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Radio 4’s ‘Disability: A New History’

2 Jun

The BBC’s Radio 4 station has recently been running an interesting and enlightening documentary series entitled ‘Disability: A New History‘, which focuses on historical views and attitudes towards disable people and individuals in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  The series, which is presented by Peter White, runs to a total of 12 episodes with each episode lasting around 15 minutes.  The series tackles a different theme each week, with episodes from views on ‘disabled identity’ to ‘being and doing’ and ‘sex and marriage’, to the detailed case studies of disabled individuals and what they experienced.  The series will be available to listen to online via the BBC Iplayer website here for the foreseeable future.  There is also an online slideshow of historical images depicting varying disabilities discussed or mentioned in the show here.

One of the guests that has featured on the show so far is noted Medieval cultural historian Dr Irina Metzler*, who has extensively researched disability during the Medieval period.  In her first book, ‘Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking About Physical Impairment in the High Medieval Ages 1100-1400‘, Metzler discussed the theoretical background of disability (via the social construct) and the physical impairment (via the physiological condition) during the Medieval period in Europe.  In particular her focus contextualizes disability within the medieval theoretical mindset and cultural concepts at the time through looking at relevant case studies, historical documents and written religious examples.

Released recently is the second part of this research, entitled ‘A Social history of Disability in the Medieval Ages: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment‘, which discusses the social and economic aspects of an individual’s disability, specifically regarding legal status and effects of law on disabled persons.  Further to this the research delves into the effects of aging and the physical deterioration of the body ‘together with (the) social, medical and technical attempts at amelioration‘, and is concluded by a discussion on the meaning of charity for the disabled person.

I am currently eagerly awaiting the arrival of Metzler’s first published book through the post, and I look forward to reading the second work, especially with regards to how the perception of disability in the medieval period can be compared and contrasted against the modern world’s cultural attitudes to disability and physical impairment.  In the meantime I shall listen to the rest of this interesting, lively and informative radio series.

*Post amended on the 27/06/13 to correct Dr Irina Metzler’s name.

Bibliography:

Metzler, I. 2006. Disability in Medieval Europe: Thinking About Physical Impairment During the High Middle Ages 1100-1400 (Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture). London: Routledge.

Metzler, I. 2013. A Social History of Disability in the Medieval Ages: Cultural Considerations of Physical Impairment (Routledge Studies in Cultural History). London: Routledge.

Guest Blog: ‘The Elysium Theatre Company Presents the Medieval Heritage Event ‘The War of the Roses’ by Emily Evans.

11 Nov

The Elysium Theatre Company began life in Bedfordshire as a small-scale drama group, run by students for students.  Since graduating, they have been making plans to aid the expansion and creative growth of the company, and are soon to be launching their biggest and most exciting event yet: a weekend-long immersive experience of Shakespeare’s History Cycle titled ‘The War of the Roses’, taking place in the South-West.  The company, founded by Emily Evans and Eleanor Chadwick, has a strong focus on productions of classic plays, in particular those by Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and has a keen interest in bringing history and historical material to life for a modern audience, combining various skills and disciplines.

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We are in the early stages of our Wars Of The Roses project and already really excited about it!  The event is set to be a two-day experience, where the audience will be able to come and go from different locations around the venue, viewing extracts from 8 of Shakespeare’s history plays as well as reenacted battles.  All of this will take place within an immersive Living History setting, complete with medieval craftspeople, minstrels and more!  The production is all set for performance in summer 2012; the script is coming together, lots of people from different disciplines and backgrounds are signing up to take part and we are nearly there with getting our venue sorted out.

The project is supported by the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages scheme: “a fantastic opportunity to showcase the creativity and talent in amateur arts groups across the UK” (Robin Simpson, Chief Executive, Voluntary Arts), and we are really excited to be taking part in the regional showcase held at Hall for Cornwall, Truro, in June next year.

