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Medieval Life site.

Discussion in 'Writing Resources' started by Ban, Nov 29, 2015.

  1. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Medieval Life and Times

    I discovered this site a while ago and thought it might be useful for the many among us writing a story in a medieval inspired world and care for realism.
     
    Metanoiac likes this.
  2. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I don't know about that site. A couple of red flags appeared right off the bat, one about accuracy, one about web design. On the former, there's no bibliography anywhere. There's no way to verify any of the information provided or to tell where this author got his/her information. On the latter, the site loads up a bunch of keywords and phrases designed solely for SEO. Every page has the same list of bullet points that look like they ought to be links, but are not.

    So, red flags. If I look at the actual information, I'm underwhelmed. I grabbed some pages on the Crusades, more or less at random and discovered that Godfrey of Bouillon captured Jerusalem from the Turks. No, he didn't. It was Egyptians who defended the city, having recently re-taken it from the Turks. Yeah, okay, maybe you think that's a minor point. But combine it with the red flags and I wonder how much of the information at the site I need to sift through to sort out the good from the bad.

    Mere facts are one thing. More troubling is when there is an unacknowledged slant to the information. In this case, the site is English, and much of the information presented is heavily or even exclusively English. Now, if the site says it's about Medieval England, then I've no problem with that. But when it speaks (as it does) as if it were talking about the entire Middle Ages and the entire European continent, then I am not going to credit it for realism.

    All that said, it is a fairly extensive site and it's been online for quite a while. It's got lots of juicy little tidbits. And it does come up pretty high in search engines, so kudos on the old SEO front.

    In short, yes do use the site for color and for ideas. Just don't use it for your next history essay!
     
    Metanoiac likes this.
  3. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    I have only read the parts about medieval everyday life, so no red flags as far as i know there. Good to know what parts of the site to ignore.

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn LG-E610v met Tapatalk
     
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    That site isn't very good. While I understand it's hard to sum up a large chunk of time and a large place into a concise site, this one isn't very focused so as to provide clear and pertinent detail to any one thing. It's sort of a crash course, and I think in that regard, it does a disservice to its subject matter.

    There are tons of sites out there even worse than this one, that give half-truths, misinformation, and assumptions instead of researched, cited facts. As a person who loves history, it really annoys me when this happens, and while I'm all for saying, "fantasy doesn't need to be accurate, so do what you want," I'm tired of seeing the same garbage regurgitated time and again by writers who rely on weak research and misinformation to create the foundations for their worlds. Part of me has to wonder...is it just that the readers out there believe the misinformed facts? Like in historical romance, where every woman is married by age fourteen and pregnant (a verifiable, blatant untruth), do readers like it that way for a reason, or do they all just believe the same misinformation? Or do we distort the facts to intrigue a reader, and give them an experience they maybe find more thrilling (like make a lower class character suddenly reject the social order of the time and make a huge stand and insult his betters, which leads to a revolution, rather than a whipping)? Or should we simply perform more intense research and write closer to the rawness of the real world? Would that intrigue readers as they challenge their own views of how people lived in the past, or would that just anger them because they believe the lies?

    When I write, I try to give a respectful nod to history, not because I rely on it to give me the full answer of how I want life to be in my world, but because I feel like there are already so many people out there spitting in history's face, I just prefer to be different. I have no idea whether people will ever like what I write, however.

    I once had a critter tell me I should change a scene that takes place in my female MC's bedroom, because her brother was lying on her bed talking to her while she brushed her hair in her nightgown. The critter said that never would have happened, that a man wouldn't have been allowed in her chamber. So, with regard to history and the inaccuracy of that critter's statement, would I turn off a reader because readers don't necessarily understand Renaissance life (and that brothers and sisters weren't different than they are today, except they might have been less bashful), or would that reader ignore their inclination and be patient with me, though they believe it's an inaccurate portrayal?

    Tough. Research is important if it's important to you. If it isn't, meh. It's probably not important to a lot of other folks, too. One important thing, though, you gotta look for citations and dig a little deeper. Wikipedia is fine to get surface answers, and I use it a fair amount to get quick answers for small issues, but when I seek to understand something better, I invest in deeper searching. I know the Compendium of Common Knowledge is based on the reign of Queen Elizabeth, but I still stand by it being an absolutely great research tool, because it is accurate, and though not specifically Medieval, a lot of the common people's lives sections didn't change much. Fashion changed, but not the materials garments were made from. The wars changed, but not the lives of soldiers. So I think with a little bit of creativity, it's a great tool for a fantasy writers. Life in Elizabethan England: A Compendium of Common Knowledge - Contents
     
    Metanoiac and valiant12 like this.
  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    I've visited that site a few times and concur with what skip.knox pointed out.
     
