Lecture 24: Exam Review

Final Exam

December 10th, 2018; 9 - 11 am; STC 0020

  • Same format as midterm:
  • 50 MC, semi-cumulative
  • Long answers:
  • 2 essays: each - pick 1 of 3, write answers in booklet
  • All from textbook readings
  • All readings provided with exam paper
  • Non-cumulative: all drawn from readings post-midterm
  • Best quality answers include:
  • Tangible examples which show you've done the readings
  • As wide a variety of material as possible (e.g. readings + lectures, James Burke movie if relevant)
  • Coherent structure (intro, paragraphs, conclusion)

The Roman Empire

  • Stability dependent on growth (growth in access to resources by virtue of military expansion); was not sacked for 800 years!
  • As soon as the empire reached fixed borders, there was a decline in the incremental availability of resources and therefore, energy
  • The Roman Empire deployed its vast and complex system of exchange and road network and military support and economy, and so on, under conditions of constant expansion; they could count on further conquest to pay for their things
  • Consequence: Catabolic collapse (Infrastructure maintenance crisis - things set up under times of prosperity)
  • Solution: consume the infrastructure!
  • Progressive re-simplification of society
  • Progressive re-localization of society
  • The demise of comfort
  • Collapse halted (temporarily) through despotism (by Diocletian)

Why and How Does Wealth Concentrate?

General observation: 3 classes of people (except the ones that are very basic hunter-gatherers):

  • Rule-makers
  • Emperors / governors
  • Enablers / rule-enforcers
  • Army & educated bureaucracy
  • Producers
  • Everybody else
  • Who sets taxes / obligations? Who collects? Who pays?
  • Who gets squeezed when surplus diminishes

Some Takeaway Points

  • The Middle Ages:
  • Not a homogeneous period
  • Not geographically homogeneous
  • Lots of change (1000 year period)
  • Life intensely local
  • Except for tiny minority @ the top
  • Ill-defined beginning & end
  • The shadow of Rome
  • Idealization of the past
  • More godly time of the Apostles & Church Fathers
  • Worldly power (united Christian state)
  • Knowledge about the Middle Ages is patchy
  • Change survival of sources
  • "Very" many remain unedited
  • Especially Latin because learning Latin is an additional barrier
  • Many libraries have poor manuscript catalogue
  • Medieval culture primarily oral for most of the period (our knowledge is full of gaps as a result)
  • Challenges in Medieval Studies:
  • Knowledge of languages: Medieval and modern
  • Volume of unstudied / unknown material
  • Some areas "over-studied"
  • Promising areas for discovery:
  • Archaeology
  • Manuscript studies (cataloguing & editing)
  • Statistical analysis of quantitative data
  • Focus on Faith
  • Worldly power had failed
  • Church only organization left staanding
  • Did not hesitate to fill power vacuum
  • Kept society functioning (cohesion)
  • Kept literacy alive (to read the Bible!)
  • Knowledge of antiquity (limited & selective)
  • Widespread persistence o pre-Christian traditional rituals
  • Often co-opted
  • e.g. Roman "Lupercalia" → Christian "Feast of the Purification of the Virgin
  • Sacred pagan wells get rebranded as holy sites for Christian saints
  • Why is all of this important?
  • Middle Ages only 2-3 dozen generations ago
  • Very small slice of human history
  • Despite foreign-seeming behaviour / culture
  • Given similar circumstances, would we act the same?
  • Humans understand themselves & each other through stories
  • Observations on patterns of human behaviour
  • Studying the past = learning the stories
  • Teaching the past = telling the stories
  • Researching the past = uncovering the stories
  • Keeping stories about the past alive
  • Maintaining pre-industrial skill sets
  • Technology depends on cheap energy from fossil fuels
  • Fossil fuels = limited, depleting resource
  • Re-learning how to live with less & less of them
  • Medieval = last Western society constrained to its ecological limits
  • Since then: ideology claiming 'progress' = 'technology & growing economy'
  • Intrinsically interesting
  • Form of respect for ancestors' experience

Learn how other societies lived (what if we have to do th

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