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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 3.7 out of 5 by 50.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stunning, Engaging, Eclectic My wife and I have binge-watched this amazing course. My wife, a Ph.D. medievalist, writes-- Professor Symes has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle Ages. She starts with the disintegration of the Roman Empire and ends with the 21st century, exploring not only history, religion, and art as one would but also trade, capitalism, banking, the law, and the important, but neglected role women played. With her amazing multi-linguistic skills, she lets us hear medieval texts in a variety of dialects now lost— by reading them aloud. Amazing scholarship and stunning delivery!
Date published: 2024-04-15
Rated 2 out of 5 by from too bad I really wanted to like this course. And I had planned to recommend it to my colleagues at the university where I teach (a s well as to my students). I had jumped into it with Prof Symes discussion of scholasticism and medieval science, and I thought she did an excellent job dispelling misconceptions (I teach medieval philosophy, theology, political theory, and science). But when I decided to go back and start with the first lecture, it was all downhill. In the lecture on the origins of anti-semitism she makes an ENORMOUS error by claiming that Paul saw Christianity as replacing Judaism. Quite the contrary. In the Letter to the Romans Paul insists that the covenant with the Jewish people (of whom he is a member) is irrevocable, and he struggles with this question in light of his newly found conviction that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Jewish hopes. But Paul never subscribes to the idea that faith in Jesus supersedes God's covenant with Israel. By the time I got to the lecture on holy war I decided I had had enough. Here Prof. Symes, when treating concepts like just war, consistently offers the most cynical interpretation possible of the motives of those proposing the doctrine, rather than seeing it for it was - an attempt to restrain violence. Interestingly, when discussing the crusades , she does not cite at all Jonathan Riley-Smith, perhaps the dean of crusade studies in recent times. The nuance he brings to discussion of the motivation behind the crusades would not fit well at all with Prof Syme's agenda here. I would also mention the Eurocentric character of the course - almost nothing on developments in the Eastern Roman empire or Islamic lands. What a disappointment - especially since I thought that I had finally found a course that was seriously trying to rescue the middle ages from the many misconceptions that attach to it.
Date published: 2024-03-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Brilliant Ideologue Summary: Brilliant Ideologue Favorable: 1)In many ways brilliant in its originality and learning. 2)Approach: topical, not chronological. These many topics, in turn, could supplement a typical course on medieval political history. 3) Range: Broad range of subjects, including: law, theology, universities and learning, language and literature, social history, and women’s history. She also has a strong command of the ancient history that preceded the Middle Ages. 4)Prof. Symes adds a strong female component, showing the important—yet often unsung—contributions of medieval women. 5) Formidable command of several ancient and modern languages, which she employs to quote (in translation) directly from medieval sources, so that these long-dead people can speak directly to us. She also uses her own, excellent translations of medieval texts, even managing the unusual feat of translating foreign verse into rhyming English. 6)Prof. Symes’s dissertation was on theatre history, and as she reads these many quotes, she actually performs, as she reads them in the accents of these witnesses. She sparkles as a lecturer, employing her actor’s sensibility in using her face and mannerisms to complement her well-modulated speaking voice. Unfavorable: If only she confined herself to her specialty—medieval history—this might have been a 5-star course. However, she ranges far beyond her expertise to editorialize about matters occurring up to the present day, which drop the value of the course to a 2. You soon learn that Prof. Symes’s agenda is not merely to describe the Middle Ages, but rather to rectify the errors of people who have misunderstood and mischaracterized medieval history, as well as to aggressively re-write the history of the Modern Era (1500 to the Present). The result is a litany of errors, both big and small. Note: Many of the below-listed problems do not appear in the anodyne book that accompanies the course, but rather in her lectures. Major Historical Problems Lecture 1: In this introductory lecture, Prof. Symes states that “our institutions of government” stem from the Middle Ages. Actually, the republican form of government dates from ancient times, not the Middle Ages. America’s Founding Charters owe much more to the Enlightenment of the 18th Century and its ideas of popular sovereignty than to any medieval inheritance. Later, Symes assures the listener that theocracy was not prevalent in the Middle Ages, but she avoids the subject of theocracy thereafter in the course. In addition, she omits any mention of the Papal States, the large swath of land in central Italy that was under papal, theocratic rule from its founding in 755 C.E. until its end and incorporation into the Italian state in 1870. Finally, she insists that there was “no fall of Rome,” when in fact it has been accepted by historians for generations that the Roman Empire in the West ended in 476 C.E. In line with this thinking, she shows a ludicrously false map that shows a united, Western Roman Empire juxtaposed against an