Episode 36: Sweet Child of Mine


So you lived through birth…now what? Despite the popular image of the Middle Ages putting children to work the instant they were capable of holding a tool, Medieval childhood was actually pretty similar to modern childhood. No iPads, but people bought cute clothes for their kids, lots of different types of toys, sent them to school where they learned Latin (and riddles). Join Em and Jesse to learn about childhood!


Important sources for this episode:

Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children https://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Children-Nicholas-Orme/dp/0300097549

Christopher Cannon’s From Literacy to Literature: England, 1300-1400 https://www.amazon.com/Literacy-Literature-England-1300-1400/dp/0198779437

1/ Kid President isn’t a kid anymore! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robby_Novak

2/ Marie Antoinette and Her Children (1787) , by Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun (https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/656654) Vigee Le Brun painted a number of portraits of Marie Antoinette, and achieved full membership in the Academy. (Although she wasn’t the first woman to be awarded this honor–there were a number who gained Academy membership before the French revolution.)

For more on Le Brun, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Élisabeth_Vigée_Le_Brun and Evangelia Karvouni (2014), “Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun: A Historical Survey of a Woman Artist in the Eighteenth Century,” Journal of International Women’s Studies, 15(2), 268–285, available at https://vc.bridgew.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1765&context=jiws

3/ True facts, the day that I (Em) was editing this, I calmed a baby by singing “Mack the Knife.” You probably don’t want me to sing to your children. [Jesse: That sounds awesome!]

4/ Coventry Carol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIvH5GdY4JE&ab_channel=drwestbury

5/ Henry Percy, called “Hotspur” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Percy_(Hotspur)) is a major character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, pt. 1 (and also a real person who predated Shakespeare considerably).

6/ John Ball (c.1338–1381) was a priest who played a very important role in the Peasants’ Revolt (1381).

7/ Also, “sparrows” and “arrows” are an obvious English pairing if you want to rhyme.

8/ We have recorded a series of episodes on England Before 1066 in which the Exeter Riddles feature prominently, so look for those episodes in the future! For more on Exeter Riddles in the meantime, see the riddles and the answers and a nice essay (from the British Library) on the riddles: https://www.bl.uk/medieval-literature/articles/the-exeter-book-riddles-in-context

9/ I (Jesse) had a lot of fun running through some cute Duolingo Latin exercises. It’s definitely Classical pronunciation (“c” always pronounced as “k,” “g” as in “go,” and “v” as “w”).

10/ Sorry to all German speakers. Also, side note, since we recorded this I discovered that John Linnell, one of the They Might Be Giant guys, has put out an album in Latin. It’s called Roman Songs, and you can find many on YouTube. Or click here to listen to “Hanc Quoque Est Res” (that this is also the case). (Side note, I [Em] have studied a lot of languages, including French, Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Hebrew, German/Yiddish…and Ancient Greek is one of the most difficult. Also Russian.)

11/ Ben Jonson (1572–1637) was famously very good at Latin and Greek and very proud of this (hence his small dig at Shakespeare in a poem he wrote to honor Shakespeare!).

12/ Shakespeare’s father was a glove maker who used a fine white leather. See “whittawer.”

13/ N.B. Per the joke about crazy uncles: all my uncles are either not crazy or not on Facebook, which is pretty much the same thing. [Jesse: Yes, same!]

14/ See our episode 34 on Universities!

15/ Aristotle’s Politics Book 8. Here’s the Perseus project link to the translation (Politics 8.1340b).

16/ For the Roger Edgeworth complaint (preaching around 1539-40 in Bristol, England after the dissolution of the monasteries) see Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children, p. 172.

17/ The scene we’re discussing from Margery Kempe’s Book (also The Book of Margery Kempe comes at the end of section 30, immediately before section 31. In the annotated edition edited by Barry Windeatt, see pp. 177–78. Here’s a Google Books link to the page: https://books.google.com/books?id=LypF-lv_ZXgC&pg=PA177&lpg=PA177&dq=margery+kempe+baby+jesus+doll&source=bl&ots=GNoXQ97D8t&sig=Ltw40747l9-i7FvJcx2zc09MVeU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjvrfGCzbHfAhVCc98KHaEXA-EQ6AEwCHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=margery%20kempe%20baby%20jesus%20doll&f=false
And here’s an Amazon link.