The Middle Ages: This Time With Things That ACTUALLY Happened
October 18, 2016 7:23 PM   Subscribe

I need some cool resources for topics relating to the Middle Ages (Europe for now, but soon Japan, northern Africa, the Middle East, etc.) that are appropriate for middle schoolers (11-13 years old, decently diverse with lots of students with special needs). Here's the catch: I would really like sources that DON'T propagate myths about the middle ages (burning witches, world is flat, church put scientists on trial, etc.) AND are interesting.

My background in art history is weak, though my YouTube searching ability is top-notch. I'd also considered well written texts but keep in mind that shorter is better.

I'd LOVE some interesting stuff about Joan of Arc and any other notable women. Especially if they come with project ideas that are not A) make a poster, or B) make a diorama.

Please assume I've searched the shit out of the internet and a lot of the stuff aimed at kids is infantilising or just plain wrong. Also, most of the real academic scholarship is too far out of their reach in terms of reading level and interest level. But stuff like the Supersizers Go Medieval, Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, and some articles about how pottery is helping archeologists learn about the Black Plague are perfect. Hell, even memes are fair-game.

I've already seen the Battle of Hastings post from last Friday, but the animated Bayeux Tapestry (and Simpsons opening) are two things that are pretty much exactly what I am looking for. So thanks for setting me on that path already, hivemind.

Oh, and our textbook is TCI's History Alive (Medieval World) but it's 12 years old and not a great resource.

Thanks in advance for any help you can offer.
posted by guster4lovers to Education (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To clarify: I'm mostly looking for resources aimed between 1000-1450 CE, and mostly from modern-day UK, France, Germany, Italy, etc.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:30 PM on October 18, 2016

Tony Robinson (Baldrick from Blackadder) did a series called The Worst Jobs in History, with episodes on the Dark Ages, Middle Ages, Tudors, and more recent.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:39 PM on October 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

The Crash Course world history episode about the "Dark Ages" specifically interrogates that term and addresses Eurocentrism. It's superficial (hey you try covering 1000 years in 12 minutes) but does take a look at what was going on in Asia and the Islamic world.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:51 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the Universe would probably be good for kids of that age. (I loved the first volume when I read it at the age of 11.) Volume III covers about 700-1500, which would include the period you'd be interested in. That volume mainly focuses on the Islamic world, the Byzantine Empire, and (later in the book) Europe; but it also spends a good amount of time on China, India, sub-Saharan Africa, and Japan.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:56 PM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks Huffy Puffy and Wretch729 - I use every Crash Course video in my class and I watched part of the Worst Jobs but thought it was a little overlapping with Medieval Lives.

However, those are exactly the types of resources I'm after! Thanks.

I'll check out Cartoon History - I love the physics one.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:02 PM on October 18, 2016

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver is a YA novel about Eleanor of Aquitaine. Maybe excerpts?
posted by 8603 at 8:20 PM on October 18, 2016

On YouTube: the BBC show Horrible Histories. Funny, well researched, aimed at exactly your age demographic.
posted by Wavelet at 8:25 PM on October 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some tumblrs for diverse medieval art: Medieval and Early Modern Women, Medieval POC.
posted by Wavelet at 8:29 PM on October 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wavelet - those tumblrs are awesome. Do you happen to know any resources that could help decipher those images and analyse them? Like, I know I could individually research each one and dig through meanings, but SURELY someone has done that for me?
posted by guster4lovers at 8:34 PM on October 18, 2016

Maybe the Horrible Histories?
posted by brujita at 10:06 PM on October 18, 2016

I've used extracts from Rosalind Miles' The Women's History of the World to good effect. She covers all kinds of details about women's lives throughout history. Yes, some terrible things and yet also details from the middle ages that were quite eye opening for me. She has many examples of powerful women and their achievements.
posted by honey-barbara at 12:13 AM on October 19, 2016

Ruth Goodman's works have tended to skew slightly later, but Secrets of the Castle is about the restoration and life of those building a castle in the Middle Ages. She's also done a show and a book on the Tudor era. Shows are all on YouTube.
posted by jrobin276 at 1:43 AM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, this series is (or at least was) on YouTube - might have to exerpt some for your age group, but very interesting!
posted by jrobin276 at 1:51 AM on October 19, 2016

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives is excellent
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:06 AM on October 19, 2016

This might not work as a resource for students themselves, but as a source of ideas you could use I think it would offer a lot: Misconceptions about the Middle Ages, edited by Stephen Harris and Bryon Grigsby. It includes chapters on subjects such as "Medieval Monks: Funnier than you thought" and "The Myth of the Mounted Knight."
posted by brianogilvie at 9:00 AM on October 19, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers.

I'm familiar with Ruth Goodman (and the multitude of historical shows in which she's appeared), but have found the videos to be WAY too long to be used in the classroom. I wish I could show Secrets of the Castle, but it's really, really long, and my students would find it less interesting. They are pushed to their limit with Medieval Lives, honestly. And even that I break into smaller segments.

Horrible Histories is good, but really hard to find on YouTube - at least the clips about the middle ages. Most videos have been removed by the BBC (I'm in the US). I would love it if people could link to specific examples of medieval episodes/sketches that are A) appropriate, B) available to US viewers and C) free.

Misconceptions about the Middle Ages looks potentially interesting, though as you say, it's not ideal for students as-is. I did order a few of the books mentioned here though, so thanks for those suggestions.

It is interesting to me that, with the exception of Crash Course, just about all of these resources are British. Do Americans care less about the middle ages?
posted by guster4lovers at 1:03 PM on October 19, 2016

HH were originally books.
posted by brujita at 1:15 PM on October 19, 2016

I've been enjoying this reddit site Ask Historians. It's very strictly moderated so no anecdata, just sourced replies from real historians. There are specialists in all sorts of areas and you can search the site for times, places, people, events, etc. Might get some pointers in substantial threads.
posted by MovableBookLady at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

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