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Old 27 June 2014, 09:11 PM
Aud 1 Aud 1 is offline
 
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Default 15 Myths about the Middle Ages

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People have some very wrong ideas about the Middle Ages. Here is a list of fifteen of the strangest misconceptions about the medieval period they often portray the people as being ignorant, cruel and unsophisticated.
http://www.medievalists.net/2014/06/...s-middle-ages/


>>Aud here: As a medievalist I hear these all the time. I found the flat earth one especially galling when it cropped up in a TED talk about critical thinking.
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Aud 1 View Post
http://www.medievalists.net/2014/06/...s-middle-ages/


>>Aud here: As a medievalist I hear these all the time. I found the flat earth one especially galling when it cropped up in a TED talk about critical thinking.
Could you comment on myth number 7 about wine/beer being drunk as a substitute for unsafe water? The rebuttal is so short that I'm not really sure if they're saying there's no grounds for it at all, or simply that the water situation was not as bad as the myth implies.

When I heard that myth, I never interpreted it as meaning that there was no safe drinking water or that people never drank plain water. I thought it meant that mildly alcoholic beverages (including stronger alcoholic beverages diluted with water) served as a safer alternative in areas where the water safety was questionable, most likely in areas where a lot of people lived in close proximity and sanitation might be poor. IOW, I understood it as a (rather brilliant) early water treatment option, not as saying there was no clean water or that medieval people didn't recognize clean water as being a good thing to drink.
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:23 PM
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Indeed, much of the article seems to be pointing out that statements couched as absolutes about the Middle Ages were not universally true, but absolutes rarely are anyway.
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:41 PM
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The site seems to be glitchy. I see the first clickbait, then a quarter of the second. The rest is nowhere to be found.
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:45 PM
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It scrolls inside an invisible frame. It took me a moment to figure it out too.
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:50 PM
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They're sort of "inset" into the page. If you look just to the right of the social media links above the first one, you'll see the slidebar. Just pull that down and you'll see the rest.

EDIT: Spanked by Erwins
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Old 27 June 2014, 10:56 PM
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Ah, there it is. Thanks, Snopesters. Sometimes the 'Net can make me feel like I was born in the Middle Ages.
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Old 28 June 2014, 12:27 AM
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Indeed, much of the article seems to be pointing out that statements couched as absolutes about the Middle Ages were not universally true, but absolutes rarely are anyway.
Right, I don't doubt that some people traveled during the Middle Ages, but was it as common as it is now? And did they travel as far as we do with the aid of modern technology?

And do people really widely believe that Neuschwanstein Castle is a medieval castle? Maybe my sample is not representative, but in my experience when I mention it to people is that they've either never heard of it, or know exactly what it is.
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  #9  
Old 28 June 2014, 01:04 AM
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The water one really annoys me because it assumes every-one could either
1) afford to buy ale/beer/cider/wine
or
2) could afford to grow the crops to brew alcoholic beverages.

For most people who lived on a subsistance life-style, alcohol was a rare treat.


Monestaries, according to Micheal Jackson, the Beer Hunter, used high alcohol brews as a calorie source on fast days.
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Old 28 June 2014, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Aud 1 View Post
I found the flat earth one especially galling when it cropped up in a TED talk about critical thinking.
Wow! That's surprising. I wonder why the Ted Talks speaker thought it was true? I had a history professor who blamed the popularity of the myth on the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Hare We Go".

The good news it does seem to be slowly going away. When I was in high school in the '70s the myth was extremely popular. And even as recently the '90s I remember seeing it frequently on Usenet. Now, in my experience, it's very unusual to see people who think it's true. For example, I searched on Google for info on the myth and even after reviewing 10 pages of links I couldn't find a single page claiming the myth was true.

Brian
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  #11  
Old 28 June 2014, 02:03 PM
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I suspected in the past (about flat earth among other actual widely known truths) that if the general knowledge was that the earth is flat then there will be a suspicious, conspiracy minded crowd that will believe that the royalty of the day knew the earth was round, and knew for millennia, but wanted to keep the masses in the dark. They will continue to publish their conspiracy thoughts to prove the Greeks knew, therefore the world knew.

This goes on and on until it becomes general knowledge.

