My Social Media

I’m feeling a bit tired this week, but I still wanted to post something so I’m sharing some of my social media in case you are interested in following me.

At the moment I’m most active on my Instagram. You can find me here:

Instagram: @the_mediaeval_monk

I post images from medieval manuscripts and occasionally reels. I like to do polls and every few weeks I’ll do a little dice game on my story. People send me an action, I’ll roll a 20 sided die, and I’ll create a mini-story depending on how high the roll was. (The higher the number the more successful your action was.) So far there is an ongoing story about a hapless alchemist. (You can see previous submissions in my highlights.) Sometimes I do giveaways.

***

I have a TikTok as well. I finally caved and made one. You can find my account here:

TikTok: @the_mediaeval_monk

So far I’ve only posted a few videos. They mostly pertain to medieval topics and art, but I’ve also posted a book review. I’ll probably be posting other mini book reviews there as well. Other videos include explaining what fabliaux are, showing some recipes from the Lacnunga, and rating medieval art.

***

You can also find me on Twitter.

Twitter: @mediaevalmonk

I post images from medieval manuscripts, links to my blog, and occasionally I’ll post my personal thoughts. I’m not super active there, but I’m trying to be!

***

I’m also on Facebook.

Facebook: The Mediaeval Monk

Similar to my Twitter, I post images and links to my blog. I’m not super active there, but every so often I’ll post a link to an article I wrote.

***

Finally, you can also find me on Ko-fi.

Ko-fi: Viktor Athelstan

I usually will post my articles there first before I post them on my blog. If you are interested in supporting me, that is where you can do so. I appreciate all your support!

Finding Primary Sources of Medieval Texts Online

If you’re anything like me, when doing historical research you want to be able to read primary sources. Primary sources allow you to access what the author is thinking without the information being muddled in a centuries-long game of telephone. Of course, an author of a text may not write exactly what they are thinking, but through primary sources, we get a glimpse of what life was like through the eyes of a person who was actually there. We must always take into account context and bias when analyzing a source. (For example, if Lord A is trying to sabotage Lord B’s reputation, Lord A won’t tell the king how Lord B rescued all those orphans from a bear. Instead, Lord A will mention that Lord B has a tendency to poach bears in the king’s forest.)

When I write articles for the Mediaeval Monk I try to find as many primary sources as I can. However, I’m no longer a college student so accessing academic sources can be extremely difficult without buying full books. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t available texts out there! Because I study the medieval period most texts are in the public domain. The key is knowing where to look.

One good place to start is Wikipedia. (When I was in school we were always told that the site was unreliable. Luckily for us living in 2020, the editors are much more vigilant!) It’s a good jumping-off point. At the bottom of whatever article you read, there is an entire section dedicated to the references used. This will give you all the sources used for the article and often times it will include links to the sources. I will note that sometimes the only sources are secondary ones, but occasionally you can get lucky.

Another great place to look is Google Books. Depending on the book, you may not have access to the entire text. But it’s still a good place for free ebooks.

I will also use archive.org/the Wayback Machine/the Internet Archive. (It’s the same website just with different names.) Here you can find free ebooks (and download them too!) as well as old websites that are no longer on the web. Some books aren’t available for free downloads but you can borrow them for a certain number of days. (I don’t know too much about this feature as I haven’t used it before.) I’ve found a lot of interesting primary sources here.

What if you want to start learning but you aren’t quite sure what you want to learn about? There are two websites that I know of that allow for a little bit of exploration! (There are definitely others out there, but these are the ones I know about and use.)

The first one is Internet History Sourcebooks provided by Fordham University. (And here is a link to the same website but on archive.org.) This website either has actual medieval texts or links to texts on it. The texts available are organized according to culture and topic. Overall, it’s a great place to explore.

The second website is Medieval Death Trip. This website is for the podcast of the same name. (It’s a fantastic podcast by the way. I recommend listening to it!) The creator, Patrick Lane, provides the sources he used for each episode. Often times these sources can be found on Google Books or archive.org, but Medieval Death Trip is a great place to find and access topics that interest you without having to spend hours on Google Books and archive.org trying to find a very specific text.

Prioress Eleanor Series by Priscilla Royal

Content Warning: Discussion of Sexual Violence at the End

 

Usually, I analyze historical texts on this blog. However, I want to do something a bit different. Today I want to discuss a book series that I’ve been enjoying.

Last year I really got sucked into mystery novels. There are a lot of subgenres in this particular genre. My personal favorites are historical ones where the detectives are clergy. I know that is a very specific niche, but you would be surprised just how many series there are out there with that premise! One such example is the Cadfael Chronicles by Ellis Peters. But I don’t want to discuss those today. Instead, I want to talk about the Prioress Eleanor books written by Priscilla Royal. (As you’ve probably guessed from the title!)

