I watched a different BBC history glossy the other evening about The Plantagenets. This version of the Middle Ages had powerful women forging alliances and dynasties in the bedchamber and with the sword, or by cunning, or any combination of the aforementioned strategies. It had armies criss-crossing the Channel – no ferries or tunnel – and kings and princes murdering, kidnapping, ransoming each other in a transcontinental bloodbath.
My word, their soldiery, camp-followers, diplomats, envoys and spies were a well-travelled lot!
We are living in an age of revision – one only has to look at what is being offered in the UK school curriculum to see this. Approved canonical texts or lists of ‘facts’ are replacing the development of understanding and insight into processes which drive the subject matter; replacing the examination of contexts in which the knowledge itemised in the canon came to be significant.
And we live, perpetually, in an age of misogyny.
So which version of the Middle Ages is the more correct?
I’ve just finished watching a BBC programme with the title ‘A Very British Renaissance‘. Now, I admit I was expecting to have some strong reactions to this, since I came to it from the brilliant scholar David Rundle’s blog, where he’s just written a learned and funny take-down of some of the annoying assumptions therein. As he points out, this programme was dead keen to push an image of a ‘distinctively English’ period of history, during which we Brits left our insular isolation behind and began to beat the Continent at its own game. The emerging British (= English) Renaissance was a time of genius and beauty, so narrator Dr James Fox argues, an amazing advance on the benighted, crude and murky culture of the Middle Ages. It was also, I began to realize, yet another Age Without Women.
The focus of my irritation in this post is…
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