Re: They're still letting Nic Cage be in movies?

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Heh. I just saw this come up on Netflix and had assumed it was straight to DVD. (Apparently just released in Europe first.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:11 PM
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You know, if I were going to make a movie based on a Donovan song, it would definitely be "I Love My Shirt".


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:17 PM
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I wouldn't mind a good early modern epic movie, though. Too bad this one doesn't seem to be it.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:33 PM
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I think this is more medieval than early modern. Also, they're letting him be in movies because of the good will from 'Raising Arizona'.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:35 PM
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Witch hunts are early modern. But good point, it does appear medieval.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:37 PM
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4.last: Or Birdy.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:38 PM
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I wouldn't mind a good early modern epic movie, though

"YOUR ATONAL ARMY WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME, SCHOENBERG."

"I WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN, KANDINSKY."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:38 PM
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Yeah, among the more grating things about the apparent premise of this movie is that the concept seems early modern, but all the trappings seem medieval.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:41 PM
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A good early modern epic movie would indeed be desirable, though. The Middle Ages get all the attention.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:42 PM
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Teo understands.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:42 PM
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"YOUR ATONAL ARMY WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME, SCHOENBERG."

I think Thomas Mann already wrote a novel for that one.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:43 PM
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Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit is pretty much all the Cage you need to see. Except for Raising Arizona, I suppose.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:43 PM
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5: And modern. And medieval. And classical.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:43 PM
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11: it would make a pretty sick Nic Cage movie, you have to admit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:44 PM
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13: Point. The European witch hunt is an early modern phenomenon. Not that witch accusations hadn't been made before and after.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:46 PM
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Late Black Plague era, ~1400 I think. I read somewhere that there was a problem with coming back from a Crusade to a Black Plague, but hell, Bergman got away with it.

I checked out his recent box office and he has had some expensive bombs. But Knowing made a profit.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:47 PM
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I've never heard of the "early modern" period of time before. I guess it means "Renaissance, but not necessarily in Western Europe"?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:47 PM
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12: Eating the cockroach in Vampire's Kiss.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:48 PM
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15: Thanks to google street view, I'm hunting witches right now.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:49 PM
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17: It means the transitory period between the medieval to the modern. Roughly, 1500-1800. Plenty of ways to quibble about it. Generally only applied to Europe/near-Europe.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:50 PM
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9: Queen Margot? Is 1572 still medieval?

Need to do Eric Flint series on SyFy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:50 PM
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(Also, I'd get my ass kicked for framing it only in terms of a transition, but oh well.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:50 PM
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Generally only applied to Europe/near-Europe.

And areas of extensive contact between Europeans and non-Europeans, which includes an increasingly large part of the world over the course of the period.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:52 PM
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That's sort of what I meant by near-Europe. I should start typing what I actually mean, though.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:52 PM
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Also, North America is rarely referred to as early modern, which is something that always bothers me.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:53 PM
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They should make a movie about the trial of Kepler's mother for witchcraft. That would pack them in.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:54 PM
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After talking about it in the other thread, I was just watching the very beginning of The Seventh Seal a while ago. Pretty stark contrast of returning-from-the-Crusades movies.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:55 PM
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I tend to think that Nicolas Cage is the Kevin Bacon of the day.* Some good, some bad, some indifferent, but I don't know why we ask why he's still making movies.

* Okay, actually I think Cage has done better work than Bacon. Pace Moby with respect to Tremors.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:58 PM
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Plenty of ways to quibble about it.

Begins with Martin Luther, ends with the French Revolution. How's that?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:58 PM
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Yeah, when I think Early Modern, I usually mean Dutch Republic and Jansenist France. Thirty years war. Hobbes Locke Spinoza.

I mean there are plenty of Restoration movies made. Charles II and Rochester. And things like the Malick movie or The Mission

Tokugawa Japan!


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:58 PM
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29: Oh man. Serious question?


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:59 PM
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I know I'll hear about it, but I'd consider The Name of the Rose a fine early modern movie, if perhaps not particularly epic.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 7:59 PM
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I thought they did a really good job of capturing the contradictions of the early modern era in Willow.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:01 PM
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Oh, Willow. I love that film. Lord of the Rings for the 80s.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:02 PM
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29:Because I don't think of Smith, Paine, Rousseau as Early Modern. Samuel Johnson and The Tattler?

Nah. 1575-1725


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:02 PM
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29: That's one fucked up encyclopedia.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:03 PM
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35: Don't look at just high culture. That's the fun of the early modern; they lived in one of the most fascinating mental universes ever, all that juxtaposition of rationality and irrationality.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:04 PM
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The Name of the Rose is set in the 14th century. Late middle ages, but middle ages.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:05 PM
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Don't look at just high culture.

Spare a thought for the milkmaids and plowmen.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:07 PM
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37: Unlike now.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:07 PM
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"Early modern" is constituted by whatever Stephen Greenblatt and Keith Thomas decide to write about.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:08 PM
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Would you prefer Brendon Fraser? Or, say, Sam Worthington? I vote we stick with Nic Cage. Then maybe every now and then something interesting will happen in the middle of all the awfulness.


Posted by: Yawnoc | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:08 PM
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40: Yeah, I know. It's one of the problems with that way of defining eras.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:09 PM
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Upon further reflection, Bob is correct. Early Modern ends with the enlightenment.

But I stand by Martin Luther (1517) as the starting point. A plausible case could also be made for 1492.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:10 PM
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42: He was great in The Mummy.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:10 PM
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Bob is not correct. The early modern period runs to around the turn of the 19th century. Dangerous Liaisons is good early modern movie.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:13 PM
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Early Modern ends with the enlightenment.

I'm going to take the time honored route of academic argument and say, it's a lot more complicated than that.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:13 PM
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I've seen it defined as Paren, as Reform to 1789, as the beginning of the Renaissance to the beginning of the Enlightenment, and variations on those. From an elite mentalite standpoint I like Reform to Enlightenment. Notions of Progress, utopia through scientific thinking, questioning th enotion of religion and religious thought as the basic source of the social order all seem like a big change to me. In the same way the breakdown of the Universal Church marked a big shift.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:13 PM
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Just remember, if we get this wrong, the consequences could be horrific.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:15 PM
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1692, of course, lies squarely in the early modern period regardless of exactly how it's defined.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:15 PM
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. . . it's a lot more complicated than that.

Like most things that don't matter, it isn't, really.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:16 PM
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38: Yeah, but Sean Connery is an essentially modern character, or at least a stand in, the abbot is essentially medieval, and the viewer/reader is given the perspective of the novice. So, it's given a late medieval setting, but the plot and structure, um, recapitulate a central conflict of early modernity.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:17 PM
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There's definitely a set of big shifts in elite thinking right around 1700, but I don't necessarily think of that as marking the end of the early modern era.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:17 PM
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Any other blogs we should know about, teo?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:18 PM
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51: I won't quibble on the doesn't matter part, beyond the production of hundreds of articles and books a few hundred people will read, but I'm curious why you say it's not more complicated than that. Maybe I'm just clinging to the arguments of my discipline, but I don't think it's a cut and dry end with the Enlightenment.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:18 PM
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Any other blogs we should know about, teo?

No, just the two.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:19 PM
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Slacker. Kids these days.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:20 PM
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I'm going to take the time honored route of academic argument and say, it's a lot more complicated than that perhaps this business of decisive dating is a fool's errand.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:21 PM
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7: "YOUR ATONAL ARMY WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME, SCHOENBERG."

Ha. Just reread Chabon's The Wonder Boys* which includes a character who got in a fight at his son's wedding with a member of the bride's family over Schoenberg.

*Just re-watched the movie with two of my kids and it really is pretty damn good. Except lose the hideous ending and just go read the last 30 pages of the novel instead.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:22 PM
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It also recapitulates a central conflict of the high middle ages. And it's set in the high middle ages.

Sean Connery's character is essentially Sherlock Holmes, who's a Victorian, Edwardian character.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:22 PM
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58: I guess that's what I mean by "more complicated."