We are currently recruiting and forming a large team of volunteers to make this event the most exciting and spectacular that our theatre company has ever launched.  We are currently looking for:

– Medieval historical and archaeological researchers (Particularly focusing on life in England during 1377-1485 to help gain the company an in depth knowledge of the time period for the War of the Roses event.  This research can be done where you live and can use the internet for correspondence.  Present researchers include These Bones of Mine’s very own David Mennear!)
– Metal workers (for costume armour and props).
– Musicians.
– Costume designers/makers.
– Re-enactors.
– New members for the production team.
– New members for the marketing team.

And soon we’ll be holding auditions for actors who would like to join our company!

If you are interested in the project or just want to say hi you can either:

Check out our website: http://www.elysiumtheatre.co.uk/

Come over to our wordpress blog: http://theelysiumtheatrecompany.wordpress.com/

Follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TheatreElysium

Or email us at: elysiumtheatrecompany@gmail.com.

Access And Issues In Archaeology

18 Mar

In between the guest blogs on cannibalism by Kate Brown, I have stumbled across this website called Past Horizons– related to the Past Horizons magazine.  As the site deals with various facets of archaeology, it is a veritable treasure trove of information.  Ranging from excavations, cultural practises and opinion pieces (not to mention detailing the best tools for arch jobs!), this multimedia website has something for everyone.  Two articles aroused my interest.

Katy Meyers article on Open Access Archaeology provides interesting information on how archaeology is presented across the medium of the world-wide web.  As a subscriber to the British Archaeology magazines, I notice they  too have a column detailing new and interesting websites related to heritage and archaeology.  The exploitation of the internet as a place to spread (mostly free) information about heritage & archaeology has led to a burgeoning amount of websites available, both to the common public and the academic researcher.  Interactive sites, such as the one mentioned in the article on Chaco Canyon in the American Southwest, commonly include vast databases on archaeological sites.  These often include information on the structures present, artefacts found, cultures present, detailed maps, excavation histories at the sites and everything in between.  This is vitally important in the study of archaeological sites as context and providence is everything.  This can only be a good thing.

As Meyers concludes her article, she states that –

We have a responsibility to make our data available to scholarly, public and online communities, preserve it in a format accessible to future researchers, and do so in a way that faithfully represents the real nature of our data. And it is through this pathway that we can further knowledge of our past“.
 
Katy Meyers informative blog on Mortuary and Bioarchaeology can be found at Bones Don’t Lie.

Further to this, Jane Woodcock also has an article on the website detailing the Catch 22 situation of recent graduates gaining archaeological field experience.  Jane notes that –

Many people, including some undergraduates studying archaeology, are under the impression that once you have a degree qualification you are employable as a field archaeologist. In practice, however, most commercial employers require a minimum of 3-6 months’ on-site experience before they consider offering you a job. A clean driving licence and a CSCS card will put you further up the list. Unfortunately, most archaeology degrees only require you to do very little field work to pass, usually 2 weeks or less”.
As is often the case with access to archaeological jobs, you need experience of excavation before a unit or company will take you on.  You can gain experience by attending field schools or excavations; however these often cost money, sometimes a lot of money.  How can you afford to attend courses and excavations with (often) little or next to no money to gain experience to get an often low paid job in archaeology?  As it is often said, you do not enter the archaeology profession for money, but for the passion you have for the subject!
 
It pays to be in touch with local archaeological units and societies in your area, as well as any universities or academic departments nearby.  Often, if the unit is funded by the local council, community digs can be free to attend and participate in.  It makes sense to try to get a broad range of experience too.  From experiance of watching briefs and desk based studies at sites and monuments records office, to commercial watching briefs & full scales excavation with units.  It also pays to bear in mind the sheer range of jobs and applications available in the archaeological sector.  From being a GIS savvy techno wizard to studying faunal or flora remains, investigating human remains or living the life aquatic with maritime archaeolog; there are a broad range of options available.
 
Although this blog deals specifically with human osteology, it also deals within the wider world of archaeology, anthropology and heritage.  This is because nothing can be seen in isolation.  Indeed, as in archaeological excavation, context is everything.