Sunday, November 13, 2005

In 1649 to St George's Hill...

Amanda has an excellent post on why glorifying the middle ages is more than a bit creepy:

I will say that teaching kids the "virtues" of knighthood is a wicked past time, no matter how you slice it. That's basically like teaching kids the virtues of vampirism. Teaching kids the virtues of being in the mob would be more morally sound, because while the mob runs a protection racket just like the lords of feudal times, they don't lower themselves to telling everyone they were appointed by god and that their criminality is actually holy. That's got to count for something.
I think challenging idealised views of the past is really important, both because I value history, but also because I think the past is usually idealised in an attempt to say something about the present. The only past that can be useful to the present is the past that actually happened.

But my favourite bit was one of the comments who said:
I've always harbored a fantasy of getting a bunch of friends together to go to the Renaissance Faire in the character of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers. We'd take our rude farming tools and start cultivating a reclaimed "commons" in front of the leather mug booth.
Now I want someone to do Rennaisance Faire in New Zealand, or some similar event, I would be so into being a digger.

1 comment:

  1. I've been doing medievalism of various sorts for around twenty years now. I've done the pseudo victorian high fantasy 'medjeval' roleplaying games, I've done the paid re-enactment for film and media events, I've done the grittily realistic mud, blood, digging and backbreaking work sort (because I find it fun to build drystone walls and dig wells with medieval tools). I don't particularly find anything creepy about it, and generally I find those that do are usually fairly ignorant of the motives of medievalist groups, their reasons for doing reenactment, and the history of the middle ages in general.

    The bbc post on the 'knight school' seems pretty innocuous (along the lines of the victorianised ideal chivalry), it just sounds as though your friend is responding to it with a rather large carrotv factor. Sure, when we do displays for children at schools, its all about the swords and helmets and fighting, thats the flashy stuff that gets their attention. Then you can hit them with the actual history, the illustration of the social effects of feudalism, how it evolved in the different countries that used it, what it did to those on top and those below, how it did work, how it didn't, how it led to corruption, and how it died out.

    What I do find about medievalism as an activity for disadvantaged kids, is that it can kick start them into trying to learn, either at school, or as a hobby, and anything that makes people learn, about anything, is good. I don't care if I'm teaching them how to fight with a sword and shield, or how to weave cloth on a warp weighted loom, or how people died of the black plague, or the economic effects of viking raiding, its better than ignorance.