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:24 PM
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53 Which is why I qualified my argument. I could see a political one that goes Reformation to French Revolution with the latter marking the beginning of modern mass politics, fully national wars, and a state whose rule rests on the concept of popular sovereignty. You could also go with the industrial revolution and the rise in agricultural productivity that allowed for urbanization which would push it somewhat further forward.

Not at all simple or obvious, of little import, but so much fun to think about.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:24 PM
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62: Yeah, I enjoy the quibbling. I've been reading a lot of religious history lately, with the standard debates about secularization and disenchantment, and at this point I'm willing to just keep pushing the end of the era forward.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:28 PM
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Season of the Witch easily could've been named after any of several Donovan songs: "The Quest," for example, or "Oh Gosh," or "Poor Cow."*

*We also would've accepted "Codeine," the drug Cage appears to on.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:31 PM
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but I'm curious why you say it's not more complicated than that.

In my discipline, philosophy, it's just an organizational concept for jobs and conferences and there isn't any controversy that it's the 17th and 18th century, from Bacon to Kant. It isn't something that people worry about or think about seriously, and I'm not sure what they would think about if they did.

I know historians treat the 16th century as early modern but it doesn't make much difference to us. I don't know that I've ever heard a talk on Montaigne, but he'd probably count as early modern. I don't think you could get an early modern job with a dissertation on Machiavelli. People who work on Suarez think of themselves as doing medieval.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:32 PM
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Um, 49 made me laugh hysterically. Or at least out loud.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:32 PM
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central conflict of the high middle ages

Care to elaborate?

Connery is a William of Occam/Sherlock Holmes crossbreed. Holmes is modern, and Occam should have been: he had no business being born in the 1300s. Anyway, Connery's kind of an intentional anachronism used to introduce modern thought into a medieval context, is all I'm saying.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:38 PM
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65: I see. Certainly, at one level, it's just an organizational concept that's not debated much at all. I'm an outsider to the early modern field (or rather, I work in it on a different continent, where they don't call it that) but I get the impression from a not insignificant amount of reading that the end of the era is something that's still pretty hotly debated in terms of trying to pin down a specific mentalité. Which, again, is of little interest to anyone but a handful of people.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:40 PM
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65: I agree that you have described how the term "early modern" is used in job searches and at the APA, but I would like to add that this usage is completely stupid. By the time to get to Hume and Kant, in philosophy at least, you are no longer "early modern" you are just "modern."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:41 PM
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Just remember, if we get this wrong, the consequences could be horrific.

You have no idea. The plagues that could be unleashed.....

(And yet again, I am reminded that what I do really is completely inconsequential.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:42 PM
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Actually, I don't think the APA usage includes Kant in the early modern period, but it does include Hume. This is because people on hiring committees generally feel expert enough to have an opinion about Hume, but not Kant, so they don't want to have to interview a Kant scholar.

"AOS: Early Modern" means "Someone who does the history of philosophy, but philosophy that looks like the philosophy we are doing now, and isn't anything as invovled as Kant."


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:46 PM
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I was thinking of the conflict between Aristotle and certain Christian ideals, but if you think of William of Baskerville as a stand in for Ockham, then you could make something similar work with that. Ockham is distinctive medieval philosopher, but not so distinctive that he didn't belong to his era.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:49 PM
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I've been reading a lot of religious history lately

Have you read Diarmaid MacCulloch? He's dope.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:50 PM
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I've heard Early Modern described as the era of the Wars of Confession? Profession? Wars of Religion. To take it to the Fr Rev is to eliminate the Enlightenment. Which was short, but real.

1520-1720, depending on geography. Still feudal in East Europe for a long time. But Hobbes and Locke were still Deists and Monarchists in ways that were irrelevant to Hume and Rousseau. Louis XV and XVI were marginal to their ministers and the American Revolution was no longer even hypocritically Catholic vs Protestant.

The Glorious Revolution was very fucking definitely a Revolution, and it all changed somewhere in two generations around there.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:51 PM
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73: I've read The Later Reformation in England. But I also haven't been setting my own reading lists.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:53 PM
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they don't want to have to interview a Kant scholar

That would be scary.

Oh, I see you basically said that. To what extent do philosophers shy away from the scary hard, I wonder? You don't see many Heidegger courses out there. Wittgenstein has been appropriated (actually, so has Heidegger).


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:56 PM
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I would strongly advice a Kant scholar to apply for early modern jobs, unless the ad explicitly ruled them out.


Posted by: beamish | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:57 PM
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We've discussed MacCulloch before, but the thread seems to have vanished down the hoohole.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:59 PM
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I love how the busiest thread all weekend is about the correct definition of "early modern".


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 8:59 PM
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I discussed MacCulloch a bit here.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:01 PM
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I love how the busiest thread all weekend is about the correct definition of "early modern".

It's this sort of thing that keeps me from giving up on this place entirely.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:01 PM
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I don't want to be a downer, but the busy-ness of the thread may have something to do with timing. Sunday night. Threads die earlier in the weekend, no matter how fascinating their subject matter. And during the week? Depends on whether you have a job that allows you to actually not work while you're at your job.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:07 PM
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Depends on whether you have a job that allows you to actually not work while you're at your job.

Being able to not work while working at your job was highly limited in the early modern period.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:12 PM
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Progress!


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:16 PM
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Being able to not work while working at your job was highly limited in the early modern period.

Someone needs to refresh their memory of Brueghel.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:16 PM
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If they stop letting Nic Cage be in movies, he'll never top the Wicker Man bear suit. Talk about your horrific consequences!


Posted by: Todd | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:20 PM
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I will defend to the death Nic Cage's right to be in movies as long as he'll go that far to defend my right to watch good movies.


Posted by: Opinionated Voltaire | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:29 PM
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84: I wouldn't put it that way.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:30 PM
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84 could be taken as a command, not a comment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:31 PM
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In a written medium it is not possible to tell the exact placement of the stress on certain words.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:45 PM
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If only there was a way to write a vowel with some kind of mark above it.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:46 PM
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Yesterday I was at the Met museum and overheard, as a group of people were leaving a room containing stuff by Matisse and Picasso and moving toward something more contemporary, someone saying "uh, guys? I think we're getting to the modern stuff now. Do we really want to do that?"

So I guess Matisse and Picasso are at best early modern.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:50 PM
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Speaking of the Met, Saiselgy appears to have just discovered that they have a website.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:52 PM
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He also can't spell "René," but I think we could have predicted that.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:53 PM
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93: The post is about MoMA. Maybe you can still tell him about the Met's website.

94: Or maybe he made an unexpected new discovery about the artist's gender?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 9:59 PM
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95.last: Didn't Eddie Murphy have that same problem a few years back?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:02 PM
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The post is about MoMA.

Huh, so it is. I guess I should read more carefully.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:03 PM
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I'd extend some charity to the speaker in 92; they were still representational figurative painters compared to abstract expressionists, much less action painters.


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:14 PM
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Also, 49 to 2?


Posted by: persistently visible | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:15 PM
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Nic Cage sucks, mostly!


Posted by: Kobe | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:21 PM
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When I was in high school, I was cramming for the AP European History test, so I went to the library and checked out a random battered old book with the title Early Modern Europe. I was reading it on a plane, and the old guy sitting next to me noticed the book and proceeded to spend the next thirty minutes telling me how absolutely delighted he was to see that young people were still reading this book because he had taught out of it decades ago and it's really wonderful and on and on and on. I was kind of weirded out by his enthusiasm, which persisted long after I explained that I just randomly grabbed a semi-relevant-looking book from the shelf. Looking back, I'm sympathetic.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:40 PM
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Spare a thought for the milkmaids and plowmen.

