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The Medieval Legacy

Take a fascinating and eye-opening journey into the Middle Ages while you uncover the remarkable ways in which the medieval world still influences our thinking, our collective consciousness, and our ways of life.
The Medieval Legacy is rated 3.8 out of 5 by 44.
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Rated 2 out of 5 by from Excellent at times, but disappointing overall This series can be excellent at times, but you could guess the month and year it was written based on it following the modern media narratives. I don't see this holding up in a few years and overall was disappointed. Basically this entire series is hyper specific to Western Europe and focuses how under today's views that these people (especially men) were bad and religion is bad. Judging history under today's microscope is downright unfair and academically pathetic. If you like nuance or delving into serious topics in a fair manner this is not a good value..
Date published: 2024-01-21
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not history, Woke ideology History is the story of people as they were then. This was not history. I found it to be another person talking about how horrid and stupid we are today - by showing it all started back then. I am here to learn, not to be lectured to about social equity, inclusion, etc. I hope Wondrium does not continue down this path of liberal ;'education'.
Date published: 2023-12-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too much comparison to today's civil rights Professor spends a little too much time comparing historical figures to today's civil rights' standards - calls historical figures mysogynist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and so on, which to me sometimes seems unfair. When she says that when some female Viking warriors exhibited masculine traits and that this is evidence of a the existence of a whole range of genders, I'm not sure those Vikings would have recognized that. When she says that European colonizers set up systems of white supremacy, she does not mention how well many non-white immigrants to this country do as well or better than the average white American. The professor does a good job in speaking in the accents of the material she is quoting which I thought was gutsy and entertaining. Otherwise, be prepared to have historical figures being held to the social standards of today many, many times throughout the lectures.
Date published: 2023-10-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Much good but some important coverages poor Prof. Symes’ background includes antiquity, classics, medieval, and history, and her course content fit in pretty well in most places with what I already knew. But the course is weak when it comes to science-related topics and omits some vital Church history, resulting in some faulty generalizations. I will focus here mainly on problem areas. (Course rating= 3.75 to 4.) Although almost all large-scale witch hunts were post-medieval, they are definitely a medieval legacy. The groundwork (re-definitions and “theory”) for hunting witches, including supportive papal declarations, and the precedent for at least one large witch hunt, were set in medieval times (and a moderate-sized one even happened Arras in 1459-60). Further, the torture-forced ‘naming of others’—a near necessity for a large witch hunt—was used by the first Inquisition to help eradicate the Cathars in the 1200s. [See books by: Joseph Klaits, Jeffrey Wynter K**n, Walter Stephens, or Gary K. Waite. N.B.: **The algorithm used by the hired screener for reviews of Great Courses labels this name as “profanity,” and appeals for human intervention have not helped. Rendered backward, the author’s name is: Nook.] Symes’ efforts to counter the historical neglect of women is sometimes awkward. E.g., the guidebook says that “many medieval women could also read” [p. 15]. Yet, from 1000-1450, probably less than 10-15% of the population could read. The vast majority of people were peasant farmers, serfs, laborers, and servants. On the other hand: some women shared in the work of their artisan or merchant husbands; all women of status managed the household and its servants; when higher nobles were away at war, their wives sometimes ran their estates, occasionally even directing the defense of a castle; and the wives of seafaring fishermen ran things when they were away. In my readings and viewings, the real revolution in medieval art involves the sudden spread of artistic knowledge about how to realistically portray three dimensions on flat surfaces. While a very few painters before 1400 could do somewhat realistic work, especially with shadows in close-up portraits, it was only in the early mid-1400s that artisan Filippo Brunelleschi (re-?) discovered how to do 3D, and Renaissance humanist Leon Batista Alberti published books (in Italian, then Latin) that explained the method in general and mathematical terms. In just a few decades, every artist could do buildings and the human form with far greater balance and depth of perspective. Symes does not mention this. Symes sees the “scientific revolution” as just another step in the ancient-medieval-modern development of “inductive-deductive science.” But most of the induction-based Greek legacy had been lost or rejected by then. Inductive science had few major practitioners among the educated in “Central” medieval times (e.g., Albert the Great and Roger Bacon in the mid-1200s), and that approach did not take hold. Instead, “Central” and Late Middle Ages scholars relied