Yvonne Seale

Making Women Matter, One Medieval Manuscript at a Time

Category: Links

Medieval History Podcasts

Podcasts are my companion on my walk to work in the morning, and my frequent diversion during some of the household chores of which I’m not so fond. (I know laundry has to be folded… but then again, does it?) Whether you’re a walker, a laundry folder, or just someone looking for something to listen to, here’s a round-up of some great podcasts that delve into the Middle Ages.

Medieval History for Fun and Profit

Drs. Alice Rio and Alice Taylor are the hosts of this podcast, professional medieval historians with the stated goal of answering “everything you’ve always wanted to know about the Middle Ages but were afraid to ask!”

This means that they discuss both the life and writings of Dhuoda, a ninth-century Frankish noblewoman and author who wrote a guide to life for her young son that was heavy on intellectual and theological references, but also more everyday fare like what medieval people found funny, and whether they had pets.

You can find episodes here at their website, or download from iTunes.


In Our Time

The venerable In Our Time is now in its twentieth year, and although it’s not solely focused on the Middle Ages (or indeed on history at all), host Melvyn Bragg has gruffly presided over many episodes with a medieval theme. Each episode brings together a panel of experts, which means you get lots of different angles on the same topic and occasionally some excellent disagreement.

Personal favourites include the episodes on the twelfth-century Renaissance (the best century); on Hildegard of Bingen, a German abbess and polymath now recognised as a Doctor of the Church; and on the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, queen first of France and then of England, who helped to shape the history of both nations.

You can find the medieval-specific episodes of In Our Time on this page, or download the podcast from Stitcher or iTunes.


Saga Thing

Ask most people what they associate with the word “medieval”, and the chances are good that they’ll mention the Vikings. Yet for all their ubiquity in pop culture—like the many references to Norse myth in the Marvel superhero movies—the literature produced by the Vikings and their medieval descendants is perhaps less well known, at least outside of Scandinavia.

In Saga Thing, medieval literature specialists Drs. Andrew Pfrenger and John Sexton read and review the Icelandic sagas one at a time, breaking them down according to literary themes and historical context, but also in terms of other vital categories like body count, best nicknames, and best death or maiming. What more could you want from a saga-centric podcast?

Download the episodes at their site or from Stitcher or iTunes.


The Human Circus

The subtitle for this podcast series is “Journeys in the Medieval World”, and host Devon Field brings listeners along on trips with some of the best-travelled people of the Middle Ages, providing a welcome reminder that medieval Europe wasn’t hermetically sealed off from the rest of the world. The Human Circus covers well-known figures—like the thirteenth-century Venetian Marco Polo who travelled to China and the court of Kublai Khan—but also more obscure ones—like the Bavarian Johann Schiltberger, who left home on Crusade in 1394 and didn’t return for some thirty years.

Episodes are available for download at the podcast website (where they’re helpfully accompanied by a further reading list), or from Stitcher or iTunes.


Past Perfect!

Central European University has an entire radio station devoted to the Middle Ages, playing medieval and Renaissance music, and a weekly talk show about medieval and early modern European history and culture. CEU Medieval Radio is also home to a podcast, Past Perfect!, in which historian Christopher Mielke discusses a variety of topics with his guests, from the Crusades to archaeozoology to medieval urine sampling. (Now there’s a topic designed to pique the interest.)

You can find the podcast’s archives here, or download episodes from Stitcher.


Know of other good podcasts with a medieval theme? Feel free to leave a recommendation in the comments below!

History Carnival 165

Welcome to the 165th instalment of the History Carnival, a monthly showcase of some of the best recent blogging on historical topics.

The Past in the Present

We are living in interesting times, as the euphemism goes, and historians are doing valiant work at helping us to better understand and interpret them. Alban Bargain-Villéger digs past the myths to get at the historical context of the 2017 French presidential elections, while Beatrix Hoffman shows that the “peculiar American way of health politics” has a tangled, gendered history dating back more than a century. Westenley Alcenat looks at historical amnesia in the Age of Trump, and situates the new president’s worldview as “part of a[n American] legacy that mirrors the Jeffersonian ideals of Herrenvolk nationalism.”

