Time travel to medieval Europe - Q&A
A couple weeks ago I published a video giving time travel advice for visiting the Middle Ages, and a lot of people left questions in the comments so I thought I would make a second video, a follow-up, answering some of those questions. Now, unfortunately, I wasn't able to read all the comments. I've tried to read as many as I could. I apologize I haven't been able to respond to them; there are just a lot of comments. But I went through and from the ones I saw I pulled out the questions and made a list, and I think this covers a lot of the questions people had. I apologize if I don't get to your question, but I'm going to try to go through these.
There were two questions in particular that came up over and over and over again, so I'm going to address those first. And then there's one correction I have to make, so if you're a Buddhist, stay tuned for that. First of all, the two questions that came up the most often, one was "What if you're a woman?" I was a little surprised by this question because when I recorded the video I took for granted that my advice would be applicable to both men and women, but I didn't say that explicitly. But that is the case. What I was saying in that video applies to both. So, the dynamic in terms of shopping, in terms of where you'd stay, constructing a backstory, all that stuff is true whether you're a man or a woman. The only
things in that video that I can recall that would not directly apply to a woman would be when I mused about pretending you're a member of the clergy, because clergy were male only, and second, when I talked about Muslims visiting Europe, because female Muslims visiting Europe as females and going to Islamic communities in southern Europe, that has its own set of issues. That's a whole separate type of travel. But everything else I said in the video as far as I remember applies to both. Certainly medieval Europe was a patriarchal society, absolutely, as every other society has been forever. I mean, since probably the beginning of agriculture, every single culture that's been Neolithic or further on than that, every single one of them has been patriarchal, so it's no surprise that medieval Europe is also patriarchal. But my advice pertains specifically to if you're traveling to medieval Europe as a tourist, and so I left out a lot of stuff that just would not be relevant. So for example, in medieval Europe it would have been more difficult for you as a woman to obtain capital to grow your business.
But if you're a tourist in medieval Europe, you're not growing a business so I didn't worry about it. I didn't talk about that. There are dynamics in terms of marriage and family, and legal rights of women. I didn't go into any of that because you're there as a visitor. You're not settling down. I didn't give advice for how to settle down as a woman in medieval Europe. I was just talking about if you're going as a tourist, so I'm assuming you're visiting for a few days, maybe a week, at most two weeks. That's a normal vacation period of time. (I personally wouldn't want to go to medieval Europe longer than that. I'm going to leave my personal opinions out of this, though.)
So some women weren't sure, is it really true that women could go on pilgrimage, is it really true that women could be merchants? Yes, women went on pilgrimages all the time. Absolutely. That's totally normal for a woman to go on a pilgrimage. And then when you're constructing your backstory as a pilgrim, of course "pilgrim" is not your job, and so when you're traveling and you're talking to people and they're asking you about your life back in your home village or your home town, you'll have to tell them what kind of job you work. And there are a variety of answers you could give for that, but I hesitate to generalize because it would vary according to region and time period, what sorts of activities would be available to you. And it would depend partly on gender
dynamics, but it would also depend on what kind of economy is going on in the area you're from. So I didn't talk about what particular jobs you might have, either as a man or as a woman. I didn't give you a list of suggestions. But there were a variety of things that women could do. Of course, most women were farmers as most men were. But women living in towns could also pursue other economic activities. They ran shops, or they helped their husbands run shops, they worked as weavers, as tailors, as bakers. I mentioned cookshops in the other video. Women
worked in cookshops. There were a variety of jobs you could be doing. Alewife was a job. There were lots of things you could be doing. And also merchant. Some women in the comments were asking, could women be merchants? Yes, they could. It definitely wasn't
common. The vast majority of merchants were men. But there were women merchants. Here's a journal article from 2019 that talks about that. I'll leave a link to this in the description [see footnote 2]. You can go there. The article's behind a paywall, unfortunately, but you can read the abstract, and also it has its list of sources on that page freely available so you could use that to pursue that and look up other articles and books on the topic. And then some people talked about, "Well, what about a woman traveling alone?" and to that I say, Gosh, did you not listen to what I said? You can't travel alone. I don't care if you're a
