Lisa's Reviews > Terry Jones' Medieval Lives

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives by Terry Jones
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's review
Aug 26, 14

bookshelves: 2014, history, kindle-baby, non-fic, own, into-the-mud, social-commentary
Read from August 23 to 25, 2014, read count: 1

4.5 really...

For the longest time, everything I ‘knew’ about Medieval England I'd learnt from Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

Now that I’ve discovered that history isn’t the boring list of dates my teachers made it out to be, and lacking the thousands of pounds required to go and get a proper education, it’s only fitting to turn back to a Python for my further education. And what a brilliant education it is – chock full of fascinating facts and humour, and providing a sturdy foundation for further reading.

Taking a look at the many stereotypes associated with the age (peasant, minstrel, outlaw, monk, philosopher, knight, damsel and king) Jones & Ereira debunk many of the popular misconceptions via brilliant medieval anecdotes that brings real life to their material, as well as laying clear the propaganda machine that’s helped cement in place most of our accepted ‘facts’ (ie ‘Good’ King Richard I was a mass-murdering rapist who detested England and spent only 6 months of his entire ten-year reign here, and hoped to sell it off to the highest bidder, whereas ‘Bad’ King Richard II might have actually been pretty awesome, except Henry Bolingbroke’s spin doctors got to work on the history books)

Fantastic stuff that I highly recommend - I'm now hoping that Terry decides to tackle the rest of English history, as it's a class I desperately want to sign up for. You should too.

**Also posted at Randomly Reading and Ranting**
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Reading Progress

08/23 marked as: currently-reading
08/23
3.0% "There were about 2 million people in England in 1066 and about three million in 1535. There had been four to five million in Roman Britain, and about 1300 the population rose to some six million, but famine, disease (including the Black Death) and the changing patterns of families' working lives halves this by 1450, and recovery was slow."
08/23
5.0% "1381 - The Peasants' Revolt was 'the first and last large-scale popular uprising in English history.' The Archbishop of Canterbury was beheaded and his head displayed on a pike on London Bridge, with his mitre nailed to his skull."
08/23
8.0% "In about 1200 King John proposed building a hunting lodge near Nottingham. The residents of Gotham village weren't having it: 'The entire village pretended to be mad. It is said that the villagers built a fence around a cuckoo bush to present the cuckoo escaping, tried to drown an eel, set about pulling the moon out of a pond with a rake and rolled cheeses down a hill to make them round.'"
08/23
10.0% "The truly poor probably made up about a third of the population, as they do today (in fact, one of the oddities of English society is that it has always had roughly the same percentage of the population living on the breadline."
08/23
16.0% "A medieval guide to etiquette warns: don't scratch yourself or look for fleas in your breeches or on your chest; don't snap your fingers; don't comb your hair, clean your nails or take your shoes off in the presence of lords and ladies...also recommends not urinating in the hall - unless you happen to be the head of the household."
08/23
20.0% "Pope Innocent III sounds anything but. Pissed at the Cathars who broke away from corrupt and venal church, invites knights of Europe to start killing them. The Albigensian Crusade slaughters 1 million people. Papal legate at siege of Beziers says "Show mercy neither to order, nor to age, not to sex...Cathar or Catholic, kill them all...God will know his own.""
08/23
23.0% "Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, determined to stamp out criticism of the church, especially in English which could be understood by anyone, burnt 'heretics' and banned use of English to discuss religion. Chaucer disappears without a trace around this time. Deliberately removed?"
08/23
34.0% "One of William's first acts as conqueror if England was to create 'The New Forest'. This didn't mean he planted a lot of nice trees so people could enjoy a picnic in the shade. What he was doing was ear-marking a vast tract of land as his own personal hunting-ground. This is what the Norman word 'forest' meant. Whether there were trees or not wasn't really the point."
08/23
37.0% "'As far as Benedict was concerned, God placed us in this world to give us the opportunity to refrain from enjoying our brief time here, in order to concentrate on thanking him for placing us in this world.' Benedict's God sounds like a self-obsessed douche. This probably illustrates why I've never had much truck with religion."
08/23
40.0% "An even more useful thug was Tousain, the man Lanfranc installed as abbot of Glastonbury. The monks there sang Gregorian chants that had been introduced by St Augustine when he evangelized the southern English, but Tousain told them to use new ones approved by Rome. He stationed archers inside the abbey to ensure obedience. When the monks began to sing their beautiful old chant...the archers shot 21 of them."
08/24
59.0% "The ability to beat another man to a pulp or cut him to bloody pieces was not only a requirement for a knight - it was one of its ideals. Richard the Lionheart, for example, was celebrated amongst the knightly class for his ability to chop his victims' skulls down to the teeth."
08/24
62.0% "The Church had the sensible idea of diverting their energies. In 1095, Pope Urban II called for the First Crusade and reversed centuries of Christian doctrine by announcing that it was fine for violent young men to butcher people, so long as the victims were folk of whom the Church disapproved."
08/24
68.0% "Mercenary armies form from the paid soldiers who have no lands to go to when wars are over. One company gets so big it numbers 16,000. They roam France and Italy robbing, burning and running protection rackets: 'You'd better employ my army now it's here on your border, otherwise I can't guarantee it won't do a lot of damage.'"
08/24
71.0% "When Christina was about ten years old Ranulf returned to England and his bishopric was restored. The bishop dropped in on his way to London, Alveva laid on a family feast and Ranulf saw Christina. He liked what he saw. Christina's parents were only too happy to oblige the bishop with their daughter's...well 'hand' wasn't perhaps what Ranulf had in mind."
08/25
83.0% "'Good' King Richard I, the Lionheart, was a mass-murdering rapist who detested England and spent hardly any time here, wanting to sell it off to the higher bidder."
08/26 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Koivu Don't know if you've read this one: 1066: The Year of the Conquest, but it's a good one that I highly recommend, especially if you're looking for a less boring/academic text and something more lively, almost conversational. 1066 was such a huge turning point in England's history that it makes good starting point for Medieval studies.


Lisa Ooh, excellent. Thanks Jason, I'll track it down.


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