One thing that I am personally interested in are the surprising and interesting ways in which the public uses the Middle Ages today. Too often, I find, we as academics look down on the public’s interaction with the Middle Ages in a ‘kids say the darndest things’ sort of way. While that kind of condesention isn’t necessarily inaccurate (and sometimes it’s hard not to laugh, groan, scream or cry), it’s not really helpful either.
Because of my research interests I often get passed news stories and interesting tidbits floating on the internet which have to do with public medievalisms. Like this: A Wiltshire vicar has reinstated ‘ancient’ (though almost certainly medieval) laws which call the village once a week for archery practice. These laws were an elegant but hugely effective method of training people for service in the Hundred Years’ War, with devastating effect. I find the reinstatement of the law here a delightfully quirky medievalism. The letter, rather than the spirit of the law is retained (otherwise there would be, say, rifle practice on the village green every sunday). Instead the law is being used to foster community spirit and for a good afternoon activity. Even though the deadly purpose has been removed, I imagine (with no evidence) that this was always part of this event and applaud it. It makes me wish I lived in that village.
Also, here: A French landowner is doing a bit of experimental archaeology (if that is indeed the correct term) and having a castle built from scratch on his land, using only materials and technology available in the 13th century. While it’s inevitable that this won’t be an accurate construction, necessarily, it seems like an interesting experiment. I hope they have film crews there making a documentary or five about it, because I’m sure it would be fascinating.
Has anyone else out there come across interesting tidbits of public medievalism on the web?