Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Let's Play Family Feud

He Said He Said
Hell broke out with the Iconoclasm controversy which began in 726 in Byzantium under Leo III (in response to Muslim Taliban-like criticism of icons). This really got the the East/West family feud going, leading to the bitter schism between the Roman and Eastern Orthodox halves (they still refuse to make up today). Western world cultural uniformity, which had been in a steady decline, ended. Popular culture once again became more localized and parochial in nature across what had been organized for 1,000 years into a somewhat homogonous Roman State.
In 1054 AD the Pope and the Patriarch representing the two halves of the church excommunicated each other and went their separate cultural ways. Our story lie with the western half.
Wars and Rumors of Wars
During the 1,000 year long medieval era (A.D. 500-1500), western culture simmered in pots placed on endless numbers of highly localized back burners, stirred by mankind’s second favorite preoccupation: warfare. During this time, the native peoples of the British Isles were subjected to near continuous campaigns of invasion by Scandinavian forces, most notably the Vikings and the Danes. Then, in 1066 the successful invasion of total conquest and of assimilation by the Norman’s led by William, Duke of Normandy, infused and enriched the culture of the British, doubling the size of the English language and flooding the Brits with fresh and vital cultural, artistic, intellectual raw material. The foundation was now laid for Britain to one day rule the world.
Above: A troika of Lennons standing guard against the establishment Idiocracy
Charlemagne is crowned emperor by Pope Leo III

The foundation of medieval era culture was the written word, which existed in the form of manuscripts. Each manuscript was a unique one-of-a-kind object created by a scribe who copied existing works by hand. Lavish illustrations adorned the manuscripts, sometimes depicting a scene from the text, and some purely decorative. The process was understandably labour intensive, and therefore expensive to make, and more importantly, to own. Thus, the use of manuscripts was limited to those with deep pockets: Kings, Nobels, and of course, the Church. The topics addressed included the Bible, related religious dogma, tales of battles, flattering portraits of Kings, and literary works. Hardly the kind of stuff to excite the chattering illiterate masses.

The next major leap in the means for the mass culturalisation of populations was an invention that allowed for the economical replication and distribution of the written word, and by extension the rapid spread of ideas between widely dispersed peoples. We are of course referring to the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450.
The Gutenberg press with its wooden, and later metal movable type outsourced the job of printing that was work formerly done by the scribes. It made the printed word affordable and therefore available to the masses. It also sent the scribes to the unemployment lines. That this invention played a large role in the rise of the age of enlightenment is beyond dispute. Thought began to move about the realm at a quickening pace.