Tag Archives: renaissance

“Wolf Hall” Gives New Spin to Tudor Drama

Thomas Cromwell, Wolf Hall, (c)BBC

PBS is currently airing the six-part drama Wolf Hall, originally created for BBC2.  It’s set during the reign of the Tudor king Henry VIII, a popular topic of British historical dramas, but with a unique focus.  Rather than focusing on Henry himself, the focus is on Thomas Cromwell, a middle-class lawyer who quickly rose through the ranks only to fall from favor and eventually be gruesomely executed for treason. Focus on a New Character Dramas of this period generally focus

Bathroom Customs; or, Everyone Poops

Roman bathroom habits

There’s talk of late of where transgender people should go to the bathroom.  If you’re physically male, but you consider yourself female, do you use the men’s room or the ladies’ room?  What if you have gender reassignment surgery, so you’re physically a different gender than you were at birth? Or, a question I’ve always asked, long before I had heard of transgenderism: why the heck do we care? The Modern Urinal Of course, the urinal poses some problem, since

How Long Did they Have? Life Expectancy in History

Every semester a student asks me this question: how long did people live in ancient times? Was it really only 35 years? General life expectancy across the world for most of history was, indeed 35. However, “life expectancy” is a terribly imprecise term, giving the impression that any particular person could only expect to live roughly 35 years. What is should be called is average life span. The number – in this case 35 – is the average of the

European Witch-Hunts; or, Persecution, Chaos and Hysteria for All

Women being hung for witchcraft

The topic of the European Witch-Craze, stretching roughly between the late 15th century and the mid-17th century, is a complex topic. It’s very easy to simply disregard it as barbaric and superstitious, and, indeed, academia did exactly that until the 1960s. That doesn’t mean you can’t find material about witch trials before 1960s.  It does mean whatever you find will almost assuredly not be written by an academic, have poor knowledge of historical context, and frequently just be flat out

Diagnosing the Black Death: Will the Real Plague Please Stand Up?

Painting of Plague

Last week I was facing a variety of headlines addressing new finds concerning the Black Death. In USA News, for example, the headline is London Skeletons Reveal Secrets of the Black Death, which nicely introduces the associated story. (As a note, the article is incorrect saying the Black Death killed 75 million people. The total population of Europe before the Black Death was 75 million people.) The skeletons were found as part of work on Crossrail, a rail line running

“Reign” Fashion Disasters, or Dear Gods, Kill Me Now

I am not a fashion-nazi.  I am not going to complain because the hem is a bit off or you’re not using the right buttons.  I’m not going to quibble over whether that dress is from the 1550s or the 1560s.  Nor am I expecting a CW show to have costumes as sumptuous as those on The Tudors, which could afford a much larger budget. But can’t CW’s Reign at least go for “vaguely Renaissance”?  I’d quip about it’s lack of

“Reign” Disaster Train

When the CW announced it was going to do a historical drama in the form of Reign, I knew it was going to be bad. Maybe not Noah bad, but bad. First hint? While the show is clearly about a royal character, the advertisements never said which royal character…as if it really doesn’t matter. Although, in looking at the way they’ve approached it, it may indeed not actually matter. Just think about the name: Reign. It’s not even Queen. “Reign”

A Little Ass Music from Hieronymus Bosch

DangerousMinds.net has provided this little gem: a college student has transcribed the musical notes painted on the butt of one of the characters in Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights, which is arguably the most bat-shit crazy painting of the Renaissance. So…is this best played on an ass trumpet? Just asking.

This Historian’s Favorites and Least Favorites

One of the reasons this blog has only a loose theme is because of the diversity of my interests.  I once tried a more focused blog.  However, I quickly found other things I wanted to share, but I felt I’m spamming readers who came to the blog looking for a specific topic. My first blog was focused on religion, primarily neopaganism.  From there I graduated to writing about “alternative religion” (which is a terrible name, as it implies certain religions

Defining the Middle Ages

Lindesfarne Gospel Page

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with this blog when I started it.  Honestly, my first thought was steampunk.  I’m sure I will eventually get around to it, but it clearly hasn’t been my focus. I am a medievalist.  I am greatly enjoying writing about that passion, and, strangely enough, people seem actually interested in reading about it.  I also have become remarkably interested in medieval art, which must have sneaked in during my years teaching

« Older Entries