Eric Christiansen is a Fellow Emeritus of New College, ­Oxford, and the author of The Northern Crusades. (July 2015)

Two Cheers for the Middle Ages!

A country household in winter representing the month of February in the duke of Berry’s Book of Hours, by the Limbourg brothers, circa 1412–1416
Prejudice against the medieval runs deep. It is an adjective applied to atrocity, severe punishment, out-of-date technology (this “medieval” typewriter), and all illiberal attitudes. For many, the Middle Ages are ineradicably reprehensible, as well as comic: knights immobilized in their armor, fat monks panting after licentious nuns, ladies locked into chastity belts.

Valhalla in Bloomsbury

‘Saint Olaf’s sailing race’; fourteenth-century wall painting in the parish church at Skamstrup, Denmark
The Vikings. Were they worth it? Why should these “filthiest of God’s creatures, who do not clean themselves after urinating or defecating, nor do they wash after having sex,” as a Muslim observer noted in about 920, be the subject of major exhibitions in London and Berlin, with the concomitant miseries of overcrowding, overcharging, and overwhelming the public?

A Fine Life

The Hundred Years’ War was a series of wars conducted from 1339 to 1453 on many different levels, which were rarely combined into one conflict. At the top, kings of England and France and Castille locked horns over claims ranging from possession of one tenth of the French kingdom to …

How Europe Became Europe

The best-selling History of Europe written in the early 1930s by H.A.L. Fisher (to alleviate the tedium of being head of an Oxford college) began with the sentence, “We Europeans are the children of Hellas”—and went on through nearly two thousand years summarizing and judging the “trend of events” by …