man or a woman or what, you can't travel alone in the Middle Ages. It's not safe. Don't do that. Don't even think about that. But I understand where women are coming from when they ask a question like that, because what you're doing is you're trying to imagine, "Well okay, if I'm planning my trip, what is that going to look like?" And they're thinking about a solo trip because a lot of people travel alone. But don't think of this as a vacation equivalent to vacationing in modern-day Venice or modern-day Paris or someplace like that. That's not the
equivalent. And this advice also pertains to– I had two or three comments of women asking, "Would this work for a bachelorette party? Can we just go as a group of women?" And this same advice applies in that case, too. Don't think of this as going to a modern-day city, a modern-day Venice or whatever. That's not the equivalent. You're not going to a medieval equivalent of modern Venice. Modern Venice is a tourist trap. And modern European cities are modern cities first and foremost. We Americans might go there and we want to see the castles and we want to be in the old town with the little tiny windy streets and it feels medieval to us, but European cities are modern cities. They're not medieval cities. Don't think of it like it's
kind of like traveling to modern Europe but with fewer amenities. That's not how you should think about it. That's not the frame of mind you should be in when you're thinking about a trip to medieval Europe. The frame of mind you should be in is, it's like going backpacking. Adventure backpacking, like in a really remote wilderness. And by backpacking I mean camping
but you're not next to a car. You park your car and you start walking, and you walk all day, and then you stop and you set up your camp, and then you wake up the next morning, pack it all up in your backpack again and walk for another day. That's what I mean. But you're not backpacking in just any old place. You're backpacking in, like, the Canadian Arctic, or you're backpacking in the Sahara. You're backpacking in some super remote location where
it's really– it's going to be a really rigorous experience. That's how you should think about going to medieval Europe. So if you're the kind of person who likes adventure travel like that, then medieval Europe's a good option for you. If you are the kind of person who– you're deciding between, "Are we going to have our bachelorette party in Vegas, or are we going to have our bachelorette party in medieval Paris?" Oh my gosh, that's not– No, don't even– Don't. No. Just go to Vegas. Don't think about it. It's not– No. The other really common question I got was, "Can I bring a gun?" This was really common. There were probably at least 200 comments that included the word "Glock," at least 500 comments that included the word "Boomstick."
You're not going to believe this, but it did not cross my mind when I recorded the video originally. When I was giving you advice and telling you bring a dagger, it's because I thought– I don't know what I was thinking. Yes, bringing a gun– Okay, if you show up with a gun, yes, in that particular scenario, where you're facing that particular set of highwaymen, yeah, a gun would come in pretty handy.
There are some caveats though, which were pointed out by other people who chimed in and answered some of those questions about bringing guns. One is, the way the gun works is you fire, it makes a loud noise… you're calling attention to yourself for sure. And another comment I thought was really a good point was that if you brandish it, you're not going to intimidate anybody because they don't know what a gun is. They're just going to think you're wielding a piece of metal. So it doesn't have the same ability to intimidate. You'd have to actually start killing people before people realize what
your object is capable of. But yeah, just some things to keep in mind if you're bringing guns. Some people asked about backstories. Could you go as an engineer and go and meet other engineers and talk about construction and engineering? Yeah, you could. You'd have to explain why you were traveling that long distance so you'd still probably want to say you're a pilgrim. But yeah, you could say that's your profession, and while
you're in town you're going to go talk to them. I don't see any reason why you couldn't do that. What about surgeon? Can you go as a surgeon and start doing surgeries and talk to other surgeons? I think you could. I think it would be harder to do that sort of thing if you were a doctor trying to talk to other doctors who had had university medical training because they already have this whole set of book learning, this whole framework in their mind of how physiology works, and if you're coming at them with these very different ideas, they're not going to believe what you're saying. They're not going to execute you.
Don't jump there. People always jump to, "Oh, they're going to execute you!" No, they're not going to execute you! They're just not going to take what you're saying seriously probably. And then, as a journeyman, some people asked, "Well, could I go as a journeyman? I work in some trade. Could I just do that trade there?" Probably. You know, stonemason or whatever your trade is. Now, I don't think journeymen, as journeymen, traveled long distances. I think once they had done their apprenticeship and they went out and they were working, I think they generally stayed in that local region. So if you're from northern
England, you'd pretty much be working in northern England. There could be exceptions to that. Or maybe you're drawn to a big city. Probably there were people from northern England who were drawn to London because they were hoping they'd have better opportunities for work. That probably did happen. But if you're posing as an Englishman and showing up in southern France or southern Germany
