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”
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”
Stop the Dark Ages! is perhaps an unlikely slogan, but it is one that caused a bit of a flurry among medievalists last week in response to English Heritage’s defence of the term in relation to interpretation of historic sites. #stopthedarkages has its roots in the recent reinterpretation of Tintagel as outlined by Dr Tehmina Goskar here. So why are medievalists, myself included, rather exasperated by its use?
I’ve failed again on the synchronised walking. At least in February I made it out of the door if not at the right time; this time the dreaded lurgy is keeping me indoors, so I’m peregrinating at the right time, just not physically. This isn’t as daft as it sounds and has sound historical precedents.
A friend linked to this piece of news from Norway (in translation; French report here): specialists in DNA analysis have opened the tombs of Dukes Richard I and Richard II of Normandy in order to determine their origins. The reason the specialists feel this needs to be done lies in the differing traditions of how Rollo (grandfather of Richard I) arrived in what is now Normandy in the first place: at its simplest, as recorded in the newspaper, was Rollo Danish or Norwegian? The actual questions should be does this change our understanding of history? Is it good history? Is it good science?