Rolling in the dew makes the milkmaid fair, as I understand it, and plowmen make milkmaids pregnant.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:44 PM
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102: Pretty much, yeah.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 10:50 PM
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One of the things I learned from the course I took called something like "History of Philosophy: Early Modern" was that the history part didn't exist either as content or method and the Early Modern part could have been written as a couple of dates, beginning with the earliest reading we did and ending with the latest. It was basically Descartes to Hume, and discussion of the philosophy took place as if everything took place at the same time. Not that there's anything wrong with that, for philosophy purposes.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 11:34 PM
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Oh, and The Name of the Rose is 20th century. Duh.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-12-10 11:37 PM
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The Name of the Rose is pretty much ur-post-Modern, no?

re: 104

When I was taught that period as an undergraduate philosophy student we did get a bit of historical context, and we had a lecturer who was interested in thinking about how various philosophers were responding to each other -- rather than just being grist for contemporary debates -- but yeah, I'd be the first to admit that when I've taught history of philosophy courses myself they've been much less historical than I'd like, and much more 'look, these olden dudes, they were smart fuckers, and don't let the language put you off'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:25 AM
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Teo's link got me to read Saisegly's comment section. It of course totally sucks, but the suckiness has driven the regulars insane, so it's sorta funny to read. You have the trolls, and then the regulars amusing themselves by being over-the-top abusive.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 1:19 AM
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I'd think Early Modern in Europe starts with Gutenberg and ends with the French revolution. It's debatable whether it's a useful concept elsewhere, but you could make an argument for:

Americas: Spanish contact to wars of independence (north and south);
India: Babur to the 1st War of Independence (elimination of the HEIC).


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:24 AM
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Connery is a William of Occam/Sherlock Holmes crossbreed. .

Roger Bacon/Sherlock Holmes, I think. IIRC the character explicitly says that he doesn't agree with William of Occam.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:45 AM
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If you haven't already read them, rush out and get Keith Thomas's Religion and the Decline of Magic and Christopher Hill's The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas in the English Revolution.

Not long after I first read Hill, I was at a reception where I encountered someone introduced as "Professor Christopher Hill". I raved embarrassingly about the book, until he told me the Marxist historian Christopher Hill who wrote The World Turned Upside Down had died three months ago. This one was an international-relations theorist at LSE.

I did not find five dollars.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:39 AM
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I have The World Turned Upside Down somewhere, part of a phase of buying books on 17th century British radicalism, including Ehud's Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution, and an anthology of libertarian writings from the early 18th century. The phase didn't extend to actually reading 'em. Bloody everyone recommends the Hill book, though, so probably should read it over Christmas.

I have been to Burford, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:58 AM
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Religion and the Decline of Magic is superb, I agree. But then so is everything else Thomas has written, as far as I know. I want somebody to tell me Hill has stood the test of time, because I worry about that.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:55 AM
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Hill has stood the test of time.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:08 AM
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For saxophone-accompanied sexist, sexy chases.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:11 AM
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A former professor had a rigid system for distinguishing the Enlightenment Era from the Early Modern Era by number and technology of books available. Once printed books hit a certain cheapness and availability, you've got a tipping point into the Enlightenment. (Then in the 19th century, you get pulp printing and mass availability, and it's a different thing again.) As annoying as he was personally, I still have some sympathy with his argument.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:30 AM
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The Early Modern period was neither Early, nor Modern. Discuss!


Posted by: Opinionated Linda Richman | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:11 AM
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To what extent do philosophers shy away from the scary hard, I wonder? You don't see many Heidegger courses out there.

Plenty of Heidegger courses in France, I understand.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:19 AM
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Well yeah, none of these labels make any sense at all, either at the time or later. People in antiquity didn't think they were living in antiquity; they thought they were at the cutting edge of modernity. And they were right.

The Middle Ages were named in the Middle Ages by people who thought they were a step down from the Romans (wrong), and would be succeeded by people who had their shit together again (matter of opinion).

The Early Modern period was as modern as fuck in 1500, and appreciably early after about 1700 at a guess. It's a silly labelling system. Avoid it.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:25 AM
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It's a silly racist labelling system. It has no application in China or South-East Asia, and can be applied elsewhere outside Europe only to the extent that European aggression came to determine the historical periodisation of those regions.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:28 AM
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Late antiquity has a lot of underrated movie material. It's like post zombie-apocalypse, only for real.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:28 AM
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Speaking of early-early-modern-type films, has anyone else seen The Advocate? Of course it is a favorite of my mother's.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:32 AM
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A Man For All Seasons is a pretty great movie.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:34 AM
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120. I'd go and see a movie about the early Carolingians for sure. Before that the "barabarians" were a bit boringly Roman (except the Huns). I wonder if there's room for one of those "familiy in decline" soap operas about a bunch of senatorial types in southern Gaul trying to cut a living under the Visigoths?


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:38 AM
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It's a silly racist labelling system. It has no application in China or South-East Asia, and can be applied elsewhere outside Europe only to the extent that European aggression came to determine the historical periodisation of those regions.

This would be true if there were examples of people on this thread talking about, say, "Enlightenment China" or "Early Modern India" which there aren't. No more is it racist to talk about "Ming Dynasty China" on the grounds that the Ming Dynasty only ruled China and so you can't apply it to Egypt.

I am puzzled, however, by the tendency of Americans to talk about 19th century American stuff as being "Victorian".


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:51 AM
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For my money, there aren't enough movies about the Paleolithic era.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:52 AM
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125: Quest For Fire pretty much owns that genre.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:58 AM
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The Middle Ages were named in the Middle Ages by people who thought they were a step down from the Romans (wrong)
I would have thought the lack of plumbing alone would have made this correct.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:03 AM
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124 would be valid if the approach of people on this thread were adopted by the large number of people not on this thread who tend to apply European periodisation globally because Ming Dynasty China simply isn't on their map.

there aren't enough movies about the Paleolithic era.

Too darn many, if you ask me.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:08 AM
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Fuck the people not on this thread. Yes, that means you too, lurkers.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:15 AM
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127: Roman plumbing didn't have an 'off' position. Sometimes you need to take a step back to get something more useful.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:15 AM
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128: That's not fair, though. I think you have to converse using terms that are accepted by the people having the conversation. 124 is full of things I endorse. I think most people who aren't completely ignorant know that the West trailed Chinese and Japanese cultural sophistication by centuries.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:15 AM
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I just watched an episode of the Avatar: The Last Airbender. I'm so down with Asian culture and aware that they could bend things centuries before my ancestors could.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:32 AM
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65: I wish I could go to conferences that started with bacon.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:32 AM
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130: Just don't take too many steps or you'll fall into a shit-filled moat.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:32 AM
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134: Why must everyone bitch about my landscaping?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:35 AM
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The Middle Ages were named in the Middle Ages by people who thought they were a step down from the Romans

I am always struck by the bit in volume 1 of Gibbon where he's describing the extent of the Roman Empire in AD 200 and points out that in terms of population, number of cities over a certain size, and mileage of decent paved roads, modern Spain (i.e. 18th century) still hasn't made it back up to the level of civilisation it enjoyed under the Empire.

129 is right. Using historical periods correctly is very useful.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:44 AM
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Moby is Amy Alkon?


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:51 AM
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Have I mentioned yet today that I'm sad, lonely, and lacking in nachos? Please hug me.


Posted by: Pauly Shore | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:53 AM
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One of the things I learned from the course I took called something like "History of Philosophy: Early Modern" was that the history part didn't exist either as content or method and the Early Modern part could have been written as a couple of dates, beginning with the earliest reading we did and ending with the latest. It was basically Descartes to Hume, and discussion of the philosophy took place as if everything took place at the same time.

You wouldn't get it in an undergraduate class, but there are historians of philosophy who do serious stuff with the institutional history of the period, like Christia Mercer.


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 7:59 AM
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136. Of course Spain was particularly advanced in 200 and particularly backward in 1750. But you could make a case that later mediaeval Italy and France were at least technologically way ahead of anything the Romans achieved.

Using historical periods correctly is very useful.

Up to a point Lord Copper. If we restrict ourselves to Europe, you can have endless fun in pubs arguing about whether los Reyes Catolicos were late mediaeval or early modern, but I'm not sure you'll clarify much.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:00 AM
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I'm more sophisticated than any of you, because I refuse to accept the linear, simplistic notion that some civilizations can be more "advanced" than others.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:03 AM
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I'm so deep, I don't even understand what a "line" is.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:04 AM
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137: And dog crap is kind of a half-assed way to get a shit moat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:07 AM
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141. No, that's the point I'm making. The Romans were good at plumbing and aquaducts; early Valois France less so, but they deployed industrial water power on a large scale. the Roman moved vast quantities of goods around the Mediterranean, because they had a bureaucracy to make it happen; but Fibonacci understood positional notation and the Medici applied it in double entry book keeping. So they had a rather clearer idea of what was happening to the smaller volume of stuff they did shift.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:11 AM
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So they had a rather clearer idea of what was happening to the smaller volume of stuff they did shift.