But if they knew that the world knew the earth was round all along, they'd think that there was some other conspiracy and start propagating that myth.
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Old 28 June 2014, 06:18 PM
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The earth is observably round even today. Anyone who has sat staring across the ocean or the Great Salt Flats can see its roundness.
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Old 23 July 2014, 06:07 AM
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The funny thing about the idea of the Earth being flat is that people are still being taught that Columbus was trying to prove that it wasn't. I've read Columbus's journals (college course) and one of his passages claims that he didn't believe that the world was round but instead was more of a pear shape or had a nub like a woman's breast. These allegations were based on the position of the stars.

As far as the belief that alcohol was a "rare treat" is something I have to contest. Even the earliest civilizations going back thousands of years had some form of beer. Granted, they were not like the kind of beer you have today, but I would think even peasants could make it. The way it used to be made was just people would chew up the grains, spit them into a jar, and bury it. The saliva would cause the yeast to ferment within a matter of weeks. If the staple diet of the people back then really was a cereal based diet, there is no reason they wouldn't have collected a few grains for the purpose of making beer.

Considering that alcohol preserves things pretty well, it is no stretch at all that they would have taken apples and turned it into cider just for preservation purposes.

We're not talking about people drinking the finest wines and champagnes, it's just taking crops and using preservation techniques on them.
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Old 23 July 2014, 08:34 PM
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I wasn't talking as much about the technology as much as the available resources that people who lived a bad harvest away from death by starvation.

Brewing in it's simplest form is malting barley follwed by grinding the malt and boiling in water to extract the free sugars formed during malting. Following cooling and filtering of the wort, yeasts are either added delibrately or by accident* and then fermentation . I've brewed in the past and it's a long process and doesn't always result in an uncontaimated end product. Alcohol and hop oils are able to stop some microbes from multiplying, they don't stop all.

* Wild yeast beer are still brewed in some areas of Belgium, they tend to be a lot more sour than most people are used too but are worth trying if you come across them.

Cider making involves crushing the apples to extract then innoculation with yeast.

brewing requires a large amount of arable ground for barley cultivation since it takes 8.5 lbs of grain to get an original gravity of 1050 which gives an approx abv of 5%.at an 85% extractioin in 5 imp gallons.
Modern barley gives a yeild of around 115 lbs/acre. So your peasant farmer needs a lot of space to grow enough barley to serve his household beer needs..more if he's growing his own hops .

BArley stems can be used as sillage or hay after drying and the remains of the grain can be made into a porrage for human or animal consumption. Doesn't taste great but has some nuticional value.

A cider apple* tree produces around 40 lbs per year. That produces enough juice for 2-3 gallons of cider..So a large orchard is going to be needed. The pressed apples were traditonally used as animal fodder.

Orchards do have the potential for other crop growth on the ground.as well as potential forage for animals like sheep, goats pigs and fowl.

Most peasants didn't have multi-acre farms and that was my point. They lack the ability to grow the raw materials in the first place rendering the brewing pocess a moot point.

If you are interasted in brewing in earlier ages, The Tudor Monestry Farm looks at brewing in early 1500's and the Edwardian Farm at cider making in the early 1900's.
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Old 23 July 2014, 09:28 PM
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Originally Posted by WildaBeast View Post
Right, I don't doubt that some people traveled during the Middle Ages, but was it as common as it is now? And did they travel as far as we do with the aid of modern technology?
I wonder about that, too. I mean, obviously some people traveled far and wide - the crusades saw a lot of that, and there were long distance trade routes such as the silk road.

Still, I lived in Nepal for a while, not so long ago. Even then, in this modern age, there were people who had never been more than a day's walk from their village. Every valley had its own distinct dialect or language resulting from isolation. Granted, the terrain was very limiting there, but it is still not hard to imagine people who traveled very little.

At to that fact that much of the government revenue back in middle age Europe came from regulating travel - castles and fortifications were placed to overlook or control roads, ports, and navigable waterways, funded by the collection of tariffs. Virtually all long distance travel would have required paying tariffs at these points.
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Old 24 July 2014, 12:43 AM
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Originally Posted by crescent View Post
Still, I lived in Nepal for a while, not so long ago. Even then, in this modern age, there were people who had never been more than a day's walk from their village. Every valley had its own distinct dialect or language resulting from isolation. Granted, the terrain was very limiting there, but it is still not hard to imagine people who traveled very little.
I've only visited Nepal (my brother lived there for a few months) and I found it amazing for that reason. In the mountains, you could walk through villages where people were doing things the same way that they would have been for hundreds of years. I took a photo on my digital camera of a man drying out salt on a dish with his daughter, and showed it to him on the screen, and we both thought it was hilarious. This was on one of the more frequented trekking routes, too, although it was quiet when I was there.