almost entirely on deductions from the bible, Church authorities and councils, a limited range of accepted experience and, after the mid-1200s, Aristotle’s works in natural philosophy (plus winnowing via disputations and the long-available but now more deftly deployed Aristotelian dialectics). And Symes treats the post-Counter-Reformation Roman Church as vastly different from the medieval Church, but it wasn’t. Although she rightly sees the problem of orthodoxy/heresy, she doesn’t seem to realize that the Church consistently tried, throughout the Middle Ages, failing to varying degrees when it was weaker, to eliminate any opposition to dogma. Thus, even though the new Aristotelian arrivals via Islam and Byzantium left the European intellectual awestruck by their range of knowledge and apparent wisdom, the Church banned Aristotle at the University of Paris in the early 1200s, before relenting about 3 decades later. But by the 1270s, fierce multi-sided debates arose about how to interpret Aristotle’s thought. By specifying 13 heresies in the early 1270s, the Bishop of Paris and other conservative Church leaders, tried to limit the Paris masters (teachers) when they drew reasoned deductions directly from Aristotle’s thought, or from Ibn Rushd/Averroes interpretations thereof. Teaching masters were expected to correct such deductions whenever they differed from Church doctrines. But very few of the teaching masters knew theology well enough to be sure when to do so. A major movement emerged that split the University into two parts, each with its own leader/rector (with Siger of Brabant heading the independence-striving master teachers). Subsequently, Church leaders ousted Siger and others, and condemned 219 heresies (again with papal support). But all heresy charges against them failed because they had not advocated any heretical doctrines. And although Thomas Aquinas had departed to finish his Summa Theologica before then, some of his views too were accused of being heretical by some of the same Church conservatives (charges which the Dominicans influenced a later pope to set aside). But the Church mandate was reiterated subsequently, essentially telling the masters that it’s not safe to ‘go into anything in a way that might conflict with dogma, unless Church doctrine was forthwith affirmed as correct.’ (And this stance clearly applied beyond Paris.) In effect, this was a mandate not to explore the natural world unless you also knew theology very well. [See Richard E. Rubenstein’s Aristotle’s Children, or Jeffrey Wynter K**n’s Cultural Insanity, the Key to Understanding Our World and Ourselves]. A few decades later, William of Ockham, a Franciscan nominalist, challenged the validity of any generalizing about the natural world (given an interventionist deity who could readily alter nature and daily worked miracles in the mass). If no generalizations about nature were viable, the same would also be true for any incorporated into Church doctrine. Though Ockham is thereby often credited with opening the way to science, what’s the point if no generalizations about nature are truly viable? Indeed, the (academic) freedom to explore implications in Aristotle that the Church had already suppressed likely would have opened the way sooner and faster. For a good account of the schools of thought and conflicts among all the people involved, see the diagram in Randall Collins [The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change, p. 470]. The nominalists in time came to dominate about two-thirds of the universities but, according to Collins, within institutions their leaders mostly squabbled about the details of nominalism. So, with two notable exceptions in the mid-1300s (Oresme and Buridan, both of whom knew theology well enough to thread their way safely in reasoning and writing about astronomy and motion), science made remarkably little progress from the time that Roger Bacon brought optical research from Islam to the West until Copernicus and Vesalius (anatomy) in 1543. Also, universities did not then have any institutionalized research programs. Moreover, working with one’s hands was what the lower classes did, so university types disdained that. The masters mainly taught, and stayed within Church-imposed limits. But the medieval Church was more open to progress in mathematics and astrology (i.e., short of affirming heliocentrism)—astrology because of its use in medieval medical prognoses and prognostication generally, where improved trigonometry tables enabled better astrological calculations (none of the theories about the planetary behavior in the heavens worked well, and the Julian calendar needed fixing too). Although Symes includes material on some on key inventions and their legacy, she does not seem to realize that technology was the principal driver of advances in medieval proto-science, with the trial-and-error approach of artisans being the main approximation to inductive reasoning. Advances not mentioned include those in architecture, three-dimensional perspective, civil engineering, mining and refining, and alchemy (proto-chemistry). [Again, see K**n, or Patricia O. Long, Artisan/Practitioners and the Rise of the New Sciences, 1400-1600.] Finally, Francis Bacon’s potent critiques in the 1620s provided a major impetus to the recognition that knowledge needs to be assembled inductively, building up to general principles, rather than deduced down from poorly supported general principles derived from “authorities” [see The New Organon, 1620]. His utopian The New Atlantis (1627) clearly reveals the immensity of the gap between the two