Middle Ages

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a speech given by Rob Shearer at Lipscomb University on Dec 3rd, 2011
part of a Limited Government Seminar sponsored by the Lipscomb University College Republicans

My topic today is the birth of liberty in Europe.

Well, it was born in Europe wasn’t it?

Every generation thinks it was the first to discover sex, so I guess every nation believes it was the one to discover liberty.

I hope to shatter a few illusions this morning. I want to broaden your horizons.

I am going to boldly assert that as young healthy American college students there are a number of things that you believe that aren’t true. Just as a fish never really notices the water, all of us, are usually oblivious to what Emmett Tyrell calls the Kultursmog.

Let me start with three small observations:

  1. the world did not begin in 1492
  2. human nature has not changed.
  3. progress is a myth

The one assertion you can confidently make about human nature over the course of 4,000 years of recorded history is that it has not evolved. In fact, it would be difficult to prove that human nature has appreciably changed.

I would challenge you to read the literature of the ancient world, or the medieval world, or the renaissance or the reformation. If you do, I think you’ll find something surprising. The thoughts, emotions, desires and aspirations of those people will be instantly recognizable and understandable. In truth, they are just like us.

Read the Bible. Read the Hymn to Aton by Pharaoh Akhnaton. Read the Epic of Gilgamesh. Read Homer. Read Augustine. Read Chaucer.

The people they describe are JUST. LIKE. US.

And they aspired to liberty – individual liberty, political liberty, JUST. LIKE. US.

We didn’t invent the idea of liberty.

It has a long pedigree, with roots back into the ancient world.

And the record of European history, of Western Culture, shows some remarkable periods in which political liberty was achieved.

We are the heirs to that rich European culture.

Our ideas about religion, philosophy, politics, and government have all come to us directly from Europe or through Europe.

But the development of liberty in western culture has followed a long and tortured path. It has not been the steady path of progress. There have been fits and starts. Achievement and decay.

It was anything but inevitable.

Now there is a school of history that believes that the course of history is pre-ordained, and unfolds by inexorable laws.  Macaulay, Hegel, Marx and Calvin all have one thing in common. They all believe in predestination.

Calvin… well, let’s leave Calvin out of this. He gets enough grief as it is. I don’t wish to trouble him this morning.

Thomas Babington Macaulay was the great Whig historian of 19th century Britain. For Macaulay, all of recorded human history was simply documentation of the unfolding idea of freedom which came to its fulfillment in that best of all possible representative constitutional, representative governments – 19th century Britain.




Hegel is the great German philosopher of the 19th century. For Helgel, all of recorded human history was simply the record of the unfolding and developing idea of freedom, which, by way of the dialectic, revealed itself in ever more refined and perfect fashion until it reached its culmination in 19th century Germany.




Marx believed that all of recorded human history is simply the clash of economic classes and forces and that the course of history was certain and determined and would inevitably lead to the overthrow of each imperfect intermediate form of government  until history was fulfilled in the workers’ paradise of a true communist state where the private ownership of capital would be abolished, and rule by the dictatorship of the proletariat. He thought that this would inevitably happen first in the most industrialized nations of the 19th century: either Britain, Germany, or the United States. Such a revolution, of course, could never occur in the less developed more rural nations on the edge of Europe or outside of European civilization. Certainly never in a country as backward and agricultural as Russia (where they still had serfs when Das Kapital was written!)

We laugh at the naiveté of these historians now… and think them parochial for advancing their own nations as the high point of history.

And then, of course, we’re guilty of the same thing.

We order the past to show how several thousand years of history were but prologue to the inevitable and pre-ordained emergence of the American republic.

This notion of history (quite widely and popularly held) is why many of the American historians of my generation have gone out of their way to attack the virtues of the founders.

The truth is, the founding of the American Republic is a remarkable and rare event in history.

Let me reassure you that I admire and revere the founders of the United States. I believe that Washington, Adams, Jefferson, & Franklin were remarkable and praiseworthy men.

But I want to suggest to you this morning that the founding of the American Republic was not as original as we sometimes think… nor was it inevitable.

So let me go back to the western European history and highlight places where Liberty appears.

But first, let me point out that Liberty & Law are inextricably intertwined.

Liberty is not license or lawlessness.

In fact, there can be no liberty without a recognized body of law (Hobbes & Locke had much to say about this, but let me come back to them later.)

