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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 07:12pm on 16/01/2012 under , , , ,
So I'm sat here revising Soft Matter Physics when it occurs to me just why I increasingly find the 'pseudo-medieval' world building that you often get in fantasy so weird (as opposed to slightly cliche by now). 

Now, I'm just thinking 'out loud' because as you well know, I am nothing but the plebbiest of historical dilettantes (and I know if anyone will have anything interesting to say, it'll be you guys), but it seems to me that feudalism could have evolved out of the chaos following the decline of the Western Roman Empire. If you consider somewhere like, well, England, a land that it seems was being constantly visited, then attacked, then partially conquered by a series of different ethnic groups, it's no surprise you might end up with a system of rule akin to a more sophisticated version of a protection racket ("We give you swords and a place of protection to settle, you give us some food and monies. And people to wield the swords might help too, now we come to think of it...") that over time, and with the increasing stability of society, evolves into the fully fledged feudal system we all know and love so well from history textbooks with pictures of peasants with mud for teeth.

And obviously ditto for elsewhere in Western Europe. I'm just using England as an example because I happen to live here and know slightly more about Dark Age Britain than Dark Age France, say. Or Dark Age Spain which may as well have been home to dragons and people with faces in their chests for all I know (I'd probably believe it too).

Anyway. So in a fantasy book where the set up is the basic feudal pseudo-medieval (and I say pseudo because most fantasy writers seem to interprete a medieval setting to mean nastiness, raping and that sort of thing rather than, I don't know, women being doctors, writers and crusaders and owning businesses (and occasionally kidnapping a young lord they might fancy, for the higher born lady of course) and peasant children escaping the drudgery of serfdom via education and University etc etc etc.), it doesn't seem to make much sense without that primordial stage of that strange sort of civilised barbarism that follows the collapse of a bureaucracy.

Or maybe I'm just being picky because... I'm a little bit bored.

Alright back to work.
mmoa_writes: (Default)
One of the more common examples used as evidence of why old time monarchy was a very bad thing is the borderline psychopath that was Henry VIII. I've always wondered about this, not so much because I disagree with the sentiment, but because it goes hand in hand with another question of mine when it comes to his tumultuous reign and that is how the hell he managed to get away with it for so long.
I can't believe I've stayed up so late to write this... )

OK that is rather exaggerating (Henry VIII did not invent the 'Divine Right of Kings' after all), but in essence, a nobility that has no power or resources to do anything except to amuse and flatter the ruling power probably will let the rulers get away with just about anything.

Ah, history. Whenever it gets confusing, it helps me if I just remember that it's all swings and roundabouts really. I was browsing through one of my favourite history blogs that focuses on the Georgian era and I came across a fascinating discussion in which several theories for the wild swing in cultural norms that occurred when Princess Victoria became Queen were being discussed. One idea was that the Enlightenment era, with it's emphasis on individual freedom, also saw a new way of looking at human bodies and sexuality: as vehicles for pleasure as well as duty. With this came the licentiousness we've all come to know and love and with that came the proliferation of the STD such as syphilis and gonorrhea (one of my first lessons in the Georgian era was eavesdropping on a tour guide in some gallery or other with Hogarth and what have you every which way. "You see that beauty spot?" They would all too frequently stop at point out, "that's not actually a beauty spot; it's too big. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a syphilitic sore." I swear, you can do a terrific round of 'join the dots' on just about every other Georgian painting, particularly if they're depicting the 'common life'). By the time we get to the 'Victorian' era, a new understanding of bacteria and disease leads to a public discarding of the 'old' ideals in disgust and an increasing paranoia about sex, who has it, how and why.

Civil war is also a good excuse for bad behaviour on a national scale, I find. I never understood (as much as I might have enjoyed reading about) Charles II, his merrie court and Restoration England in general until I remembered that the people had witnessed their King being beheaded a generation earlier not to mention the now grown-ish nobles who had seen their parents humiliated or killed by republicans, and probably - like the Bright Young Things 300 years later - were suffering a severe case of arrested development.

That and they were just a bunch of self centred whatsits.

EDIT: I also find it ironic when we look askance at societies for having slightly odd priorities, as though we in the 21st century devote ourselves wholly to Reason (whatever that might be) or whatever it is we've decided must be the new measuring stick of all things Good. Take the ancient Chinese who made technological advances that wouldn't be seen for centuries in the rest of the world, nor - ironically enough - in China itself for even longer once the powers that be deemed it unfashionable. It certainly is strange in hindsight that they'd just stop, but I wonder if their reasons were actually every bit as reasonable as say, NASA's where, having actually landed on the actual moon, they just sort of stopped when it came to space exploration to the point where 50 years on, no one considers that especially odd.

Thatt's just life, man.

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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 12:08am on 27/05/2010 under , ,
Today marks the fall of the Parisian Commune. I know less than my usual 'very little' when it comes to European history - learning about it as fascinating as it is confusing and sad.
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I have completely forgotten the link, but it was one of the link-of-a-links that came from a Racefail post, about historical P/CoCs that gave birth to this little nugget - The Queen of Morocco:

Apparently a real prostitute as mentioned in 'The Wandering Whore' (1660-1661). I decided not to make her actually Moroccan, as you can see, partly because I just wanted to draw afro hair in the fashionable do (and it goes really well. Actually tempted me to step away from the relaxer-which-never-works-anyway if only to grow it out and do it up like that. It'd be awesome for the steampunk parties) and also because it's totally an uber-exotic moniker.

Anyway, not to keep all the fun to myself, I envisioned her 'lady-in waiting' as a welsh country girl gone bad (for some reason I thought of [ profile] alagbon) but had no idea what to make of her apprentice. Probably just another London lass with too much time on her hands.

Not that it matters. I just read too much into things...!
mmoa_writes: (Theda)
... because I can't talk to people without getting nervous, grinny and sweaty. *shrugs* And I always get the feeling that I have to agree with the person I'm talking with, which means that I end up going round in circles and never proving any point at all. The Internet is a wonderful thing.

[Watching Spirited Away, again. Will increase collection of studio Gibli. Just a pity I missed 'Howl's Moving Castle' when it came out in the cinema.]

Read more... )

The new Chanel advert with Nicole Kidman is just embarrassing. And on a more higbrow note, I am confused by Human rights.
Mood:: 'contemplative' contemplative
Music:: Spirited Away
location: London!


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