ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Terry Jones' Medieval Lives: What Do We REALLY know about the Middle Ages?

Updated on December 6, 2012

I feel Terry Jones is one of the former Monty Python alums that people often overlook these days. John Cleese has become an actor in his own right, Terry Gilliam a director, Michael Palin has his travel documentaries (which are great, by the way), Graham Chapman is dead (and so what he's doing today is moot), and Eric Idle has "Spamalot."

But Jones, because a lot of what he does is writing, is often somewhat overlooked. It was therefore with some definite curiosity that I decided to check out his "Medieval Lives," a BBC miniseries he hosted back in 2004. What I discovered was even cooler than I was expecting.

What "Medieval Lives" does in each of its episodes is take a commonly held belief about a class of people in the Middle Ages, and demonstrate how evidence actually shows that that belief is either false or uninformed. For instance, he asserts that medieval peasants were not ignorant downtrodden slaves of the feudal system, that medieval monks often lived lives of comparative luxury, that the church was the leading scientific institution of its day, and that medieval kings considered to have been good or bad may actually have been the reverse in reality.

This is all supported by extensive research, and Jones interviews many different people in each episode, explaining both how typical views of the Middle Ages were established, and what is incorrect about these depictions. Throughout this all, Jones spices the whole thing up with a wit worthy of a Python, animations of Medieval tapestries and paintings, and acting in multiple roles in skits depicting the myth and reality of medieval life.

Although Jones does reuse some of the animations multiple times, and focuses almost entirely on medieval England (and to a lesser extent, medieval France), all in all the effect is great. Jones is a great showman, and he is able to perfectly balance humor and interesting information in a way that the episodes never get boring.

The DVD set I watched this series on also included an extra, double-length episode that focused on Roman times, and the institution of the gladiatorial arena. This episode is particularly fascinating, as it challenges the modern depiction of Rome as a civilized and sophisticated society by demonstrating how Rome had at its center values we in the modern world would consider abhorrent, causing it to glorify what to our eyes would probably be thought of as murder (or, at best, public execution) for the entertainment of the masses. This extra episode is not to be missed, and a great addition.

All in all, this is a great series, and I hope that Jones does more of these, sort of like how Michael Palin does a BBC program going to some part of the world or other every few years. Jones here balances humor and information perfectly, and ends up with a show that really challenges our views on the past. Definitely check it out if you can find it, and I believe it is legally available on Youtube, so there's really no excuse to look in to it.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)