Islamic world that did not exist in 476 C.E. Lecture 14: Prof. Symes goes far beyond her area of expertise when she editorializes about the evils of the nation-state, a digression that takes her up to 1945. It is true that nation-states have had their challenges, but they also fulfilled a dream of many peoples to rule themselves and not to be ruled by foreigners. She may have a critique, but she does not have an alternative, unless it is for people to submit again to oppressive, multi-national empires, like Russia or China. Lecture 19: Prof. Symes does an excellent job of describing the ancient and medieval contributions to science and the scientific method, but she overreaches by claiming that these medieval contributions were so epochal, that one should place the Scientific Revolution in the Middle Ages, and not in the 16th and 17th centuries as has been generally accepted for decades. This assertion appears in the lecture, not in the book. However, this argument is problematic, because many of these medieval advances were forgotten or suppressed at the time, and they had to be re-discovered or re-invented in the modern era. Finally, she states that Protestant historians have tried to minimize the importance of the Middle Ages. But, do all Protestant historians or only some minimize the Middle Ages? Lecture 28: Prof. Symes is highly critical of the French Revolution, not realizing that it constituted a huge breakthrough for the French people, not only in terms of governance, but also socioeconomically. The Revolution ended feudalism, broke up the large, aristocratic- and church-owned landed estates and re-distributed this land to the peasants. The result was the creation of a large class of landed farmers who became one of the backbones of modern French society. Lecture 30: On the subject of race, she claims that racial differences are basically a fiction, which is a contemporary “woke” concept. This claim, however, defies common sense. Lecture 31: The most incendiary parts of this diatribe do not appear in the book, but in the video, she draws a direct line from Renaissance humanism through the 18th century Enlightenment to the white supremacists of the 21st century, claiming that they were all expressions of white male European racism. This is “historical presentism,” judging people of the past by today’s values. This is also historically unbalanced, completely lacking in objectivity—an ideal advanced by the white male Europeans she abhors. This is also historical nonsense. Finally, this lecture demonstrates that today’s “woke” intellectuals share many of the same intellectual beliefs as today’s conservatives, who share Symes’s distaste for the Enlightenment of the 18th century, despite the fact that the Enlightenment provided the main inspiration for America’s Founding Charters (Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights) and system of government. Lecture 32: In her lecture on gender, Prof. Symes parrots the entire “woke” idea that gender is not biological, but rather “performative.” This is a subject on which she is passionate, but most of the passion is in the lecture, not the book. Again, she judges people of the past by the standards of today’s “woke” universities Lecture 36: We learn here that the widely-admired 20th century Christian writer C.S. Lewis was a misogynist and an anti-Semite, but she provides no proof for these surprising claims. Prof. Symes’s ends the course by asserting that people of the 21st century need to understand the Middle Ages in order to understand the future of the world. This is a final and fitting example of her overreach. In sum: Prof. Symes romanticizes the Middle Ages by making them seem more attractive than modern times, though few of us would have actually wanted to live then. Prof. Symes’s thought trend has found adherents among today’s Christian nationalists, who espouse the idea that there should be a union of church and state—a kind of theocracy—as in some places in the Middle Ages. Minor Errors of Fact: Lecture 4. Symes reaches back to the history of the early Christian church to claim that Jesus’s apostles saw it as a Jewish sect, and that it took St. Paul to lead the outreach to non-Jews. In fact, this assertion is false, as one can read plainly in The Book of Acts, chapters 8, 10, and 11, when St. Peter and other apostles made the conscious decision to spread the Gospel to non-Jews. Lecture 6. Oops! The supposed portrait of the 12th century German emperor Henry IV is actually of King Henry IV of France, who ruled from 1589 to 1610. Lecture 7. Martin Luther was not “voraciously sensual” as Symes says. Luther was married to one woman to whom he was faithful. Nor is there any record of his having engaged in other sexual experiences. Lecture 12. French king Louis XVI was executed in 1793, not in 1792, as she stated. Lecture 13. There is no evidence that French king Louis XIV was a protégé of Cardinal Richelieu, as she stated. Richelieu died when the young Louis was only four years old. Lecture 14. The Teutonic Knights pushed eastwards, not westwards, as she stated. Lecture 16. Denmark did not “become an independent nation separate from Norway in 1814.” In fact, the reverse was true. Denmark ruled over Norway from 1386 to 1814 and was therefore independent all along. Lecture 19. She stated that Constantinople was conquered by the Turks in 1454, when it was actually 1453. Lecture 28. She claimed that Poland disappeared as a state when it was partitioned twice, in 1792 and 1793. Actually, the Third Partition of Poland in 1795 marked the end of the Polish state. Lecture 28. She spoke of “revolutions” in France in the 1830s, when there was actually only a single revolution in the year 1830. Lecture 35. Symes mentions the Battle of Crecy as occurring in “1345-46,” when it actually occurred on a single day: August 26, 1346.
