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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://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/randy-gibson8/support
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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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Between 800 and 1700 CE, a plethora of Mahabharatas were created in Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, and several other regional South Asian languages. Sohini Pillai's Krishna's Mahabharatas: Devotional Retellings of an Epic Narrative (Oxford UP, 2024) is a comprehensive study of premode…
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Sefer ha-Zohar (The Book of Radiance) has amazed readers ever since it emerged in Spain over seven hundred years ago. Written in a lyrical Aramaic, the Zohar, the masterpiece of Kabbalah, features mystical interpretation of the Torah, from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Zohar: Pritzker Edition (Stanford UP, 2004-2017) volumes present the first transla…
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The crusade movement needed women: their money, their prayer support, their active participation, and their inspiration. Helen J. Nicholson's book Women and the Crusades (Oxford UP, 2023) surveys women's involvement in medieval crusading between the second half of the eleventh century, when Pope Gregory VII first proposed a penitential military exp…
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Sari Nusseibeh's book Avicenna's Al-Shifā': Oriental Philosophy (Routledge, 2018) deals with the philosophy of Ibn Sina - Avicenna as he was known in the Latin West- a Persian Muslim who lived in the eleventh century, considered one of the most important figures in the history of philosophy. Although much has been written about Avicenna, and especi…
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Karen Sullivan of Bard College talks to Jana Byars about her recent book, Eleanor of Aquitaine, As It Was Said: Truth and Tales about the Medieval Queen (U Chicago Press, 2023). A reparative reading of stories about medieval queen Eleanor of Aquitaine. Much of what we know about Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of France and then Queen of England, we kn…
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The historical narratives of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible have much in common with Icelandic saga literature: both are invested in origins and genealogy, place-names, family history, sibling rivalry, conflict and its resolution. Yet the comparison between these two literatures is rarely made, and biblical translations in Old Norse-Icelandic have …
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When will I die? What is the sex of my unborn child? Which of two rivals will win a duel? As today, people in the later Middle Ages approached their uncertainties about the future, from the serious to the mundane, in a variety of ways. One of the most commonly surviving prognostic methods in medieval manuscripts is onomancy: the branch of divinatio…
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All can agree that the achievement of Moses Maimonides (d. 1204) set the standard for subsequent works of "Jewish philosophy". But just what were the contours of philosophical-scientific inquiry that Maimonides replaced? A fairly large array of diverse texts have been studied, but no comprehensive picture has yet emerged. The newly discovered Hebre…
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Lucy Barnhouse of Arkansas State University talks with Jana Byars about her new book, Hospitals in Communities of the Late Medieval Rhineland: Houses of God, Places for the Sick, out 2023 with Amsterdam University Press. From the mid-twelfth century onwards, the development of European hospitals was shaped by their claim to the legal status of reli…
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Dr. Sean Griffin's book, The Liturgical Past in Byzantium and Early Rus (Cambridge UP, 2019), takes on the question of the source materials for the Primary Chronicle, one of the most important texts for the study of medieval Russia. Griffin argues that key portions of the Chronicle have their origin in Byzantine liturgy. This thesis has broad impli…
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How are notions of justice and equality constructed in Islamic virtue ethics (akhlaq)? How are Islamic virtue ethics gendered, despite their venture into perennial concerns of how best to live a good and ethical life? These are the questions that Zahra Ayubi, an assistant professor of religion at Dartmouth college, examines in her new book Gendered…
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Guilds were prominent in medieval and early modern Europe, but their economic role has seldom been studied. In The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis (Princeton University Press, 2019), Sheilagh Ogilvie offers a wide-ranging examination of what guilds did and how they affected pre-modern economies. As Ogilvie explains, guilds were particularized…
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The Lineage of Immortals (Sanskrit Amaraugha) is the earliest account of a fourfold system of yoga in which a physical practice called Haṭha is taught as the means to a deep state of meditation known as Rājayoga. The Amaraugha was composed in Sanskrit during the twelfth century and attributed to the author Gorakṣanātha. The physical yoga practices …
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In 1290, Jews were expelled from England and subsequently largely expunged from English historical memory. Yet for two centuries they occupied important roles in mediaeval English society. England’s Jews revisits this neglected chapter of English history—one whose remembrance is more important than ever today, as antisemitism and other forms of rac…
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In War and Conflict in the Middle Ages (Polity, 2022), Dr. Stephen Morillo offers the first global history of armed conflict between 540 and 1500 or as late as 1800 CE, an age shaped by climate change and pandemics at both ends. Examining armed conflict at all levels, and ranging across China and the central Asian steppes to southwest Asia, western…
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St. Brigid is the earliest and best-known of the female saints of Ireland. In the generation after St. Patrick, she established a monastery for men and women at Kildare which became one of the most powerful and influential centres of the Church in early Ireland. The stories of Brigid's life and deeds survive in several early sources, but the most i…
