Misconceptions About the Middle Ages

Medievalists.net just posted about Stephen Harris and Byron L. Grigsby’s book Misconceptions About The Middle Ages. This is the first I’ve heard of it, but it looks interesting. The table of contents, from Medievalists.net, is:


Introduction (by Stephen J. Harris)

Part 1: The Church
1. Was the Medieval Church Corrupt? (by Frans Van Liere)
2. Papal Infallibility (by Elaine M. Beretz)
3. “The Age of Faith”: Everyone in the Middle Ages Believed in God (by Peter Dendle)
4. Everyone was an Orthodox, Educated Roman Catholic (by Michael D.C. Drout)
5. The Myth of The Virgin Nun (by Mary Dockray-Miller)
6. The Medieval Popess (by Vincent Dimarco)
7. Medieval Monks: Funnier than You Thought (by Liam Ethan Felsen)
8. Medieval Attitudes Toward Muslims And Jews (by Michael Frassetto)

Part 2: War and the State
9. The Crusades: Eschatological Lemmings, Younger Sons, Papal Hegemony and Colonialism (by Jessalynn Bird)
10. The Myth of the Mounted Knight (by James G. Patterson)
11. The Power of Medieval Kings (by Jeroen Laemers)

Part 3: Science
12. The Myth Of The Flat Earth (by Louise M. Bishop)
13. The Medieval Sense of Self (by Ronald J. Ganze)
14. The Middle Ages Were a Superstitious Time (by Peter Dendle)
15. The Age Before Reason (by Richard Raiswell)
16. Rehabilitating Medieval Medicine (by Anne Van Arsdall)
17. Medical Misconceptions (by Bryon Grigsby)

Part 4: The Arts
18. Medieval Cuisine: Hog’s Swill or Culinary Art? (by Jean-François Kosta-Théfaine)
19. What Did Medieval People Eat? (by Christopher Roman)
20. Medieval Drama (by Carolyn Coulson-Grigsby)
21. Shakespeare Did not Write in Old English (by Marijane Osborn)
22. An Austere Age Without Laughter (by Michael W. George)
23. King Arthur: The Once And Future Misconception (by S. Elizabeth Passmore)

Part 5: Society
24. A “Peasants’ Revolt”? (by Paul Strohm)
25. The Medieval Sense of History (by Richard H. Godden)
26. The Medieval Peasant (by Dinah Hazell)
27. Witches and the Myth of the Medieval Burning Times (by Anita Obermeier)
28. The Medieval Child: an Unknown Phenomenon? (by Sophie Oosterwijk)
29. Were Women Able to Read and Write in the Middle Ages? (by Helen Conrad-O’Briain)
30. Teaching Chaucer in Middle English (by C. David Benson)
31. The Medieval Chastity Belt Unbuckled (by Linda Migl Keyser)

This covers a lot of the things (like the fact that nuns weren’t quite as chaste as we imagine) that non-medievalist friends of mine have asked about, and addresses many of the misconceptions that medievalists love to kvetch about.

The article that looks the most exciting to me personally is Anne Van Arsdall’s “Rehabilitating Medieval Medicine” (Ch. 16). Van Arsdall is a brilliant historian of medieval medicine, and along with M.L. Cameron has been largely responsible for the recent realization in the academic community that medieval medicine was not full of superstition and eye-of-newt potions, but was actually the result of scientific thought and experimentation and could, at times, actually work. She’s written quite a few essays on this, and the one here seems to be part of the series. If it’s anything like the others, it would be intelligent, well-argued, and a great read.

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3 Responses to Misconceptions About the Middle Ages

  1. Rayhan says:

    I need the full book

  2. This book began as a set of pages in the Online Reference Book for Medieval Studies, and they’re still up if you want to preview things in an earlier version. The book is an advanced version, though; for a start, the online essay about medicine is by someone else, so may not interest you as much. Meanwhile, I’ve just found this blog courtesy of the ASNC blog’s sidebar, and am enjoying what I find!

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