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May. 14th, 2009

Mona Lisa

Long time no speak.

Hi everyone!

Sorry it's been so long since my last updates but I've been avalanched in the period known as "exam time" at university, amongst other things!  I've sat 3 out of my 4 exams but unfortunately own't be sitting my final and fourth - medieval islamic history, until August due to a bit of a wine flu scare scare.  On Sunday morning I woke up wit a very sore throat and temperature.  By the evening, my eyes were watering, nose sniffling, sneezing, and naturally concluded I'd got the cold, a.k.a the lurgy.  However by Monday morning, it had gone from being the common cold to something which felt a lot more serious.  As well as the normal flu symptoms, I was having aches around my shoudlers and the base of my spine and my head was killing me.  I was feeling really dizzy and faint and could barely keep my eyes open.  So on Monday evening I phoned NHS direct and gave thme my symptoms, thye put me through to the swine flu information hotline and they were really concerned that I was displaying a lot of the symtoms - basically everything but the blue lips and finger nails!!  So I had to be monitored for 24 hours and go on a course of parecetomols, drink lots of fluids etc.  So it got to the 24 hour mark and i wasn't any better, so I had to go in so the doctors could take a better look at me.  They did a series of checks and tests and stuf and then gave me the all clear and said although I didn't have swine flu, I did have a very bad flu and sent me home to get some bed rest.  So that was my 24 hours of maybe having swine flu but ultimately turning out that I didn't. 

During this time, I was treated like a lepar.  You know what phrase scares the shit out of people?  "I might have swine flu".  Really.  You should see them start making a very slow backwards step away from you.  Is this what the plague was like?!?!  Due to me having "fake swine flu", I missed out on the following - meeting Prince William, a very important business meeting, several small meetings, attending a very extravagent party, and my medieval islamic exam - which I now have to sit in August. 

So all in all in its been a shit 4 days.  I'm feeling a lot better now though, after my little brush with fake swine flu/plague and am trying to rebuild the meetings and everything I lost in those dark 4 days.  :(

In other news, I ordered a stack of history books.  I've decided I'm going to do my mini disseration in my second year in Autumn and am going to do it on the topic of homosexuality in Medieval Islamic society.  Really interesting topic!!!  Google Abu Nuwas!!!  So ordered a load of books on Islamic history, the history of homosexuality, and in what I think is a very clever move, books on Greek homosexuality.  I'm hoping that by looking at attitudes to homosexuality before Medieval Islam, but also at a time which if you go far enoguh back, overlaps a tiny bit, I can use it to lever an argument that suggests that our views on the islamic faith in connection homosexuality are unfounded, misguided and ultimately wrong.  :)

Also finally got around to ordering Ian Mortimers new history book, The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England.  It's billed as a handbook for if you were visiting the fourteenth century and is full of interesting pieces of information which other history books seem to miss out on the grounds they are too trivial.  I love those bits though.  So far i've discovered that medieval upper class women kept squirrels as pets and there were no public green spaces such as parks.  Defo worth a look!!

So yeah, I'm back to my project o showing the world that history students don't just do nothing.  How are you doing fellow student historians?

Apr. 18th, 2009

Crazy Horse Indian

Historic places relevant to westward expansion

Sorry for lack up updates this last week!  I've recently started my internship at whitechapel art gallery and that is taking up a lot of time.  Loving every minute of it though, especially the chance to be creative and free flowing with ideas and plans :)  Also been revising for my  for my exams which start April 29th.  I'm not too nervous but then I've never been the sort of person who has ever got nervous over exams. 

Anyways, am still really engrossed in reading "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown, the book about the indian history of the American west and the westward expansion through the eyes of the natives and their chiefs.  It's really interesting.  I enjoy reading history books most of the time anyways but there are some... whose authors shall go unamed! - who really do familiarise me with the reasons why perhaps kids today don't think history is interesting or "cool".  But there are some books which I have read which are just incredible and really bring history to life.  It's such a corny phrase I know, but it's true.  There's time you connect with a person form history and just get what they are going through.  Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser and Henry VIII by Alison Weir are such titles which have really kept me entertained.  Lol, with Weirs book on Henry VIII, it was so good I remember feeling sad when Henry died at the end.  I obviously knew it was coming but it was still sad when he was gone and that meant the end of the book.  I was lost as to what to read to fill the gap it left for ages!!  This "Bury my Hear at Wounded Knee" however, is a bit like that.  It's actually really good.  I'm usually not all that interested in the nitty gritty facts of military history but I think because of the way Dee introduces you to the various war chiefs, as people not as just famous names like Black Kettle and Crazy Horse, it becomes more than military history; it's history of peoples and the way in which they slowly loose their homes.  I've heard a couple of peopel say the book might be bias and even "take things out of context" but I'm really not sure how certain facts when presented in the cold light of day can ever be taken out of context.  The book lists hundreds of instances where the soldiers attack the Indians, completely unprovoked.  It exposes the conversatiosn and letters that show Colonel Chivington was actively trying to wipe the Indians out.  It's hard to see how these things can be "taken out of context" when the facts are there to support the opinions.  The whole book has got me really interested in this part of American history (a topic I usually avoid like the plague!!!) and was wondering if anyone can tell me a bit about relevant sites in America today to do with the westward expansion?  I'd certainly be very interested in visiting the homes of some of these native american war chiefs and perhaps even following some of their trails on horseback :)

