Thursday, February 06, 2014

Sea Monsters, Bones, and Textbooks: Medieval News Roundup

The Bones of Charlemagne

Swiss researchers believe they have confirmed that the 94 bones and bone fragments kept at Aachen Cathedral belong to the first Holy Roman Emperor. Professor Frank Rühli of the University of Zurich explains, "Thanks to the results from 1988 up until today, we can say with great likelihood that we are dealing with the skeleton of Charlemagne."

The remains of Charlemagne were taken out of his grave in the 12th century and put into various reliquaries. The researchers took various measurements of the remaining bones, and conclude that he was about six feet tall and thinly built.

You can read more details from Medieval Histories

Medieval Sea Monsters

The Public Domain Review website has a posted an article about the drawings of the sea creatures made by the 16th century writer Olaus Magnus and his influence on sea lore. They note:

The northern seas of the marine and terrestrial map teem with fantastic sea monsters either drawn or approved by Olaus. The most dramatic of those, off the busy coast of Norway, below the dreaded Maelström, is the great serpent, coiling around a ship’s mast and lunging with bared teeth at a sailor on the deck.

You can see more images and the full article from the Public Domain Review

What's wrong with History Textbooks

David Cutler, writing in The Atlantic, is finding that high-school history textbooks in the U.S. are not very useful for teaching history. His reasons for this include:

  1. Textbooks present history as unchanging, but as time passes, our understanding and interpretation of the past constantly evolves. 
  2. Textbooks are one-sided, offering a top-down, often white-male-centric view of history. 
  3.  Without a thesis or any semblance or argument, textbooks don’t accurately reflect how most scholars (at least good ones) write and present history. Teachers should assign readings that model effective historical writing. 
  4. Most importantly—and this merits repeating—textbooks are boring and intimidating. 
  5. Textbooks can serve as a crutch for teachers who don’t know history or the historian’s craft.

While this article is aimed at teaching American history in High School, some of the observations might also be apt for the use of textbooks in college or first year university history courses too.

Click here to read this article from The Atlantic