gillpolack (gillpolack) wrote,


This post is full of my sluggish thoughts. This isn't at all fair to Carnivalesque readers or the thoughtfulness of a very interesting range of bloggers this month. Some of you possibly expected wit and science-fiction from me thanks to a stray comment by Blogenspiel. You might have got all that and Sunday lunch too, except that I just returned from a science fiction convention. Alas, this means I am all out of wit, but have put in an order for more.

I like the way bloggers have taken to writing potted biographies - it reminds at least a few of the non-history-addicted that the past was a shocking place that contained live human beings, full of interest and fallibility. They know this in theory, but reminders come in handy.

Let's start with snowballs. Snowballs are fascinating. This is because - where I live - they are rare and shortlasting. Just like Canute? Maybe yes, maybe no. You'll have to check him out here if you can't work out his rarity and consequences without a quick bio.

Quite different is Jeri Westerson's introduction to Gilles de Rais. The stuff of novels, but not instantly likeable. Unless whoever committed his life to record hated him. In which case he still might not be likeable, but maybe for different reasons.

Some individuals seem to become more and more obscure as time passes. They are transformed into symbols of personal freedom to be celebrated with great aplomb by masked Australians in popular movies. Mark Rayner looks at the Fifth of November from a similar angle to V for Vendetta. He forgets Guy Fawkes and the plotters and individuals and introduces us to Thomas Cadwell, who had been close enough to see the Houses of Parliament explode when he was a small boy.

It's impossible to have biographies without a little theory, so here's a summary of a talk on women in origin myths. This blog entry also closes a loop - we make an awful lot of decisions on what's worth remembering from the patterns in our reading. What happens in the stories we tell (well, just a few of them) is here and how people occasionally react to those stories is here.

Why is some of the most interesting history the stuff that we prefer to forget? Like Islam in the US? Like odd little outbreaks of violence as a result of far-distant modern war? Do we recreate our past every time we are astonished by something big we had overlooked, or do we find reasons to repress paradigm shifts? The story of Moslems in the US is a fascinating one, while the nationalistic fervour of Turkish icecream vendors is just sad.

Kids like castles. Big kids, small kids and every other size of kid. When my students think about Medieval towns they always seem to start with a castle and then later worry about non-essentials like food and water. It comes as no surprise to find out that a castle is being built from scratch in France. It's not the first and it won't be the last. And yes, I sound cynical and jaded, but that's just hiding the fact I want to cheer them on. Kids - after all - like castles.

Only mildly Medieval is the recent volume of Fornvännen, but the mildly Medieval includes a runic inscription, an excavation report, and some interesting thoughts on the value of understanding small archaeological finds. It has lots of fascinating older stuff and is worth taking the time to check out. If you want thoughts on ancient money then you want to look here.

And that's all I have for you. If you liked what you read, please send rain.

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