and telling people you're a journeyman, that alone is not going to explain why you're so far away, why you decided to go to a place where you don't know the local language. But if you tell them you're a pilgrim but also you're a journeyman, then you could do that. And it was common prior to modern times– This is something that's not specific or unique to medieval Europe. In general in the premodern world, people who traveled long distances, it was not uncommon for them to run out of money. And then they would have to stay in
that place and work for a while before they had enough money to keep going and to return home. So that could very easily be a situation that you could say that you're in. So you've traveled to Rome to visit the holy sites there, and then you need money to get home so you're going to try to work. And let's say your job here is– well, it doesn't even matter. Even if you're an electrician here you'd probably know enough stuff you could work as a carpenter or something. But you just go and you tell
people well I'm a carpenter or whatever, and you try to find work as a day laborer. So yeah, that would actually be a very workable scenario. Okay, now let's talk about health stuff. There were a variety of health-related comments. Oh, first of all a bunch of people from England chimed in and said that there was malaria in England, so thank you for that. And also a
couple Germans chimed in and said it was also an issue in the Rhineland. Some people asked, "if you go there, will the germs you're carrying kill them and cause an epidemic, or conversely will you catch diseases from them that you'll then bring back and cause epidemics here?" I'm not an epidemiologist or an infectious diseases doctor. I would imagine that's a concern that you should take into account. We do have a lot of
vaccinations for stuff that people back then died from. The extent to which, though, that they would work– They work on modern viruses and bacteria. Would they work on the ancestors of those viruses and bacteria that lived 800 years ago? You'd have to ask a medical professional about that. There is one disease that existed that was common in the Middle Ages that we have no vaccination for because it's gone from the general population, and that's smallpox. That is one disease that was completely eradicated from the human population in the 1970s, but it was endemic in the medieval world, not just in Europe but throughout the world, at least in the Eastern Hemisphere, in Europe, Middle East, China, India. They had smallpox, and kids caught it all the time. Now, you're going to be going in there with no immunity, no resistance to smallpox. Even
if you're old enough that you would have gotten a smallpox vaccine back in the 1960s or 1970s, it won't give you any protection today because it's been too long and you haven't had any boosters. So yeah, it's possible you'll get smallpox while you're there. And we have no vaccine for it. "Would it be weird that I have healthy teeth?" Yeah, probably. One thing about medieval teeth is that they were worn down a lot, because people ate a lot of bread, and bread is made with flour, and the way you get flour is you take grain and you crush it in a millstone. And the way it works
is you have two stones, and one stone rotates on top of the other stone, and the grain is fed down between the two stones and is crushed into flour, and then that comes out the sides and is collected and used to bake bread. Well, depending on the material used in making the millstones– They were made of stone, and depending on the kind of stone particulates could get into the flour. It probably got into the flour all the time, but some types of millstone would put more particulates than others. So there'd be bits of grit in the bread. And then they'd eat the bread, and the grit would sand down their teeth. So you not having that wear, people might notice, yeah, that's possible.
What if you have tattoos? People in the Middle Ages did sometimes have tattoos. I am aware that when people went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, they would sometimes get a tattoo while they were there to prove that they had gone. It would just be a little tattoo on their arm and it'd have a cross on it and I don't know if it'd have any other writing on it, but it was a simple tattoo by modern standards, not a super elaborate kind of thing.
Now, you might hear people say that tattoos were associated with paganism, because the early medieval and ancient Europeans from northern Europe would tattoo themselves. And it is true, as far as I'm aware, that Christian priests and bishops in, say, Late Antiquity associated tattooing with these northern European pagan traditions, but that was hundreds of years before the time period we're talking about. We're talking about 1100s, 1200s, that kind of time frame. There was no paganism in Western Europe at that time and hadn't been
for centuries, so I'm not sure how much tattooing would have that association anymore. But modern tattooing of course is much more elaborate. You can have large areas of your skin, you could have all over your arm, up on your neck. That would be really unusual. But if you're posing as someone from far away anyway, you're already a foreigner, that would just be one more thing that made you foreign. It'd probably be a conversation starter, I guess.