We weren't as big as the Romans, but we sure could use what we had. Signoras.


Posted by: Opinionated Medici | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 8:15 AM
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But there's clearly a big drop-off after the Romans, right? Sure, after 7 centuries there were things that medieval Europeans did better than the Romans, but there was still a dramatic fall-off in technology.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:08 AM
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Shorter 144.Medici: Sure they might not have appeared as productive, but don't discount financial innovation.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:13 AM
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146: I'm no expert, but it didn't take 7 centuries for medieval Europeans to do better than the Romans in some areas of technology. They didn't invent the stirrup, but they adapted it. I also recall learning that they made big advances in the plow.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:14 AM
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I also recall learning that they made big advances in the plowing.

And the harvesting of low-hanging fruit.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:20 AM
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148: On the other hand medieval Europeans built churches instead of aqueducts and used the road system as a quarry. Also, they squandered much of what wealth they had on pointless wars in the middle East.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:22 AM
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Also, they squandered much of what wealth they had on pointless wars in the middle East.

The Romans did that also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:24 AM
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Those were some rad churches, you have to admit.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:24 AM
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146: I'm the farthest thing from expert here, but I don't think there was actually a big fall off in technology. There was a giant fall off in industrial capacity and societal sophistication, but I don't think there was much Roman tech that an eighth or ninth century European in a center of civilization would look at and not be able to duplicate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:25 AM
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150 Also, they squandered much of what wealth they had on pointless wars in the middle East.

Thank god for progress, then! (I know, explicit-making, whatever.)


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:33 AM
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I don't think there was much Roman tech that an eighth or ninth century European in a center of civilization would look at and not be able to duplicate.

Or, rather, "and not understand how to duplicate". Because they might not have had the material, financial and human resources to build, eg, an aqueduct.

Though I have a vague memory that the Romans knew how to make concrete, and did so, and then the technique was lost until the 18th century or so.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:35 AM
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Depends what Europeans, but road building and plumbing technologies went down. I'm trying to remember, when did the series of medieval innovations that led to widespread use of sophisticated powered machinery start?

To go back to an earlier point, in what way was China or Japan 'centuries ahead' of c. 1500-1600 Europe? The one important area I can see is having an effective large scale bureaucratic apparatus in China, but other than that I don't see China as ahead of Europe by that point.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:37 AM
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Of course Spain was particularly advanced in 200 and particularly backward in 1750. But you could make a case that later mediaeval Italy and France were at least technologically way ahead of anything the Romans achieved.

Oh, no doubt. I was just remarking on how odd it was that, comparatively recently, you could still point to a bit of Europe where the all-time high-point of economic development was when it was under Marcus Aurelius.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:38 AM
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Though I have a vague memory that the Romans knew how to make concrete, and did so, and then the technique was lost until the 18th century or so.

The Romans certainly could make concrete. I don't know if the technology was lost or not. If it was lost, it wouldn't be the only time that it was lost. Pittsburgh Department of Public Works hasn't been able to make it since 2003.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:38 AM
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in what way was China or Japan 'centuries ahead' of c. 1500-1600 Europe?

Gun control laws?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:38 AM
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One of the saddest cultural setbacks of the fall of Rome was the decline into the Little Caesars period. Never before had pizza been so mediocre and yet convenient to K-Mart customers.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:39 AM
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in what way was China or Japan 'centuries ahead' of c. 1500-1600 Europe?

Centralized administration?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:46 AM
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Probably metal working, certainly ceramics.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:50 AM
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Fireworks!


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:52 AM
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And then there's stuff like this.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 9:57 AM
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I think perhaps the trap to avoid here is assuming that any given civilization will use technologies in a linear, rationalized manner. The Celts had roller bearings for their axles, but the Romans either didn't figure that out or didn't see the utility, so the technology was lost for many centuries. Even nowadays, the technology for fibrous concrete (aka papercrete) was patented in 1928, and then nobody did anything with it until the last 20 or 30 years. I think that's the fallacy behind the whole technology-drives-society/"the street finds its own uses for things" propaganda. Certain forms of action, both individual and collective, lend themselves to the exploitation of certain technologies. Of course, you can't use a technology if no one has invented it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you can use the technology just because someone has invented it.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:01 AM
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162 Ceramics, yes. But metalworking, I'm not sure of this but my impression was that the European military-industrial complex R&D division had gotten to the Chinese level of metalworking.

155.2 yes

161 That's what I meant by bureaucracy.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:01 AM
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I think perhaps the trap to avoid here is assuming that any given civilization will use technologies in a linear, rationalized manner.

Natilo, that sounds like a not-very-veiled criticism of Sid Meier's CIVILISATION.

APOLOGISE OR YOU ARE DEAD TO ME.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:08 AM
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I used to work with/on the biggest collection of astrolabes in the world,* and one thing that comes up again and again is how sophisticated a lot of technology had gotten by the late Hellenic period [then inherited by the Arabs and Persians]. This is the oldest extant _working_ geared mechanism in the world:**

http://anonym.to/?http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/astrolabe/catalogue/browseReport/Astrolabe_ID=165.html


* more in my academic computing capacity than as a philosophy of science type

** the antikythera is much older, obviously.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:08 AM
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156,166: I guess it's in the sense that, in terms of technology and societal complexity, the more "advanced" Western European nations caught up to the Song Dynasty (tenth to thirteenth century) right about that period.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:09 AM
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More seriously with relation to 165, I didn't know that about roller bearings. Interesting.

Also: breech-loading guns. The Mary Rose had breech-loading cannon. It's one of these ideas that kept cropping up, but then people would be unable to make it work properly and they'd forget about it again.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:09 AM
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Early Modern in European History is, as Paren and teo have rightly said, partly a period of transition or a place marker between the established fields of Medieval and Modern, and partly tries to describe a period that feels different and requires different tools of analysis from what came before and and after. So you have a period of increased travel and commerce, accelerating developments in technology and ideas alongside still very limited urbanization; bureaucratization alongside primarily patrimonial and monarchical governments; more anatomically based medicine with a quite rudimentary understanding of human health.

So the changes towards the modern or a sense of modernity (which I think of primarily as a sense of acceleration; the awareness that ones times are qualitatively different from even recent times past) come in different areas at different times. Just like whether Europe is doing better in the Medieval period than Late Antiquity depends on what your measuring, how much density of achievement matters (does it matter how good you roads are if you only have five of them?) and what you think makes things better rather than worse.

To chris y's point, we don't bother with "Early Modern" in African history, because while changes are certainly taking place during the corresponding period, they are extremely unevenly distributed. Some places states and political centralization is expanding, others it's declining.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:11 AM
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165 makes good points. Also, knowing how to do a thing doesn't necessarily mean that you can apply it on a useful scale. I think that was the problem with a lot of Hellenistic technology: yes, Hiero could build a steam powered toy, but even if he could conceive of industrial applications for it, he certainly couldn't invent the metallurgical advances needed to implement them. There was a guy in China who built industrial blast furnaces in the 1st century CE, but it was another 1400 years before the Europeans got it.

Apparently the key patents for disk braking systems were taken out in the first decade of the 20th century, but it was another 50 years before they could make a set which was safe.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:13 AM
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All I know is that if that mechanism is Antikythera, then I'm Prokythera all the way.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:14 AM
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With respect to 170, etc: were knitting techniques created, lost and refound over time? Wikipedia's "knitting history" gives me nothing except there are some stitches that were lost and that purling is relatively new.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:15 AM
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And with that out of the way, for good Early Modern movies, I'd nominate Perfume* and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, neither of which are especially epic. The classic Early Modern epic would seem to be Barry Lyndon, though I never enjoyed it as much as I've been told that I should.

*Perfume not actually being a good movie, but an extremely interesting failure.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:17 AM
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Wikipedia's "knitting history" gives me nothing except there are some stitches that were lost...

