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  • Writer's pictureBridgette ni Brian

Rabbit Review - The Devil's Historians

A few weeks ago there was an uproar amongst certain people over an album's 50th anniversary. The group had a rainbow and many complained that they were going ... "woke".


The horror.

However ... the rainbow was connected to the original album cover. Added to this, the rainbow as a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community came after the album's initial release.

Sometimes, what we think was reality ... was never reality. The Middle Ages is a prime example of this. In their book, The Devil's Historians by Amy S. Kaufman and Paul R. Sturtevant focus on the myths of the Medieval time period and show how they are manipulated by certain groups.

They see this as the weaponization of the past to harm people in the present. In the first chapter, they go into how Augustus Caesar called upon an ancient past to counter the rising female power in his present day.

His Julian marriage laws cracked down on the infidelity of wives and daughters. Oddly, it doesn't appear to be that men were prosecuted ... As Kaufman and Sturtevant make it clear in the first chapter that "We can determine whether someone is misusing the past or wielding history as a weapon not just by checking the facts (although that can be useful), but by examining which stories they choose to tell, the purpose behind their stories, and the effects those stories have in the present day."

Augustus was not the only one who has used the past and the stories from then to harm. Fundamentalists of all stripes tend to look back onto golden ages as a time of perfection. Modern white nationalists and conservatives look back to the 1950s when men were men and women were women and everyone knew their place.

Those in the 1950s looked back to the Victorian Age. In the US, it tends to be the 1860s.

One popular time period is the Middle Ages - those centuries after Rome fell and before the Renaissance began. This time period is believed to be perfect - with manly men and docile women. Where all of Europe was white, and where there wasn't any of that nasty ... attraction to the wrong people.

It was all a lie.

The Middle Ages were a time period of modernity with people from all walks of life intermingling; Africans visiting London; Italians in China; Vikings everywhere.

The authors divide their book into six chapters and an epilogue. They lay the foundations in the first chapter. The following chapters each take on a slightly different myth - the white knight myth; nationalism, and even how religion creates problems. I found the chapter on religion especially fascinating mainly because I grew up in a fundy lite sort of world. Most of what they spoke about in that chapter were things I would have found or lessons learned at my church or Christian schools.

I liked the book. I did find that a lot of what I read I vaguely knew already especially the religion chapter, but I still found much of the book fascinating. I read it in a day. This is a book to read if you want to understand how people take the legends of the middle ages and twist it around to hurt people today.

Book cover with blue on the top left side and a picture of a stained glass image on the upper right corner.
The Devil's Historians

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