Tuesday, September 25, 2007

1357: A Year in Review

The Middle Ages - for all their wars, famines, and pestilence - must have been a pretty relaxing time to live. For one thing, there were no agonizing choices regarding what to do for a living; you just do what your parents did. If you didn't like that men could choose the Army or the Church, and women could choose prostitution, or the Church. In either case, there was a third option which combined a little bit of both.

For all the tyranny inherent in the era, at least there was no neurosis. There are days when I feel like I'd gladly swap a bit of one for the other. The first "modern" neurotic as such was probably Erasmus, who was able to look at human life without the certitude of religion and then worry because such a question is unanswerable. He's the one who wrecked it for the rest of us.

The most frustrating thing about the Middle Ages is looking at them in retrospect. For a historian there are so many gaps that we will likely never have a clear picture of the times, let alone the people who made them. Some people might find that a challenge, but it just pisses me off. Someone should have been taking better notes.

Fortunately, for the purposes of this post, there are a few more events from 1357 to report than there were for the dread years of 1111, 1153, or 1234. The next one - 1510 - is even busier still, proof that history is speeding up, or at least becoming more crowded.

For instance, 1357 is when influenza was first recognized as a disease. Although its symptoms were first recorded by Hippocrates prior to 370 BCE, the Church would have been instrumental in wiping clean the discoveries of that evil pagan; tens of millions of people coughing themselves to death was too good for their business.

1357 is also the first recorded showing of the Shroud of Turin, which must be close to when it was manufactured; it would be more than 600 years before it occurred to someone to screen print it on a bath towel.

It's also the same year work began on the Charles Bridge in Prague; the fact that the bridge is still standing must serve as some kind of testament to its builders. The previous bridge on the same site - the Judith Bridge - was built in 1170 and swept away by a flood in 1342.

And finally, 1357 was the year King David II of Scotland was finally ransomed, and returned from nine years' captivity in England. Of course, the comic potential of such an event are obvious; I scarcely need to make a joke about how cheap the Scottish are, especially since Mr. Gagne will hurt me if I do, and there's no part of me I'd care to have a harp up-shoved.
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Mini-Milestone: 1357 Posts And Counting...

Yes, it's milestone time again folks.

Not that I have anything new to add on that front. Regular readers will notice that the posts just keep coming on coming, and as to the lack of comments, well... Silence implies consent.

As per usual, if it occurs to anyone reading this to make a suggestion, please do.

Likewise, if you are some kind of sadistic grammarian and feel like savaging me, by all means do. To reiterate, I am a masochist and a comment whore, so our relationship will be remarkably complementary.

I believe it's what's called quid pro queer.
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