Roughly 11% of knitting technique gets lost every generation. As the saying goes, "One stitch in nine gets lost in time."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:18 AM
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176: Ha! I did set myself up for that.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:22 AM
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With respect to 170, etc: were knitting techniques created, lost and refound over time?

The best bit of Samuel Goudsmit's book "Alsos" is the bit where he quotes a captured memo from SS Colonel Wolfram Sievers, head of the Ahnenerbe-SS:

Dear Fraulein Piffl:

There was a recent report in the press that there is an old woman living in Ribe in Jutland, who still possesses knowledge of the knitting methods of the Vikings.
The Reichsfuhrer [Himmler] desires that we send someone to Jutland immediately to visit the old woman and learn these knitting methods.
Heil Hitler!

Sievers.

This memo was written in March 1943: that is, shortly after the fall of Stalingrad.

"Unfortunately for the future of science," Goudsmit adds, "the records fail to reveal if Miss Piffl's mission was successful."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:22 AM
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176: That's also why threads disappear down the hoohole.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:25 AM
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Have we already discussed Terry Jones' Barbarians? It covers a lot of these issues, though perhaps with less rigorous scholarship (and a lot more editorial comments) than some people here might prefer.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:29 AM
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Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit is pretty much all the Cage you need to see.

Back to the OP, the one thing -- and I do mean the one and only thing -- you can say for Nicolas Cage is that when he takes a role, he fuckin' commits.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:29 AM
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Actually, there is one other thing you can say for him: he's not Keanu Reeves.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:30 AM
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Wwway back to the beginning of the thread, the point of designating a historical time period "early modern" is to let historians engage in endless arguments about when the period starts and ends. Which they do, ad nauseum.

Just to tell Paren things that she already knows, while its true that witchcraft trials were an early modern phenomenon, but witchcraft itself was a well-understood medieval (and probably pre-medieval) phenomenon, and the Dominican Inquisition of the middle ages certainly looked into witchcraft accusations, e.g., the trial of Joan of Arc. Of course, that's arguably an "early modern" trial (see above). Since I didn't put the sound on for this clip, I have no idea if this is what the Nic Cage movie is about.

And Cage still makes movies because, well, look who is making that movie. Relativity Media.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:35 AM
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n.b.: All that crap I said upthread about The Name of the Rose applies almost as much to Army of Darkness.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:36 AM
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Keanu Reeves is awesome. My whole family went to see Chain Reaction in the theatre when it came out. And then I went to Chicago for undergrad.


Posted by: x.trapnel | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:48 AM
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Reeves is at least not actively annoying, unlike Cage.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:52 AM
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185: Blown-up professor = U of C classics prof (who also founded the Court Theater).


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:53 AM
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Umberto Eco commented more than once on his amusement than whenever people complained about his sleuth character in The Name of the Rose saying something too "modern," he was almost invariably quoting the medieval scholastics directly. There's really very little of the modern (much less the early modern) that wasn't present or prefigured in some way in the Middle Ages.

I haven't watched the trailer which I'm sure is all manner of silly, but witchcraft trials are very much a 14th-century thing; the first such official trial is usually dated to 1320. Crusades were still ongoing at the time too, although Crusading in the Holy Land had waned (the element the filmmakers are likeliest to have fudged, I'm guessing). Crusades spearheaded by the Teutonic Knights in Northern Europe continued until the 16th century.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:58 AM
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Crusades were still ongoing at the time too, although Crusading in the Holy Land had waned (the element the filmmakers are likeliest to have fudged, I'm guessing). Crusades spearheaded by the Teutonic Knights in Northern Europe continued until the 16th century.

Just offshore from the Holy Land, too: the Knights of St John were moving from Acre to Cyprus to Rhodes to (by 1500 or so) Malta.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:01 AM
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174: It's hard to know because so much knitting hasn't been preserved for more than a couple centurie at most, other than truly ancient stuff from the Egyptian deserts and whatnot. I'd be willing to bet that all sorts of techniques have been lost and refound, but not necessarily in a linear way.

"Unventing" (German-American knitting superstar Elizabeth Zimmermann's term for innovations she came up with that seemed to extend naturally from what she already knew and thus she assumed weren't really instances of her being the first knitter ever to try them) seems to be pretty standard and there are various techniques that show up in various places at about the same times for reasons that are probably mostly coincidence.

I could get citations if you want something less half-assed, but first I need to clear away lunch dishes and have the little one use the toilet again. I'll bet I haven't even done an hour of knitting since she came home six weeks ago and I miss it!!


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:13 AM
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190: That's very interesting Thorn, and I hadn't at all thought of textiles in general (much less knitting) as tech. But, then, I'm a philistine.


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:17 AM
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123: The Carolingian family in decline almost exactly describes the musical Pippin, which is about a fictional son of Charlemagne trying to find meaning in life. Successful in theater but not yet a movie. Also, it's in seventies pop style so probabaly not especially authentic.


Posted by: unimaginative | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:19 AM
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I had a very vague impression that knitting generally was quite modern (like, maybe sixteenth or seventeenth century, but not earlier). But I have no idea why, other than that I can't picture anyone before that period in a sweater. What sort of stuff was knitted in ancient Egypt?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:20 AM
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192: The guy from "The Greatest American Hero" played Pippin in the snippet I saw.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:21 AM
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194: I remember this too! I thought it was a movie.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:28 AM
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Any time I am at Marie's Crisis* and they play some song I don't know a word of but everyone else is singing with great gusto, it is from Pippin. I think of it as a musical theater geek shibboleth.

*mentioned here before? Piano bar.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:28 AM
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I'll throw out some links because I love talking knitting, though they're links I'm finding fast and not necessarily the best ones. First, I'll add that knitting magazines (particularly Interweave Knits and Piecework) will routinely have little articles about reverse engineering what was done in a historical garment via a technique that's not part of the modern repertoire, so I imagine it was much easier for things to get lost when no patterns were written at all.

These Egyptian socks are from 300ish CE, but I'm pretty sure there are some even older examples, some with colorwork. (An article in Knitty suggests I'm confusing them with ones from about the turn of the last millennium, but I still think I'm right.)

Knitting Madonnas (typically working on projects in the round on multiple needles, maybe baby sweaters?) started popping up in artwork in the 14th century, so you can incorporate them into your arguments about early Modernness.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:30 AM
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196: I got withering stares from the rich and elderly at the Townhouse one night for singing loudly along to half of Pippin.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:31 AM
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197: Those are the most hilarious looking socks. Thanks for all the links.

I've had a mitten underway now for a year or two that I should get back to one of these days (and no good excuse like a new baby).


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:36 AM
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197: Were those socks meant for people or camels, do you think?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:37 AM
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197: Cool! But I'm pretty sure those "Egyptian" socks are actually the work of the two-toed aliens that built the pyramids.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:38 AM
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201: Upon reconsideration I've decided that those socks were made by humans and were a stocking stuffer gift for a 2-toed alien.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:39 AM
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(And I'm in the middle of my first ever two-color anything: this hat. I had a bad experience with a failed multicolor baby pattern back when I was pregnant with Sally that left me nervous about stranded knitting, but it's going fairly smoothly this time.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:40 AM
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||| Anybody in LA area going swimming at the Museum of Contemporary Art?

A highlight of the exhibition, Hé:lio Oiticica and Neville D'Almeida's Cosmococa-Programa in Progress, CC4 Nocagions (1973) features a 90-centimeter-deep swimming pool installed amid colored lights and multiple wall projections of John Cage's book Notations, a collection of music manuscripts, covered with lines of cocaine. The water presents a dynamic surface where the movements of the swimming participants are integrated into the work in a complete reinvention of art as an immersive, sensorial, and interactive experience. For MOCA's presentation, the public will be invited to swim or lounge in the heated pool during museum hours, supervised by a lifeguard. Changing rooms will be available for visitors who bring swimsuits, and the MOCA Store will offer a line of disposable swimwear. Towels will be provided.

||||


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:44 AM
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Disposable swimwear. The mind reels a bit.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:46 AM
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MOCA means "booger" in Spanish. Considering they'r ein LA, I'm surprised no one on the naming committee caught that.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:48 AM
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Yes. I suppose, if you try to take the swimwear home, the lifeguard will take it away.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:48 AM
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Let's also consider the fact that I normally type more gooder.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:48 AM
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205: Maybe it gradually disintegrates in water. So you suddenly realize that you're completed naked in the Museum of Contemporary Art. A masterpiece!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:52 AM
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Ich bin ein LA.


