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Sethomas Sethomas is offline
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 08:15 AM        Getting medieval on society
When I was little I was fascinated by medieval material culture. No real reason why, I just thought that playing Knights and Saracens was more fun than playing Cowboys and Indians. It all kind of culminated when I took an interest in the historiography and legendization of King Arthur. The odd thing is that even though I could tell you the lifetimes of Crétiens de Troyes and Thomas Malory, as well as the archaeological conjectures of when and where the historical King Arthur lived, I assumed that modern scholars had a very piecemeal understanding of medieval history. I had no idea, for example, that there was a precise and generally undisputed chronology of the kings of Europe from Charlemagne to the present. I had a stint in 8th grade where I was very interested in the Knights Templar (this was years before Dan Brown's nonsense, of course) and that was my first inkling that there is a lush picture for us of medieval life. However, I lost my interest in the subject for some time and I could never bring myself to study the humanities realm of the middle ages.

When I declared myself as a Religious Studies major years later, I found myself intensely pulled toward the middle ages for the same reasons that pushed me away years earlier. My tastes had changed in such a way as to make me more meaningfully interested in the Middle Ages than I ever was before. The net result is that I feel like most of my discontent with contemporary society is best illustrated by comparisons and contrasts with medieval society. I think medieval man suffers a lot of libel because it's very convenient for us to revise history in a way to do so. Kids today have a very deliberate ignorance about the period from the fall of Rome to the Enlightenment because they're conditioned to use it as a thousand year straw man. This is something that annoys me a lot.

I think the best example is the present-day atheism scene. In my experience, there's a significant number of people who are well-informed about their motives for not believing in a god, and they shape their understanding of the world in a coherent manner taking the absence of god as a reasonable a priori. Far, far more abundant however are kids (some of whom are quite old) who are atheist because they associate atheism with intellectualism and prefer the idea of a world without God as an easy out. Most atheists have no clue what the arguments for and against theism are, they just have a strong emotional association with atheism that makes them equate religion with a very narrow definition that suits their needs. To put it bluntly, most atheists I've met identify as such (as opposed to "non-religious" or "agnostic") because they want to be perceived as intelligent without being bothered by the tedium of intellectual exploration.

As "The Age of Faith", the Middle Ages have to be slandered. It's necessary for the medieval people to be dunces in order for modern society to feel good about itself. This is something that's gone on since the Reformation more or less, but I feel like it's becoming more and more of a bad medicine. Because of the xenophobic fear of kingship and that Anti-Catholicism has historically been the unifying cause for the Left and Right in the United States, Americans are especially dumb about anything that happened between 33 and 1620 AD.

One thing that happened in my early studies of medieval history was that the portrayal of the Church as a luridly materialistic and politically amoral body led me to not consider myself a Catholic for a few years when I was too young to admit it to my parents (about age 9-14). I came back to Catholicism as long as I could keep my skepticism, but I had basically the same "water under the bridge" view of the medieval Church as most Catholics have today. In recent years, though, the more I study the outside pressures of medieval society the more I appreciate the Church as an overwhelmingly positive force that gave us the good parts of today's Western Civilization. Did they do bad things? Were they rife with corruption? Did they bring the Reformation on themselves? Yeah, absolutely. At the same time, I'm pretty convinced that without the Church the West would be a cultural wasteland and socio-economically we'd look like Sub-Saharan Africa. And we'd be lagging by centuries in terms of science, too, even though the modern attention span prefers to draw conclusions from Galileo rather than the actual mainstream opinions of historians that Catholicism has been overwhelmingly positive in pushing science forward.

Medieval man is painted as a flat-earth illiterate with a love of warfare. If you read the political scenes of the time, I think medieval society was far more adroit about diplomatic sanity. The next time the world's great empire falls, I don't think we'd do a better job than the Europeans did after Rome.

For the record, I think that one of the great tragedies is that if not for CLIMATE CHANGE we'd today observe The Condemnations of 1210-1277 as the emblem of the Renaissance rather than Gutenberg's printing press, and we'd be centuries ahead of where we are now. Compared with most other periods of human history, including significant chunks of the modern era, even the 12th century was a pretty swell time to be alive. Things were going up and up and up, then the earth got cold and society spiraled downward in the 14th century. Fun fact that everyone should know and nobody does: "The Dark Ages" was a moniker designated for "The Low Middle Ages", which accounts for only half of the medieval period. The Dark Ages and the proto-Renaissance High Middle Ages get lumped together out of sheer intellectual laziness. In the former, people were incredibly brilliant in dealing with the hands they were dealt, in most cases that was trying to restore Europe from anarchy while half of the continent was reverting to the Iron Age for economic gain. The best analogy I could think of for my girlfriend was, "Imagine that Europeans settled America and the US was formed with an awareness of the Native Americans but no cultural interaction because the natives moved to secluded areas. Then in the midst of the Great Depression, half the tribal nations come out of nowhere with Sherman tanks and operate a Blitzkrieg on FDR."

