The historian David Horspool says that we are wrong to think of medieval England as backward. It produced art, architecture and books - on display in a new British Library exhibition - of staggering sophistication.
There's a story in Peter Ackroyd's latest book, a history of medieval England called Foundation, about what one Englishman did to his sister, deformed since birth. Robert de Bramwyk "plunged her into a cauldron of hot water; then he took her out and began stamping on her limbs in order to straighten them."
To Ackroyd, "The records of madness evince some of the general qualities of the medieval mind." But do they? Could the same be said of modern Britain, that the activities of, say, the criminally insane are indicative of the way we Brits behave in general?
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