When I was in high school, I didn’t have much use for history. I remember my good friend, Marty in U.S. History class, as the key to my good grade. After each test, we traded papers to correct them, and we would fix each others answers. That was so much easier than reading that yawn worthy textbook.
It wasn’t until I had the fabulous, and much beloved, Professor Bridgeman at the University of Washington that I learned to love history. He turned every lecture into story time. I looked forward to that class every single day that quarter. The boredom of the textbook turned into intrigue and mystery with his eloquent retelling of events.
I went on to get my degree in international studies, learning about the interaction of all aspects of life to explain the world around us. I took all sorts of classes: languages, history, politics, economics, religion, and culture. This has given me a unique perspective when I write, as I attempt to bring in all of these various facets of life to tell my story.
Large numbers of people continue to be fascinated by the Medieval time period with its castles and knights in shining armor. Far more romantic in our imagination than in real life! The popular show Game of Thrones took its inspiration from the Wars of the Roses, the late 15th century war between cousins for the throne of England.
The Medieval era was so long ago (1066-1485), that we can think that this time period has little relevancy to our lives today. But history is a series of building blocks, the progress may be slow, every victory hopefully a step forward for humankind.
During the reign of King John, one of the most important documents in the history of the world was written, the Magna Carta. The nobility were unhappy with the high taxes and heavy handed administration of the king. They fought hard for rights that we take for granted today. The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, had a profound influence on the United States Bill of Rights. This quote from the document sounds familiar:
“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
“To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”
The Peasant Revolt, an uprising led by the serf class tired of heavy taxes, took place in 1381 during the reign of King Richard II. These people had lived through the Black Death, still the most fatal pandemic in recorded history, a plague that took the lives of 75 – 200 million people worldwide. Due to the huge population decrease, peasants were able to “shop for better wages and benefits.” Those who held fiefdoms needed workers for their fields and competed for labor.
However, the peasants were not content with simply farming someone else’s land and supporting the king. They marched on London where they destroyed the homes of people in power and demanded for “all men to be free and equal”, with fairer laws and wealth distribution. During this time we see the birth of the tenant farmer and the struggle to gain a bit more control of over their lives.
Does this sounds vaguely familiar and current? Those are just two of the core beliefs we still seek to bring wholly to fruition from that time in history. My work-in-progress, ROSES & REBELS, follows the journey of a people seeking to free their island from oppression and the powerful forces against them.
Reading medieval history reminds me that the human struggle for freedom and equality is universal and unites us through the ages.
C.V. Lee writes historical biographical fiction featuring forgotten heroes and heroines of the past. She is a member of the Historical Novel Society, Alli, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can find her on Facebook @cvlee.histficwriter and on Instagram @cvleewriter.