Barbara Tuchman wrote "A Distant Mirror" which basically compared the tribulations of the 20th century to life in the 14th century. It's a great read, but it doesn't do a good job of painting a full picture. People refuse to pay respect to the medieval man because it forces them to realize how little respect they should pay themselves.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 10:50 AM       
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I think the best example is the present-day atheism scene. In my experience, there's a significant number of people who are well-informed about their motives for not believing in a god, and they shape their understanding of the world in a coherent manner taking the absence of god as a reasonable a priori. Far, far more abundant however are kids (some of whom are quite old) who are atheist because they associate atheism with intellectualism and prefer the idea of a world without God as an easy out. Most atheists have no clue what the arguments for and against theism are, they just have a strong emotional association with atheism that makes them equate religion with a very narrow definition that suits their needs. To put it bluntly, most atheists I've met identify as such (as opposed to "non-religious" or "agnostic") because they want to be perceived as intelligent without being bothered by the tedium of intellectual exploration.
I find this a bit unfair. Theism is getting left behind in culture, and kids today aren't really brought up religious. It doesn't take much effort to be an atheist anymore, and the desire to look like an intellectual falls a far second to not really caring enough to learn about god. Most atheists don't have a clue what the arguments for and against god are because they are atheists, and have better things to think about than god. HAVING SAID THAT, I think it will make a big come-back in the youth reasonably soon, after they start teaching it in schools more often, and mainly for the same reason - laziness.

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As "The Age of Faith", the Middle Ages have to be slandered. It's necessary for the medieval people to be dunces in order for modern society to feel good about itself.
Yeah, I've thought the same as you, too. As if it could have been anything different. As if the people scoffing at the intelligence of a 12th century peasant would have been any smarter had they been born in those times and that place.

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I'm pretty convinced that without the Church the West would be a cultural wasteland and socio-economically we'd look like Sub-Saharan Africa.
Well, it's hard to imagine large society developing without religion, but it's not the church that sets the West apart from Africa, it's agriculture, and a staple food in wheat that Sub-Saharan Africa just doesn't have.

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The next time the world's great empire falls, I don't think we'd do a better job than the Europeans did after Rome.
Well, don't get me wrong, it was and is a very hard period with a lot of problems, but would you say that Russia and Eastern Europe is doing worse after the break up of the USSR than all of Europe after Rome? I wouldn't, but I probably don't know as much about the fall of Rome as you do.

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Fun fact that everyone should know and nobody does: "The Dark Ages" was a moniker designated for "The Low Middle Ages", which accounts for only half of the medieval period.
That's pretty patronising. I knew that and I bet a lot of other people here know that too.

Anyway, I'm guessing you copy/pasted that from your blog or something (it would be an awful waste to type it all out on i-mockery.com political forum) but I read it and those where my thoughts.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 10:59 AM       
Sethomas has a blog?!
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 11:02 AM       
I don't know, I just guessed. He must have typed it somewhere else, because you would have to be mad to type that sort of post here and expect much feedback.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 11:03 AM       
It's Sethomas. He's awesome like that.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 02:37 PM       
you might as well write an essay as to why early cultures weren't intellectually inferior just because of their particular mythologies

no one who knows jack shit about history or anthropology would believe that, you'd have a far more interesting argument talking about how the victorians were slandered and marginalized as tired prudes in art and literature, if you're talking about people denigrating their forefathers in order to feel better about themselves, particularly in regards to religion.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 03:53 PM       
Gus, I'm not sure what you mean about that second sentence. However, I do strongly agree that the same phenomenon happens with the Victorians. But while modern folk have a lot of patronizing views of Victorians, there is simply too much cultural vestige of that period thriving right now for them to get the same sort of whitewash as the medievals.

Zhukov- Maybe I should have more clearly articulated my exclusion of "non-religious or agnostics". Look, even if a child is raised in a predominantly (religious inclination) background by parents who don't actively pull him into that religious tradition and so he has neither an informed view of religion nor of atheism, it's dishonest to call him anything other than "non-religious". As popular as the term "atheism" is, I think it should be reserved for people who make a conscious decision to not believe in a god.