Now, here's the one that really stumped me. Someone asked, what if you wear glasses and you can't wear contacts? I hadn't thought of that, either. Of course, if you wear contacts, that solves it, right? Just make sure that they're the kind you can wear all week while you're there and you have the ability to change them out if you need to. But what if you can't wear contacts? I don't know. There were glasses in late medieval Europe. Starting around probably the 1300s some people had glasses. They would have looked kind of simple,
just a wire frame with little thick pieces of glass. So if you're going in later, like 1300s or later, you'd probably be okay. You just wear glasses. I mean, here's the thing though, they weren't super common then. They existed, but they weren't super common. So I think people would still notice them and find them strange. But if you're going in the 1100s when no one wore glasses, I don't think, in Europe anyway, that would definitely draw attention. And when I say "draw attention," again,
please don't jump to, "Oh, that means they'll execute you!" Oh my gosh! Looking at the comments on that video, I'm like– Even on that I said in that video, very clearly, people aren't trying to execute you all the time. And still people in the comments were like, "Oh yeah, I would do this trivial thing and they'll execute me!" This is seems to be so ingrained. I don't understand why. No, just because you're wearing glasses, they're not going to kill you! Aaugh!! Just because you're wearing a tattoo, they're not going to kill you for it! And the person who was asking about glasses didn't make that assumption. But you would draw attention to yourself, which to me is terrible, because I'm an introvert. I don't want attention to be
drawn to me. If I'm walking down the street in medieval Europe, I don't want everybody staring at me. And the thing is, probably people will stare at you if you're wearing glasses. And I kept thinking, what's a solution to this? And I thought, okay, well, maybe you could wear that robe that friars wear, with the hood that falls really far ahead of you and it would kind of mask your face. But that doesn't work because– That would work if you're walking along the road in a field and it's really sunny or rainy, and you just want to keep the elements off your face, you would do that. You're not going to do that if you're in town shopping at the market. You're not going to have this hood covering your face. That's going to be weird. That's going to be socially
awkward. So that's not an option. And I thought, well, maybe you could wrap your head with bandages like a mummy? I was trying to think of something. I couldn't come up with any solution. So I just don't know. I'm sorry. You might need to restrict yourself to destinations when they had eyeglasses. Okay, so here we come to the mistake I made in that video when I was talking about the different religions. I talked about Buddhism, and I gave an anecdote of a European traveler who visited Asia and met some Buddhists, and he was confused when he talked to them, and what I said in that video was he was confused when he talked to them because they seem to be Christian, but also they seem not to be Christian, and he couldn't make sense of what they were. And I concluded from that that maybe that means, if you're Buddhist and you go to Europe,
they might just be confused enough that they might not identify you as a non-Christian. I think I was wrong. I was wrong in my interpretation of that account, that anecdote. I went back and looked at it again. And if you're interested, this is the book. The translation is by Peter Jackson. Not that Peter Jackson. I don't know where I put the book, but it doesn't matter. But it's in chapter 25 of that book. And he meets the Buddhists at Karakorum, if I remember correctly,
which was the capital of the Mongol Empire in Mongolia. I was going to actually read you some bits of it because I love that whole interchange that he has with them and I wanted to share it with you, but I decided that you guys probably don't want me to slow down the whole video so I can just geek out over this one guy talking to Buddhists in 1254 or whatever. But I'll summarize the exchange so I can tell you what actually happened. So he meets these Buddhists, and he describes them. He describes how they're dressed. He says that they take vows of celibacy. They live in monasteries together. So again, he's drawing parallels with Christian monasticism. He talks about how the way they dress looks kind of like how a deacon dresses in – or at least some of them – how a deacon dresses in Western Europe. He notes that they use prayer beads,
which reminded him of rosaries used in Europe. And then when they're praying with the prayer beads, they recite a phrase, which he mangles, but it's clear that he's trying to write "Om mani padme hum." But then he translates it. He says he asked what "Om mani padme hum" means, and he was told, he says, it means "God, you know," which I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean. He probably didn't know what that was supposed to mean, but it was invoking God. And then in the course of conversation with them he finds out they believe in one God, that God is spirit, and based on all that, he's getting this idea, "Oh wow, they have some similarities with Christianity." And then he went into their temple and he saw all these little images of the Buddha.
Now, he doesn't call them– He doesn't know who the Buddha is. He doesn't say "the Buddha," but you can tell from context if you're familiar with Buddhism that's what he saw. He saw all these rows and rows of little images of Buddha, and of different sizes, also big images of the Buddha. And that piqued his curiosity, And he asked them what they believe about God. And he gets into this theological conversation with them, in the course of which it becomes clear to him that they're not Christian, because they don't believe in the Incarnation – they don't believe that God became a human being – so then he tries to have a theological discussion with them. And he's a friar and he's a missionary and he's got theological and philosophical training from Europe, and that comes through in this conversation. It becomes clear that when he's trying to argue for
belief in the Incarnation, he's using ideas and techniques that come from Scholasticism. But it's also clear that he's getting misinformation, because they're telling him they believe in one God, etc., and they don't. If you're reading that chapter as a modern person with some familiarity with Buddhism, you know that what he's saying that they told him is not an accurate representation of what a Buddhist would say. But the point is, regarding what I said in the previous video, he did come to realize by the end of that conversation that they were not Christian, and he tried to evangelize them. So I made a mistake. He was clear– And then he classified them in his mind as idolators. That's what he calls them. So he classified them as pagans.
