The Tattvasaṃgraha of Śāntarakṣita: Selected Metaphysical Chapters (Oxford University Press, 2022) collects excerpts from a massive encyclopedic work of the late period of Buddhism in India. Translator Charles Goodman has selected sections of this Sanskrit text which cover debates over the existence of prime matter, God, and an immaterial soul, as …
 
A history of pastoral nomads in the Islamic Middle East, Nomads in the Middle East by Beatrice Forbes Manz (Cambridge University Press, 2021) charts the rise of nomadic power from the formation of Islam through the Middle Ages, when Mongols and Turks ruled most of the region, to the decline of nomadic power in the twentieth century. Offering a vivi…
 
The Religion and Rituals of the Nomads of Pre-Islamic Arabia: A Reconstruction Based on the Safaitic Inscriptions (Brill, 2022) by Ahmad al-Jallad presents evidence for religious identity and ritual practices among the Safaitic-writing nomads of pre-Islamic Arabia. For this evidence, al-Jallad relies on a large corpus of rock-carved inscriptions in…
 
Today Jana Byars talks to her PhD advisor Guido Ruggiero about his latest monograph, Love and Sex in the Time of Plague: A Decameron Renaissance (Harvard University Press, 2021) over the meaning of love in the early Renaissance. As a pandemic swept across fourteenth-century Europe, the Decameron offered the ill and grieving a symphony of life and l…
 
The Japanese provincial city of Ichijōdani was destroyed in the civil wars of the late sixteenth century but never rebuilt. Archaeological excavations have since uncovered the most detailed late medieval urban site in the country. Drawing on analysis of specific excavated objects and decades of archaeological evidence to study daily life in Ichijōd…
 
In the thriving urban economies of late thirteenth-century Catalonia, Jewish and Christian women labored to support their families and their communities. The Fruit of Her Hands: Jewish and Christian Women's Work in Medieval Catalan Cities (Penn State Press, 2022) examines how gender, socioeconomic status, and religious identity shaped how these wom…
 
In Don't Think for Yourself: Authority and Belief in Medieval Philosophy (U Notre Dame Press, 2022), Peter Adamson provides an answer to a question as relevant today as it was in the medieval period: how and when should we turn to the authoritative expertise of other people in forming our own beliefs? He challenges us to reconsider our approach to …
 
How social networks shaped the imperial Chinese state China was the world’s leading superpower for almost two millennia, falling behind only in the last two centuries and now rising to dominance again. What factors led to imperial China’s decline? The Rise and Fall of Imperial China: The Social Origins of State Development (Princeton UP, 2022) offe…
 
In his fascinating and painstakingly research new book Messianic Ideas and Movements in Sunni Islam (Oneworld Academic, 2022), the noted scholar of Islam Yohanan Friedmann details the religious thought and political movements of multiple actors who made messianic claims in premodern and modern Islam, spanning sites including South Asia, North Afric…
 
The Sea in the Middle: The Mediterranean World, 650-1650 (U California Press, 2022) presents an original and revisionist narrative of the development of the medieval west from late antiquity to the dawn of modernity. This textbook is uniquely centered on the Mediterranean and emphasizes the role played by peoples and cultures of Africa, Asia, and E…
 
Treason and Masculinity in Medieval England: Gender, Law and Political Culture (Boydell Press, 2020) by Dr. E. Amanda McVitty presents a groundbreaking new approach to the idea of treason in medieval England, showing the profound effect played by gender. Conflicts over treason tormented English political society in the later Middle Ages. As legal a…
 
We don’t even know the real name of the 11th century author Murasaki Shikibu. But we do know that her book, The Tale of Genji, is arguably one of the most influential Japanese texts to date. Genji quickly captured its readers’ imaginations with political intrigue and court drama, but it can also be read as an astute critique of Japanese elite socie…
 
The Gift of Rumi: Experiencing the Wisdom of the Sufi Master (St. Martin’s Press, 2022), written by Dr. Emily Jane O’Dell was published by St. Martin’s Press in 2022. In this rich and insightful book, Dr. O’Dell takes us through her own spiritual and physical travels, as well as gives us historical and Islamic mystic context to help us understand a…
 
Martha Rampton, Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000 (Cornell University Press, 2021) explores how magic was perceived, practiced, and prohibited in western Europe during the first millennium CE. Through the overlapping frameworks of religion, ritual, and gender, Martha Rampton connects early Christian reck…
 