Is international intervention for humanitarian reasons ever justified? There’s little consensus in political responses to the current Syrian crisis—nor were opinions any more united in the nineteenth century, as Glenda Sluga shows through her examination of the life and career of the aristocrat Dorothea, Princess von Lieven, an advocate for religious humanitarianism.

Detail of a portrait of Dorothea, Princess Lieven (1785-1857) by Sir Thomas Laurence. [Tate Gallery]


The Marvellous Middle Ages

The images in Elizabeth Wilson’s post about the penis tree in medieval art mean that you probably won’t want to read it in most workplaces, but it makes for excellent reading if you’ve ever wondered what made a phallus wander in the Middle Ages.

Marital breakdown was as much a fact of life in medieval Europe as it is in the modern world—but for medieval Catholics, divorce was not an option and annulments were expensive and difficult to obtain. Drawing on the holdings of the British National Archives, Claire Kennan writes about the unhappy end of the thirteenth-century marriage of Alice de la Marche and Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester.

Cultural contact across vast distances was also a fact of life in the medieval world. As part of a series at The Public Medievalist on race and racism in the Middle Ages, Adam Simmons explores the presence of Africans in medieval Europe and the Nubian king who encountered participants in the Fourth Crusade.

The Queen of Sheba, from a Bohemian manuscript, ca. 1402-05. Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Göttingen, 2 Cod. Ms. Philos. 63, Cim., fol. 122r.


Health and the Body

In 2016, the AIDS epidemic was officially declared “over” in Australia, but as Cheryl Ware shows, the lives of many have been forever changed by the virus and the accompanying stigma. Bearing witness to the history of how people dealt with HIV/AIDS is a necessary task, if one that is still painful and uncomfortable for many. Jennifer Evans also deals with an aspect of the history of medicine that is often glossed over: the use of contraceptives and abortifacients in early modern Europe.

Paul Stepansky contributes a three-part series on the American nurses of World War One, their duties in the field, and the particular challenges they faced.

And would you be willing to try Count Rumford’s recipe for “a cheap soup as much as will feed sixteen or twenty people”? I have to say that it sounds about as appetising as sitting down to a bowlful of wallpaper paste, but many in the nineteenth century thought it was a sure fire solution to the problem of widespread hunger.

Nurses of the American Red Cross supply lunch to soldiers at a canteen in Bordeaux, France, in 1918. [US National Archives]


Historiography and the Historian’s Work

There are lots of challenging questions in this section of the Carnival! How do—and should—two famous texts in feminist theory, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, understand one another? Kali Myers delves into the history of academic translation. Is it possible to write a historical “non-fiction novel”? Judith Armstrong reflects on her writing trajectory.

Pedagogical and interpretive challenges, too: Michael Leroy Oberg talks about the responsibilities of history teachers, and reflects on how to teach grief as a force in Native American history. Sarah Bond challenges the practice of white-washing statues from the Classical past: the ancient Mediterranean was a more diverse and colourful place than some false constructions of the past would have us believe.

And if you’ve ever wondered what a historian’s work day might look like, Frances Clarke talks about the joys of international collaboration, while Deena J. González discusses her groundbreaking work in Chicana history.

Painted wooden tondo from Antinoupolis, ca. 130-150CE, showing two young men from Roman Egypt. Egyptian Museum Cairo CG 33267.


The Fleet(ing), the Forgotten, and the Newly Famous

As horrendous as war and racial discrimination are, an awareness of their horrors is often shockingly slight in the popular consciousness. The Bataan Death March of 1942 was one of the great atrocities in a war that didn’t want for them, but as Peter Mansoor points out, few Americans today are aware of this incident or its lessons. Jaimee A. Swift discusses an aspect of Nazi Germany that’s often forgotten: how Afro-Germans, and people of African descent living in Germany, were treated by the regime. Heribert von Feilitzsch writes about a recent anniversary which also received comparatively little attention: April 1917 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the United States’ entry into the First World War.

