fifty score years ago, our forebears…

Are we entering a new Dark Age? Is one at hand? We might well to look back to the last Dark Age, which beclouded Europe from the fall of Rome to the beginning of the brilliant Middle Age in, more or less, the eleventh century. Let us then, fix our gaze on the state of western Europe around 1000 A.D. What was our world like? And what were its inhabitants, the forefathers of most of us, like? …

—It was not uncommon in England during the medieval period, for animals to be put on trial for crimes. Animals could be sentenced to death if found guilty of their crimes. Take that PETA!

 Contrary to popular belief, medieval English people bathed quite regularly in public baths designed for that purpose. This was due to the belief that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”. Public baths were eventually opposed by the Protestants in the 16th century because of prostitution being common there.—Read More:

…Our stay here was brief, our productive years few, for old age came soon. Menaces abounded- famine, polluted water, and tainted meat, infections of ill-tended wounds, and raging diseases, such as malaria, typhoid, diptheria, dysentery, tetanus, puerperal fever. Infant mortality was high, hence women were expected to be fecund, to marry at puberty and begin their proliferation, a hazardous process. They had to produce perhaps three times as many offspring as today, just to keep the population stable.

—Most of the peasants in the middle ages were serf farmers. They were not considered free and were bound to their plot of land. They worked almost seven days a week and were required to give a certain number of days each week to work on their lord’s land. In return they gained land rights. Essentially, they owned the land they farmed. No one could take it away from them while they were alive unless there was extenuating circumstances such as a crime that was committed.—Read More:

Death was a familiar in every household. Perhaps its near presence encouraged a prevailing callousness, or brutality. Monarchs set the example, with their blindings and removals of hands, testicles, ears, noses, and entire heads. Mutilation was a common penalty, for malefactors could seldom pay fines and there were no prisons for their confinement and correction. People regarded suffering as inevitable, indeed rather amusing, in others. The misadventures of the blind and the halt were a favorite subject for medieval funny stories. Of course, it was understood that a patient sufferer expiated his own sins and those of others.

—Likewise, as French historian Jacques Le Goff reminds us, “Those who suggest that the ‘dark ages’ were a time of violence and superstition would do well to remember the appalling cruelties of our own time, truly without parallel in past ages.” Look at the last century and see if you can disagree with this point.
As for technological advances, there was a lot of them about, actually, but in a manner we don’t much think about. The development of the heavy plow, for example, was literally cutting-edge technology in the 7th Century; sure, it doesn’t look like much next to your shiny new iPhone, but on the other hand your shiny new iPhone can’t break up the heavy soils of Northern Europe and lead to massive advances in the ability of the people there to feed themselves. If you’ve got any ancestors from above the Danube, you might be glad one of them thought up the heavy plow. Add in the horse collar, which arrived in Europe in the 11th century or so, and suddenly those same farmers could plow the same fields in half the time. No, they couldn’t play Angry Birds. But back in the day, they had real angry birds. Stealing grain. So there.—Read More:

Nature herself was more cruel than kind. She sent not only dearth and disease but floods and drought and bitter wintry blasts. People simply accepted her afflictions. Maybe they were tougher than we are; but we, too, can be tough if need be, as manifold wartime survivals prove. In the northern winters men hugged the fire, in a drowsy and probably malodorous torpor. Darkness, especially in the north, curtailed activity. There was as yet no glass, except in rich churches, and the householder’s windows were shuttered against the cold. Indoors, resinous torches or rank-smelling tallow candles cast a feeble gleam, so that women could spin and men whittle spoons, shape farm tools, or weave baskets. Then the story-teller or the ballad singer came into his own.

Purification Through Pain A Fresh Look at Torture in the Middle Ages
By Frank Thadeusz

A German researcher has studied medieval criminal law and found that our image of the sadistic treatment of criminals in the Dark Ages is only partly true. Torture and gruesome executions were designed in part to ensure the salvation of the convicted person’s soul.—Read More:

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