Apr. 10th, 2009

Jesus Christ

Christology - just how close are we to the true image of Christ?

The history of Jesus Christ has always fascinated me.  Never has there been a man so famous, so influential, so well known.... but at the same time so.... anonymous?  The question of "who was Jesus Christ" is something which just get's me I guess.  We all know about the Christian story of Jesus.... born in a stable... son of God... miracles.... dies on cross, but what about Jesus the man?  Who were his friends?  Did he have children?  Is Sarah of Egypt a true story or a myth?  Did he infact die in India?  What were his hobbies?   Did he like cats or dogs?  Simpsons or Family Guy?  Questions like these through the traditional Christian story up in the air and seek to reveal Jesus as a person and not a religious figure; a notion which is all too often lost on so many figures from history.  When we think of the image of Christ we are met with this long faced figure, anglo looking, long hair, beard, robe etc but just how accurate is this image?  Who said Jesus was white?  Who gave him a beard?  Why does he look so anglo?  This to me has always been the hardest bit to stomach; why is a man from that part of the world depicted as so.... "white"...?  I don't think Jesus was black, but I certainly don't think he was white either.  But as for the beard and the long stoney face perhaps we can find roots of this popular image in the Turin Shroud, which this morning is back in the news.

The Turn Shroud is one of those relics of Christianity; it's like the holy grail, the virgins milk, a piece of the cross on which Christ is hung - and then of course the shroud itself, the very piece of matrial in which it is said Christ was wrapped in following his crucifixtion.  If this is true, it touched Christ.  If it touched Christ, it's a relic.  If this is all true, we have an explanation as to why it was so closely guarded in the middle ages; a time when we saw the rise of the Cult of Relics and where churches were often built around tiny pieces of material with some distant connection to Mary, Joseph, Jesus or a saint.  But after extensive carbon dating some years ago, scientists revealed the shroud to be a medieval hoax.  They dated it to the middles ages and claimed it was an example of how greedy people became for relics.  HOWEVER -  one of the leading scientists, Ray Rogers, who has often argued against the authenticity of the shroud has made relevation shortly before his death.  He has claimed that the shroud is infact real.  The revelation is all based on the idea that the peice of material taken from the shroud was taken from a part which repeaired during the middles ages, and so the fabric is not the original fabric and so therefore the result is basically contaminated.  So let's say this is true, let's say Ray Rogers is right, lets say it is the shroud which Jesus was wrapped in following crucifixtion.  And then let's say that the image which is projects is the actual face of Jesus...  Rogers certainly makes a good argument - if it was a medieval hoax, how could the people who made it predict the invention of carbon dating?  They simply couldn't.  Nor could they predict the ability to find the DNA of blood or the chemicals of serum used to hold the wrap together around the body.    Rogers does have a point.  However, there does appears to be one thing that jumps out at me through this whole thing.... if that is the shroud of Jesus Christ, it means Jesus was 6ft tall.  People around the time of Jesus were not 6ft tall.  Jesus would have been a giant.  What would be truly interesting to see, and what would add an interesting dimension to the question over the shroud regardless of result, is whether or not there is any mention anywhere from biblical times that Jesus was infact really tall?

Just how tall was Jesus Christ?

Apr. 4th, 2009

Crazy Horse Indian

In to the slightly unknown, American westward expansion.




