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What The Past Tells Us About Our Present World

on January 9th, 2017 by admin

As much as we bemoan the state of the world today with Muslim terrorism, economic turmoil, and leadership that only cares about maintaining its own power as an end in itself.  It’s easy to fall into the mindset of the world being a hellish place.  I am guilty of it as well.  Yet, some of us forget there was a time, a millennia that precedes us where events would determine our world today.

I’m currently reading a fascinating book about 14th century Europe.  Historian Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, writes more than a history book.  She is telling a story of European nations in battle against each other throughout the century.  Tuchman focuses on a French nobleman named Enguerrand de Coucy VII, and the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.  Coucy’s life parallels the historical framework of 14th century medieval life.

Paraphrasing philosopher Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, life was nasty, brutish, and short.  At this time, the feudal system was in place.  And the Catholic Church and state were melded together to maintain the status quo.  Those who suffered the most were the peasantry, and history’s perpetual scapegoats, the Jewish people.

It cannot be denied that the Catholic Church was primarily responsible for perpetuating gross injustices of the medieval period.  Think about this dear reader.  How would you like to pay taxes and tithes on your meager items and small farm to finance the lifestyles of the Church and the constant wars of the noble class?  Or, how would you feel if your entire village was destroyed during one of many battles fought and not be compensated for lost property?  The Church used scriptures to justify the serfs enslavement.  The peasantry had to accept their subjugation and obey the dictates of the Church and aristocracy.

Tie this all together with the cataclysmic event of the Black Death where whole towns, villages and generations of families died due to this horrific illness.  The perilous times of the 14th century led to a kind of cultural fatalism.  Life had such little value it was truly a dog-eat-dog environment.  Even though ISIS is trying its hardest to resurrect medieval savagery of the 14th century, life today is so much better.  This is all due to the ideas of individualism, republicanism, and a complete separation of church and state.  All this occurred due to centuries(painfully) of cultural and intellectual changes.  During this turmoil, the Renaissance took root in the Italian city-states.  This has led to our current innovative times.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about European history and its overall impact on our current world.  It’ll give you some perspective and be grateful for being born in our current times of technological achievements that has made our lives so much better than 14th century life.


Bookish Babe

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