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Posts Tagged ‘Maya Vision International’

In 2008, during BBC4’s ‘Medieval Mind’ series, TV historian Michael Wood presented what I consider the best single historical TV programme, ever. It shows us in words and pictures the ordinary lives of ordinary people in a period we usually only know from stories of kings, queens and warring nobles. Michael explains and demonstrates how people lived on a daily basis – their homes, food, animals, faith – and the disasters that beset them, killing vast numbers, in the 14th century. He shows how these details of ordinary lives can be found in documents normally used only by academics – manorial and tax records. In some cases, these ancient documents, six or seven hundred years old, look as fresh as the day they were written – the ink still dark, handwriting neat and legible on clean parchment. Nowadays we have trouble with the Latin but help’s available for that, should we venture to look. Seeing Michael unroll and read those records was like watching Tut’s tomb being opened!

Most importantly though, the programme focuses fully on the life of one medieval woman – Christina Cok. She stands for the millions of women whose lives have been lost to our history, even when records about them exist. A female voice-over, speaking in the words and accents of Middle English, movingly talks to us from Wills and letters written by women at the time. And at the end, we’re taken through a montage of pictures of women over the centuries, while Michael tells us: this is the forgotten half of our ancestry – the women.

The programme has been re-broadcast numerous times and I’ve watched it every time. I never fail to shed tears at the end – in my aching regret for the forgotten half of my ancestry. In my experience, no other TV historian has highlighted the lost history of ordinary women in this way – something that was very long overdue in 2008 and much more is still needed.

“Christina – a Medieval Life” may be available to buy on DVD from Maya Vision International, as listed here: http://bufvc.ac.uk/dvdfind/index.php/title/av74666. And you may also be able to view it on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/102878103.

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