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Although we often think of friendship today as an indisputable value of human social life, for thinkers and writers across late mediaeval Christian society friendship raised a number of social and ethical dilemmas that needed to be carefully negotiated. On Amistà: Negotiating Friendship in Dante’s Italy (University of Toronto Press, 2023) analyses …
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Between 1348 and 1350, Jews throughout Europe were accused of having caused the spread of the Black Death by poisoning the wells from which the entire population drank. Hundreds if not thousands were executed from Aragon and southern France into the eastern regions of the German-speaking lands. But if the well-poisoning accusations against the Jews…
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In recent decades, the study of the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantium, has been revolutionized by new approaches and more sophisticated models for how its society and state operated. No longer looked upon as a pale facsimile of classical Rome, Byzantium is now considered a vigorous state of its own, inheritor of many of Rome's features,…
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The Cidvilāsastava is one of the most comprehensive treatments of the esoteric contemplation of ritual found within the Śrīvidyā tradition and Śaiva tantra in general. This short forty-verse hymn offers esoteric knowledge and creative contemplations (bhāvanā) for critical steps in the ritual worship of Tripurasundarī. Although belonging to the Śrīv…
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In 1341 in Aragon, a Jewish convert to Christianity was sentenced to death, only to be pulled from the burning stake and into a formal religious interrogation. His confession was as astonishing to his inquisitors as his brush with mortality is to us: the condemned man described a Jewish conspiracy to persuade recent converts to denounce their newfo…
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Is contemporary international order truly a secular arrangement? Theorists of international relations typically adhere to a narrative that portrays the modern states system as the product of a gradual process of secularization that transcended the religiosity of medieval Christendom. William Bain's Political Theology of International Order (Oxford …
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Shakuntala Gawde's book Narrative Analysis of Bhagavata Purana: Selected Episodes from the Tenth Skandha (Dev Publishers, 2023) presents an analytical study of selected narratives of the tenth skandha of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa with the framework of Narratology. It checks the possibilities of interpretation of some popular narratives from Kṛṣṇa saga. …
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Custom was fundamental to mediaeval legal practice. Whether in a property dispute or a trial for murder, the aggrieved and accused would go to lay court where cases were resolved according to custom. What custom meant, however, went through a radical shift in the mediaeval period. Between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, custom went from being…
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The Life of Padma, or the Paümacariu, is a richly expressive Jain retelling in the Apabhramsha language of the famous Ramayana tale. It was written by the poet and scholar Svayambhudeva, who lived in south India around the beginning of the tenth century. Like the epic tradition on which it is based, The Life of Padma narrates Prince Rama's exile, h…
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Michael Johnston's The Middle English Book: Scribes and Readers, 1350-1500 (Oxford UP, 2023) addresses a series of questions about the copying and circulation of literature in late medieval England: How do we make sense of the variety of manuscripts surviving from this period? Who copied and disseminated these diverse manuscripts? Who read the lite…
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Tudor Networks of Power (Oxford University Press, 2023) by Dr. Ruth Ahnert & Dr. Sebastian Ahnert is the product of a groundbreaking collaboration between an early modern book historian and a physicist specialising in complex networks. Together they have reconstructed and computationally analysed the networks of intelligence, diplomacy, and politic…
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Adam Bursi’s Traces of the Prophets: Relics and Sacred Spaces in Early Islam (Edinburg University Press, 2024) uses writings by early Muslims to map a history of material objects, relics, and tombs of prophetic figures as they were conceptualized in the 8th and 9th centuries. The book draws from various genres of writings, including biographies and…
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Though commonly used today to identify a polity that lasted for over a millennium, the label “Byzantine empire” is an anachronism imposed by more recent generations. As Anthony Kaldellis explains in Romanland: Ethnicity and Empire in Byzantium (Harvard University Press, 2019), this has contributed to the denial of the ethnic identity that most deni…
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The dawn of the Tudor regime is one of most recognisable periods of English history. Yet the focus on its monarchs' private lives and ministers' constitutional reforms creates the impression that this age's major developments were isolated to halls of power, far removed from the wider populace. Royal Justice and the Making of the Tudor Commonwealth…
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War is often thought of mainly the concern of professional soldiers and maybe politicians as well. However, philosophers and theorists of varying types have addressed the issue of war in its many aspects. This is because war has numerous political, ethical, philosophical, and even legal elements. When is the right time to go to war? What is a legit…
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Santideva's 8th-century Mahayana Buddhist classic, "The Guide to the Practices of Awakening" (Bodhicaryavatara), has been a source of philosophical inspiration in the Indian and Tibetan traditions for over a thousand years. In Buddhist Ethics and the Bodhisattva Path: Santideva on Virtue and Well-Being (Bloomsbury, 2023), Stephen Harris guides us t…
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Nicholas Morton’s The Crusader States and their Neighbours: A Military History, 1099-1187 (Oxford UP, 2020) explores the military history of the medieval Near East, piecing together the fault-lines of conflict which entangled this much-contested region. This was an area where ethnic, religious, dynastic, and commercial interests collided and the ca…
