Middle Ages: "the default historical playground"

The great interest in medieval themes by the public has led academics to create a new educational organization: The Society for the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages, which was formed during the International Congress on Medieval Studies to address how the general public views the historical period.

Paul Sturtevant, one of the founders of the organization, says the group was founded to help historians and scholars communicate with the media, authors, historical re-enactors and festival organizers who help shape the public perception of medieval history.

Sturtevant said, "I think there has been a large appetite in the general public for medieval things because over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the Middle Ages has been rendered into our most popular collective fantastical and historical playground. It is distanced enough from the present day, both temporally and culturally, that it seems people can enjoy playing with it, and in it. This can lead to serious academic and antiquarian interest as a way of imagining yourself in a historical person’s shoes, but at the same time it leads to recognizably medieval (if not actually medieval) fantasy worlds in which we play, from Grimm to Tolkien to World of Warcraft. While this has occurred with other periods (particularly the Classical world- with its myths and monsters- and the Victorian period- with Gothic or steampunk fantasies), the Middle Ages has, in my opinion, been the default historical period for this kind of play.”

Thanks to Baroness Catriona nicHugh Mclaey for the link.