In lighter news of historical rediscoveries, the historic Schuyler Mansion in upstate New York is getting a new moment in the spotlight thanks to the success of the musical Hamilton. And did you know you can walk through modern London without ever being aware that a river flows beneath your feet? The River Fleet, now hidden beneath pavement and asphalt, has for centuries been (in)famously linked with the city’s less than savoury need for large-scale waste disposal.

The daughter of a German woman and an African soldier who had been stationed in the Rhineland after World War One, shown with a group of other teenage girls, ca. 1936. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 74845/Library of Congress.

History Carnival 155

Header Image: Detail of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, “The Fight Between Carnival and Lent” (1559). Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

I’m delighted to host this round of the History Carnival—maybe not quite as riotous as the Bruegel picture above, but just as full of interesting things to explore, from historiography, to faith, to labour, the body, and unusual uses for a beetroot.

"The past and present merge to meet us here."

“The past and present merge to meet us here”: the imagery in Beyoncé’s latest album draws heavily on historical events.

Approaching the Past

Beyoncé’s recently released visual album, Lemonade, has sparked a lot of discussion. Lakisha Michelle Simmons explores how it critiques histories of the United States that omit black women, and the historical significance of filming Lemonade on the site of a former slave plantation in Louisiana.

Jerry Bannister reflected on a conference on Canadian history which he attended, and the benefits and pitfalls of national and transnational approaches to history. Is there a risk of “pouring old American and British wine into new theoretical bottles”?

Daina Berry explored the new TV series Underground, which follows the story of a group of enslaved people who made a daring escape from a plantation in Georgia in the 1850s. Can a show like this further a public conversation about slavery and its complexities? In a similar vein, Ken Owen tackles current Broadway hit Hamilton, and asks if a catchy tune makes hagiography acceptable.

Meanwhile, Laura Sangha kicked off a series of blog posts on periodisation in history, (use this tag to find the whole series) which explore how and why we chop history up into digestible chunks, and what consequences this has for how we think of the past.

Two Jewish men from 19th century Thessaloniki, Greece. [Source]

Two Jewish men from 19th century Thessaloniki, Greece. [Source]

Recording Faith

The Portuguese convent of Nossa Senhora do Bom Successo, despite its name and location, is the oldest surviving house of Irish Dominican sisters in the world. Bronagh McShane explores its long history and wonderfully preserved cloister complex.

In 1917, a fire rampaged through the Greek city of Thessaloniki, destroying its Jewish quarter. Joseph Leidy explores the responses of the diasporic Jewish community to the catastrophe, and argues that the ensuing debate shows “Salonica’s Jewish community at a critical juncture in its incorporation into the Greek nation-state.”

Nancy Mavroudi argues that the women of the Hospitaller Order were not “merely” nuns, but active participants in the life of their religious order—a much needed corrective to the characterisation of the Knights Hospitaller as solely male because it was a military order.

Digging Into the Archives

Sarah Bond works out some facts and figures of the pre-modern book trade—would you pay the equivalent of a day’s wages for a single page?

Leaving a book or notepad unattended near a small child is just asking for it to be scribbled on—and things weren’t much different in the Victorian era. Alun Withey blogs about some charming children’s doodles which he came across in a set of notes on medical lectures.

Emily Suzanne Clark asks about favourite primary sources to help teach the history of religion in the U.S.—do you have favourite images, documents, databases or archives to add to the list?

This beautiful purple velvet dress is believed to have been made by Elizabeth Keckley for Mary Todd Lincoln. Smithsonian COLL.MTLDRS.005003

This purple velvet dress is believed to have been made by Elizabeth Keckley for Mary Todd Lincoln. Smithsonian COLL.MTLDRS.005003

And over at “Not Even Past”, Chukwuemeka Agbo examines archival material linked to the burial of writer Amos Tutuola Odegbami and what it tells us about Yoruba culture and Christianity in post-colonial Nigeria.