But to come back to that anecdote. It occurred to me when I went back and read it a few days ago, I realized something I don't think I've noticed before. Because I had always been puzzled by, how was he getting it so wrong? How was he so mistaken about what the monks were telling him about Buddhism? And then I realized finally, it was the interpreter. The interpreter was the problem. Because all through his account, his entire journey from Europe all the way to Mongolia, he has constant problems with interpreters. I think he used two different interpreters. But they were not super reliable. The one he was using in Mongolia got drunk all the time. He just did a bad job of interpreting. And in that particular encounter, when he met
with those Buddhist monks, he was trying to have this theological discussion, and the interpreter just out flat-out told William, "Look, I'm not translating that. Forget it. I'm not having this conversation anymore." And that was the end of the conversation. But it was just flying over the interpreter's head. Because William of Rubruck had this really high level of theological training, and then the Buddhist monks also had a really high level of philosophical training, and training in Buddhist concepts. If they had been able to communicate directly, they could have had a really rich conversation. But they were having to go through this interpreter who had virtually no concept of philosophy or theology of any sort. And so he was trying to filter his ideas
through this interpreter to the Buddhists, and the Buddhist was filtering his ideas back through the interpreter, and that's how I think the image of Buddhism gets so mangled in that anecdote. If you're interested in reading that, it's in chapter 25. And I can recommend that entire book, it's a really interesting read. But I think the moral of the story is, if you're going to make a video, don't just say something off the top of your head, go back and double check the source. It had been– the last time I'd read it was 2019, so that's four years for the memory to fade before I got to the point where I recorded that video. If I'd just gone back and read that chapter, I wouldn't have made that mistake. So my apologies.
All right, but speaking of religions, we have a few other religions people asked questions about. People were like, "What if you're an atheist? What if you're a Protestant? What if you're Orthodox?" And I realized that I didn't entirely explain what I meant by "going in the guise of a Christian, posing as a Christian." I didn't mean that you're walking around telling everybody what you believe, that you're just going to walk down the street reciting the Nicene Creed. That's not what I
meant. What I meant was, religious identity worked differently in the Middle Ages than it does now in some subtle ways. I'm not sure how to explain this. People in the Middle Ages, they were not all devout or conscientious in their religious devotions. If that's your idea of the Middle Ages, put that out of your mind. There were plenty of people in the Middle Ages who did not pray, did not go to church or at least did not go regularly, did not think much about God, didn't care much about that stuff, didn't care about the priest. That was really common. And we get plenty of evidence of this, honestly, from Catholic literature from the period. If
you read the lives of saints from the Middle Ages, there are some common tropes that come up a lot. You'll read for example about a saint who, coming up as a young girl, she's growing up and she was really devout, and then her parents would make fun of her and mock her and give her a hard time because they thought that was a bunch of nonsense. Not that they were not Christian, but that they just thought being devout was stupid and a waste of time and not practical. And so she would want to spend all her time in prayer, and they'd be like, "How about you do something that's worthwhile?" That kind of attitude. Not that they were atheist in the modern sense. They just, I don't know, weren't religious. They were nominal Christians, I guess you could say. Or you'd read a story of a young man who grows up, and he lives a very profligate lifestyle and he's womanizing and he's partying and getting drunk with the guys. And then when he gets into his twenties
he has this religious conversion, this sudden conversion, and dedicates his life to Christ and becomes a monk or whatever. Or there are other stories of saints who became preachers, and they would become a preacher because everybody in the area wasn't living a Christian life and they were just doing their own thing. And then the preacher would come along and he would preach to them and perform miracles and then some of the people would convert and become devout. Or you'd read stories of in monastic orders where a monastic reformer would rise up and lead a reform movement and start a new religious order because the people in the old religious order, the monks in that old religious order or the nuns, weren't serious about their faith. They goofed
off, they didn't pray, they were just being monks because it was an easy life. And then the reformer would come along and be like, "No, you need to live a more rigorous life." So my point is, that was a common theme in Christian literature in the Middle Ages: most people don't care very much about faith, they're not very religious, they're not very devout, and we need to call people to a more profound life of holiness. And that was in the Middle Ages in Western Europe,
where supposedly everybody– it's Christendom, everybody's supposed to be a Catholic, right? But it's not as simple as that. Now, on the other hand, even if you weren't religious in the modern sense of the word, even if you weren't devout and praying all the time and going to church all the time, you still took certain aspects of it very seriously. Like, if you were a farmer, it was really important to you that that priest would go out in the field and bless the fields. That was a big deal to you. Even if you didn't otherwise care about religion, you wanted the priest to go out there and do that. Because you might see the priest's blessing in kind of magical terms. In the popular imagination at the time what the priests did was a sort of magic. They would do