Well, it's hard to imagine large society developing without religion, but it's not the church that sets the West apart from Africa, it's agriculture, and a staple food in wheat that Sub-Saharan Africa just doesn't have.

I was saying that the medieval Church was a force that maintained social cohesion in resistance to the outside forces on Europe that would otherwise turn it into a bunch of disjointed Hobbesian states. The Church sponsored science and art and all that, sure, but it was most critical in arbitrating the formation of the nation states as we know them today. My comparison to Africa was in reference to the fact that it's virtually one giant civil war where the maps have to change every year.

"but would you say that Russia and Eastern Europe is doing worse after the break up of the USSR than all of Europe after Rome?"

Too early to tell, honestly. To me the big difference is that when Rome fell Byzantium stood to the side and laughed, although this later turned out to be a myopic disaster for them. While the USSR wasn't gifted with anything like The Marshall Plan when it collapsed, it still shared the world with another superpower and a plethora of large economies that each had a vested interest in not letting the Soviet states become a economic black hole. If you factor in the arms trade to Africa when the Soviet army no longer had use for its arsenal, you could certainly argue that the immediate fallout of the Soviet Union was far bloodier than the fall of Rome.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 04:44 PM       
by the second sentence; i mean that the only people who would hold the view that people in the middle ages were inferior, that the catholic church was not a successfully driving cultural force because it was BAD; or that the religious and cultural views held at the time support the inferiority they percieve, are the a lot of fucking morons that ARE NOT INVOLVED in any real discussions on history.
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Old Jul 11th, 2010, 05:29 PM       
Well, I think that's overwhelmingly true but it's not really the point, and I should have been more clear about that. I think that academic historians who have a required awareness of the totality of world history but they wrote their PhDs on a subject pertaining to a period where they focus their research and they subsequently get stuck in Medieval Studies, Classical Studies, Renaissance Studies, or whatever, they're pulled by an allure of a period but the first thing they have to learn is to dismiss the exceptionalism of the modern man. Regardless of what period of history you study, the path to modernity requires an admiration of one's ancestors as being equally creative and brilliant as man is today.

What bothers me (enough to write that post) is that the general public is completely unaware of this, by and large. Man in various historical periods is whitewashed negatively to fuel a sense of contrast and superiority for the common joe. The Romans are labelled as brutal and violent with special attention paid to the gladiatorial games as a way of quelling any introspective criticism about our own culture's fixation on violence. The danger comes in that the common joe who uses this argument writes himself out of any curiosity in how the Romans were far more skilled in dialectic politics and maintaining social order.

So what bothers me? It's not that our expert historians are wrong about everything, it's that everybody else is wrong about everything but they talk about it regardless. For me, what makes the present crises so frightening is that they don't accrue any historically-informed analysis because of an epidemic feeling that people have become immune to history. Nobody seems to pay attention to the fact that the first world is at risk of agricultural collapse, for example, because great nations only suffer starvation when they are inhabited by superstitious illiterate people.

I think that the Crusades are an indispensable cautionary tale about East/West cultural interactions, one that could have prevented much of the nonsense in which we find ourselves today had more people had a meaningful understanding of them. Popular understanding is that the Crusades were a grab for religious cultural hegemony in the Middle East, a campaign of conversion by the sword. It wasn't. It was a counter-offensive that took on religious overtones because there was otherwise no cohesive force between the Byzantine Empire and Western Europe, and they both had a vested interest minimizing Arab expansion. The Arabs were the belligerents and the Europeans were the loose cannons, but the financial and territorial concerns were so overwhelmingly definitive in the conflict that I find it extremely difficult to take out meaningful lessons about Islam and Christianity. All that being said, how frequently do armchair philosophers use the Crusades as definitive proof that religion causes violent behavior? Doesn't everyone feel entitled to using the Crusades to support their point about _____?
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Old Jul 12th, 2010, 06:00 AM       
i thought they called it the dark ages because they didn't have a lot of records about it at the time ;o
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Old Jul 12th, 2010, 07:27 AM       
still i can see his point. "The dark ages" and then "The enLIGHTenment." :O
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Old Jul 12th, 2010, 07:44 AM       
Well, it's actually the other way around. The term was coined because the period was perceived as intellectually bleak in comparison to the Roman Empire. The point about the records has some validity to it, but I don't think it influenced the creation of the term. The places where you don't see a solid contemporary history are the ones where you wouldn't expect to find them prior to the fall of Rome, either. There is certainly a lot of frustration about records never being written or being written and lost, sure. But especially since it was the meticulous sense of duty toward history that led the monasteries to transcribe the canon of Classical writing, there's not a whole lot that you could generalized or draw conclusions from. For example, Bede's history of England might not be as thorough and rigorous as we could hope to have, but it was a true innovation in terms of British history.
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Old Jul 12th, 2010, 09:50 AM       
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Zhukov- Maybe I should have more clearly articulated my exclusion of "non-religious or agnostics". Look, even if a child is raised in a predominantly (religious inclination) background by parents who don't actively pull him into that religious tradition and so he has neither an informed view of religion nor of atheism, it's dishonest to call him anything other than "non-religious". As popular as the term "atheism" is, I think it should be reserved for people who make a conscious decision to not believe in a god.
That's a fair enough point, I mean, the word athiest is obviously derrived from the word theist (or the other way around, whatever, I don't care) but I would still argue that most "athiests" these days are simply "non-religious", and so worrying about how many people ignore the arguments for or against god is still time poorly spent, since most "athiests" in the world are meerely calling themselves that for lack of a better term. In fact, if you religious types are going to get up in our faces about it, I suggest we invent a term that we can call ourselves so that we are not merely anti-theists, but pro-something-or-other.