Enterprising Women

History is full of examples of women who worked at jobs that aren’t thought of as traditionally female. Case in point, “the indomitable Catherine Murdoch” who served as keeper of the lighthouse at Rondout, NY, for half a century.

The Smithsonian’s blog shares the story of Elizabeth Keckley, a nineteenth-century African-American entrepreneur whose career “gives us a rare glimpse into the entwined histories of African American business, religion, and philanthropy.”

Over at Dianne Hall’s blog, we get a look at some of the ordinary women who did extraordinary things during the Easter Rising of 1916 in Ireland.

Kim Dramer looks back at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 and the 146 people—mostly female garment workers—who lost their lives in it, and asks how this tragedy can still be a catalyst for labour rights activism, a century later.

More Than a Spoonful of Sugar Needed

The herb betony—a "weapon against the devil." BL Egerton 747 f. 14r

The herb betony—a “weapon against the devil.” BL Egerton 747 f. 14r

Worried that you might have the pox? Never fear, the Early Modern Medicine blog can help you out. I just hope you have some beetle fat handy. If that seems like too lightweight a treatment, the Hoxsie blog looks at some nineteenth-century New York advertisements promising cures for all kinds of venereal diseases, using only the finest of mercury.

The chances of getting a venereal disease from a beetroot are almost non-existent, but I still wouldn’t advice the course of action adopted by this young man as an, ahem, “cure for piles” in 1840s Virginia.

And if those posts leave you feeling a little queasy, you can always try an Anglo-Saxon detox diet.

Keep an eye out over at the History Carnival site for the next monthly showcase! You can nominate new historically focused blog posts using this form.




The Carnival Returns

[Header image: Montpellier, B. u. Médecine, H 196, f. 088]

Next month, this blog will host the History Carnival—a monthly showcase of the best in blog writing about history. It’s hosted at a different blog each month to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives. Check out the History Carnival website for examples of examples of past carnivals and lots of great things links to explore.

You can submit nominations until April 30—I look forward to reading and sharing some of the best in online history writing!

You can nominate by using this form, sending me an email, leaving a comment on this post, or getting in touch on Twitter.

History Carnival 144

Image: A celebratory dance in the margins of “The Romance of Alexander”. Bodleian Library, MS 264, f.21v. [Source]

It’s my pleasure to host the 144th instalment of the History Carnival, and to dig into some of the best recent historical blogging.

From the Material…

6a013486c64e2e970c01bb08029b65970dAt the National Museums of Scotland blog, conservator Miriam McLeod shares the process of restoring a flapper dress from the Age of Jazz. It took 150 hours of painstaking work to get the dress (pictured right) ready for display. Erin Doane of the Chemung County Historical Society recounts the discovery of a cache of theatrical makeup which dates to around the same time as this dress.

Tim Abbott inaugurated his new blog about the material culture of late colonial America with a post on uncovering the story behind the stolen coat of an officer from New Jersey. Danielle Thom of the Victoria and Albert Museum looked at roughly the same time period, exploring how material objects can help reveal queer cultures in eighteenth-century Britain in “The Macaroni and his Ancestors.”

… to the Medieval…

Some medieval bloggers were also exploring odd things to do with the body. On the University of Sheffield’s “History Matters” blog, Robyn Parker explores medieval stories about swallowing spiders—if you shuddered at the thoughts of that, rest assured that it’s a cultural aversion that’s of very long standing. Over at “Unusual Tales”, Rebecca Browett tells the tale of Foldbriht, a zombie monk from Anglo-Saxon England.

Meanwhile, Lori Jones, writing for the “Global Medieval Studies” blog, traced how a medieval manuscript image of leprosy, wrongly identified as showing victims of the Black Death, has spread online like… well, like the plague, I suppose. “Getting the Words Out (and Back In): What to do When a Plague Image is Not an Image of Plague.”

