The Mists of Time

Beliefs that date back to 1850 (give or take a decade or so) that proverbially belong to an earlier era:

1. The code of chivalry
2. "Feudalism" as a method of economic exploitation
3. Yoga as system of breathing and postures for the integration of mind, body and soul
4. The Ages of Faith
5. The battle between science and religion
6. The battle between Church and State
7. Blacksmiths as craftsmen with near-magical powers
8. Witches as goddess-worshipers
9. Believing that the world was flat
10. Papal infallibility in the pronouncement of doctrine
11. St. Thomas Aquinas as the teacher of Christian doctrine
12. Religion as something that you feel rather than understand and that should be relevant and accessible to the "common" man
13. History repeats itself

I have proofs for all of this (or know the bibliography that proves it), but why should I show my sources when everybody is convinced that these things have always been true "whatever the sources say"?

Still feeling a little grumpy, can you tell? But you know, come to think of it, I am not entirely sure why. Is it because I want to believe at least some of these things are true and now, thanks to the work of my colleagues in history, can't? Or is it because I'm jealous that the modern historians have it so easy since everything that we believe (or think we believe) now is actually only 150 years or so old so all they have to do to make their work relevant is go back a few generations and wham! they've found the source? No, no, it's that, but it's not that. One of my colleagues gave a talk yesterday in which he was describing how perilous it is to try to make conclusions on the basis of the very thing that you are busy pulling out from under you. It feels like this is what medievalists at least spend most of our time doing: discovering that everything that we thought about the reasons we ask the questions that we do in fact depends on obsessions from the mid-nineteenth century that we no longer have and yet which still drive our scholarship, if only (now) to prove that we no longer have them.

But what do you do once you've knocked down the house of cards other than start building a new one?


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