I have added quite a few new pages to the site about Frederick II. This is content that I had on another site, but that I am now bringing into this one. This includes reference to various source material, important events and locations from his life.
I read an interesting report in the Economist about the stabilization of the world’s fertility rate at 2.1. Perhaps that means that the dystopian future we all fear where the world is suffering from overcrowding won’t happen … yet.
Or maybe, instead, the industrialization and increased wealth that has helped lead to the fall in population growth, will mean more pollution, more carbon emissions and other grave problems.
This is a classic myth and misconception about history and its epochs and one I’m sure many people realise. The Renaissance, the rebirth of classical learning made new by writers and scholars such as Michaelangelo and Petrarch, did not start after the Middle Ages, it was actually a phenomenon that started probably in the late 13th century.
I think the problem is that most people still see the Middle Ages as a time of misery, ignorance and muck, with perhaps only the chivalry of knights to add any colour.
The Middle Ages: A Case of Mistaken Identity?
This was not the case. The real renaissance had already started in the twelfth century with the rediscovery of Aristotle. Humanism developed with secular writers such as Dante and Chaucer. Religion was being questioned in the late fourteenth century by Wyclif, as it had been by a host of heretical movements and scholars for several centuries.
These myths though are often just propagated further in books and film, and unfortunately the classic fantasy novel, set in a pseudo-medieval world that never existed, is partly to blame.
If you have read any of my previous posts about Agincourt you’ll know that I’m slightly cynical about the overwhelming effect of the longbow commonly attributed by historians and novelists.
The famous longbow, at 6 foot in length required great strength and skill to draw and use properly and is usually seen as the weapon of choice for English archers throughout the hundred years war from 1337 to 1453. According to historical myth it was responsible for the destruction of French armies at Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and a host of smaller battles.
Because of the bow’s fast rate of fire and stopping power it could prove hazardous to even armoured knights and in certain battles no doubt it did some damage. But it really was the case that the reason for the English victories was down to:
a) Bad French leadership and disorganization on each occasion.
b) Well drilled combined arms strategy from the English – although outnumbered there is evidence that the English wanted the French to fight them as they knew they could defeat them.
c) The professional and battle-hardened troops of the English army – troops in the early years had gained experience from wars in Scotland, and retinues were raised on the basis of pay rather than as a feudal array.
The archers were an important factor and together with well armed infantry men-at-arms they could defeat the French.
But wasn’t the longbow an amazingly powerful weapon. Yes, but…
An interesting bit of medieval trivia for a Friday.
During the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 Flemings in the City of London were particularly targeted by Londoners involved in the revolt – they weren’t too keen on foreign merchants from Flanders coming over and disrupting their livelihood – some things in Britain never change unfortunately! And they used the excuse of the general uprising to settle some old scores.
To identify who was a Fleming the rebels asked people to pronounce the words “bread and cheese”, if there pronunciation was anything like “brote und kase” that was it, the poor unfortunate was for the chop. A number of Flemings were murdered during the general anarchy that persisted in London during the rising. Others to be targeted were lawyers and anyone associated with John of Gaunt – his palace of Savoy was famously sacked.
I decided that the previous title of the blog (marklord.info) was both a bit boring and also a bit egocentric, so I thought I would come up with a funky, weird new title.
What does it mean?
Praeternatural means beyond nature, and is the more exact term to refer to what happens when demons and fantastic beings do things that are impossible in nature. The more common term supernatural actually refers to things done by divine beings – i.e. above nature, rather than different or outside nature.
Praeter Naturam – are the Latin root words for praeternatural, which is also spelt as preternatural.
I thought that this was a good phrase for summing up what happens when we read and write about things that we know don’t and can’t happen in nature – we are going beyond nature, but often for the very worthwhile purpose of explaining our own world and reality.
I received my limited edition copy of the Songs of the Dying Earth compilation, the book of short stories compiled by George R. R. Martin in honour of Jack Vance.
I must say it’s a lovely piece of work, the leather slip case is immaculate and the cover art and illustrations inside the book are great too, but I must admit to rather fannish dribbling when I got to the signature pages – these are real signatures – not copies as postulated by some. Amazing to see the signatures of so many great writers in one place: Martin, Gaiman, Simmons, and Vance himself.
Now I have to just get on and read some of the stories! Although I almost don’t want to just sit and read this copy like I would a normal book as the production is just so immaculate.
Has any one read any of the stories yet? Which are your favourites?
This contains a couple of cases mentioned by Henry Charles Lea in his famous History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages. It is interesting to note that magic was fairly rare as an offence in England, and, of course, the inquisition itself never formally operated in England.