It's no secret that I can't stand modern history.  I'm strictly a "Jesus Christ, Islam, medieval, war of the roses, henry, will stretch to marie antoinette" type of girl.  One of the reasons I feel I found history so boring at school was that I was subjected to three years - yes, three! - of Hitler.  I'm not being funny here, but there's only so many conclusions you can draw about Hitler.  And even then, you are somewhat limited by the ones you can draw.  He was a bad guy.  It's ok I get it.  I don't want to qustion it.  I'm happy to just let that one go.  But after three years of having WWII and the life and times of the national curriculums favourite Nazi drummed in to my head, when I came to university, it was medieval I wanted to specialise in.  It still is.  It always will be.  But to make up the modules, I had to take at least one semi modern course.  I got dumped with the American Century.  It was honestly that or.... yeh... Hitler...  Anyways, so despite now seeming more like a politics class than anything else, the American Century module has actually given me a couple of new topics of interest which I now want to explore more.  It's also taught me a lot.  Turns out Pocahontas was a real person!!   Also, after sharing this information with my friends, it also turns out I am the only person who does not know this.  FML.  Anyways, topics to do with the native americans and their life and culture have really caught my interest, as has the westward expansion as obviously this relates.  So0o0o0o0oo0o, as part of my revision for my exams, today I picked up "Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown.  I'm not familiar with this Dee Brown chick (chappy even?) but am going to give whoever they are a shot :)  The book is about the westward expansion through the eyes of the natives and covers the stories of big names such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.  No Pochahontas though.  Gutted.  Anyways, looks good, 445 pages long, will let you know how it goes.  C'mon the natives!
Henry

Henry is the new black?


I said last week that I had noticed an increase in all things Henry around London and have again noticed it this week with two new exhibitions opening - one at the Tower of London and one at the British  Library.  The exhibition at the Tower is called "Dressed to Kill" and covers 3 floors within the white tower featuring armour and weaponary which belong to Henry; some of the items have been brought in especially from all over the world.  I am less familiar with the details of the British Library exhibition, having only found out about it this morning but apparently it's loads of personal items.  In honour of the upcoming 500th anniversary of Henrys accession to the English throne, here's a list of all things "Henry" to do and see in London along with appropriate links for more information. 

British Library exhibition.  Personal items belonging to Henry.
http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/henry-viii-exhibition-at-british-library-article-8107.html

"Dressed to Kill" exhibition at the Tower of London.  Items of weaponary and suits of armour used and belonging to Henry.  Defo reccomend seeing the two contrasting suits of armour; one from his younger days and one from his later days!!  Not sure if these will be on show in this exhibition, though I suspect they will - but if not, they are kept at Hampton court palace.
http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/whatson/dressed-to-kill-exhibition-london-article-8096.html

"Henry VII Remembered" exhibition at National Portrait gallery.  Features lesser known portraits and artworks of Henry VIII and provides good illustration for studying the changing image of Henry throughout his reign as King.  Free entry!! <3
http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/event-root/henry-viii-remembered.php

Henry VIII exhibition at Hampton Court Palace.  This is a long running exhibition which is  fantastic.   Covers a wide variety of elements from Henrys life, including his wives - talking of which an extra special exhibition within an exhibition called "Heads and Hearts" (hahaha love it!) opens here on April 10th and is all to do with celebrating all his marriages.  Also, hampton court palace is well worth a visit in its own right anyways - even if it's just for the maze.  You can walk in the path of Henry there.
http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/stories/palacehighlights/HenryVIIIheadsandhearts.aspx

Fuckn love King Henry. VIII  <3

Mar. 28th, 2009

Henry

New series about Henry VIII starting on channel 4.


David Starkey has got a new series coming out on channel 4, starting April 6th, about Henry VIII.  As a fan of all things Henry, I will of course be watching, but can't help but wonder if this programme will cover anything new.  Those who are not familiar with the "lesser known" Henry - the skinny atheltic one pictured above, as opposed to his later fatter version, maybe shocked by some of the information we know about Henrys younger years, but what about those of us who have devoured nearly every book on him?  I'm currently reading David Starkeys new book on Henry, "Virtuous Prince", which is kinda like the fruiton of Starkeys years of extensive research on Henrys younger years.  I think it ends just after he marries Catherine.  I can't help but wonder if this new series will just be the televised version of Starkeys new book or is it going to uncover something new and exciting for the more educated Henry fanatics? 

Here's a link to the channel 4 page about the series. 