 

IMG_6631

My Copy of A Killing Season | Source: Viktor Athelstan

 

The series takes place in late thirteenth-century England a few years after the Second Baron’s War. (The first book is set in 1270.) The story begins when twenty-year-old Eleanor of Wynethorpe is sent to Tyndal Priory to be their new prioress. It should be noted that Tyndal Priory is part of the real-life Order of Fontevraud, an order exclusively run by women. It should also be noted that the only reason Eleanor is prioress is thanks to King Henry III. The king elected her (with the Abbess in France’s approval) as a political move to thank Eleanor’s father for his loyalty during the war.

Due to this, as well as her inexperience and the fact Eleanor actually plans to rule the priory (instead of just letting the prior do it like the last prioress did), she faces quite a bit of hostility from the community of nuns and monks. However, Eleanor is a clever, witty woman who learns quickly. As the series goes on, she manages to gain not only the experience she lacks but the respect of others around her.

Then there’s Brother Thomas. He’s definitely a much more interesting and intriguing character. Unlike Eleanor, Thomas never wanted to be a monk. Instead, he was forced into the priesthood. How does one get forced into the priesthood? Well, that was actually a common occurrence in medieval society. But unlike other characters who were forced by their parents or joined because their spouse joined (as well as other reasons), Thomas did it to save his life. Before the start of the first book, he was caught in bed with his beloved childhood friend (another man) and imprisoned. Before he could be burned at the stake, a mysterious priest rescued him and gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse: become a monk and work as his master’s spy or burn.

Needless to say, Brother Thomas took the offer.

 

FF726A65-C61E-457A-B1A4-E8649633670A.JPG

My Copy of The Sanctity of Hate | Source: Viktor Athelstan

 

Several of the series’ overarching plot threads is Thomas’s trauma, PTSD, and his own personal conflicts with his faith. As I write this, I’m only on book nine out of the fifteen. By this book, Thomas has processed much of his trauma but in earlier ones, it is the main thing he is dealing with.

One thing I do like about these mysteries is that not every book takes place at Tyndal. While that can be annoying if you enjoy the characters who live near the priory (such as Crowner Ralf, Signy, and Gytha) I find it more realistic concerning the murders. If everyone kept getting murdered around Tyndal it eventually gets a little ridiculous. (It asks the question, why is everyone being murdered at this tiny priory in the middle of nowhere?) Granted, you could also ask why people keep getting killed around Eleanor and Thomas, but in some books, they arrive at the location after the crimes occurred.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can suspend my disbelief if they stumble across a murder but not if they keep happening where they live. After all, they are supposed to be clergy, not professional/amateur detectives who go out looking for this type of thing.

Another thing I enjoy is how much Royal captures the culture of the time period. Often times in historical literature you will have characters who very much have modern-day views. For me personally, I’m not a fan of this. If I’m reading a book that takes place in the Roman empire or wherever, I want them to have the cultural views of that time period. For example, if a story takes place in Ancient Athens, a female character isn’t going to be frolicking around freely without consequences. Royal does a very good job of portraying medieval views. You can tell she has done a lot of research for each story. (And as a bonus Royal includes a historical note and a bibliography in the back of each book so you can do further research as well!)

 

2B7D566A-9DAF-442F-B0A7-D5674033E8FE.JPG

My Copy of Covenant with Hell | Source: Viktor Athelstan

 

While I do love Prioress Eleanor, there is one aspect I find a bit off-putting: the amount of sexual violence throughout the series. It’s important for authors to be careful when writing these topics. Royal usually handles her portrayal of rape and assault well, especially in regard to the effect it has on characters, of all genders. So many stories treat men being raped as some sort of joke when in reality it’s not funny at all. In fact, it’s extremely far from funny. Instead of it being a punchline, we see just how serious it is and just how much it has traumatized the characters (especially Thomas). However, sometimes the sexual violence feels gratuitous and irrelevant to the plot. Other times it is very relevant. Sexual violence is a horrible reality of the world we live in but the sheer amount of it in these texts becomes too much. I enjoy the Prioress Eleanor series (and will keep reading it) but I do wish Royal would find other ways to move the plot. 

Despite this, Prioress Eleanor is an excellent series overall. I recommend anyone who enjoys medieval mysteries give it a read.

 

Books in Order:

  1. Wine of Violence
  2. Tyrant of the Mind
  3. Sorrow Without End
  4. Justice for the Damned
  5. Forsaken Soul
  6. Chambers of Death
  7. Valley of Dry Bones
  8. A Killing Season
  9. The Sanctity of Hate
  10. Covenant with Hell
  11. Satan’s Lullaby
  12. Land of Shadows
  13. The Proud Sinner
  14. Wild Justice
  15. The Twice Hanged Man

 

If you want to learn more, you can find Priscilla Royal’s website here.

 

Hello From Viktor!

Hello!

I wanted to let everyone know that this month I’m planning my novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). And next month I’ll be writing my novel. My novel is about a bunch of medieval monks and I’ve been doing a lot of research for it. Needless to say, come December, I plan on being super active on this blog. And I’ll have a lot of things to talk about due to all the research I’m doing!

In the meantime, enjoy your autumn! I’ll see you in December!