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I was saying that the medieval Church was a force that maintained social cohesion in resistance to the outside forces on Europe that would otherwise turn it into a bunch of disjointed Hobbesian states. The Church sponsored science and art and all that, sure, but it was most critical in arbitrating the formation of the nation states as we know them today. My comparison to Africa was in reference to the fact that it's virtually one giant civil war where the maps have to change every year.
Well my medieval intellect is pretty poor, but you don't think that the hundreds (er, maybe?) of destroyed nation states of Europe warrant a mention? Bohemia? Burgundy? Err... other ones? Are those ones even ones? Just a thought; I figured that there were a lot of European wars, and the only reason they stopped was because capitalism does better without conflict in the market, and if they didn't stop then they would blow themselves to eternity.

I do, however, think that you are judging Africa a little too harshly. It's not it's lack of Catholic Church that are the reasons behind the modern day genocides and civil wars; it's the (cliché time) European imperialism and Africa's lack of straight development. Socioeconomically developing far behind Europe and Asia due to it's lack of crop food agriculture, Africa was still in a tribal, pre-feudalist time period when it was invaded, raped for slaves and resources, turned into colonial nation states and eventually given modern weapons to wage war agaisnt itself on tribal lines. But that's neither here nor there.

I still think that religion and early development of mankind goes hand in hand, so it's pointless to argue about where we would be without the church, but I will say that not only did the church have no influence on how far we are 'ahead' of Africa (which you have pointed out was not your intention to argue) but ... hmmm, I think I forgot.. no, wait, Capitalism and arms development probably play a larger role in the peace of Europe in modern times than the church of medieval times. I don't think I'm arguing against what you said anymore. I guess I'll just end with "you can't compare the two".

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Too early to tell, honestly. To me the big difference is that when Rome fell Byzantium stood to the side and laughed, although this later turned out to be a myopic disaster for them. While the USSR wasn't gifted with anything like The Marshall Plan when it collapsed, it still shared the world with another superpower and a plethora of large economies that each had a vested interest in not letting the Soviet states become a economic black hole. If you factor in the arms trade to Africa when the Soviet army no longer had use for its arsenal, you could certainly argue that the immediate fallout of the Soviet Union was far bloodier than the fall of Rome.
Too early to tell? Perhaps, but I think that the period for observation has to be greatly shortened than in comparison to that after the fall of Rome; the USSR came and went in 70 years, things happen faster (can't think of a better phrase right now, it will do) in modern times. More bloody? Yes, but a million deaths is just a statistic nowadays.


Kahl, I thought you meant like 12" Vinyl, and I was like "hell yeah it was dark without records".
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Old Jul 12th, 2010, 01:52 PM       
To the first article: someone tried to use the term "Brights" to describe people who strive for ethical behavior without the belief in an afterlife. My understanding was that it never caught on and the only people who paid attention to it were the ones who were offended. I think Secular Humanism works well, but it's a term that I frequently see abused in some sense.