approaches. Bacon’s utopia modeled a systematic search for what is already known, across all fields and lands, hands-on experimentation on nature’s immense store of unknowns, and the assembly of findings to generate higher-order hypotheses and conclusions. Bacon’s model was used by the Royal Society (chartered, 1662) in England, with Robert Hooke playing a key role [see William Poole’s The World Makers]. This shift to inductive methodology, together with major advances in observational and mathematical astronomy produced a scientific revolution. In sum, contrary to Symes, there was a large break (with a few exceptions) in the approach to knowledge between the authoritarian and Church-constrained deductive scholasticism of the Middle Ages, and the shifts to gathering prior knowledge from anyone who had some, the extensive use of systematic observation (e.g., Vesalius, Brahe), and planned and deity-free hypothesis testing (e.g., Galileo, Harvey), that together finally enabled the start of a very real “scientific revolution.”
Date published: 2023-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Middle Ages never left us Wonderful companion course to Professors Daileader's and Armstrong's, enriched with recent academic research and Professor Symes' insights. It could have been improved with the addition of an annotated bibliography and glossary of terms, but it is what it is. Evidence mounts of that period's ever presence in our lives: Witness the proliferation of the gangsters' paradises, those states within a state, that mirror fiefdoms of the past (the favelas of Brazil, drug cartels of Central America, ganglands of inner American cities, Wagner Group in Russia) and continue to grow and expand as central governments secede their sovereignty. ("The New Middle Ages," Foreign Affairs May/June 2006.) Wished the prof discussed "The Apocalypse Tapestry" at Angers, France, but that can be left for another course. Or not. Better left hidden this jewel of the Middle Ages!
Date published: 2023-07-14
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too Much Editorializing There is much good information to be gleaned from this course, but for my taste the professor injected her personal opinions way too much. I nearly stopped watching after lesson 4 as I felt I had been to a revival meeting. In fact I did an Internet search trying to figure out Symes religious affiliation. I found nothing. My wife and I watched this jointly and she wanted to go on, so we did. I have no problem with feminism, having marched for ERA with my first wife, but Symes seemed to find misogyny around every corner. I strongly under the opinion that history needs to be understood in the context of the times that it happened, not through our particular culture lens 500 years after the fact. And then there was her reading the almost overwhelming number of quotes in whatever she thought was the accent of the author. I found that more than a little irritating. Plus all too much for my taste, she read the quotes in the original language before reading it in English. I’m not sure what that added to program. I nearly lost it though when she brought out a couple sock puppets to reenact a court room scene. Surely she does not do that in her college courses. I would recommend it reservations.
Date published: 2023-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Almost Excellent The course lives up to its promise as Dr. Symes not only offers mountains of details via multiple genres and formats (diverse arts, great visuals, hearty discussions), but also traces the medieval routes to modern culture, politics, religion, arts, etc. seamlessly. I have two reservations: first (and this is minor), she should not read text with a British accent; this is linguistically unsound (for instance, Shakespearean text would be rendered more like the speech of John-Boy Walton than by that of King Charles), and second--too much virtue signaling!! This latter point was especially annoying in the later lectures about race and gender. No Wondrium lecturers should portray identity issues as hopelessly stagnant. One example--Dr. Symes implies that cross-dressing was a Medieval phenomenon--true, but then she all but says "So we moderns should support all aspects of the modern trans phenomenon." With the typical insular ideological timbre that pushes the causes of "the good ones," Dr. Symes' leaking ideological framework in these particular lectures ignores a full fleshing out of modern culture. Having read a substantial body of Native American literature, I know that "two-spirited" individuals have always comprised a tiny minority of Indian populations--a truth that a full fleshing out of this topic requires academics who buy into the erroneous claim that gender dysphoria is prevalent and conspicuous to ignore. I did love this course overall and I admire the depth and breadth of Dr. Symes' presentation. And she is not the first Wondrium professor to deny a fully-fleshed realization of today's hot-button issues. But if she presents another course, and to ALL the Wondrium professors, leave the virtue signaling for the signs in your front yards and the discussions at your self-styled "religious liberal" churches ( I won't name them, but I attended one for 20 years).
Date published: 2023-05-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Woke - politically biased view of Medieval Legacy The woke version of Medieval Legacy drawing conclusions that are often silly using language showing leftist anti-religious bias of lecturer.
Date published: 2023-03-11
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Overview

