A few thoughts on the significance of studying the Middle Ages

I am currently working on an essay discussing the significance of studying the Middle Ages and I thought I would share a few ideas that have come out of it.

  • People who lived in the middle ages are just as human as those alive today. This means we have a shared humanity and were trying to understand the world around us and often ask similar questions in our culture items like art and literature but through the lens of our own society. This helps us not only understand the society in the middle ages but our own through comparing them.

  • Writers and artists of the middle ages often used the past, as we do today, as a setting for their works. Twelfth to fourteenth century France and England, for example, used the heroes of the past to reinforce their warrior culture. The ideals these heroes espoused in their literature and were shown doing in their art were based completely on the society in the twelfth to fourteenth centuries in England and France and not the time periods their heroes came from. In addition, the societal norms that these culture items reinforced were done so to keep the elite in power, making people invested in creating genealogies with these heroes in them. Not unlike today where people who are still interested in tracing their genealogy ( I can trace one side of my family back the sixth trip of the Mayflower). This realization helps to create a shared humanity between today and the middle ages. 

  • A large number of people today have a distaste for history. They don't get to see the shared humanity of history. They have just memorized dates and events, never getting past that point to where you can ask why. Academic history can be intimidating to the average person, creating a need for a bridge from academia to the general public. Studying the middle ages informs us of humanity and provides answers questions we have today but it is more impactful when shared broadly. My goal in having this website and continuing my research is to try and find a way to bridge that gap so that history is no longer a vague past but part of our identity and humanity.  

  • Doing all of this can help with the appropriate of the middle ages (and other histories) for use by people who twist the history to their own means. Such as white supremacists and politicians who might use it create an identity that serves their own purpose, often at the expense of others.

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