Politically and historically conflicted: thoughts on the Macron, May, and the Bayeux Tapestry

As everyone knows by now President Macron has agreed to loan the Bayeux Tapestry to the UK, possibly in 2022 and definitely subject to conservation decisions.* Since the announcement, I’ve been engaged in lively conversations on social media about the politics of the decision, matters of conservation and whether the Tapestry should be moved at all, as well as doing my bit to promote research and scholarship at my place of work by writing pithy comments and being interviewed by a local news channel. Such is the lot of the medievalist when their work becomes unexpectedly topical.

I am, however, genuinely conflicted about this announcement.

Continue reading “Politically and historically conflicted: thoughts on the Macron, May, and the Bayeux Tapestry”

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Normans and identity

This post is a response to some questions on Twitter about the nature of Norman history and identity, particularly

and

I responded on Twitter, but it’s not a great medium for extended discussion, so I’ll do my best here.

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Teaching charters: interaction and reconstruction in the seminar room

I have a confession to make: somewhen between the First Crusade special subject I took as an undergraduate [1] 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”

Reading and writing Hastings: the battle and its sources

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?

Continue reading “Reading and writing Hastings: the battle and its sources”

A Short History of the Normans

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.

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Stop the Dark Ages 2: letter to English Heritage

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”

Learning from children: medieval history in the classroom

This is a guest post from my good friend, fellow Normannist and primary school teacher, Dr Ewan Johnson. In it he discusses the use of the term ‘dark ages’ as being generational and demonstrates how children learning under the new national curriculum engage with history and the early middle ages in the classroom and beyond. 

Recently, having followed #stopthedarkages and related argument, I asked the students I work with when and what the Dark Ages were. Their answers varied. Some thought they were before the invention of fire or electricity, others that they were when lots of people died, when there was lots of plague, or terrible war in the trenches. When we voted on whether to study them further nobody wanted to because it would be scary, or just about war, or in one case because he was afraid of the dark. My students are seven and eight, they don’t believe in the Dark Ages yet, or much want to. Continue reading “Learning from children: medieval history in the classroom”