The medieval era continues to influence our world and shape our collective consciousness. In the 36 lectures of The Medieval Legacy, you’ll learn to recognize the medieval impacts on the modern world. You’ll find the origins of our representative government and labor unions; study the enduring culture of chivalry; trace the work of the great medieval scientists; grasp how the notion of race arose in the 14th and 15th centuries; and much more.

About

Carol Symes

I regard understanding the medieval legacy—both its exemplary trends and their long shadows—as crucial to making sense of our own place in history.

INSTITUTION

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Carol Symes is an Associate Professor of History, Theatre, Classics, and Medieval Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her PhD in History from Harvard University. She is the founding executive editor of the journal The Medieval Globe. She edited A Cultural History of Media in the Middle Ages and wrote A Common Stage: Theatre and Public Life in Medieval Arras, which earned the American Historical Association’s Herbert Baxter Adams Prize, among other honors.

By This Professor

The Medieval Legacy
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The Medieval Legacy

Trailer

Discovering the Medieval Legacy

01: Discovering the Medieval Legacy

Begin the course with a look at what “medieval” means, and the challenges of defining when and where the Middle Ages took place. Consider common associations and ideas about the medieval era, both positive and negative, and the substantial inaccuracies of many of them. Finally, investigate what may be the most useful timeline in terms of when the medieval era began and ended.

27 min
The Medieval Birth of the Book

02: The Medieval Birth of the Book

Take account of the seminal medieval contribution to the format of the book and the accessibility of reading. Chart the centuries-long evolution of written texts, from ancient scrolls of papyrus to wax tablets, codices, and texts written on parchment and vellum. Grasp how medieval books, which were portable and durable, democratized reading, creating the framework for how we think about and practice it.

27 min
Medieval Innovations in Record Keeping

03: Medieval Innovations in Record Keeping

The medieval era gave us techniques for recording words, sounds, and knowledge that were not surpassed for centuries. Learn how medieval scholars revolutionized writing, making texts easier to read; created musical notation and methods for recording poetry and song; and how these technologies allowed more and more people to record their own experiences and insert themselves into the historical record.

27 min
The Beginnings of Orthodoxy and Heresy

04: The Beginnings of Orthodoxy and Heresy

As Christianity grew and developed, trace the process by which religious and political elites aligned to enforce conformity within the religion. Observe how early variations of belief and practice were systematized after Christianity became the state religion of Rome, leading to codified theological beliefs and canonized scriptures, with conflicting views labeled as heretical and punishable.

34 min
Anti-Semitism’s Medieval Roots

05: Anti-Semitism’s Medieval Roots

Over roughly four centuries, anti-Semitism became rooted in medieval society. Learn how Jews in the Latin West were rare, considered suspect, and depended on protection from local rulers. Trace the proliferation of anti-Jewish tropes, from lies connecting Jews with violence to Christian ideology condemning them for the death of Jesus and prohibiting usury, spurring pogroms and negative portrayals in popular culture.

32 min
Holy War and Its Long Legacy

06: Holy War and Its Long Legacy

Track the various factors that gave rise to the medieval concept of “holy war,” undergirding the call to arms of the Crusades. Begin with the phenomenon of divinely sanctioned wars in the ancient world. Then, grasp the Greco-Roman and Christian theories of “just” war, fought for a holy cause, offering the remission of sins for soldiers, and its analogies to the Muslim concept of jihad.