…and the Musical

Kristan Tetens explores the Georgian penchant for stories set in magical, exotic places in her post, “Scheherazade on the English Stage: The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments and the Georgian Repertoire.” Hundreds of melodramas, operas, and pantomines were written in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries based on the adventures of Sinbad, Aladdin, and Ali Baba.

From Medicine…

In eighteenth- and ninteenth-century England, those who could afford it had access to what was then the cutting-edge of medical technology—even if the effectiveness of that technology was somewhat dubious. Katherine Allen looked at the kind of experience an elite visitor could expect at the spas of Bath during the Georgian period in her post, “Spa Culture, Recipes, and Eighteenth-Century Elite Healthcare.” At the “Panacea” blog, Samantha Sandassie traced the introduction of acupuncture to Victorian England in a two-part post. [Part 1] [Part 2] (The whole concept of galvano-acupuncture makes me shudder.)

Those who were poorer were often less fortunate when it came to access to medical care. Caroline Rance recounted the story of Maria Owen, “The Bogus Lady Doctor” of late Victorian Birmingham. None of her patients seem to have fared well.

… to the Modern…

6a013486c64e2e970c01bb080fb8a1970dHopping across the Atlantic we find Philip Byrd at the Smithsonian’s blog looking at “Baseball behind barbed wire“—how the game allowed Japanese-Americans interned during WWII to have some recreation and also to assert their identity as Americans. (Pictured left: the baseball team from the Gila River Relocation Camp)

Robert Whitaker looks at what he argues is perhaps the deepest and most durable connection between Britain and the United States: “The Secret Anglo-American Empire of Intelligence.” David Thackeray, Marc-William Palen, and Richard Toye teamed up to provide the useful post, “12 Digital Research Suggestions for Dissertations on the History of Modern Britain & the British Empire.” Elsewhere on the same blog, Marc-William Palen debunks the idea that protective tariffs, rather than slavery, were the cause of the U.S. Civil War.

… and Meeting the Public

Teaching and public engagement are both important aspects of the work of professional historians, and our final two posts grapple with these issues. In “Why Teaching the Constitution Matters“, Sean Robertson argues for the importance of teaching the U.S. constitution in a historical context in order to create a well-informed voting public. In “Wolf Hall and the historians: What can historical drama do?“, Carys Brown looks at the challenges of doing history in public.


And that’s it for the Carnival for another month! Keep an eye out over at George Campbell Gosling’s blog, which will host the next round on May 1.

The Carnival is Coming…

Image above: Detail from “Allegory of Good Government” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, 1338-40 [Source]

Next month, this blog will host the History Carnival. The History Carnival is a monthly showcase of blog writing about history. It’s hosted at a different blog each month to provide a variety of approaches and perspectives. Check out the History Carnival website for examples of examples of past carnivals and lots of great things links to explore.

You can submit nominations until March 31—I look forward to reading and sharing some of the best in online history writing!

You can nominate by using this form, sending me an email, leaving a comment on this post, or getting in touch on Twitter.

Iowa Forum for Graduate Medievalists – Relaunch

The Iowa Forum for Graduate Medievalists is an organisation whose goal is to support the scholarship and professionalization of graduate students at the University of Iowa with an interest in medieval studies. It’s been sadly inactive for the last few years, but I and some of my colleagues in the Department of History are getting a good old-fashioned revival underway.

The first step in this is relaunching our website, with updated information and some new ways of finding out what medievalists at Iowa are up to. You can click through to our website to find out more about us there, follow us on our Facebook page or add us on Twitter.

We hope to have a members’ meeting soon to decide on the direction in which to take the Forum—I hope we can make it a wonderful resource.

Humanities Story Corps

Humanities Story Corps is a joint initiative of the University of Iowa and Humanities Iowa, which seeks to promote community dialogue while demonstrating the value of the humanities in our daily lives. I was asked by the team to contribute to Story Corps as an interviewee and was delighted to do so.

I spoke about what the study of history means to me, and how my pursuit of my studies—across, at last count, three continents—has shaped my life. You can find my interview streaming online, along with those conducted with other members of the University of Iowa Department of History, at the departmental website.

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