a blessing, and that would cause an effect that was comparable to the effect that would be caused by any other form of magic. Or if you were a fisherman, it was really important to you that the priest would come out at the beginning of the season every year and bless the fishing boats, even if you didn't otherwise care about that stuff. Because you believe that there was efficacy in the ritual itself. And it wasn't about God. It wasn't about being closer to God or whatever. It was about, the ritual itself had power to grant protection to the fishing boat. And this is not an attitude that was encouraged by the Church hierarchy. Church theologians didn't think in those terms, and they didn't tell the people to think in those terms. A lot of people just did not
know Catholicism very well, and they had distorted ideas of how it worked. And those are some of the ideas they would have. And what that means is, if you're showing up, you're not particularly devout, you don't necessarily go to the church, you don't necessarily pray, no one's going to think anything of it. It's not going to stand out. So if you're an atheist and you're worried about, "Well, am I
supposed to pretend that I believe in this stuff?" No, actually, you don't have to pretend to believe in this stuff. The people who got in trouble with the inquisitions were people who promoted those ideas publicly. They would go around telling people, "Hey! Hey, the Sacraments don't work! Hey, the Church is full of baloney! Hey, don't do any of this! Jesus didn't actually die on the Cross!" or whatever. If you were broadcasting these ideas, then you would get into trouble. But people who just didn't believe in it but they didn't make a big deal about it, they would not show up on the radar of the inquisitions. Oh, and speaking of inquisitions, another
thing worth noting is, the inquisitions happened because there were certain regions and certain time periods when there was so much dissent from Catholicism. Like the Albigensians, for example, there was a crusade called into southern France. But for a hundred years [50–60 years] before the Albigensian Crusade, Catharism was very common in southern France. Lots of people were Cathars. So
if you were there, and you were walking around and you're a Cathar, if you show up in the year 1160, there's no crusade, that's decades in the future, there's no inquisition, that's decades in the future. It's just people who– some people are Catholic, some people are Cathar. Some families were mixed. Some members of a family would be Cathar, some members of the family were Catholic. And the general vibe at the time in that region was, it's totally fine, it doesn't really matter. The Catholics in that particular area were not that concerned about it. Now, to speak specifically about Orthodox, to address that particular issue… The Orthodox and Catholics are traditionally said to have split in the year 1054 with the Great Schism between the– Well, there were two Great Schisms depending on what you're talking about. But there was a schism
between Catholics and Orthodox in 1054. At least, that's the conventional date for it. It's a little misleading to frame it in those terms. It's not like if you show up after 1054 as an Orthodox in Western Europe, everybody's going to think of you as an Other, because that was something that was more a dynamic in terms of politics and theology – well, politics mainly – politics going on the elite level of the Church. And I really don't think that a rank-and-file Catholic in Italy or France or Germany gave much thought to the Schism of 1054, or thought of the Christians in the Byzantine Empire as being somehow not entirely Christian. I really don't think that's the case.
And one thing to keep in mind about that is, 1054 was not a unique situation. There were lots of schisms. There were lots of situations where the Church got split in temporary ways, for particular circumstances they'd split for a particular period of time. Like in the 12th century,
it was really common for there to be two popes at the same time. We don't hear about this today. If you take a world history class today, if it talks about late medieval Catholicism at all, it might talk about the Great Schism of the West, where there were two popes in the late 1300s. But that wasn't a unique situation. All through the 12th century there were multiple times when there were
two different popes, and also at other times too before and after that. Because the cardinals would pick one pope. The emperor (what we call the Holy Roman Emperor) didn't like that choice. He'd come down with his army and get another pope elected. So now you have two popes. And because he's there
with his army, the previously elected pope would flee and go to somewhere else where he'd be safe from the imperial troops. And so now you have two popes in two different towns. That was super common in the Middle Ages. It was political. It was because there were periods of time– Like, oftentimes the Holy Roman Emperor wanted to control who the pope was, and then the popes would then try to depose the imperial dynasty because they saw it as a– It's a whole thing. But my point is, when those schisms happened, Christians did not automatically sort themselves into two opposed camps and hate each other. It'd be more of a thing where that was something the
bishops were involved with. But if you were an individual Christian from a diocese that was loyal to one pope, and then you traveled to another diocese that was loyal to the other pope, they wouldn't all treat you like an outsider or like an enemy of the Church or whatever. They would just treat you like a regular Catholic. And I think it would be the same.
