Fake History of the Middle Ages: A Four Part Course with Dr. Thomas Madden
Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.
The Middle Ages is frequently the setting for fantasy – be it wizards, knights, fairies, or dragons. But the real Middle Ages were quite different. In this first installment of four lectures, the distinguished historian, Dr. Thomas F. Madden, tackles some of the best known and most persistent myths of the Middle Ages, shedding light on their origins and revealing the truth behind them.
Dr. Thomas F. Madden, a leading historian of the premodern world, is an award-winning teacher and scholar, and the author of numerous books, including The Concise History of the Crusades, Venice: A New History and Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World.
Lecture 1: The Holy Grail and the Da Vinci Code What exactly is a “Grail” and what makes it holy? This lecture will trace the history of this artifact and describe its evolving myth during the Middle Ages. Participants will also explore how modern fiction and pseudo-history have co-opted the Holy Grail for their own outlandish theories.
Lecture 2: Robin Hood and His Merry Men Sherwood Forest still touts its most famous son, even naming the airport in Doncaster Robin Hood Airport. But who was Robin Hood? And who were Friar Tuck, Little John, and Maid Marian? This lecture will present what is currently known before exploring the origins of the Robin Hood myths.
Lecture 3: Chastity Belts and the Right of First Night Few objects are more closely associated with the Middle Ages than the famous chastity belts, securely locked onto crusaders’ wives before their men left for the Holy Land. This lecture will examine the evidence for these bizarre contraptions and discuss the development of their myth. Another medieval sex myth, the lord’s right of the first night with a vassal’s wife, will also be examined and explained.
Lecture 4: The Flat Earth Everyone in the Middle Ages knew that they would fall off the Earth if they went too far in one direction. That is, after all, why everyone laughed at Columbus when he defiantly proved that the earth is round. None of that is true. This lecture will examine the flat earth myth and explain how it developed long after the Middle Ages had ended.
Thomas F Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. As an author and historical consultant, he has appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The History Channel. He is a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Medieval Academy of America, and he is a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.
How does it work?
This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture. The link to enter the zoom room will be emailed to you thirty minutes before each session begins.
Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. A reading list will be emailed to you at the course's conclusion.
How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.
How much is the course?
The course is $140 for four lectures.
Is a recording available? Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 24 hours of each session's conclusion. The recordings are available to re-watch at leisure until 15 days after the course's conclusion.
Are there additional seminars, courses, and in-person experiences being led by Dr. Madden? Yes! Dr. Madden will be leading several online Context courses in 2022. Details are available here.
Additionally, Dr. Madden will be leading two Context Journeys, to both Venice and Istanbul in 2022. Context Journeys are multi-day, small group tours in cultural capitals all over the world. Expertly crafted to take learners to the heart of a destination, our Journeys take logistics and planning off of your plate as you uncover the history, art, and culture of your chosen destination. For additional details, please click here.