As I was walking from my office to the library, I happened upon and open air "meeting" of the campus chapter of these people. Oh brother, were they ever "meeting."
Fighting with fake swords and armor; dressing in tights and armor in the heat of the late summer; a fat guy in a monk robe...it was all there.
Why is it that these people bother me so much?
As a historian, actually, I have mixed feelings. If this is the way that some people decide to interact with the past, I guess I have no right to stop them. On the other hand, I think the thing that bothers me the most is that they choose to take the "good" parts of the Middle Ages and leave the rest.
They are happy to take the comely wenches, brave men in armor, traditional handicrafts, Busch Light drank out of pewter tankards, quaint speech and so on. What they seem to forget is that the Middle Ages (in most of Europe, at least; the Arabs in Andalusia were doing pretty well, thank you) was extremely nasty.
Even setting disease and the lack of sanitation aside (and that is a lot to set aside), people lived in political arrangements as little better than slaves, beholden to a series of landowners and ekeing out a subsistence existence. You also lived in constant fear of these temporal powers who marshalled spiritual powers to keep you in frightened subjection.
O.K., now add in the disease, stink, rotten food, worse water and sever killer bouts of the plague.
The worst part, in my opinion, was that things never got better. You could never hope to do much better than your father and you could have no such hope for your children. When did things like this start to change in Europe? Oh, about, around the late seventeenth century (like, well, maybe sorta 1690-ish).
I guess they are just hobbyists and if this is how they choose to spend their time, money and effort, hey, good for them. At least they are not dealing smack or writing horrid popular songs.
But you won't find me out there, poncing about, playing at medieval fun. I know too much about the past to have it be any fun at all.
What's more, I have no problem with that.
It opened up my eyes I saw the sign
4 weeks ago