Twenty Take-aways from the Middle Ages

One of the last activities I asked my students to do was to identify the top five things they learned in the course, three things they would have liked to learn more about, etc.  The feedback is all interesting, and there are some insights that bear deeper pondering. In no particular order, here are some great take-aways:

  1. There is no monolithic medieval narrative.
  2. Literature is history/historians study literature [I would have said history is literature, or at the very least literary]
  3. The start and end of the Middle Age is debatable.
  4. It is good to be king.
  5. Sucks to be a minority.
  6. If you want something done, raise an army.
  7. The Catholic Church did not run everything.
  8. The Anglo-Saxon kingdom was much more advanced than I had originally thought.
  9. The Crusades were partly enacted out of concern, not opportunism alone. [That’s a good start]
  10. Importance of Roman institutions on medieval European ones.
  11. The Crusades are a lot more complex than most people believe.
  12. Jews have been abused by…basically everyone.
  13. Pilgrimages were very popular and were a good means of travel.
  14. Muslims seem to have taken better care of Greek science than Christians.  [Might not have phrased it that way, but those early medieval lesson seem to have paid off.]
  15. The Middle Ages was not the death of learning.
  16. The full complexity of the medieval period.
  17. How much medieval thought influences us today.
  18. The concept of being marginal. [This lesson actually proved surprisingly popular.]
  19. The vastness of the Seljuk Turkish Empire.
  20. I appreciate the true complexity of European society and that it wasn’t just a group of mindless, dumb morons who couldn’t stop fighting. [Take that, Hollywood…]

I’ve received much more feedback than this, of course, and it will take some time to sort it out and incorporate the excellent recommendations my students gave me. On the whole, though, I think this class was a success.

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