Posted by: Lost JF Kennedy | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:53 AM
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209: "completely" not "completed".

But I wanted to make Stanley feel better.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:53 AM
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I had a bad experience with a failed multicolor baby pattern

a.k.a. Loving v. Virginia.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:54 AM
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But I wanted to make Stanley feel better.

You complete me.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 11:57 AM
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213: (weeping manly tears of love) You had me at hello, Stanley....

(meeting of the threads)


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:00 PM
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I don't think there was much Roman tech that an eighth or ninth century European

Romans built aqueducts, and knew that they had to in order to have viable cities. Also knew how to make concrete. Piped public water was uncommon in even the eighteenth century, only became widespread in the 19th. Oceangoing vessels-- crossing the channel was a much bigger deal in 1066 than it had been for Hadrian.

By 1100, the knowledge that the internal angles of a triangle summed to one value had been forgotten in the monastery of St Germain des pres. Reading medieval chroniclers (Gregory of Tours, Kosmas, Bede) is a sharp contrast to their predecessors-- by 800, there's a real loss of the expressive power of written language (latin, at least; the Dream of the Rood is nice).


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:09 PM
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212 is really funny.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:17 PM
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Oceangoing vessels

So how did I get to Iceland? Swim?


Posted by: Ingólfur Arnarson | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:19 PM
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Perhaps you were carried on a wave of leaked government secrets.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:25 PM
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-- by 800, there's a real loss of the expressive power of written language

They invented the internet that soon?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:31 PM
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219: LOL


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:33 PM
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Was there any decline in sea travel tech in the Mediterranean? I had a vague impression that things stayed largely the same as in the Roman era, regardless of whether you were a Byzantine, Italian, or Arab merchant until the rise of ocean going travel in the early modern period.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:33 PM
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183, 188:

Of course witchcraft is a dominant idea in medieval culture. Of course there were earlier witch trials.

However, the classic witch hunt - mass trials, mass accusations, mass upheaval (the season of the witch, if you will) - is an early modern phenomenon. That's all I meant by #5. And, if you note, I concurred that this movie did seem to be a "medieval" film.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:42 PM
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(Also, please excuse my extreme grumpiness. I wish I could go back to bed.)


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:51 PM
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Awesome band name up for grabs: The Skoromoks


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:54 PM
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I wish I could go back to bed

It may be a bit presumptuous of me, but screw it: on behalf of the entire internet, you have our permission to go back to bed.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 12:58 PM
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I have to go into work. (Yeah, I know it's already half past noon; I worked this morning at home).


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 1:00 PM
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I should go see if we have enough snow that I can say I need to finish the day from home.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 1:06 PM
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Today must be Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art day for me. Interesting policies -- yes, to swimming and disposable bathing suits; no to anti-war mural.

The mural, on a wall of the museum's Geffen Contemporary wing, was planned as a kind of advertisement for an ambitious exhibition focusing on street art that the museum will open in April. But as Blu neared completion of the mural - which conveyed a strident anti-war message, showing rows of caskets draped with one-dollar bills instead of flags - the museum changed its mind and began painting it over on Thursday.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 1:50 PM
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"After all, it's my wall."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 1:59 PM
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221. No, sea trade in the Mediterrenean was not interrupted until the Umayyads seized control, and even then only Christian traders had problems. However, the most economically significant trade routes (Egypt-Italy and Damascus-Italy, maybe Egypt-Damascus, I don't know) were dominated by privately built rather than Roman ships, as far as Henri Pirenne and archeologists examining his proposals can tell.

I liked reading this one:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801492629/

Yes, Scandinavians knew how to sail, as neatly shown by the Norman conquest of Sicily, but neither the Franks nor the inhabitants of the British isles particularly did. How European were the Vikings? Certainly not heirs of the Roman Empire, and pagan until at least the 800s.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:21 PM
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Certainly not heirs of the Roman Empire

Tell that to Harald Hardrada, bodyguard to the Byzantine Emperor before he became king of Norway. By which I mean, it's hard to say what it means to be an heir of the Roman Empire. They were certainly aware of living in a world that the Romans had ruled.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:27 PM
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(This is one of the four historical facts I know, so I bring it up whenever it's remotely relevant. Belligerently, if possible.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:28 PM
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By which I mean, it's hard to say what it means to be an heir of the Roman Empire.

I tried to say I owned the Pantheon and it didn't work at all.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:30 PM
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That was me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:30 PM
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By 1050 scandinavians were mostly christian, not viking anymore in any meaningful sense of the word, and had chosen to integrate and trade with Europe rather than to continue raiding.

Scattered comments concerning generalizations are probably not the best way to communicate about the people living in what is now Europe over 500 years. My main point was that the Romans knew quite a bit that was indeed forgotten. Peripherally, the sources for this period, chroniclers, and archeologists, are interesting reading. Pirenne is dry, but it's a really interesting synthesis of many disparate threads.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 2:54 PM
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My main point was that the Romans knew quite a bit that was indeed forgotten.

This isn't really disputing that point, but I thought I'd read somewhere that the archaeological evidence is increasingly against the view that there was a mass depopulation of towns during the 400-1000 period, and that the consensus view sees a lot more continuity between the Roman and medieval town than a lot of folks had thought for a long time. And more continuity than just the "everything got screwed up once the Mediterranean was cut in half by Islam" Pirenne thesis.

Of course, $5 and what I actually know about dark ages archaeology gets you $5.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:13 PM
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230/235. Wickham (2010) argues that Pirenne was writing without access to recent archaeological evidence and that he was consequently wrong on a number of points. Particularly, he suggests that Pirenne underestimated the disruption to Mediterranean trade because he had to rely on written sources which deal disproportionately with luxury goods, which were indeed still traded.

However, the volume of trade in non-luxuries such as food staples and low status ceramics does appear to collapse in the archaeological record, and new, much more localised patterns of exchange in such goods seem to arise in Francia and to a lesser extent in Visigothic Spain and Anglo-Saxon Britain. I'm not expert enough to evaluate this stuff from the primary sources, but it sounds pretty convincing.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:22 PM
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236. Further to the above, Wickham also suggests that the trade in luxuries did continue between the Eastern Empire and the Caliphate (well, Egypt) with a fine disregard for religious differences. The western Mediterranean didn't contribute so much to this because they weren't producing anything worth trading in that kind of market.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:27 PM
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Yes, the book in 230 goes into some detail about trade continuity after 400 using coin hoards.

But being able to sustain life in the ruins is not the same as knowing how to build an aqueduct, to make concrete from limestone, to use a plumbline and some trigoinometry for surveying, all of which the Romans did and their succesors could not do. People sank wells and drank from the same bogs where they shat while building Chartres. For centuries, the only reason people counted anything in Europe was to get the dates of their religious holidays right. They had even forgotten how to crucify people, for Christ's sake!


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:30 PM
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Wickham (2010) argues that Pirenne was writing without access to recent archaeological evidence

Yes, thinking about it, the point I was almost certainly incorrectly summarizing in 236 came from (I think) a review of this book by Wickham. Maybe I should read it!


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:47 PM
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240 was me, I say.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:48 PM
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LB, that's some cute knitting. Are you using the Mini Mochi? My only successful colorwork project was with Noro Kureyon and I think self-striping yarns lend themselves well to it. The morphine while I recovered from gall bladder surgery probably explains my even and relaxed gauge.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 3:53 PM
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Piped public water was uncommon in even the eighteenth century, only became widespread in the 19th.

London has several streets called Conduit... they're all much older than Snow and Bazalgette.

by 800, there's a real loss of the expressive power of written language

Ah, bullshit - our national literature was just beginning.

Also, nobody "forgot how to sail" in northern Europe. What is this cockery? People kept going to Greenland off and on up to the time of Cabot. How do you think the Hanseatic League worked?


