About This Blog
This is for those of you bored enough to want to know a bit more than is posted on the home page. It’s sort of a “why this blog exists” with a sprinkling of this being my virtual man-cave.
Like many others, I first became interested in the Middle Ages because I wanted to write fiction set in the period (you can blame that desire on LOTR – Tolkien opened the concept of creating a wonderful, fascinating, complex world a reader could lose him or herself in). So I started to read. The first book on the Middle Ages I opened, in 1996, was Norman Cantor’s The Civilization of the Middle Ages. I followed with several other overviews such as LeGoff’s Medieval Civilization, Goetz’ Life in the Middle Ages, Rosener’s Peasants in the Middle Ages and Contamine’s War in the Middle Ages. I couldn’t swear to the order I read them after Cantor, but I know these make up the first 5. There are newer overviews out there but I still think you could do a lot worse than reading these to get started.
My next step was to start reading a little bit about everything – I was the ultimate amateur generalist. I read a bunch of books by Gies and Gies, read Geary and Wood for early Western Europe, read Runciman as a Crusades starter (later filled in with Riley-Smith), books on Carolingians, Ottonians, Plantagenet England, and so on. Somewhere in this whole process my dream of writing fiction was crushed by the reality that I lacked talent for it – I could come up with a good story, but my ability with characterizations was bad – I’d re-read something I wrote a few months later and the story was entertaining except I didn’t care what happened to the characters in it.
Around 2000 I realized that the whole process of civilization crumbling with the Fall of Rome (a concept I believed at the time) and then reconstituting itself under the successor kingdoms was absolutely the most fascinating aspect of the Middle Ages for me. I started gobbling up books, translated source materials, etc. about this period (in the process learning that the Fall wasn’t a Fall at all but a staggering, lurching transition – a much more complex – and fun, for learning purposes – process). This is where I am now though Eastern Europe and the Eastern Empire during the same time period interest me quite a bit. Heresy also fascinates me for several reasons, probably most of all for exploring the reasons behind the formation of what, from contemporary societal standards, must be considered deviant behavior as well as how society responded to those behaviors.
So why this blog? The short and probably essential reason is because I want to. Also because I’m pretentious enough to think I might have something of value to offer. I am continuing in the process of both learning about history and learning how historians (I am not one) go about “doing history.” I think sharing what I find out about these two areas (and about the past) will be fun and a way to meet others who share my interests. I initially thought this blog would consist largely of book reviews but instead it’s become something where I mostly discuss what’s in various books (and sources) rather than the books themselves. Thanks for reading this and I hope you find something enjoyable and/or useful in this blog.