The medieval era is suddenly calling out to leftists
Although Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) was describing a world without the organizing principles of government when he coined the phrase "nasty, brutish and short," he could easily have been describing life for most people in the Middle Ages. However, leftists seem to have discovered a new charm to the medieval era: it wasn't capitalist! And people had holidays! Their enchantment with a time riven by poverty, war, and disease (not to mention rampant religion) highlights once again that much of what drives modern leftism is ignorance.
It started with a series of tweets from Azie Dungey, who's produced several TV chick flicks, such as Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Girls5eva, and Harlem. Having read an article by "a sociology professor at Boston College," she was ready to go to war against the modern era:
Yes, winter happened. But work didn’t stop in the winter for people in agriculture.— Azie Dungey (@AzieDee) April 16, 2022
Winter is when you rebuilt and mended buildings, and fences, redug ditches, wove the insane amount of rope needed everything, redug ditches, sewed sails, fixed machinery, etc.
And so y’all can get off my back, this is from a sociology professor at Boston College. Go bother herhttps://t.co/kkFa2mrTTs— Azie Dungey (@AzieDee) April 16, 2022
This is the book I am referencing in this thread. I posted the Medium blog article bc I thought it was a good summation that cites the book as it’s source. I didn’t think linking the book would be helpful.— Azie Dungey (@AzieDee) April 17, 2022
Also, some of you are confusing serfdom (bondage slaves) with peasants. pic.twitter.com/EW2wVcrNPM
To be clear, I always mute threads when the replies become too many to respond to and blow up the phone. I think that is standard Twitter practice for everyone. The thread now has over 1000 replies, subthreads, and subtweets.— Azie Dungey (@AzieDee) April 17, 2022
I appreciate the discussion, but I have to move on.
It's good to see that Dungey knows about the feudal system, which controlled most of the medieval era through the mid-14th century. In other words, peasants were slaves, putting the lie to the claim that "we give a lot more labor to increase someone else's wealth than in times past." However, she missed a few things about life in the Middle Ages.
For example, most people didn't get that much time to enjoy all those "holy days." In the pre-modern era (before germ theory, pasteurized milk, and antibiotics), up to one-half of all children died before the age of five. The familiar children's bedtime prayer including the line, "And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take" was a real wish, not just a poetic fancy.
Survival rates were little better for the mothers having those babies in the premodern era. Because of infections, hemorrhaging, and obstructed labor, none of which could be addressed, women's chances of survival were often slender.
In England, poor people never made it past 45 years in any event. Death was omnipresent from injuries, infections, disease, war, and starvation. Medical treatment and pain control were nonexistent. Violence was everywhere.
When it came to diseases, the Black Death in the mid-14th century saw one third to one half of the world's population die. That's the reason feudalism ended...because there was a serious labor shortage.
Image: Peasants in February from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, early 1400s (cropped). Public domain.
Incidentally, the lead-up to the Black Death was — wait for it — climate change. According to John Kelly's riveting The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, the plague resulted from global cooling. As the world warmed in the early Middle Ages, people were able to plant more crops, have more food, and thrive. However, the Little Ice Age started at the end of the 13th century, severely reducing crops. This, in turn, led to famine, which weakened people and made them more vulnerable to the plague. Contrary to the foolish people on the left, global warming is good for people. It's global cooling that kills.
There was also the problem of the 100 Years War between France and England that decimated large swaths of the French countryside. Peasants were slaughtered and starved. Barbara Tuchman's wonder A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century provides a vivid picture of that era.
And of course, no leftist would like how deeply religious the era was. Atheism didn't exist. Religion hadn't yet softened humankind's rough edges, though, and the era was extraordinarily cruel. Torture and executions were entertainment. For an insight into how much better off we are, I recommend Steven Pinker's illuminating The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.
None of those facts matters to leftists, though, who have an excessively narrow view of the past. It exists not to inform, but solely to advance their agenda.
I'll end this post with Matthew Yglesias's tweet:
Medieval peasants had no student loan debt, no medical bankruptcies, and never had to worry about high gas prices. What went wrong? Capitalism.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) April 17, 2022
If it wasn't satire, Yglesias is a typical leftist; if it was satire (which is what some claim), it's very good.