‘Getting Medieval?’ The Middle Ages in Modern Politics

‘Getting Medieval?’ The Middle Ages in Modern Politics

Lecture by Louise D’Arcens

Given at University of Wollongong Big Ideas Festival on August 25, 2015

“Ideas about the Middle Ages are indispensable to how we think about the modern world.”

When people in Australia today hear the word ‘medieval’, what springs to mind is a world like that depicted in HBO’s Game of Thrones: brutal and superstitious, governed by tribalism and revenge rather than justice or the rule of law. It is a word that conjures up everything we believe that we, as members of a modern democracy, have left behind. But if this is so, why do recent Australian parliamentary records show a marked increase in politicians describing today’s world as medieval? Why do the Middle Ages crop up so often in modern debates about anything from global terrorism to industrial relations or the environment? Why do satirists resort to medieval imagery so often when portraying politicians? In this talk Professor Louise D’Arcens will trace the surprising but revealing resurgence of the medieval into the global political vocabulary, and explore why the Middle Ages have again become so important to how modern societies think about themselves.

Learn more about Professor Louise D’Arcens from her webpage at the University of Wollongong 

You can follow Louise on Twitter @LDArcens


Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!