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:31 PM
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Going back to Nic Cage, I am somewhat contrarian. He does vaguely annoy me and has some spectacular flops, but looking over his IMDB page it's hard to think of an actor that has an overall better resume, particularly the combo of genuinely good or pretty good art house films (Leaving Las Vegas, BL:POCNO, Raising Arizona), big budget action flicks, and one great, underrated comedy (Honeymoon in Vegas). And he had a gigantic moneymaking hit as recently as three years ago.

With that said, Season of the Witch apparently sat on the shelf for years and almost certainly will completely suck and be a commercial failure.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:33 PM
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an actor that has an overall better resume

Johnny Depp?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:37 PM
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The Wickham book does look nice.

Hanseatic trade was centuries later, and vikings rather than Europeans sailed to Greenland before say 1000 AD.

Huh, I did not know about William Lamb or charitable conduits of fresh water in the 1600s. Still, cholera in 1854 from well water.

I liked NC and the movie The Weatherman, hated Leaving Las Vegas (living low should not be that well lit), and I like his action movies as a guilty pleasure-- Face Off, and something about a car thief both worked for me. Will Smith for a better resume and for cagier exploitation of bad audience taste.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:47 PM
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I think Depp is the better actor by a factor of ten billionty, but he's been in a lot of shitty films and very few excellent ones. I liked Blow and Finding Neverland.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:48 PM
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176 was very, very funny.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 4:51 PM
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The Northern European Hansa-to-be started when, twelfth century and really got under way big time mid thirteenth? In any case it was coastal short hop and riverine. But it did do a lot of basic foodstuff and other non luxury goods.

*Anybody else ever experience a complete breakdown in their ability to spell some simple word? For some reason I couldn't get 'twelfth'. That sort of thing happens to me occasionally and is really annoying 'twelvth? twelth? no that's not right either'


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:26 PM
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re: 247

FWIW, his Scottish accent in Finding Neverland is really a lot better than most, and a lot better than his crappy London accent in From Hell.

243 gets it right. By the 9th century 'Germanic' literature is starting to get its shit together. In the British Isles there's a thriving monastic culture.* Plus I'd bet the Welsh and the Irish could get quite pissed off at the dismissal of their oral/literary culture.

* and elsewhere too, of course.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:38 PM
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And the troubadour tradition. The Wiki on Occitan literature is sort of funny with archaic troubadouresque turns of phrase and also very parti pris.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 5:52 PM
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242: I am. I started the hat once with a different yarn that changed colors too fast, so the pattern didn't show up at all, ripped it out and made it into socks. Then I ordered some of the right yarn online, and two days later found it in the scruffy yarn store on Broadway just south of Canal. No five dollars.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 6:42 PM
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239, 246: The thread is dead/resting, but I can't resist.

lw, you're acting like there's a thing called Europe, and there isn't, not in the period you're talking about anyway. I know very little about the Roman Empire, but from what I know of imperial systems, they generally weren't all that concerned with "capacity building." People most places didn't forget how to build roads or aqueducts or whatever. They never knew how. Some other fucker came in and made them put various things various places. Clearly some techniques dropped out of active knowledge even in those places that developed them, but if you stop offerring the flying buttress building seminars when demand goes down (and/or you happen to be in a trade that has a mystery cult attached to it), people may not be able to figure out said masonry when it drifts back into fashion.

Also, whatever fine advances in sanitation and water supply for urban centers the Romans had, they didn't understand waterborne disease any better than those who came after them, up to John Snow. The only reason they didn't get cholera is because it wasn't available to them.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-13-10 10:37 PM
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vikings rather than Europeans

Whaaa????


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 2:04 AM
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Also, part of the reason why Londoners (and others) got cholera in the 19th century was because there was this unprecedentedly enormous city with steam locomotives and factories and proletarians and whatnot. It wasn't that anyone had forgotten how to build water pipes - it was that the city was vastly huger than anything anyone had seen in the world before, and also that its government was still essentially medieval. Big cholera epidemics were a phenomenon of the early 19th century worldwide, because of the rapid urbanisation and better sea transport. In fact, cholera was unknown in Europe before 1817, so you can't really draw conclusions from its absence before that.

Further, Chadwick built the water supply system, but that didn't fix the problem. At all. In fact, it made it worse. Until you grasp that it's a waterborne disease, piped water will only spread it further, faster, and more efficiently. What was really needed was a sewerage system to complement the water supply, and the insight that the two systems were both mutually interdependent and religiously segregated.

Piped water may be Roman, but sewerage is Victorian.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 2:21 AM
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By the way, why is Aachen (or Kells, or Iona) any less artistically worthy than Kyoto or Chang'an? I mean, really, it seems entirely silly to talk as if the men who illumined the Book of Kells or fashioned the jewellery of Sutton Hoo were less sophisticated than anyone else.

(PS. in point of fact it was impossible for the post-Roman population of Europe to forget how to build flying buttresses, because they invented them.)


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 3:02 AM
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by 800, there's a real loss of the expressive power of written language

Ha!

"Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.
Her lið ure ealdor eall forheawen,
god on greote. A mæg gnornian
se ðe nu fram þis wigplegan wendan þenceð.
Ic eom frod feores; fram ic ne wille,
ac ic me be healfe minum hlaforde,
be swa leofan men, licgan þence."

They could do in in Romance too:

Carles li reis, nostre emperere magnes
Set anz tuz pleins ad estet en Espaigne:
Tresqu'en la mer cunquist la tere altaigne.
N'i ad castel ki devant lui remaigne;
Mur ne citet n'i est remes a fraindre,
Fors Sarraguce, ki est en une muntaigne.
Li reis Marsilie la tient, ki Deu nen aimet;
Mahumet sert e Apollin recleimet:
Nes poet guarder que mals ne l'i ateignet.

May not be your cup of tea, but fuck a bunch of Statius for either of them.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 3:02 AM
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vikings rather than Europeans

I too am puzzled by the idea that the Norsemen were not Europeans. For values of "Europe" that don't include Russia, France, Britain, Norway, Sweden, Sicily, or Denmark, presumably.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 3:12 AM
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Piped water may be Roman, but sewerage is Victorian.

Ahem.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloaca_Maxima


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 3:13 AM
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re: 258

I think lw is maybe using 'European' in some sort of etiolated 'bits of Europe that made up the former Holy Roman Empire and/or France, except the Norse colonised bits' sense, or some such? I imagine some sort of version of the Exile.ru's Europe map, with NRE stamped all over the north and west of Europe.

Anyway, having read a fair bit of the (early, and later) medieval literature of Scandinavia and the British Isles the idea that these were cultural backwaters incapable of a high level of literary expression is insane.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 4:33 AM
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an actor that has an overall better resume

James Stewart!

What, I'm not just saying this for a callback.


Posted by: Mister Smearcase | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 5:36 AM
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OT, but Julian Assange's OKCupid profile from 2006 gave me a chuckle or two. I don't know how many times I've seen someone looking for a partner in "criminal conspiracy" who *didn't* actually mean it.


Posted by: AWB | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 5:41 AM
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262. Please, please tell me he was thirteen when he wrote that.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:01 AM
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I read a bunch of medieval Icelandic literature once upon a time, and my impression is that they were a bunch of hick farmers who wrote really well, and liked killing. The sophistication was purely in literary style. It's easy to write tragedy when your culture dictates you try to resolve all conflicts through bloodshed.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:18 AM
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they were a bunch of hick farmers who wrote really well, and liked killing. The sophistication was purely in literary style. It's easy to write tragedy when your culture dictates you try to resolve all conflicts through bloodshed.

MAYBE I JUST MAKE IT LOOK EASY, SMART GUY.


Posted by: Opinionated William Faulkner | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:23 AM
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It's easy to write tragedy when your culture dictates you try to resolve all conflicts through bloodshed eat so much fermented meat.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:27 AM
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264: The FDA banned Four Loko in order to stop an American literary revival.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:45 AM
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I am pro-Anglo Saxon literature and extremely pro-viking, and agree with the points from Chris Y, J. Pongo, Keir, and Ttam above, above.