But there was one respect in which there was antipathy between Catholics and Orthodox, but it wasn't Catholics and Orthodox per se, because it was an ethnic thing rather than a religious thing. It was Western Europeans and Greek Byzantines. There was a lot of cultural conflict, cultural tension between the two, because of cultural differences. Western Europeans would travel to the Eastern Mediterranean and interact with the Greeks that were living there, and they would sometimes get into conflict and cultural tensions and sometimes there would be, like, anti-Italian riots for example in Constantinople and stuff. The way
they thought of it, Western Europeans or Latins– Okay, so let me use a Star Trek analogy. If you're familiar with Star Trek, I don't know if you're familiar with Star Trek. But Star Trek has these different alien races, alien species, that are called races in Star Trek. And Western Europeans, the way they looked at Byzantines was – it was as if they were Star Trek fans and were going to compare themselves to Star Trek races, they saw themselves as humans (the default), and then they saw Byzantines as Romulans, because in Star Trek, Romulans are sneaky and conniving and they'll stab you in the back and you can't trust them and they lie. And on top of that – and this is not a Star Trek thing – but on top of that, they also saw Greeks as effeminate. And so that was on the
Latin side of it. And then on the Greek side of it, if the Greeks had been Star Trek viewers and had compared themselves to Star Trek races, they would have seen themselves as humans, naturally, and then they would have seen the Western Europeans, because they saw them as warlike and boorish and barbaric and they had poor table manners and they were loud and stuff, they would have thought of them as Klingons. So if you're familiar with Star Trek you can kind of think of it in those terms. That's how they perceived each other. (And of course in Star Trek, Klingons and Romulans hate each other.) But that, again, that was an ethnic difference. That was a cultural clash. It wasn't a religious thing. So if you were going to medieval Europe, even though you're Orthodox, if you're going there but you're not overtly Greek, then you're not going to have that ethnic baggage going along with it, so then that's not an issue for you.
Now there were some comments on when I talked about class and the class system in in medieval Europe, and some people in the comments said, "There is class hierarchy in the U.S. today, in the Western world now. There are different socioeconomic classes. What are you even talking about?" That's not the same thing. Today, if you meet someone who's very wealthy or if you meet someone who's politically powerful, are you supposed to bend down and kneel on the ground in front of them? Are you supposed to kiss their hand or kiss their ring? Are you supposed to avoid using the pronoun "you" when talking to them, because that's too direct and too familiar? Are you supposed to use some euphemism like "your majesty" or "your eminence"? It's a different thing. Yes, we have class distinctions and people are treated differently in, for example, in the legal system, but not on purpose. We have an ideal in our culture that people ought to be treated the same. People are supposed to be equal.
That's the idea. "All men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. And that was partly what the revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries were about. That's what we're aspiring to. That's the mythology that we've created around ourselves. The purpose of being of our modern Western republics is that we create a system where all the citizens are equal. That's the
point. And in the Middle Ages, they weren't equal and they weren't supposed to be equal. Everybody was treated differently. People were treated differently depending on what legal category you were in. And that was considered normal and good. That was considered how it should be. And if you were to go back, and this is a little bit of a pet peeve of mine with historical fiction because a lot of historical fiction writers– not a lot, I'm not going to say a lot because I actually don't read a ton of historical fiction– but some historical fiction that I've looked at, and some that I've seen on the screen, treats the main character as a modern person, a person with a modern sensibility, and they walk around and they get so upset with all these injustices that are happening in society, and they're like, "Don't they know that everyone's supposed to be equal?" And, no, they don't, because that's not how people in the Middle Ages thought. People in the Middle Ages – again, we're generalizing; undoubtedly there were some people who disagreed with this idea – but the hegemonic discourse, the dominant point of view, the default position, the (what's that… Overton window?) the Overton window said that people are naturally graded into different ranks. That's their natural place. And it's just like how your body has different body parts that work differently. You can't have a body that's composed completely of eyeballs or completely of
toes or completely of kneecaps. Each part of your body fulfills a different purpose. And they don't all– They're not all the same. And if you were to go around in the Middle Ages telling everybody, "Hey, why do you put up with this? Why don't you embrace the equality that we're all born with?" It's because they didn't grow up after the revolutions in France and the United States. They don't have that legacy. They don't think in those terms. If you were talking to them like that, it would be as if you were to tell somebody, "Hey, why does your body have all those different body parts? Why aren't you just all eyeballs?" That's what it would sound like to a lot of people in the Middle Ages. Because in the Middle Ages, people are supposed to be in different ranks and have different roles in society. There are supposed to be serfs and peasants that
don't have the same political rights and the same role in society that the princes have. That's the natural order of things to the mainstream view of the Middle Ages. And that's the point I was trying to make. That's fundamentally different from the way we think today. All right, enough of that. Okay, so some people asked, "What if I try to introduce more modern technology to the Middle Ages?" And some of the examples that people brought up, "What if I bring in plumbing?" Well, they had plumbing in the Middle Ages, they just didn't use it very often. They tended to use it in larger complexes, like monasteries would sometimes have plumbing. But plumbing was really expensive, and so it was cost prohibitive for people to put it in their homes. But it was known. People were aware of it. But the fact that it was cost prohibitive,
