Uncovering the Truth About Viking Men

ScienceDaily (Apr. 27, 2010) — Vikings are associated with weapons and warfare, machismo and mayhem.

But many of them had the same concerns about choosing their children’s names as we do, says a researcher from the University of Leicester who delivered his paper at a Viking conference on April 24.

The sixth Midlands Viking Symposium offered a variety of talks by Viking experts from the Universities of Leicester, Nottingham and Birmingham. The symposium took place at the University of Nottingham, and was open to all Viking enthusiasts.

Dr Philip Shaw, a Lecturer in English Language and Old English, offered his expertise on how the Vikings named their children. He discussed the practice of giving names derived from male names to female children, which was commonplace in the Viking Age.Continue reading “Uncovering the Truth About Viking Men”

Prices in Medieval England

I’ve just come across a great article showing generic prices from the mid-15th century. The article can be found here.

The list is rich but of course not exhaustive and the prices should be regarded with caution. It is nonetheless a useful tool particularly for understanding differences in prices across objects, services, wages. Below I’ve selected some wage examples for different economic activities and professions to give you an idea of medieval earnings across social strata.

Money goes as follows:
 1 pound (L) = 20 shillings (s)
 1 shilling = 12 pence (d)
Profession                      Wage        Date
Mercenaries:
  knight banneret               4s/day      1316
  knight                        2s/day       "
  man-at-arms or squire         1s/day       "
Regular Army
  Esquires, constables, and
    centenars                   1s/day      1346
  Mounted archers, armored
    infantry, hobilars,
    vintenars                   6d/day       "
  Welsh vintenars               4d/day       "
  Archers                       3d/day       "
  Welsh infantry                2d/day       "
  Captain                       8s/day      late 16 cen
  Lieutenant                    4s/day        "
  Ensign                        2s/day        "
  Drummer or trumpeter          20d/day       "
  cavalryman                    18d/day       "
  infantry                      8d/day        "
Laborer                         L2/year max c1300
Crown revenues (at peace)       L30 000     c1300
Barons per year                 L200-500+   c1300
Earls  per year                 L400-L11000 c1300
Sergeant at Law (top lawyer)    L300/year   1455
Chief armorer                   26s 8d/month 1544
Other armorers in same shop     24s/month   1544
  except "Old Martyn" who made  38s 10d/month 1544
Apprentices in same shop        6d/day      1544
Master mason                    4d/day      1351
Master carpenter                3d/day       "
Carpenters' Guild stipend to
  a sick member                 14d/week    1333
Weavers                         5d/day, no  1407
                                food
Chantry priest per year         L4 13s 4d   1379
Squires per annum               13s 4d-L1   14 cen
Carters, porters, falconers     5s-8s 8d    14 cen
  grooms, messengers            per year
Kitchen servants                2s-4s/year  14 cen
Boys and pages                  1s-6s/year  14 cen
Wardens of London Bridges       L10/year    1382

The Pipe Rolls of Medieval England

I”ve just discovered quite a lot on the condition of the Exchequer Pipe Rolls as sources for historians nowadays. Here are some useful links for researchers:

The Pipe Rolls Society, in charge of editing the manuscripts, has published more than 90 volumes of edited material that is available for sale throught their website. This is good news for scholars. However, the same Society is announcing the digitised volumes of their editing work which may be found here but only covering the reigns of Henry II, Richard I and John. (1154-1216).

For the other medieval pipe rolls, the manuscripts covering the period 1225-1312 have been digitised but not yet edited. Scans are available here by courtesy of the University of Houston.

However, one should get familiar with paleography and the editing conventions as the text is quite impermeable to the modern reader. Furthermore, special knowledge of medieval economics is required in order to make sense of the financial information that the Rolls enclose.

What a lovely happenstance, the Canterbury Tales and me

My trip to Canterbury Cathedral next week on the 17th of April coincides just perfectly with the famous late-14th century pilgrimage at the heart of Chaucer’s Tales.

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run […]

knowing that the sun left the sign of the Ram (Aries) about the middle of April.

Some 600 years later I am about to embark upon a similar journey, across all South East England.

I shall write more after the visit to Becket’s shrine and to other landmarks featured in the Tales. And so, without further gilding the lily,

Of England to Canterbury they went,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek

Pastor calls Christian atheists to shed hypocrisy

Pastor Craig Groeschel is a recovering Christian atheist. He may have called himself a Christian all his life, but he didn’t always live as if God existed.

It’s a struggle he’s had both as a layman and as a pastor, of one of the fastest growing and largest churches in the country. And it’s a struggle he wants to help millions of so-called Christians to overcome.

Christian atheists are everywhere, Groeschel writes in his newly released book, The Christian Atheist.Continue reading “Pastor calls Christian atheists to shed hypocrisy”

Summers Were Wetter in the Middle Ages Than They Are Today

ScienceDaily (Mar. 25, 2010) — The severe epidemic of plague known as the “Black Death” caused the death of a third of the European population in the 14th century. It is probable that the climatic conditions of the time were a contributory factor towards the disaster. “The late Middle Ages were unique from the point of view of climate,” explains Dr Ulf Büntgen of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) in Birmensdorf, Switzerland. “Significantly, there were distinct phases in which summers were wetter than they are today.”Continue reading “Summers Were Wetter in the Middle Ages Than They Are Today”

C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: how it all began

The first of the Screwtape letters was published in The Guardian on 2 May 1941. Thirty more letters followed, one each week. Lewis was paid 2 per letter – but he would not accept the money. Instead, he sent the editor of The Guardian a list of widows and orphans to whom the 62 was to be paid. He did the same with the fees the BBC paid for the Mere Christianity broadcasts, and those The Guardian paid for the weekly instalments of the Great Divorce in 1944-5.Continue reading “C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: how it all began”

The English: a people without a history?

by openDemocracy

Author: Michael Collins

Of all Britain’s peoples, the English have traditionally been the centrepiece of ‘British history’. Nonetheless, argues UCL historian Michael Collins, it is they who have the most to worry about when it comes to their sense of the past.

According to A. J. P. Taylor, in 1934 Oxford University Press commissioned its History of England series on the basis that ‘England’ was still “an all-embracing word”. It meant “indiscriminately England and Wales; Great Britain; the United Kingdom; and even the British Empire” (A. J. P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945, OUP 1965). Looking back from the 1960s, AJP still believed this to be the appropriate historiographical perspective to take, and in private correspondence he made this very clear. “I am obsessed with England”, he wrote to his editor G. N. Clark in 1961, “to hell with Scotland, Northern Ireland and still more the Empire!!” (A. J. P. Taylor to G. N. Clark: 20 May 1961, Clark Papers, Bodleian Library, Oxford, MSS Box 30.). One wonders if he thought Ireland even worth sending to hell.Continue reading “The English: a people without a history?”