32 min
The Cult of the Virgin Mary

07: The Cult of the Virgin Mary

Uncover the links between the veneration of Mary and ancient traditions of divine leaders begotten through virgin births. Learn how the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity developed, and about its connections with both the Church’s insistence on male authority and notions of sexual sin. Note, ironically, that as the cult of the Virgin grew, opportunities for women within the church narrowed.

31 min
The Imaginative Power of Chivalry

08: The Imaginative Power of Chivalry

The medieval culture of chivalry embodies behavioral and moral ideals that still resonate today. Find the roots of chivalry’s ethos in the oldest surviving medieval epic, the Song of Roland. Observe how chivalric ideals were promulgated in romance literature, usually through the patronage of women. Grasp what motivated a new class of warrior knights to embrace chivalry’s codes of valor and courtly behavior.

35 min
The Legacy of Heraldry and Pedigree

09: The Legacy of Heraldry and Pedigree

Flowing from medieval chivalric codes, the arts of heraldry arose to provide symbolic “brands” for individuals and groups. Study the pictorial forms that proclaimed their bearers and “patented” their public identities on coats of arms and seals, using powerful iconography. Then, learn how heraldry was co-opted by non-noble aspirants and was intertwined with the creation of chivalric orders that still exist today.

29 min
“Town Air Makes You Free”

10: “Town Air Makes You Free”

Following on a major economic boom in the 11th century, witness the rise of medieval towns as a new phenomenon, often growing organically around monasteries or castles. See how newly empowered townspeople were able to demand liberties, charters, and the right to self-governance, creating unprecedented opportunities for social mobility, new civic institutions, and new forms of urban entertainment.

29 min
Guilds and the Rise of Organized Labor

11: Guilds and the Rise of Organized Labor

Take the measure of medieval trade guilds, as they offered a sense of group solidarity and protections and posed threats to authority. Study the case of the jongleurs’ (entertainers’) guild of Arras, and how it transformed its members’ social status. Grasp how guilds acted boldly in political movements, and played cultural roles, endowing buildings, charities, and making powerful symbolic use of theater.

29 min
The Medieval Rise of the Rule of Law

12: The Medieval Rise of the Rule of Law

Medieval societies recognized the need for shared legal processes and norms. Learn about the earliest medieval law codes, the precepts of English Common Law, and the use of trial juries derived from Anglo-Saxon and Roman customs. Note legal principles embodied in the Magna Carta, and the opposition within the West of two competing ideals: absolute power by monarchs versus a system of law which would hold rulers in check.

29 min
Medieval Government and Collective Rights

13: Medieval Government and Collective Rights

Trace the origins of representative government in the medieval era, in the phenomena of councils, general assemblies, and the Norse tradition of the “Thing” (public assembly). Learn that medieval rulers, despite their power, had to bow to the pressures of representative governance. Also, observe how the papacy, during this era, was able to enlarge its powers and, for the first time, function as an unchecked monarchy.

31 min
Medieval Sovereignty and the State

14: Medieval Sovereignty and the State

Complex notions of statehood permeated the medieval era. Examine criteria for how we might define sovereignty, and the ways in which medieval state sovereignty was complicated by the power of the Church. Observe how English and French monarchs worked to establish inviolable authority over defined territories, and how the debate over the nature of national sovereignty would continue for centuries, down to our own day.

32 min
The Medieval Roots of the King’s English

15: The Medieval Roots of the King’s English

Investigate how the modern English language came into being, beginning with the text of the oldest recorded English song in the 13th century. Learn about the suppression of the common use of Old English by the French-speaking Normans. Follow the language’s evolution through later texts, as the Middle English that became the language of the royal court promoted the English of the southeast–thus, explaining the variety of English dialects that thrive today.

27 min
Medieval Narratives of Nationalism

16: Medieval Narratives of Nationalism

Examine 19th century European nationalist movements which sought to self-legitimize by grounding their identities in the medieval past. Witness this in the attempts of at least five countries to claim the Beowulf epic as national patrimony, and the efforts of numerous others to base nationalist claims on medieval events. Observe how these divisive nationalist “medievalisms” became destructive.

