Last year a group of medievalists lobbied English Heritage to stop using the term ‘dark ages’ to apply to the early medieval period. We have been successful and you can my account of it on the History Matters blog hosted by University of Sheffield. Thank you to the lovely colleagues at Sheffield for hosting the post.
Originally published in September 2008 on ‘On boundaries’ (now defunct). Reivers is still my partner in all things, but now keeps his own blog under his real name somewhere on GitHub.
I haven’t mentioned Orderic Vitalis for at least a couple of months, so it is about time he had another post. Reivers and I have recently been on holiday in Normandy, causing one colleague to ask if I’d had a productive time in the archives as he couldn’t understand why I went on holiday to an area I research. I didn’t spend any time in archives, but I did visit, with Reivers in tow, many sites and museums. One of those was St-Evroult, home of Orderic.
This blog is called ‘Landscapes of the Normans’ and so far, there’s been very little about landscapes, though rather more about Normans. As other articles and projects are now done and away, I can finally get on with drawing together the disparate threads of the landscapes project, send in the book proposal and write it . Recently, a modernist friend, Matthew Kelly, wrote a long post relating to his current research on the nature state, national parks, and rewilding asking ‘what is the countryside for?’ His answer was nine-fold and for me posed interesting questions about definitions, the longue durée, and historical responses to the problem of people living on this planet.
I have a confession to make: somewhen between the First Crusade special subject I took as an undergraduate  and teaching my own undergrad special, I fell out of love with charters. I’m not sure I was ever really in love with them, but at some stage they fell, like Domesday Book, into that category of documents labelled ‘hard to teach due to perceived dullness’. Ever since I’ve been puzzling over how to make teaching charters a bit more interactive than just reading and distinguishing their sections. Continue reading “Teaching charters: interaction and reconstruction in the seminar room”
Today marks the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, famously noted by Sellar and Yeatman as one of only two memorable dates in British history. It is an event that has done much to shape the field in which I work, setting the marker by which the Normans were judged, informing the research agenda and leading to seemingly endless debates on what happened on that fateful October day. At fist glance we have a plethora of sources that provide wonderful accounts, yet none of them agree, except as to the outcome. And why should they?
It has been a busy term what with marking, exams, Leeds International Medieval Congress session to prepare for and stopping the dark ages. Significantly it also saw the publication of two books that I have been working on for a long time, the first was A Short History of the Normans for I.B.Tauris as part of the ‘Short Histories’ series. This was a new departure for me in that the book is explicitly aimed at non-specialists. What follows here is a cross between reflection on the process and what I’d wish I’d known before I started.
English Heritage responded to my last post with an invitation to discuss alternatives to the Dark Ages as a term to describe the period 400-1066. Here is the text of the letter I sent co-signed by some of my lovely colleagues who have contributed to this debate. Continue reading “Stop the Dark Ages 2: letter to English Heritage”