We passed a man milling grain in a portable water-mill that sat over a stream with a vertical-axis wheel underneath it and a tiny hut on top. I didn't take a photo of him because it seemed intrusive, but I wish I had because it was such an amazing device. That's one of the earliest forms of water-wheel but it's mostly useful over very small streams with big seasonal variation, so that you can't leave it in place permanently.

In the village where my brother stayed, in the foothills, his friend Lokhendra took us to visit his parents in their nearby farmhouse. It was absolutely as it would have been in Medieval times in England (with allowances for crops and climate and geography and so on). Clean and tidy, but no power, running water or anything. The ground floor was a workspace where some of the animals could get in - chickens for example - the goats were in a shed outside. There were ladders to the top floor for the sleeping area. We met Lokhendra's grandmother on the way in, and she was tiny and toothless and barefoot, and also thought it was very funny to meet us. His parents gave us food and drink.

I also disagree about alcoholic drinks being rare; Lokhendra's parents even had their own still - we were given home-brewed and distilled raki. Brewing beer from grain is one of the basic things to do with grain. If there's enough grain around to make bread, then people would be making beer from it too. The reason it makes the water safer to drink is that the brewing process involves boiling the water - that's probably more significant than the alcohol acting as an anti-bacterial agent, but people wouldn't have understood why at the time.

Most of the stuff in the OP seemed like straw men to me as well. Do very many people think that cutlery didn't exist? It's forks that weren't used - although the story argues that they were around earlier than people think in some places. Or that tomatoes were even around in Europe during "the Middle Ages"? People did argue that tomatoes were poisonous when they first arrived, but the Americas weren't even known to Europeans until after 1492, which is the very end of "the Middle Ages" by even a generous definition.
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Old 24 July 2014, 02:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Richard W View Post




I also disagree about alcoholic drinks being rare; Lokhendra's parents even had their own still - we were given home-brewed and distilled raki. Brewing beer from grain is one of the basic things to do with grain. If there's enough grain around to make bread, then people would be making beer from it too.

My point again..IF there's enough grain to go round...then brewing..

Quote:
The reason it makes the water safer to drink is that the brewing process involves boiling the water - that's probably more significant than the alcohol acting as an anti-bacterial agent, but people wouldn't have understood why at the time.
Having brewed as an amateur brew-master for 8 years 2 or 3 times a month..I know I have lost around 10% of my brews due to contamination even using the best disinfectants around at the time. Boiling the water first makes no difference sometimes nor does the addition of hop oils..
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Old 24 July 2014, 03:00 AM
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Originally Posted by queen of the caramels View Post
Having brewed as an amateur brew-master for 8 years 2 or 3 times a month..I know I have lost around 10% of my brews due to contamination even using the best disinfectants around at the time. Boiling the water first makes no difference sometimes nor does the addition of hop oils..
At one time I had contaminated yeast. I thought it was my sterilisation techniques, but it was a batch of yeast that had been contaminated by potentially wild yeasts.

And 10%, you were doing well. I was running about 20-25% that came out flawed (although not all were undrinkable).
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Old 24 July 2014, 07:52 AM
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Seems quite reasonable to assume drinking wasn't a universal daily thing. However, in order to have enough grain each year, the emphasis would have to be on overproducing. Except in years of famine, extra grain would be the perennial problem and that's where brewing would be a great way to preserve some of those calories. (No point in keeping grain around for the rats and birds and bugs to eat.) So in a normal or abundant year an ordinary peasant might have expected to have a brewski or two - almost certainly not on a daily or even weekly basis but also not extremely rare. During years of low yield even some of the wealthy probably had to abstain. The use of grain for brewing would sometimes be banned in famine years.
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Old 24 July 2014, 01:55 PM
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in order to have enough grain each year, the emphasis would have to be on overproducing.
Yup. That's something a lot of people don't understand about farming, subsistence or otherwise: if there's going to be any chance at all of there being a bare minimum to eat in a bad year, it's necessary to plan to grow enough so that there'll be an excess in an average year, and a lot of excess in an unusually good year.


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Originally Posted by ganzfeld View Post
Except in years of famine, extra grain would be the perennial problem and that's where brewing would be a great way to preserve some of those calories.
No time to do a lot of research on this, but it's my understanding that turning various crops into an alcoholic form was often (among other reasons) a method of food preservation.

Hard cider keeps a whole lot longer than either sweet cider or apples, for instance.
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