Italian court culture of the fifteenth century was a golden age, gleaming with dazzling princes, splendid surfaces, and luminous images that separated the lords from the (literally) lackluster masses. In Brilliant Bodies: Fashioning Courtly Men in Early Renaissance Italy (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2022), Timothy McCall describes and inte…
 
What comes to mind when we think of swans? Likely their beauty in domestic settings, their preserved status, their association with royalty, and possibly even the phrase ‘swan song’. Dr. Natalie Goodison’s Introducing the Medieval Swan (University of Wales Press, 2022) explores the emergence of each of these ideas, starting with an examination of t…
 
Great poetry or beautiful prose if often capable of challenging and delighting readers far more than dry, bland language. But why is that? Dalā’il al-Iʿjaz, or Indications of Inimitability, is a hugely influential Arabic text about exactly what it is that makes beautiful language beautiful. Its author, Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, used a theoretical, a…
 
Royal Childhood and Child Kingship: Boy Kings in England, Scotland, France and Germany, c. 1050–1262 (Cambridge University Press, 2022) refines adult-focused perspectives on medieval rulership. Dr. Emily Joan Ward exposes the problematic nature of working from the assumption that kingship equated to adult power. Children's participation and politic…
 
Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped Our World (W. W. Norton & Company, 2022) by Anthony Sattin tells the remarkable story of how nomads have fostered and refreshed civilization throughout history. Moving across millennia, Nomads explores the transformative, sometimes bloody, sometimes peaceful and symbiotic relationship between settled and mobile soci…
 
In 1346, a catastrophic plague beset Europe and its neighbours. The Black Death was a human tragedy that abruptly halved entire populations and caused untold suffering, but it also brought about a cultural and economic renewal on a scale never before witnessed. The World the Plague Made is a panoramic history of how the bubonic plague revolutionize…
 
From roughly 1346 to 1353, Europe was paralyzed by the most fatal pandemic in recorded human history; the bubonic plague. The plague killed more than 60% of the total population in Eurasia. This is the backdrop of Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, a collection of short novellas completed in 1353. Robert Pogue Harrison is a professor of French and…
 
Empires of the Normans: Makers of Europe, Conquerors of Asia (Pegasus, 2022) by Dr. Levi Roach is a tale of ambitious adventures and fierce freebooters, of fortunes made and fortunes lost. The Normans made their influence felt across all of western Europe and the Mediterranean, from the British Isles to North Africa, and Lisbon to the Holy Land. In…
 
Often represented as a tradition of ancient origins, Shugendō has retained a quality of mystery and nostalgia in the public imagination and scholars as the “original” champions of mountain asceticism. In his monograph, A Path Into the Mountains: Shugendō and Mount Togakushi (U Hawaii Press, 2022), Caleb Carter challenges this conceptualization by e…
 
Silvia Schwarz Linder's Goddess Traditions in India: Theological Poems and Philosophical Tales in the Tripurarahasya (Routledge, 2022) is a study of the Śrīvidyā and Śākta traditions in the context of South Indian intellectual history in the late middle ages. Associated with the religious tradition known as Śrīvidyā and devoted to the cult of the G…
 
Celebrating Sorrow: Medieval Tributes to the Tale of Sagoromo (Cornell UP, 2022) explores the medieval Japanese fascination with grief in tributes to The Tale of Sagoromo, the classic story of a young man whose unrequited love for his foster sister leads him into a succession of romantic tragedies as he rises to the imperial throne. Charo B. D'Etch…
 
In addition to providing excerpts from classic tales of Japan’s warrior past, Samurai and the Warrior Culture of Japan, 471-1877: A Sourcebook (Hackett, 2022) draws on a wide range of lesser-known but revealing sources—including sword inscriptions, edicts, orders, petitions, and letters—to expand and deepen our understanding of the samurai, from th…
 
Information is everywhere. We live in an “Information” Society. We can get more of it faster, quicker, and in more different shapes and sizes than at probably any other time in history. Meanwhile, misinformation (a very old word) and disinformation (a neologism of the 20th century) have worked their way into our collective cultural lexicon. Like ev…
 
In Weeds and the Carolingians: Empire, Culture, and Nature in Frankish Europe, AD 750–900 (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Dr. Paolo Squatriti asks: Why did weeds matter in the Carolingian empire? What was their special significance for writers in eighth- and ninth-century Europe and how was this connected with the growth of real weeds? In early…
 
