Time travel to medieval Europe - Q&A

Time travel to medieval Europe - Q&A

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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.

2024-01-01 19:03

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