Politics I-1 The End of Rome

This is the first of the medieval history lectures.  In the run-through of politics, I cover major political and power questions from the end of Rome to the end of the fifteenth century.  This lecture covers a little bit about late Roman politics, and focuses on the reigns of the emperors Diocletian and Constantine.  I also discuss something of the barbarian groups to the north, although this comes up more completely in a subsequent lecture. Continue reading Politics I-1 The End of Rome

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Teaching Medieval History

So we missed January, but we’re going to make it up for it by having an extra large dose this February.  What I am presenting here is a series of thoughts about teaching and some specifics about how I organize my Introduction to Medieval Studies course.  Starting in 2011, I created a handful of lectures for students in podcast form (some with a little bit of video, some with only still images, but all with at least slides that I occassionally mention in the lectures themselves.)  Even when we had in class presentations, people liked the ability to go back and listen to the lectures when they wanted.  I will be putting up all the lectures I have yet produced here. Continue reading Teaching Medieval History

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Early Modern English Brewing with Elliot Samuel-Lamm

For December, I have a discussion with one of my recent graduates.  At Marlboro, every students does fairly extensive research and prepares a collection of materials in a senior portfolio referred to as a “Plan.”  Elliot Samuel-Lamb did his work on brewing and beer and together we researched the character, flavor, and brewing practices of England in the Early Modern period (we looked some at the late medieval period, also, but focused on the 17th-19th centuries.) In the podcast, we talk about some of our findings that the English continued to like beer sweet long after continental brewers (particularly in Germany and the Netherlands) had introduced hops and begun to switch to a more bitter beverage.  English brewers all the way to the 19th century continue to sometimes caution against the inclusion of too much hops specifically so as to not overly bitter their brew.  Elliot continues to brew beer and be interested in all things brewing, making beer from locally grown ingredients and reading about beer’s quirky history. Continue reading Early Modern English Brewing with Elliot Samuel-Lamm

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The Emperor Nero with Will Guast

This month on the History Cafe, we are talking about the notorious emperor Nero.  Perhaps most famous for “fiddling while Rome burned,” (and to be fair, when everything was pretty much burned down, Nero built one of the largest palaces ever constructed in Rome, complete with gardens, courtyards, and all the gold one might imagine necessary to such an enterprise), Nero’s actual legacy was cemented by successors who often wanted to portray a more negative image of their predecessors.  Within Nero’s life, there is some evidence that he took reasonable steps as emperor, returning to Rome to help fight the fire, supporting the rights of some of the provinces (he might have been particularly popular in the Eastern provinces), and generally working to consolidate power as any of his more famous predecessors (Julius Caesar, Claudius, and others) would have done equally. Continue reading The Emperor Nero with Will Guast

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Couriers in Medieval Valencia

This month’s podcast is a double story.  The first narrative is about my recent research into high-speed couriers in the late-medieval period.  It turns out that the city of Valencia (as well as, probably, the king of Aragon and the king of Mallorca) had a group of runners specifically dedicated to transporting their official communication who could travel on foot at crazy speeds.  The fastest trip seemed to be from Valencia to Barcelona and back where the runners could move just shy of seventy miles per day for up to a week.  Imagine that – you could run from Boston to New York City and back in just under a week!  See if you know any friends that want to try that with you.  The second narrative is about how people “do” history.  What does it mean to do research, and how do we sometimes make new discoveries.  This topic is something I discovered quite by accident recently, so it provides a great example of how that happens – and hopefully why it’s kind of awesome. Continue reading Couriers in Medieval Valencia

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Charles de Gaulle with Tim Little – Part II

Last time we discussed Charles de Gaulle’s life from his birth through to the beginning of World War II.  This time, we cover de Gaulle’s participation in World War II and his political actions in the post-war period.  For more information, see Part I. Continue reading Charles de Gaulle with Tim Little — Part II

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Charles de Gaulle with Tim Little – Part I

Today on the History Cafe, we have part I of an extensive survey of the life of the French statesman and soldier, Charles de Gaulle. Our guest, Tim Little, served as the professor of history at Marlboro college for thirty-five years. He retired (more or less – he still teaches an occasional class) in 2009 and is now a professor emeritus.*  Tim has been interested in de Gaulle for some time and the talk uses de Gaulle as a sort of foil for understanding what it meant to be French and experience French history from the end of the 19th century until today.  De Gaulle died in 1970, but the republic he founded continues to this day with his fingerprints remain firmly a part of French political life.  The discussion was long enough that I have broken it up into two parts.  Continue reading Charles de Gaulle with Tim Little — Part I

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Affective Piety with Lauren Mancia

Today we have the assistant professor of medieval history from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, Lauren Mancia.  Lauren works on monastic devotional practices and  culture in Normandy, specializing in the writings of the Abbot John of Fécamp (ca. 990-1078 A.D.)  In this podcast, she talks to us about a major shift in the understanding and relationship with Christ that began in the eleventh century.  Prior to that time, people tended to see Christ as more of a conquering hero, unafraid of death, and unsuffering on the cross.  After the shift to  what is known as “affective” piety, people began to emphasize Christ’s humanity and his sufferings and used that as a way to find emotional closeness with the divine.  This fundamental way of viewing Christ is still with us and remains the emotional core of most of western Christianity to this day. Continue reading Affective Piety with Lauren Mancia

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Spices in Medieval Cuisine

This is the very first podcast from the History Cafe.  If you google spices in medieval cuisine, you will find fairly prevalently the myth that spices appeared so often and so heavily in medieval food because they covered up the taste of rancid meat (sometimes you get a more subtle version stating that spices help preserve food and prevent rancidness to begin with, which is at least somewhat true.)  At any rate, more and more work demonstrates quite convincingly that this explanation simply does not do justice to what we know about medieval cuisine and their love of spices.  A lot of work, in particular, has been done by my own dissertation advisor, Paul Freedman, so I dedicate this inaugural podcast to him.  You can also see some of his excellent lectures online through the Yale Courses feed. Continue reading Spices in Medieval Cuisine

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