Modern History

“Reading old books and looking at manuscript illustrations is great but what is it like to actually wear armour, use a lance from the back of a charging warhorse or stand in a shield wall? We aim to find out by trying.”

Jason Kingsley OBE

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • About
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Episode 1 introduces the concept of “Modern History” and the focus of Season One, the medieval knight. In it, Jason talks about portrayals of knights on TV and film and asks the question, “How much of that is what it would actually have been like?” The episode introduces initial thoughts about the topics of the episodes that make up the rest of the season.

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Where did the concept of “knights” come from? What does the word itself mean? How did knights promote themselves, in the eyes of their vassals, their peers, their lords? How does that kind of promotion relate to our modern world?

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Rags-to-riches, the classic hero’s journey. But how did a boy truly become a knight? What hardships and responsibilities did he face? Could just anyone become a knight and if so, how did he prove his worth?

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In romantic tradition, knights fought in wars and in tournaments, for honour, recognition and great acclaim. In reality, what else did they do? When war wasn’t troubling their lord’s lands, what duties would a knight be expected to perform? What was “the life of a knight”?

Modern History is a series that aims to investigate the reality of the past. We’re familiar with re-enactments of history in film and television but often those recreations are dramatized and designed for entertainment and spectacle. Jason aims to investigate how accurate those portrayals may be, by trying them out for himself and looking at them from a modern perspective. Perhaps by drawing parallels between the past and our modern lives, we can better understand what life might have been like for our ancestors.