I figured that there were a lot of European wars, and the only reason they stopped was because capitalism does better without conflict in the market, and if they didn't stop then they would blow themselves to eternity

Well, there are several things to consider. I would throw out the thought that warfare was a pretty mild problem for most of the medieval period but unbridled, violent plundering was a disastrous feature of specific timeframes. There was the frequent intermittent clash of basically Iron Age European societies that spilled blood everywhere because it was more profitable (as with the Vikings) or desirable for the sake of identity (as with the Saxons) and this cleared up by roughly 950. For about 150 years after that there was a recurring problem of class warfare (read: proto-knightly class exploiting independent agricultural workers) going on as a result of feudalism having not yet fully crystallized. Once certain edicts had been issued and the Crusades outsourced a lot of this tension, medieval warfare found a stasis where even at its most absurd it was generally more civilized and contained than any period since then. The reason why is that it was the social responsibility of knights to do all the fighting (though they frequently got around this by hiring yeoman mercenaries) and the social structure couldn't withstand and rarely tolerated general conscription of the working class. This stasis brutally dissolved during the 100 Years War, but I think most historians have reservations about taking instances after, say, the Battle of Poitiers and calling it medieval war as opposed to falling into the non-feudal Renaissance style of war. (In general, although parts of Europe were distinctly medieval or renaissance in the same period, I think that the 14th century should be regarded as its own species in a way that future historians will probably apply to the 20th.)

In any case, your point about the steady conglomeration of small kingdoms into present-day Europe is an astute one but the vast majority of it took place during the Enlightenment, driven by economical factors and social adaptations such as the implementation of "Cuius Regio, Eius Religio" and philosophical articulation of statehood.

To be clear, I assume that both of us are in agreement about why Africa is the mess it is today. I would dismiss the idea that the lack of the Christian Church or an analog is the cause of their present woes, I was merely originally using its present condition as a baseline comparison regardless of the circumstances that led to it. Although, without Christian cohesion in the Middle Ages Europe would not have had "straight development" and it would have been prey to outside Imperialism. The Crusades were sandwiched by expansionist campaigns by Arab civilization, and whether you prefer to look at the Battle of Tours or the Battle of Nicopol I don't think it would have looked pretty had it happened. I don't intend that as a specific indictment against Islam, that's just how things work as I'm sure you'd agree.

"Capitalism and arms development probably play a larger role in the peace of Europe in modern times than the church of medieval times"

That's sort of a weird argument to make because it requires a counterfactual assumption that capitalism and arms development would have proceeded more cleanly out of a different medieval period. Seeing as the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian Wars, and World War I are the primary case studies involved I'm not sure how helpful that argument is anyways. I'm getting the mental image of a Victorian officer reading Ivanhoe and getting warm feelings of camaraderie with the plutocratic warrior knights of the middle ages, then setting it down to send a telegraph to Verdun for thousands of his impoverished men to march into mustard gas.

With the USSR, isn't it more or less accurate to say that the obvious Western regions (and geographically disparate metropolitan pockets) that have been assimilated into Western culture are doing reasonably well, but achievement in places that are distinctly "Post-Communist" are sort of falling into a gross social disparity of poor living conditions upholding an unscrupulous Nouveau Riche class? In a limited scope, that sort of matches the early middle ages pretty well. It's fine to argue that the Information Age accelerates the jump from one stage to the next, but I still don't think things are settled enough to fully realize where they've landed.
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 05:19 AM       
I think Sethomas just makes up most of the words in his posts.
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Old Jul 18th, 2010, 04:21 PM       
Hey, one time I happened upon the Wikipedia article for "Set-off (architecture)" and it was just a copy/paste job of the Encyclopedia Brittanica article in public domain. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever read.

In architecture and masonry, the term set-off is given to the horizontal line shown on a floorplan indicating a reduced wall thickness, and consequently the part of the thicker portion appears projecting before the thinner. In plinths, this is generally simply chamfered. In other parts of stonework, the set-off is generally concealed by a projecting stringer. Where, as in parapets, the upper part projects (is "proud of") the lower, the break is generally hid by a corbel watertable. The portions of buttress caps which recede one behind another are also called sets-off.
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Old Jul 19th, 2010, 03:16 AM       
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The portions of buttress caps which recede one behind another are also called sets-off


yea that would sets me off too
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 01:07 PM       
Seth, do you enjoy playing with us?
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Old Jul 20th, 2010, 01:56 PM       
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Old Jul 21st, 2010, 09:49 AM       
THIS THREAD SMELLS LIKE RELATIVISM

i wanted to turn this thread into an argument but there's really not a lot of arguments to argue also i have to leave. but here's some more quick comments:

JEWISH SCAPEGOATING HAS BEEN A COHESIVE FORCE IN MANY SOCIETIES

MEDIEVAL PEOPLE THOUGHT WORSE ABOUT OTHER MEDIEVAL PEOPLE THAN WE PROBABLY DID (right they were the first ones to use the term dark ages and in a much worse way than the modern term entails)
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Old Jul 22nd, 2010, 09:43 AM       
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Well, there are several things to consider. I would throw out the thought that warfare was a pretty mild problem for most of the medieval period but unbridled, violent plundering was a disastrous feature of specific timeframes. There was the frequent intermittent clash of basically Iron Age European societies that spilled blood everywhere because it was more profitable (as with the Vikings) or desirable for the sake of identity (as with the Saxons) and this cleared up by roughly 950. For about 150 years after that there was a recurring problem of class warfare (read: proto-knightly class exploiting independent agricultural workers) going on as a result of feudalism having not yet fully crystallized. Once certain edicts had been issued and the Crusades outsourced a lot of this tension, medieval warfare found a stasis where even at its most absurd it was generally more civilized and contained than any period since then. The reason why is that it was the social responsibility of knights to do all the fighting (though they frequently got around this by hiring yeoman mercenaries) and the social structure couldn't withstand and rarely tolerated general conscription of the working class. This stasis brutally dissolved during the 100 Years War, but I think most historians have reservations about taking instances after, say, the Battle of Poitiers and calling it medieval war as opposed to falling into the non-feudal Renaissance style of war. (In general, although parts of Europe were distinctly medieval or renaissance in the same period, I think that the 14th century should be regarded as its own species in a way that future historians will probably apply to the 20th.)
Very interesting read.

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In any case, your point about the steady conglomeration of small kingdoms into present-day Europe is an astute one but the vast majority of it took place during the Enlightenment, driven by economical factors and social adaptations such as the implementation of "Cuius Regio, Eius Religio" and philosophical articulation of statehood.
Ah, well there you go.


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To be clear, I assume that both of us are in agreement about why Africa is the mess it is today. I would dismiss the idea that the lack of the Christian Church or an analog is the cause of their present woes, I was merely originally using its present condition as a baseline comparison regardless of the circumstances that led to it. Although, without Christian cohesion in the Middle Ages Europe would not have had "straight development" and it would have been prey to outside Imperialism. The Crusades were sandwiched by expansionist campaigns by Arab civilization, and whether you prefer to look at the Battle of Tours or the Battle of Nicopol I don't think it would have looked pretty had it happened. I don't intend that as a specific indictment against Islam, that's just how things work as I'm sure you'd agree.
Correct, point taken, and yes.


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"Capitalism and arms development probably play a larger role in the peace of Europe in modern times than the church of medieval times"

That's sort of a weird argument to make because it requires a counterfactual assumption that capitalism and arms development would have proceeded more cleanly out of a different medieval period. Seeing as the Thirty Years War, the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, the Franco-Prussian Wars, and World War I are the primary case studies involved I'm not sure how helpful that argument is anyways. I'm getting the mental image of a Victorian officer reading Ivanhoe and getting warm feelings of camaraderie with the plutocratic warrior knights of the middle ages, then setting it down to send a telegraph to Verdun for thousands of his impoverished men to march into mustard gas.
That's a lovely metaphore at the end there, and yeah, I do think it's like comparing apples and oranges, but rather than compare the two I'd possibly measure each seperately on an abstract scale of "peace" only in the context of their own time... and it's not worth either of us to think about, really, especially since I don't really agree with my original statement after a bit of actual thinking.

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With the USSR, isn't it more or less accurate to say that the obvious Western regions (and geographically disparate metropolitan pockets) that have been assimilated into Western culture are doing reasonably well, but achievement in places that are distinctly "Post-Communist" are sort of falling into a gross social disparity of poor living conditions upholding an unscrupulous Nouveau Riche class? In a limited scope, that sort of matches the early middle ages pretty well. It's fine to argue that the Information Age accelerates the jump from one stage to the next, but I still don't think things are settled enough to fully realize where they've landed.
Well history is measured as a whole, is it not? So you are right that we can't fully realise questions such as this, and while one can certainly see where things are headed, or assume that one can, I'd most certainly say that the break up of the USSR is not one of those times. It was a vague simile I used originally and I think I added it more for a point of interest/something to consider than a debate breaker, which I am sure you can see.

Unfortunately for me you are far more learned on the original subjects, but I was interested to see what was on your mind on the points I raised.
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