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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Alterity of the Past

We medievalists are always going on about how the Middle Ages are 'different'.  Indeed I have often tried to tell my students that the very obvious 'alterity' of the medieval past is one of the advantages of studying the period.  You can't get very far with the Middle Ages - especially the early Middle Ages - without noticing that there is something very profoundly different about them.  That, I think, gives the student some considerable advantages in approaching the topic.  The problem with modern, especially very modern, history is its seeming sameness (and therefore, ahem, its misleading claim to 'relevance'), obscuring its equal otherness.  I am not sure that I very often convince many of my students, or anyone else, of this.  So, to demonstrate the profound weirdness and alterity of the fairly recent past, check this out, especially the audience response at the end, which I guarantee is not the response that anyone (esp anyone under 21) who thinks that even 1974 is just like 2014 would expect.*

My thanks to Dr Simon Trafford of the University of London's popular Institute of Historical Research for drawing this to my attention.  And, erm, I actually quite like it.

* I think that that is indeed Gladys Knight introducing the act, thereby giving the clip the element of surrealism it was otherwise so sadly lacking.