Date published: 2024-02-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting material, woke bias, painful accents The material is generally very interesting. She clearly knows her stuff. There is some woke bias in the form of feminism and a pro-Islam agenda. Most painful for me were the fake accents she loves to adopt while reading out bits of text. I found this unendurable and had to skip some bits because of it.
Date published: 2024-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thoroughly informative and thought-provoking I generally prefer 'documentaries' with lots of footage, even if still shots of locations. But the subject matter is highly interesting to me, so I watched the intro episode/lecture. Professor Carol Symes provided excellent arguments about how we, in current times, unfairly denigrate the Middle Ages (for long, referred to by the epithet "Dark Ages"), during which much of which is structurally integrated in modern life actually originated. Topic after topic, she provided a thorough discussion about how they began during the Middle Ages, complete with the context of what was happening that made things happen, anecdotes about specific people and quotations from historical records - often in their original language. The topics for each lecture ran from the good, the bad and the ugly (hello, it's humanity being discussed). Some of those topics have evolved to better serve humanity (hospitals, universities, books, art - as we know them). Some have become indelible in our psyches in a more romanticized fashion (chivalry, courtship dynamics). Some were social poisons which became deeply engrained and continue manifesting horrifically (ethnic racism, repression of women). Politics and religion were discussed in context with the topics being reviewed, but generally in a neutral presentation of the logic being imposed or/and resisted, and the outcomes. But this was not a course in politics. Neither was it a justification of religion, although certainly enough was provided to understand the very central role that the Catholic Church assumed in the vacuum of unifying leadership that occurred after the fall of Rome. Having viewed the entire series, I feel the course does exactly what it promises: demonstrates the Medieval origins of many aspects of modern life. The qualifier is that it is Western European and (now) Western Hemisphere 'modern life' being addressed. While there are some references to influences from Asia/India/Middle Eastern cultures and contributions (especially in writing, math and sciences) this course doesn't go into great depth - but does call out many salient points: the 'number' zero, paper-making, university structures, etc. African cultures and also native cultures from what are now called "The Americas" aren't figured into the series - which, again, 'ties back' to Medieval times in Europe. To me, the course wasn't too scant, as a commenter here complains. One could view it as introductory on the topic, for which each chapter could easily consume a semester's (and more) study. Neither did I find any of the material 'left-leaning' or 'highly biased', as other commenters complained. At no point did I ever hear the professor say her outlook is the rule against which all interpretation is measured. Rather, she repeatedly emphasizes that all information should be 'studied' - not simply accepted at face value and provides many examples of where doing so landed people into trouble with the local rulers. She also points out that the material can be used as a launching pad for deeper study and introspection since all presentations must, by nature be limited. Another benefit of this series is how it will be excellent reference while I continue studying the Western Literary Canon. Many of the authors and philosophers who wrote the works are mentioned in the series (Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and many more).
Date published: 2024-02-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Lesson in How History is Turned into Woke Ideology Every episodes has a progressive, woke. Two blatant examples in the first six episodes: quoting Howard Zinn’s version of Columbus’s Diary and declaring Bush 43 War on Terror led to violation of Geneva Convention. But, Zinn deformed Columbus beyond recognition, and one should read the Geneva Conventions before accusing POTUS of violating them (yes it plural, there’s more than one).
Date published: 2024-02-20
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
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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.


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.


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
The Medieval Legacy


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