31 min
Medieval Narratives in Modern War

17: Medieval Narratives in Modern War

Explore the co-opting of medieval history by the nations fighting World War I, seen in the symbolic invocation of Joan of Arc, England’s Henry V, and images of the Crusades, among other iconic figures and events. Also, observe the persistent invocation of medieval battlegrounds during the conflict, outrage at the destruction of medieval cities, and wartime political currents bolstered by notions of the medieval past.

29 min
The University’s Medieval Origins

18: The University’s Medieval Origins

Witness the rise of medieval universities, following on the religious schools that preceded them. Note how curriculums were broadened to a range of more secular subjects, leading to universities as confraternities of teachers, scholars, and students. Delve into the intellectual culture that surrounded universities, which transformed medieval lives by offering opportunity for advancement through education.

32 min
The Origins of the Scientific Method

19: The Origins of the Scientific Method

Learn the story of medieval science, and its integral contributions to the modern scientific method. Review the work of great medieval scientists, such as Anselm, al-Haytham, Grosseteste, Bacon, Ockham, Copernicus, and others. Grasp how their innovations crystallized the inductive-deductive method, while religious currents surrounding the Reformation effectively suppressed key elements of their work.

33 min
Our Debts to the Medieval World of Money

20: Our Debts to the Medieval World of Money

First, examine medieval accounting systems that were used until the 19th century, and the transformative innovations of Arabic numerals and the number zero. Delve into medieval forms of calculation, techniques of bookkeeping, letters of credit, and new methods of managing risk. Note that increasingly complex financial instruments and moneylending led to great disparities in wealth, then as now.

32 min
The Medieval Explosion of Documentation

21: The Medieval Explosion of Documentation

In the medieval world, paperwork placed new demands on people from all walks of life. Through illuminating historical examples, see how the need for documentation became a necessary fact of life: to validate legal claims, transactions, and to preserve family legacies, with writings and written evidence becoming valuable possessions. The resulting documents leave us a fascinating record of everyday medieval life and its resonances in our own era.

27 min
The Medieval Invention of Purgatory

22: The Medieval Invention of Purgatory

Study medieval teachings on sin and salvation, and notions of purification and atonement. Learn how the practice of interceding for the dead through prayer and penitential rituals figured in the emerging Church doctrine of Purgatory. Trace the history of “indulgences” for absolving sins, which were sold by clerics, the abuse of which fueled the Protestants’ stance against the ideology of Purgatory.

29 min
Medieval Evolutions in Hospitals and Prisons

23: Medieval Evolutions in Hospitals and Prisons

Examine the social, political, and economic factors that caused hospitals and prisons to emerge as prominent civic institutions in the Middle Ages. Trace the rise of subsidized public hospitals, often attached to religious complexes, and positioned centrally within towns. Study the culture of medieval prisons, their integral place in the urban landscape, and the role they played in civic life.

31 min
Medieval Rhyme, Romance, and Sagas

24: Medieval Rhyme, Romance, and Sagas

Here, delve into three medieval building blocks of European literature that endure to the present day. Track the adoption of rhyme from Arabic literature as a core feature of Western poetics. Then, see how verse and prose romances emerged in European traditions, commenting on contemporary values. Finally, encounter the dramatic Norse sagas and their key themes, archetypes, and fluid gender norms.

29 min
The Medieval Rise of Professional Authors

25: The Medieval Rise of Professional Authors

Distinguish the conditions that allowed some medieval writers to make a livelihood from their work. Learn about authorship within the monastic profession and under the patronage of aristocratic elites and the clergy. See the contours of medieval authorship in Boccaccio, Chaucer, Christine de Pisan, and Margery Kempe, and grasp how the internet replicates the channels through which many medieval authors worked.

29 min
How Vernacular Bibles Transformed Faith

26: How Vernacular Bibles Transformed Faith

In the spread of Christianity across medieval Europe, follow the processes by which biblical texts were revised, translated, and depicted visually to be comprehensible and acceptable to a new audience. Witness the clash between Church opposition to non-authorized Bibles and movements advocating the reading and interpretation of scripture by ordinary laypeople, in their own languages.