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/henry-viii-the-mind-of-a-tyrant

Alsom whilst on the topic of all things Henry, there's a really interesting looking exhibition going on at the National Portrait Gallery.  Again, it's all about the lesser known image of Henry, and then goes through history showing how the image of him changes as he slowly morphs from atheltic knight to gout ridden "tyrant."  I always feel bad calling him a tyrant for some reason....? :(    Anyways, it's a free exhibition and I haven't seen it being advertised on the tubes like other big exhibitions currently going on, so I suggest if you're in London and interested in Henry VIII, you go along.  Here's the link...

http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/event-root/henry-viii-remembered.php

There's also another Henry exhibition going on at one of the other musuems, can't remember which but will find out.  What's with all the Henry stuff right now?  Is he fashionable again? 

Mar. 26th, 2009

Mona Lisa

Astrolabe essay completed :)

So today I finally completed my astrolabe essay, which is handy because it's due in at 4pm and its already 3:20 now.  I actually really enjoyed writing this one.  I find that a sign of a good essay is when you can read it out loud in a David Attenborough style accent and it fits.  :)  The essay just feels really laid back and gentle and doesn't feel too heavy, just feels like a nice relaxed essay.  You know when you finish an essay and you just can't stop smiling becaue you know it's a good one?  That's like me right now.  I'm very proud of it.  It's given me a lot of food for thought in regards to the history of things such as horoscopes and maybe that's an avenue I'd like to research more.  The essay was on the topic of astrolabes and what they tell us about Medieval Islamic society.  Nothin massive, only 2000 words.  If anyone wants a look, let me know, and I'll pass it on :)

Mar. 24th, 2009

Mona Lisa

A little experiment

Who are the most famous people in history?  This is a question which has constantly plagued me.  Not for any particular reason other than it's one of those questions historians like to play with.  The idea is you compile a list of the most famous people in history, with the most famous being no.1.  When choosing people it is important to take in to account how long they have been famous for, how many people know of them rather than how many people know every details about them, whether or not they are taught in the national curriculum, would joe blogs on the street know who they are etc. Just a bit of fun but here is my list so far...

1.  Jesus
2.  Mohammad.
3.  The Virgin Mary.
4.  Cleopatra.
5.  Hitler.

It seems strange to put Hitler in at number 4 considering the legacy life span of the first 3 but think about it - Who doesnt know about the nazis? Who hasn't heard of hitler? He is taught in nearly ever high school in Britain!  Feel free to correct me on my list and to add to it.

Should  Virgin Mary swap places with Mohammad?

Other names I considered but am not sure of their placement are -

Elizabeth I, Henry VIII - not sure if they are that well known globally.
Charlemagne - does Joe Blogs on the street really know of Charlegmagne?
Ghandi - some girl on big brother didn't know who he was so maybe not...
Stalin - similiar to Hitler but where on the list does he go?
Buddha - who doesnt recognise Buddha?
Mona Lisa

Final 3 pieces of coursework for first year.

So lately, everything at uni has been about the essays.  I'm on the final pieces and if I can just finish them and get them in the bag everything will be ok.  I've got one on Nietzsche, one on an astrolabe and another on something to do with America...  :P  Being at the end of my first year has made me reflect on what I've learnt this year and how far my essays have come.  I had hoped that my medieval european essays would be of higher marks and would match up to my Medieval Islamic essay but they have maintained that trend.  Everytime i get my Islamic essays back, it is really high marks, but then I get my European essays back and they are good-ish marks but no where near as good as the Islamics.  Worries me a little.  Amn't I meant to have homed my history essay writing skills by now and should be getting high marks through out right now?  It also worries me that my degree is becoming so specific, not in the sense it's Medieval now; because that's what I want, but in the sense, the only module which I seem to be really excelling in is the Islamic module.    I've signed up to do the mini dissertation in Autumn (figured it would be good practice for the real thing in my final year), 5000 words and even thats looking like my best bet is to do it on Islam - potentially looking at doing it on the concept of homosexuality which actually pops up a lot in Medieval Islamic studies and for which there is more and more scholars researching and writing in to.  Maybe I'm just worried because first year is over and second year is when he really hard work begins and I'm hell bent on getting a first.   It just feels like I came t university because I really wanted to study "ye olde England"; the princes in the tower, henry VIII, war of the roses, William I, medieval society, medieval church, etc, and although I enjoy looking at these aspects of history, I'm not getting my highest marks here.  My highest marks are continuously in Medieval Islamic studies. 

Thoughts?

Mar. 20th, 2009

Mona Lisa

Where might one find a "beastier"?

Has anyone heard of a "beastier", and does anyone know where I can find one?  It's a medieval book depicting animals from all over the world except a lot of the drawing are based on handed down accounts of what the animal looks like.  Thought it would be interesting to have a look at.  Anyone?

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