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Thread: Misconceptions of medieval life

  1. #1
    lady sings the blues DanieMarie's Avatar
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    Misconceptions of medieval life

    I found this really fascinating. I think a lot of these don't just come from Fantasy books; I think they're pretty common across the board.

    http://io9.com/10-worst-misconceptio...-fr-1686799982

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    The thing about table manners is kindda true, and kindda not true.

    The "upper classes" were working hard to separate themselves from the lower classes, so there was a fairly sudden burst of "etiquette." Books written at the time - for the upper classes, since most other folks didn't read - had instructions saying things like: Don't blow your nose on your sleeve, don't pee in the corner, don't spit in the punch bowl, don't throw bones on the floor.

    This suggests that, if members of the upper class had to be instructed not to do it, enough of them were doing it to make the suggestion worth while.


    Another common myth that isn't on the list you posted, DanieMarie, is that people at the time used heavy duty spices on food (which they did - a full cup of black pepper on a single chicken wouldn't have been unusual) because the meat was close to going off. It's not true - they didn't eat rotten meat. There are accounts of people being executed in nasty ways for trying to sell off-meat.

    Also, bathing wasn't a once per year thing. Most folks washed as often as they could - even back then, people with hard core BO weren't likely to get invited out.

    The things we often think we know but don't are often amazing...
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    lady sings the blues DanieMarie's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    Yep. I remember reading those somewhere!

    I've also heard that a lot of places in Europe weren't nearly as homogenous as people would think. Especially big cities and ports. Those were full of people from all over the known world.

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    I'm trying to figure out the basis or logic for this statement:

    Wrapping smallpox in scarlet cloth, treating gout with colchicum*, using camomile oil for an earache** — these were all effective treatments.

    When, in the treatment of smallpox, was wrapping a victim in scarlet cloth ever found to be something similar to a treatment that was effective?

    Now, I have found sources (other than the Wiki I'm about to link) where, yes, the color red was associated with smallpox treatment...

    And I've even found mention of the Finsen treatment (which seems to work for some other conditions) being used for smallpox treatment in 1895 (though I'm not big on out-of-hand acceptance of 1895 medical journal articles for modes of treating disease, and there's likely a reason this notion fizzled out by the 1930's).

    But any (even half-way decent) medical site or medical treatment will tell you there is no treatment for smallpox (though there may be some new antivirals that *at least in highly controlled lab studies* might be effective).



    ...is it weird that this bothers me? Like, to the point where I just spent an hour of my life trying to figure out where someone would get this idea and then perpetuate it from?





    Regarding the other two parts of the statement, I can at least find some basis (or something close to a basis) for the claim:
    *Colchicine is a medication originally derived from the autumn crocus that is used to treat some forms of gout.
    **Chamomile oil (by this I'm assuming infused oil) is good for lots of things, but I wouldn't recommend it for an ear ache (for skin irritation in combination with some other herbs in a person not allergic to ragweed, daises, or chrysanthemums, sure)--a preparation of calendula, mullein, and St Johns Wort, has been shown (in at least one study) to work as well as antibiotics for acute middle ear infections (source)
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

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    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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  5. #5
    Live and learn anunitu's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    This one kinda jumped out at me on Google news.

    Gerbils replace rats' as main cause of Black Death

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31588671


    From the BBC,so most likely reliable...Yes sweet cuddly gerbils.....
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    Silver Member Tylluan Penry's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    Ye gods! English archers???? The best ones were Welsh, mun, bloody Welsh!
    www.thewolfenhowlepress.com


    Phantom Turnips never die.... they just get stewed occasionally....

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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    ...is it weird that this bothers me? Like, to the point where I just spent an hour of my life trying to figure out where someone would get this idea and then perpetuate it from?
    They were using sulfur & mercury to treat various types of infections. Sulfur is good, and mercury CAN treat infections (it was used into the early 1900s to treat syphilis), but I'd avoid mercury these days - better stuff, and safer, is available. They were also using lead & other heavy metal compounds, unfortunately.

    Not all their medicine was good, obviously, but it would be odd if they hadn't noticed that some compounds had some effect on some problems. Native peoples often have effective cures for local diseases - which is why ethnobotanists exist
    Every moment of a life is a horrible tragedy, a slapstick comedy, dark nihilism, golden illumination, or nothing at all; depending on how we write the story we tell ourselves.

  8. #8
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    They were using sulfur & mercury to treat various types of infections. Sulfur is good, and mercury CAN treat infections (it was used into the early 1900s to treat syphilis), but I'd avoid mercury these days - better stuff, and safer, is available. They were also using lead & other heavy metal compounds, unfortunately.

    Not all their medicine was good, obviously, but it would be odd if they hadn't noticed that some compounds had some effect on some problems. Native peoples often have effective cures for local diseases - which is why ethnobotanists exist
    They used mercury during the Civil War for all that STD lovin' going around. I forget the exact formulation...but from an exposure perspective, if the disease didn't kill ya, the cure would.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

    Pagan Devotionals, because the wind and the rain is our Bible

  9. #9
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    They used mercury during the Civil War for all that STD lovin' going around. I forget the exact formulation...but from an exposure perspective, if the disease didn't kill ya, the cure would.
    Short term relief vs. long term consequences of the cure...

    These things weren't even looked at until relatively recently.
    Every moment of a life is a horrible tragedy, a slapstick comedy, dark nihilism, golden illumination, or nothing at all; depending on how we write the story we tell ourselves.

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    lady sings the blues DanieMarie's Avatar
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    Re: Misconceptions of medieval life

    I wondered if it's referring to some kind of poultice that would relieve rather than cure the symptoms. Like, they definitely couldn't cure small pox, but some people live through it and if they coul help sooth the symptoms, living through it would probably be less painful (and might result in less scarring? I don't know a lot about small pox...)

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