29 min
Recovering Medieval Arts and Artists

27: Recovering Medieval Arts and Artists

Locate the medieval origins of oil painting, long attributed to Renaissance artists. Then uncover the unknown legacy of female artists in illuminated manuscript production and reckon with the visionary paintings of Hildegard of Bingen and the visual works of Christine de Pisan. Contemplate the erasure of medieval women artists’ contributions, as seen in the example of the iconic Bayeux Tapestry.

32 min
The Medieval Artistic Imagination Persists

28: The Medieval Artistic Imagination Persists

The arts of the 19th century fostered a mania for medievalism across European society. Discover the ways in which Romanticism rejected Enlightenment doctrines and looked for a return to a medieval worldview. See how currents such as the British Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements and widespread neo-Gothic architecture glorified medievalism, not only in Europe but also in the United States.

31 min
The Black Death’s Lasting Lessons

29: The Black Death’s Lasting Lessons

Encounter epidemics and pandemics in antiquity, and explore the conditions of war, urbanization, and human and animal mobility that facilitated the spread of pathogens. Study new findings about the origins of the medieval bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, and the ecological, economic, and political factors that exacerbated it. Identify the core themes of this catastrophe that we can learn from now, and in the future.

30 min
The Medieval Invention of Race?

30: The Medieval Invention of Race?

Study early medieval conceptions of differences between peoples, which show an absence of judgments based on physicality. Observe how these views change in the 14th and 15th centuries, manifesting in an increasing preoccupation with skin color and bodily differences, with Jews represented as racially different from Europeans. Also, consider the roles of Christianity and travel literature in new kinds of race thinking.

33 min
Medievalism and Modern Racism

31: Medievalism and Modern Racism

Why does medievalism play a critical role in modern white supremacist and racist discourse? Trace the growth of the later medieval European slave trade, its racialization of slavery, and new ideas about European superiority. Grasp the grounding of modern supremacist thinking in the idea of a superiority based in Europe’s success in modernizing itself and the celebration of its unique medieval heritage.

30 min
Rediscovering Medieval Sex and Gender

32: Rediscovering Medieval Sex and Gender

Enter the surprising world of medieval gender identities and sexual dynamics. Take account of the Church’s developing misogynistic stance towards brilliant and visionary women. Study the shifting contours of medieval sexuality, noting the distinctive presence of queer identities and the sliding scale of gender practices, suggesting that medieval customs heralded, or even surpassed, those of the 21st century to date.

29 min
Medieval Games We Still Play

33: Medieval Games We Still Play

Dig into the medieval origins of globally popular games and sports, beginning with the French invention of tennis. See how tennis developed, becoming a major phenomenon by the 16th century. Learn about the culture and rowdiness of football in the Middle Ages. Finally, chart the evolution and penetrating cultural presence of chess and the colorful medieval history of playing cards.

29 min
Medieval Revolutions in Dress and Dining

34: Medieval Revolutions in Dress and Dining

Learn about the symbolism of colors and other markers of class in medieval clothing, and track the burgeoning uses of silk, velvet, and cotton. Note major and long-lasting medieval contributions to fashion, with new garments and styles of dress that endured into the modern era. Delve into refinements in dining and tableware, such as new utensils, foods, and a more inclusive dining culture.

33 min
Medieval Inventions That Changed the World

35: Medieval Inventions That Changed the World

Among landmarks of medieval technology, trace the development of mechanical clocks, a seismic shift in the measurement of time, and of the majestic clocktowers that graced medieval cities. Follow the 13th-century emergence of eyeglasses in northern Italy, and of maritime charts that revolutionized global navigation. Then, witness the introduction of cannons and handheld firearms into warfare.

33 min
Medievalism, Pop Culture, and the Present

36: Medievalism, Pop Culture, and the Present

Observe how medievalism in the 20th century moved from the realm of high art into popular and public culture, through routes such as new Gothic architecture and medieval Passion plays. Assess the contribution of medievalist authors J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. Reflect on the range of “medievalisms” in our own era, from movies and TV to video gaming, and what they may tell us about ourselves.

35 min