Medieval Perspectives on Modern Crises, Part 1: Teaching Medieval Crises in the Modern Classroom

AHA Session 95
Medieval Academy of America 3
Friday, January 7, 2022: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Preservation Hall, Studio 2 (New Orleans Marriott, 2nd Floor)
Sarah Ifft Decker, Rhodes College
Abigail Newton Agresta, George Washington University
Maya Soifer Irish, Rice University
Kyle Cooper Lincoln, Saint Louis University
Bobbi Sutherland, University of Dayton

Session Abstract

The late Middle Ages in particular has often been perceived as indelibly marked by a series of crises, including the Great Famine, the Black Death, a series of urban and rural revolts, climate change, and massacres and expulsions of Jews. Over the last few years, some of these medieval crises have seemed shockingly relevant for students grappling with the crises of the present. At the same time, the medieval past has been misused by white supremacists to push dangerous and damaging narratives that actively contribute to crises in the 21st century. How do we teach medieval crises in our classes? What kinds of connections can we make with the present, and what are the limits of those connections? Are there useful ways to use medieval crises to make history in general, and the medieval past in particular, feel more significant to students in the present? How do we combat popular misuses of the medieval past to both create and describe modern crises? What creative strategies can we use to help our students engage with moments of crisis in the medieval world? Conversely, are there challenges or dangers in placing too much emphasis on the similarities between past and present? This round table draws together a variety of perspectives on how to teach medieval crises in the ever-present context of modern ones.