  6. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Rant coming through watch out! Slightly embalished agitation for dramatic effect included. You have been warned.



    I only linked to the site so that people who know little about the subject can have a brief overview. I know the site is not anywhere close to being a complete encyclopedia of medieval history. My study focuses largely on european medieval history so i should know. Dumping people into any subject will make them unable to know where to start so a little site like this could be useful i thought.

    If the site is apparently as absolutely, horribly and irredeemably atrocious as you guys seem to think it is than just delete the thread.

    Verstuurd vanaf mijn LG-E610v met Tapatalk
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  7. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

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    We're not shooting the messenger. No worries.
     
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    I don't know if you felt like we were bashing you personally or what, but that's just not true. Here's what I said:

    ...and then I went on to express my questions of whether readers enjoy the portrayals of fourteen-year-olds married up to men in their thirties or forties that we see in historical romance all the time and it's to me, bordering on one of the hot button topics I don't want to reopen. My questions were about knowledge and accuracy as a whole--as in, is it simply a waste of our time as writers to conduct good research, because readers will reject our reality at the end of the day and substitute their own?

    Unfortunately, for people who get to read misinformed research all the time, it gets old. There was nothing hateful in my post, nor personally attacking you. I chose to use my time instead to talk about the dangers of writers using half-informed sites for research. I didn't say you, personally. In fact, I called out historical romance writers as the worst offenders.

    Sorry it's not a good site. If you felt it was a jumping off place, perhaps next time say that in your post. To me, it looks like you recommend this as a place to perform research, and my opinion is that it's not such a good place for writing research, really, because it isn't thorough enough to inform about any one subject deeply to aid a writer in creating realism beyond the simplest scope of Medieval history--which just helps more people spread the misinformation, rather than learning a few new facts that will breathe life into their novel.

    Just a note about this forum and the folks here, we're not the sort who jump all over someone for offering up an opinion (with respect to a couple subjects that have caused great hurt in the past and have been dealt with repeatedly), but you have to assume you're going to see opinions to the contrary, no matter what your viewpoint. Threads of, "hey, look at this," whether they are movie trailers or research sites, or "read a novel for free" PDFs, invite a range of opinions because no one knows how the OP feels about the link. It's sort of just inviting conversation. I've invited quite a few conversations that didn't turn out how I intended, but that's just the nature of open discussion.

    I assume it was my comment that upset you, because you responded to Skip, so I hope my taking the time to clarify has let you know that it is simply my opinion that the link you provided isn't very thorough and the dangers of using a site that isn't well-researched is that a writer can think they're writing historical accuracy, when in fact all they're doing is spreading around the same half-truths as everyone else. Sorry, I'm not going to retract that sentiment. We recently had a long thread about how accurately you should/ could/ would/ whatever, portray history into your fantasy, and there were a multitude of opinions expressed, ranging from, "It's important to do accurate research, so you understand how to really break the rules to good effect and create something new from something old," to, "don't worry about research because you're writing fantasy and you can do whatever you want in your world and no one should drive you off your ideas." Both sides of that argument have merit, and that's just the nature of writing. But as writers who have strong opinions on the matter, we're going to express ourselves, not because we like to have a rant before breakfast, but because we feel we owe it to other writers, maybe those with less experience in general, to express our opinions on the dangers of treading wherever. That was what I was doing, not projecting any of my opinions onto you personally, or your work. If you felt it came off that way, I apologize.
     
  9. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    Sorry for being antagonizing in my last post. In my defense (defence? Is there a preference here for English or American spelling?) i have had only 1 hour of sleep in the last 29 and have a lot of deadlines to meet. My capacity to be reasonable is slightly impaired at the moment. Besides that your posts are often very long and i skim through parts of them (sorry...), so i suppose i misunderstood it for saying something else.

