November 11, 2006

Bah Humbug: A Pet Hate

One of the petty hates of any historian is hearing politicians like David Heathcote Amory come on the Radio and say that the violence in Iraq is so bad its medieval. Given that we all have just emerged from the century of the Gulag, Holocaust and Cultural Revolution, not to mention the second and first world wars- it seems rather ironic to imagine that another group of centuries was a hell of violence and ruffianship compared to our oasis of peace and security. Life now is better than it was in 1200 but can we please drop our habit of saying things are medieval as a synonym to saying that they are bad.

5 comments:

younghusband said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
younghusband said...

The 122 British casualties are quite the 60,000 casualties for the first day of the Somme...

Gracchi said...

Thanks for commenting. This looks like an interesting comment but I can't see it in context could you illuminate it

edmund said...

generaly i would agree with you- I hate the use of medieval to mean bad

but in this case and I expect accidentally- the speaker has a point. The level of violence in the middle ages was often very high-and one reason for the ineffectivness of central government in those days- english villages had murder rates equivilant to the worst areas of the United States today- and violence is the biggest problem in Iraq. So the parralel is better in this context than it usually is- not that that's saying much

Gracchi said...

Hey let me keep my pet hates- don't undermine them with a dose of reality!

Yes I agree with you that as we get closer to anarchy as in Iraq is the closest we get to 'medievalism' still I'm not happy with it because it strikes me that what is happening in Iraq is more of an ethnic war between unified factions (including several Shia factions) than the sort of unorganised but widespread violence of medieval times. In a way it would be an interesting comparison to the English civil war- one of the more fascinating things would be to look at the incidence of rape- in the ECW despite the lack of government one hears very little about rape, though a lot about murder. I don't know about Iraq but in medieval days to generalise horrifically wiht little government and lots of private violence I assume rape to have been higher, wonder what that statistic compared to murder is in Iraq.

By the way any medievalist coming along randomly to this blog- I welcome correction to my assumption which may well be wrong.