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John Gower’s "Confessio Amantis" ("The Lover’s Confession") is one of the most important English works of the fourteenth century. Within its frame of the lovesick lover’s confession are well over a hundred stories, mainly derived from classical mythology, the Bible, and history which exemplify the Middle Ages. Echoing the octosyllabic line of the o…
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The history of Islamic mapping is one of the new frontiers in the history of cartography. Medieval Islamic Maps: An Exploration (University of Chicago Press, 2016) offers the first in-depth analysis of a distinct tradition of medieval Islamic maps known collectively as the Book of Roads and Kingdoms (Kitab al-Masalik wa al-Mamalik, or KMMS). Create…
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How was music important to medieval society? In Medieval Sex Lives:The Sounds of Courtly Intimacy on the Francophone Borders (Cornell UP, 2023), Prof Elizabeth Eva Leach, a Professor of Music at the University of Oxford explores the history and content of the Douce 308 manuscript to tell the story of the cultural and sexual scripts that framed cour…
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A vivid and illuminating new history--separate fact from fiction, myth from legend--exploring the early Vikings settlements in North America. Vikings are an enduring subject of fascination. The combination of adventure, mythology, violence, and exploration continues to grip our attention. As a result, for more than a millennium the Vikings have tra…
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The Illuminated Window: Stories Across Times (Reaktion, 2023) is a unique journey through stained-glass installations that spans both time and place. Diverse in technique and style, these windows speak for the communities that created them. From the twelfth to the twenty-first century, we find in the windows stories of conflict, commemoration, devo…
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Meanings of Antiquity: Myth Interpretation in Premodern Japan (Harvard UP, 2023) is the first dedicated study of how the oldest Japanese myths, recorded in the eighth-century texts Kojiki and Nihon shoki, changed in meaning and significance between 800 and 1800 CE. Generations of Japanese scholars and students have turned to these two texts and the…
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Uncovering the hidden history of Islamophobia and its surprising connections to the long-standing hatred of Jews. Hatred of Jews and hatred of Muslims have been intertwined in Christian thought since the rise of Islam. In Jewish Muslims: How Christians Imagined Islam as the Enemy (U California Press, 2023), David M. Freidenreich explores the histor…
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Triumph and Illusion (Faber & Faber, 2023) is the final volume of Jonathan Sumption's epic history of the Hundred Years War. It tells the story of the collapse of the English dream of conquest from the opening years of the reign of Henry VI, when the battles of Cravant and Verneuil consolidated their control of most of northern France, until the lo…
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Over the past seven decades, Peter Brown has transformed our collective understanding of the late Roman Empire and the European Middle Ages alike, establishing Late Antiquity (ca. 250-800 CE) as a distinctive era of creative religious, social, and intellectual ferment. This was the time of the prophet Muhammad, of Augustine of Hippo, of Byzantium’s…
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In the current context, where Vladimir Putin justifies his war against Ukraine by insisting on an inevitable, unbroken teleology that binds Kyiv to Moscow, he need to critically reexamine such interpretations is painfully evident. Christian Raffensperger and Donald Ostrowski's book The Ruling Families of Rus: Clan, Family and Kingdom (Reaktion Book…
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The Middle Ages have provided rich source material for physical and digital games from Dungeons and Dragons to Assassin's Creed. Playing the Middle Ages: Pitfalls and Potential in Modern Games (Bloomsbury, 2023) addresses the many ways in which different formats and genre of games represent the period. It considers the restrictions placed on these …
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How did medieval people think about the environments in which they lived? In a world shaped by God, how did they treat environments marked by religious difference? The Keys to Bread and Wine: Faith, Nature, and Infrastructure in Late Medieval Valencia (Cornell UP, 2022) explores the answers to these questions in Valencia in the later Middle Ages. W…
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In Sacred Foundations: The Religious and Medieval Roots of the European State (Princeton University Press, 2023), political scientist Anna Grzymała-Busse corrects a long-standing distortion in the study of state formation in Europe, writing religion back into the story and examining, at once pithily and methodically, the multiple contributions of t…
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The Power of Protocol: Diplomatics and the Dynamics of Papal Government, c. 400 – c.1600 (Cambridge University Press, 2023) by Dr. David d’Avray asks: How did the papacy govern European religious life without a proper bureaucracy and the normal resources of a state? From late Antiquity, papal responses were in demand. The 'apostolic see' took over …
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Today I talked to Roslyn Weiss, editor of Hasdai Crescas: Collected Writings (Library of the Jewish People, 2023). Hasdai Crescas spent his life in public service - as a rabbi and community leader in desperate times in 14th-century Spain. Despite having limited time for writing, he produced several important works, which Collected Writings presents…
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A princess born to the Thuringian royal house. A captive in war, forced to marry the Frankish king who killed her family. A queen, who renounced her position, received consecration as a deaconess, and took monastic vows. A religious leader, who acquired a fragment of the Cross of the Crucifixion for her convent of Holy Cross in Poitiers. And, lastl…
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Anti-blackness has until recently been a taboo topic within Arab society. This began to change when Nader Kadhem, a prominent Arab and Muslim thinker from Bahrain, published the first in-depth investigation of anti-black racism in the Arab world in 2004. This translation of the new and revised edition of Kadhem’s influential text brings the convers…
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