    I assume the line "If the site is apparently as absolutely, horribly and irredeemably atrocious as you guys seem to think it is than just delete the thread." is what made you believe that i took this personal. Which is very understandable considering that i am facepalming at this very moment. It wasn't my intention however and i merely wanted to write that if the linked site isn't up to the standards of this site than this thread can be deleted.



    I should probably finish my work as quickly as i can and get some sleep. Again the comment was meant to be more pleasant.
     
  10. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I use long posts so I can be thorough and clear...so that didn't work, I suppose :)

    Anyways, there are no standards for helpful links on this site, but anything posted invites discussion (like this one). I suppose there are certain things that will invite debate (like politics, some writing craft topics, publishing, and any other polarizing subject) and certain things that will initiate a fight (usually comments taken to the extreme by folks who have strong opinions and aren't employing tact), and certain things that get folks thrown out the door (time and again we've tried to have those discussions objectively, but people go too far and don't maintain a respectful tone, so we sort of banned those subjects because nothing more can be said to rehash them in a new and better way, because they continually get off the subject of pertaining to fantasy writing and instead just cause hurt to our members).

    I don't think your link is a bad thing to post here. It might be exactly what someone's looking for. But I do a lot of historical research and it just irritates me when I read uninformed writing, and so I'm trying to present the other side of the coin for writers who maybe don't know anything about history but insist on putting it into stories? Good research is really a good thing. It allows us to find the right sites for us, maybe to jog our memories, or to give the in-depth things we need for a particular problem. I just want writers to be informed about what kinds of research they need for any given project, and know the pitfalls of certain kinds of sites (like those lacking citations, and those that deal with overviews). Some people may only be looking for an overview, or a specific fact like what Medieval people did for their pastimes or what they ate, so they can include some level of authenticity in their fictional world.

    I was at a demonstration of historical archery a few summers ago, and we had a guy who took one historical tidbit and basically spewed it at people all day, as if it were the only truth, and I just thought he did a disservice to all those patrons of the Renaissance Faire who were within earshot (not to mention he spewed some "facts" that were completely bogus). Which was sort of why I asked the questions I did. How much accuracy is a reader looking for? Are they looking to learn a little? Are they wowed by amazing tidbits? Are they rejecting our accurate information we're including, thinking we made it up because they already believe in another reality? I don't know. In my own writing, I try to put in obscure historical facts, like in my city based off Renaissance Venice, I had a character trudge through a stinky street littered with mushy mulberries (because Venice had a booming silk trade, and silk worms only feed on Mulberry trees, and I had one in my yard and it made an awful mess every spring when berries fell by the thousands, so I thought that'd be an interesting little thing to put in there).

    Glad you know I wasn't speaking about your writing. I'm a huge champion for historical accuracy, but I believe in modern ideals as well. I chose to use Venice's political structure, but rather than using a single church, I used two religions to cause a political and societal conflict. I didn't want my religious conflict to look like I was bashing Christianity (either historical or modern), so both religions are polytheistic and worship the same gods, but one caters to the nobility and the other to the common people (a very interesting subject in Renaissance Venice, where merchants were often richer than the nobility and a rising middle class began to make huge strides in the way wealth and status were displayed and disbursed). sure, I strayed from history in a major way, but I did it for what I thought was the right reason--to take the air of Christianity out of the story and allow it to be a socioeconomic struggle, rather than a straight up religious one, where i might have been perceived as making a cardinal-like antagonist, and therefore his church, the bad guy. I want readers to understand it wasn't one church vs. the other, it was a man who believes there are only certain people who should have power--namely the rich ones he's allied with, and himself. :)

    So anyways, yay for research, however much a writer needs to get the results they're looking for. And yay for the internet, that allows us to research at home and not have to lug heavy texts home from the library! But be careful, because the internet can be a place of half-truths and sometimes folks aren't really concerned with whether what they're spreading is true or concocted. So researchers beware.
     
  11. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Nobody said it was atrocious. Just that it wasn't particularly good. I explicitly said it might be fine as a source for ideas, just not for reliable (read: academic) history. I wasn't refuting, I was modifying.

    Or intended to be.

    Also, pro tip: if one has had a single hour of sleep in 29 hours, it's best not to post in forums! :)
     
    Ban likes this.
  12. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

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    That is a quote to live by!
    Luckily i eventually had time to sleep a few hours later so i've sobered up now (does that apply to being sleep deprived?) and i've realised my overreaction.
     
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