Beyond Exclusion: Intersections of Ethnicity, Sex, and Society Under English Law in Medieval Ireland (Brepols, 2022) offers a fresh look at the legal status of minorities in English Ireland. Through a detailed analysis of case studies gleaned from medieval court rolls, Stephen Hewer challenges the prevailing narrative of wholesale ethnic discrimina…
 
Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present (University of Chicago Press, 2022) by Dr. Johanna Drucker provides the first account of two-and-a-half millennia of scholarship on the alphabet. Drawing on decades of research, Dr. Drucker dives into sometimes obscure and esoteric references, dispelling myths and identify…
 
Galilee, the region where monotheism multiplied, where Christianity came into being, where Judaism reinvented itself, and where Islam won some of its greatest triumphs. Matthew Silver's two volumes--The History of Galilee, 47 BCE to 1260 CE: From Josephus and Jesus to the Crusades (Lexington Books, 2021), and The History of Galilee, 1538-1949: Myst…
 
The philosopher and biblical commentator Joseph Ibn Kaspi (1280–1345) was a provocative Jewish thinker of the medieval era whose works have generally been overlooked by modern scholars. Power and Progress: Joseph Ibn Kaspi and the Meaning of History (SUNY Press, 2019) by Alexander Green is the first book in English to focus on a central aspect of h…
 
There is only one surviving copy of The Life and Passion of William of Norwich, but its story continues to haunt us. When 12th-century monk Thomas of Monmouth learned of a young boy’s murder in his community, he accused his Jewish neighbors of the heinous crime. Over the course of two decades, he wrote a seven-volume conspiracy theory, building out…
 
Dr. Jackson W. Crawford is Instructor of Nordic Studies and Coordinator of the Nordic Program at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Crawford is the author and translator of The Wanderer’s Havamal and The Poetic Edda: Stories of the Norse Gods and Heroes. Both books are available from Hackett Publishing. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit mega…
 
The crossbow is an iconic weapon of the Middle Ages and, alongside the longbow, one of the most effective ranged weapons of the pre-gunpowder era. Unfortunately, despite its general fame it has been decades since an in-depth history of the medieval crossbow has been published, which is why Dr. Stuart Ellis-Gorman’s detailed, accessible, and highly …
 
Medieval and Renaissance Cyprus was a fascinating place of ethnic, cultural, and religious encounters. Following almost nine centuries of Byzantine rule, Cyprus was conquered by the Crusaders in 1191, becoming (until 1571) the most important stronghold of Latin Christianity in the Eastern Mediterranean—first under the Frankish dynasty of the Lusign…
 
The Kushnameh is unique, literally. Only one copy of the “Epic of Kush”exists, sitting in the British Library. Hardly anything is known about its author, Iranshah. It features a quite villainous protagonist, the tusked warrior Kush, who carves a swathe of destruction across the region. And it spans nearly half the world, with episodes in Spain, the…
 
Born in Tuscany in 1304, Italian poet Francesco Petrarca is widely considered one of the fathers of the modern Italian language. Though his writings inspired the humanist movement and subsequently the Renaissance, Petrarch remains misunderstood. He was a man of contradictions—a Roman pagan devotee and a devout Christian, a lover of friendship and s…
 
The ongoing debate surrounding who gets to determine the subjects of public commemoration, particularly in the form of statues, has become more heated over the past few years. In his timely book, A History of Love and Hate in 21 Statues (Aurum Press, 2021), Peter Hughes examines the long history of statues being used to articulate the values of rul…
 
Manuscripts teem with life. They are not only the stuff of history and literature, but they offer some of the only tangible evidence we have of entire lives, long receded. Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers (Riverrun, 2021) tells the stories of the artisans, artists, scribes and readers, patrons and collectors who made and kept…
 
In The Faddan More Psalter: The Discovery and Conservation of a Medieval Treasure Dr. John Gillis explores the conservation, construction, and context of an early medieval psalter discovered by chance in a bog at Faddan More, Co. Tipperary in July 2006. The different facets of this find are discussed in-depth, along with the pre-existing and newly …
 
Debates about science and religion are rarely out of the news. Whether it concerns what's being taught in schools, clashes between religious values and medical recommendations, or questions about how to address our changing global environment, emotions often run high and answers seem intractable. Yet there is much more to science and religion than …
 
Dynasties Intertwined: The Zirids of Ifriqiya and the Normans of Sicily (Cornell UP, 2022) traces the turbulent relationship between the Zirids of Ifriqiya and the Normans of Sicily during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In doing so, it reveals the complex web of economic, political, cultural, and military connections that linked the two dynast…
 
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