By Danièle Cybulskie
On March 31, we celebrate the annual International Hug a Medievalist day, a day on which we can all show our appreciation for the medievalists in our midst – if we can spot them outside the library, that is. Here are five reasons to hug a medievalist (please hug responsibly!).
1. Medievalists spend a lot of time learning old languages, so you don’t have to.
One of life’s great pleasures for many medievalists is reading books in their original languages, many of which have died or evolved so that their early forms are nearly unrecognizably different. For medievalists, an original language can say a lot about a culture, but for everyone else, these languages can be a bit of a barrier to understanding. Medievalists to the rescue! Thanks to the hard work of these scholars, everyone can enjoy the story of Beowulf, for example, without having to spend hours in class. (Here’s my favourite translation.)
2. Medievalists are expanding the world’s knowledge of the past every day.
As the hard work of the contributors to The Public Medievalist shows, many of our entrenched ideas about the past – in terms of diversity, trade, and violence, for instance – are incorrect, or at least incomplete. Because of the dedicated digging of medievalists, we can get a clearer picture of what the world was actually like a thousand years ago. (Spoiler alert: it was rich and diverse and amazing!)
3. Medievalists are expanding the possibilities for the future every day.
In all subjects, the more we uncover about the past, the more we can say about the future – not only politically (as in, history repeating itself), but also medically, environmentally, and in so many other ways. The natural environment and its effects on the people of the past provide rich sources of information that we can apply to science today. For some examples on how learning history can shape our future, check out the work continually shared by Monica Green on Twitter (or watch my TEDx talk).
4. Medievalists make entertainment more entertaining.
What would Game of Thrones be without the work of historians? Medieval history is a treasure trove of stories – from the horrifying to the hilarious to the inspiring – none of which we’d know without the work of medievalists, who piece together events from a multitude of sources, from chronicles to archaeological evidence. And borrowings from medieval history extend far beyond medieval fantasy programming: the famous Jedi Order from Star Wars, as just one example, is based on the Templars.
5. Medievalists love to share (hugs included!).
Here’s a secret: no one goes into medieval history for the money. It’s an area of study that largely goes unnoticed by the wider world, despite its many contributions to it (some of which are outlined above). Medievalists are in their jobs for the pure love of learning and sharing knowledge, and too many are struggling to find work. That they still persevere and take the time to study and share their findings with the world speaks to a passion for the subject that’s valuable, special, and worth honouring. So, if you have a close relationship with a medievalist in your world, take a moment to hug them and remind them of how wonderful they are (if you’re not so close, a high-five and a compliment go a long, long way).
You can follow Danièle on Twitter @5MinMedievalist