However, to be slightly charitable to LW: I think what he was trying to get at about the Vikings was not that they couldn't sail, but that their ability to do so was not a result of their having maintained technological knowledge from Roman civilization (hence not "European") and that there were techniques for the mass transport of people and goods by ocean that had been lost with the fall of the empire. (Personally, I don't know if that latter point is true or not -- was there a decline in shipbuilding or navigational ability that went along with a decline in ocean-borne trade? -- but that's what LW was claiming).

Similarly with early medieval literature: It may be that native-language literature was flourishing, but the prose of Bede or Gregory of Tours represents a decline in the expressive power of Latin, specifically. Which, tbh isn't that much of a surprise as Latin was becoming a purely dead and literary language, but of course it was still the primary written language of Europe from 400-1000.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:52 AM
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The Vikings' advances in football-stadium-roof technology are highly overrated.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 6:59 AM
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(PS. in point of fact it was impossible for the post-Roman population of Europe to forget how to build flying buttresses, because they invented them.)

This was in fact my point: medieval technologies and innovations were lost to posterity in the same way that ones from antiquity were: if your society doesn't have the interest, labor or resources to build something for a couple of centuries, it's likely to forget how.

But, as Keir, chris and ttaM have effectively said, the larger point is that the equation of cultural sophistication with schmancy architectural wonders is ... dumb and should be abandoned by now.


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:00 AM
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269: In fact they've been stagnant for 30 years now! (lousy Vikings)


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:03 AM
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the equation of cultural sophistication with schmancy architectural wonders

I mean, yes, this is dumb, but of course it doesn't mean that different civilizations don't have different levels of technology, which can be reflected in the schmancy architectural wonders, and I think that's where the conversation started. Pre-mission Tongva indians had far more sophisticated botanical knowledge than your modern Southern Californian, and probably a more developed ethical culture, but the fact that there are now skyscrapers obviously tells you something about the overall level of technology.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:16 AM
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a more developed ethical culture
Could you elaborate, or give a link? I'm interested but completely ignorant.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:24 AM
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Why is Nic Cage in movies? THIS IS WHY: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOpsbAUEe90


Posted by: Andrew | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:25 AM
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the equation of cultural sophistication with schmancy architectural wonders is ... dumb and should be abandoned by now.

Clearly not written by a New Yorker.

Pre-mission Tongva indians had far more sophisticated botanical knowledge than your modern Southern Californian,

Than the average Southern Californian, yes. Not compared to southern California as a culture, which - en masse - has vastly more botanical knowledge than any Tongva Indian who ever lived.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:35 AM
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275. That's a little pedantic. Obviously the Botany Department of UCLA contains more botanical knowledge than existed in the world in 1600. But the modal Southern Californian lives in a city, and like all city dwellers divides plants into grass, trees, flowers, vegetables and weeds.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 7:45 AM
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re: 276

You are forgetting 'drugs' in that list.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:07 AM
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276: not at all; I'm just annoyed with lack of specialisation being taken as a sign of a culture's superiority or sophistication. That I can survive in modern-day Britain without having to know how to skin a deer does not make my culture somehow inferior to that of Mousterian Man.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:10 AM
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277: No, he said "weed."

278: Durkheimian Culture Fight, go!


Posted by: Jimmy Pongo | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:14 AM
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That I can survive in modern-day Britain without having to know how to skin a deer does not make my culture somehow inferior to that of Mousterian Man.

Mousterian Man probably was in pretty good shape, though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:19 AM
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re: 264

Hick farmers who engage in killing describes pretty much every human culture in history, or at least going back for most of the past 10,000 years or so.

And I think 264 is basically wrong, anyway. Medieval Iceland's culture was fairly sophisticated in many ways. It was a form of democracy, with what was, by contemporary standards, an extremely enlightened justice system. No death penalty, for example.*

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_Commonwealth
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Althing

It was also a highly literate culture. There's a massive amount of prejudiced bollocks [technical term] here.

* although complicated, because it could declare people as having a certain 'outlaw' status that meant they could be killed if they didn't go into exile, or remain under a form of house arrest.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:21 AM
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It's easy to write tragedy when your culture dictates you try to resolve all conflicts through bloodshed.

Don't I know it.


Posted by: William Faulkner | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:26 AM
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Mousterian Man probably was in pretty good shape, though.

Briefly. He (and Mousterian Woman) seem to have had a life expectancy at birth of about 25 years. And (I think, from memory) the rare "elderly Neanderthals" who were preserved with such loving care by their friends didn't often make it past 40.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:26 AM
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280: I object to your assuming that I'm not in pretty good shape too, especially for someone who to a Mousterian Man would have been known as "grandad".

282: the past is never dead. It is, however, pwned by 265.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 8:47 AM
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bits of Europe that made up the former Holy Roman Empire and/or France, except the Norse colonised bits

Basically, yes. This is a way of identifying the bits of Europe that preserved Latin and Greek, which happened mostly in monasteries. The topic started with a question about how much the Romans actually knew, so those bits of Europe that the Romans never reached don't count for much in this sense, even if they had bishops from the 800s on.

So in this sense (the heirs of classical culture sense), the vikings gradually became European between 600 and 1000 as they ceased raiding, settled, and followed the political decisions of their chiefs to convert to Christianity. Looking at how the past was preserved in geographical Europe is not the whole story, but I think that it's a useful angle for thinking about changes there at the time.

I mentioned liking the Dream of the Rood, there's lots of lovely vernacular poetry. Many of those guys were very articulate, real credits to their tribes. But reading the chroniclers, who I know better than the poets, and understanding that this was the best available for the task at the time-- something changed for the worse since Augustine or Boethius, no question.

My shipbuilding claim is just that Roman Britain was a province linked to the mainland, and that this link was weakened when the Romans left. Pagan raids on Britain don't seem like a continuity of shipbuilding knowledge to me, but this seems like a tedious point to keep arguing, so whatever. Mediterranean shipping and trade is a different story, I'm not claiming loss of knowledge there because the knowledge wasn't a Roman monopoly.

Valuable techniques and skills dropping out of active knowledge seems to me a very clear and useful definition of decline. Partly this means preserving archives and understanding that they are worth consulting. Monasteries within Europe and libraries in civilized places outside of it did this for a lot of classical written culture; looking at just how tenuous that preservation was (concrete, roads, ships, water) is to me the interesting question.

The Eastern empire is interesting, since they managed to preserve lots of written knowledge and a literary culture, but couldn't manage to use it to advantage when they needed to.

The Wickham book really does look interesting-- I'm looking forward to finding time to read it, thanks for the recommendation.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 9:08 AM
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A recurring theme of the Icelandic literature is that the existing justice system only barely restrained the desire of Icelanders to kill each other.

Also, the Vikings liked killing a lot more than your average farmer. The Icelandic sagas make it sound like going out and looting and burning down monastaries was a fun thing you did when you were young, before you settled down to a life of toil. If this was a common attitude, there'd be a lot fewer monastaries standing.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 9:49 AM
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re: 286

I don't know, I'm Scottish. Which is another northern European genus of farming and killing and writing epic poetry about it while being drunk and melancholy people. So 'average', how, exactly?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 4:45 PM
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there'd be a lot fewer monastaries standing

There are a lot fewer monasteries standing.


Posted by: Turgid Jacobian | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 5:04 PM
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But reading the chroniclers, who I know better than the poets, and understanding that this was the best available for the task at the time-- something changed for the worse since Augustine or Boethius, no question.

But looking at metalworking, or illumined manuscripts, or poetry (or even large parts of architecture, for that matter) there's a change for the better, no question.


Posted by: Keir | Link to this comment | 12-14-10 5:25 PM
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288 is right.

And re: 287, "the Vikings liked killing a lot more than your average farmer" - more than your average Scottish or English or Irish or French farmer? Because none of those nations (to name but four) were particularly peaceful either. Farmers tend to quite enjoy war because it's less mind-numbingly bloody boring than farming (as long as the war occurs on top of someone else's crops rather than their own). The US Army's still a disproportionately rural force for exactly that reason. How you gonna keep them down on the farm, etc.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-15-10 3:17 AM
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I can't believe nobody has linked to the next Nic Cage movie after this one: Drive Angry


Posted by: blortch | Link to this comment | 12-17-10 12:40 PM
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