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Sunday, April 01, 2012


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David -
I found your podcast a few weeks ago and listen to an episode everyday while walking the dog. My dog would like to thank you since the discovery has lead to longer and more regular walks. I am not yet caught up (I am on episode 33) so I apologize if you have answered this but here goes anyway - How often did people go to church? It seems like there were masses said throughout the day and, at least for the nobility, it seems like they went daily. Is this true? Also, I have read books in which characters use religious holidays as reference dates (i.e after Michaelmas). What were the "big" religious celebrations and where they used in this way? Sorry I have rambled so, but no rush on the answer since it will be about 2-3 weeks until I catch up anyway. Thanks and keep up the good work.

The History of England

Hi Jennifer - I did cover this somewhere; but essentially, I no longer have a memory. In a way this is a good thing (a life of constantly re-discovering things) but mostly it sucks.

Anyway as in common with most of the things that people just take for granted, we don't have much record of how many times peo;le went to church. But Robert Bartlett's opinion is that despite the repitatiuon of the middle ages as being aprticularly superstitious and god fearing, that actually it's just once a week for the vast majority. And it's pretty rowdy. There'd be dogs running around. One repoerted incident in Lincolnshire had a bunch of drunkards disrupting the service, still drunk from the night before. Lots of chat going on, with the priest trying to make himself heard as the neighbours catch up with the news. It was also interesting to learn that the vast majority don't get to take holy communion; so it's a bit of a spectator sport

Of course it would be different for Monks, and the nobility could drive their own bus - they'd have their own chapel if they were part of the grander sort. But I suspect that in the main it's not as reverential as we might suppose.

Yes, Feast days were a central part of the year. I've done a list of feast days on a page on the website - http://historyofengland.typepad.com/blog/feast-days-in-medieval-england.html.html

The beginning of the year itself wasn't clear - some started with the Annunciation (25th March) others with the Passion (Easter), some with the circumcision (1st Jan - did you realise that?). The first of January, the start of the old Roman New Year was most popular.

Hope this covers it... David


Hi again, David.

Always pleasant to get a new podcast from you, and can't begrudge you a holiday. Clearly I will be old and doddering before you get up to the Tudors, but I can't complain. (Maybe that's why you labelled the Softsword episode as "oldies" genre - but please try to be consistent!)
I always appreciate the historiography, so don't fear getting bogged down in that.

Two questions, a recommendation, and a suggestion:
a) Being stuck in the Norman era as usual, I was reading a book called The Normans, by Francois Neveux. As a Frenchman, he thought the Normans were a Good Thing, and Very Nice to the English. Rather funny reading such a different perspective: he glossed over the clearly devastating effects on the English.
But amongst other things, he claimed that the Robert the Devil epithet for William the Bastard's father was a historical error, conflating him with a medieval fictional character. You and Lars Brownworth both. So I'm asking you: what's your source?

b) You mentioned key sources of yours as Frank Barlow and... Gillingham? Was that latter the one who wrote 1215?

c) My recommended book is Hugh M Thomas: The English and The Normans (2003). It discusses the process of assimilition of the Normans into English over 200 years. Quite academic (no page left unfootnoted), but a very useful book.

Finally, I strongly suggest you open your podcast with something like "Hello, I'm David Crowther, welcome to the history of England." No sense not giving yourself some credit on this, and it's a bit more personal.

...by the way, if you can post it slightly earlier, I'd be obliged. Last time, it actually arrived partway through my ironing.

The History of England

Hi Stephen
Both books sound good..it'd be nice to have a french perspective on it all! I supposed if you take the very long view the Normans were a good thing - ? Would have been nice to see how we turned out without it though. Thanks for the book recommendation; I had a look on Amazon, and price-wise it looks like a local library job. One of the things I'd like to find out more about is the development of English national identity and when that happens - does it shed light on that?

Hope the timing's now better for the ironing...

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