that's the key thing there. If you're going to try to– Or some people asked about, "What if I try to introduce electricity?" Same thing. The infrastructure to install plumbing and electrical is prohibitively expensive on a medieval budget, in a medieval economy. We got those things at the end of the 19th century, and it was feasible to do that at the end of the 19th century because that was part of the wider Second Industrial Revolution, where lots of stuff– The whole economy was expanding in a variety of ways, and so the capital was there to do that. But that would not exist in the Middle Ages. So even if you told people– and how would you even harness electricity with medieval technology, I don't even know. And people asked about gunpowder. Gunpowder was
already being used in China in the time period we're talking about. It was being introduced into Europe during the time period we're talking about. So if you were to introduce it a little bit earlier, it probably wouldn't make much difference. But then getting into more abstract ideas like democracy… Eh, I don't know. I feel like political ideas exist within a social and political context. And you're dealing
with the context as it existed. I don't think telling people about the idea of democracy would necessarily do anything. But I don't know, I guess you can try it and see what happens. Scientific ideas: also, same thing. With scientific ideas, scientific ideas exist within a larger context of worldview and so trying to introduce individual scientific ideas when you're not accounting for a different worldview, they probably won't land. Like if you
were to try to tell people– Of course, in the Middle Ages people thought that the Earth was at the center of the universe, or near the center of the universe depending on which model you used. (Little known fact: Ptolemy's model did not actually put Earth at the center, as I recall. The center was slightly outside of the earth. But that's neither here nor there.) If you were to try to tell people, "Actually, no, the earth goes around the sun," you don't have any way of backing that up. When the heliocentric theory became accepted in the course of the 17th century,
it was accepted because there was new very clear and incontrovertible empirical evidence that it had to be, that the solar system had to be heliocentric. There was no way around that. Before the invention of the telescope at the beginning of the 17th century, it was impossible to verify that. There was no way to know. Even if you were to walk around and say, "Hey, I think the the universe is heliocentric, or the solar system is heliocentric," you won't be able to prove it to anybody, because there's no way– without a telescope it is impossible to prove heliocentrism. And they already have a working theory that makes sense. And honestly
with the empirical evidence that's available to you in the Middle Ages, the weight of evidence is on the side of geocentrism, not heliocentrism. Perhaps that's a controversial thing for me to say. I'll probably get some flak in the comments for this. Maybe I can make another video about that and go into more detail. My point is, I don't know, there's one guy trying to change everybody's mind. I don't know if it'll work. That's just my pessimistic view, anyway.
Would people even understand the concept of time travel? Like, if you were to tell people, "Hey, I'm a time traveler!" would they even know what you're talking about? Well, people did understand the concept of time and they experienced the passage of time in their own lives. They knew that their life was different when they were a child compared to when they were older. So I'm sure that you could explain it to them. And they knew there were things that happened centuries ago to people that are no longer around, that died a long time ago. King Arthur– From their point of view, King Arthur was a historical figure that lived long ago, Jesus lived long ago, and so on. So they knew that there were different eras and stuff. They didn't know when the Second Coming was going to happen. There were religious movements in the Middle Ages that thought the Second Coming was going to happen soon. But it was perfectly conceivable
to people in the Middle Ages that the earth could still be around a thousand years in the future. (Okay, I've got to hurry because my battery's about to die.) Where it gets a little bit difficult conceptually is the idea that technology changes over time, because from their point of view in the Middle Ages, technology doesn't change. Technologically, things have always been the way they are and they always will be the way they are. So for you to come in and say, "Actually, technologies are super different in the future," that's not going to be intuitive for them. It's intuitive for us,
because we live in the modern era. Over the past two centuries things have changed very rapidly technologically, and that's because of the Industrial Revolution. But the Industrial Revolution hadn't happened yet at the time of the Middle Ages.
Should you be concerned about bears or wolves? Yes, you should. Wolves were a major concern in Europe in the forests. Also boars. No one asked about boars, but that's another thing to be worried about.
Okay, some people in the comments mentioned some books that go through this scenario, and that's true. I've read a couple of them. I've read Connecticut Yankee and King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain, and Lest Darkness Fall by Sprague de Camp. I've read both of those; they're very good. People also recommended Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, Timeline by Michael Crichton, Off To Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer. So check those out if you're interested.
Some people also asked about me making a series of this. I have decided I will try to do a series. The episodes won't be able to come out very rapidly, because I have to do a lot of research. But I will try to get some out at some point soon.
So hopefully you won't forget about the channel before the next one comes out. Thanks for joining me. A lot of new people have subscribed since the time travel video came out. Welcome! Thanks for coming along. I hope you like the other content I do on this channel. And thanks for watching.