Liberty depends upon a shared, recognizable concept of law – natural law.

Liberty and natural law are intertwined.

The notion that there is a natural moral law that is intrinsic, built-in to the universe, and discoverable is an idea with a long pedigree. It was something the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans all agreed upon. They might have disagreed with each other over who was the author of this law, or over some of the particulars, but they all agreed and acknowledged that natural law was an objective fact.

The birth and expansion of liberty has deep roots. It is a long tale.

Now of course, modern Europeans have abandoned the idea of natural law – just as they have abandoned the notion of objective truth. This doesn’t mean that either have ceased to exist – only that the Europeans have ceased believing in them.

But a belief in natural law and a devotion to discovering, or at least outlining, its details is a central part of the story of liberty in western culture.

But natural law by itself does not generate personal liberty, or political liberty.

Personal, political liberty depends upon the notion that natural law limits the actions of everyone in society.

Tyranny, despotism, oligarchy, aristocracy all are antithetical to liberty, because they all believe that there are some people who are not obligated to obey natural law.

Liberty is achieved to the extent that the wealthy, the privileged, the aristocrats, the king and his officers are all forced to obey, equally the natural law.

So long as there are some people who are above the law, liberty is curtailed.

When all are equal before the law, there is liberty.

THAT idea as you might imagine took a long time to succeed.

To achieve liberty, you must limit government. You must limit the king. You must limit the kings officers.

And they’d rather NOT be limited or held accountable, thank you very much – so they resist.

The struggle to achieve liberty then is a struggle to limit government – not to throw off the natural law, but to bring everyone under the law.

Let me outline for you briefly some highlights in the history of the struggle to achieve liberty – the struggle to limit government

It is useful to remind us how costly the struggle has been, how much patience and perseverance it has taken to guard the spark and flame over long centuries, and how irregular the course was. The many setbacks are a useful reminder to us that the unfolding of liberty was anything but inevitable.

In the ancient world, you can do no better than to make a comparative study of the political history of Israel, Greece, and Rome – coincidentally, the three streams of political thought & philosophy which lie at the heart of western European culture.

And in all three you find a curious sequence of events. The unfolding of liberty is not a linear tale of progress. Israel is ruled by Patriarchs & Judges, then by Kings. The kings (as prophesied) are more oppressive in their rule than were the judges, and to make matters worse the Kings, over time get progressively worse, not better! In fact you could argue that a graph of the political history of Israel has a downward slope – the opposite of progress.



Well, let us turn to Greece. The political history of the Greek city states is rich and varied. And the Greeks give us the democracies of the city-states like Athens, Corinth, and… Sparta? Wait. How many of you saw The 300? The Spartans represent a strand of Greek culture that values honor and the battle-skills of well-trained soldiers far above liberty. And over time, which strand of Greek culture came to dominate. Did the Greek city states gradually merge into a larger, representative political union? No, in fact the Greek city states either succumbed to their own demagogues and tyrants, or in the end they were conquered by Alexander and his Macedonian phalanxes, and came under what can only be described as a military dictatorship.

How would you graph liberty over the history of ancient Greece?

And now, let us turn to Rome.

The Romans achieved remarkable stability in their government and successfully pacified and governed the entire Mediterranean world – the pax romana. And Rome was a republic. The republic held elections for the office of consul every year. And the Roman republic achieved political stability by dividing political authority – not just between two co-equal consuls, but between consuls and senators and a host of other prominent officials.

But what happened to Rome? How do we explain/ what answer do we give to Gibbon’s great historical work titled The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? (published in 1776, by the way – this is called foreshadowing)?

Actually, I think Gibbon’s work asks the wrong question. It’s not really even all that very interesting a question. He thought the answer was that Christianity had undermined the old Roman virtues and weakened Rome. I think that’s a preposterous answer by the way. But Gibbon work asks the wrong question.

The much more interesting, much more important question is “Why did the Roman Republic fail?” Not the Empire, the REPUBLIC! Why did Rome cease being a Republic and become an Empire.

The peak of Roman civilization is during the days of the Republic. When the Republic fails and Rome becomes an Empire it is a sign that things have already gone badly wrong. The Roman Emperors were not nice men. That fact is masked for us, because in the movies they always speak with British accents and seem refined and cultured. But they were not nice men. Almost every single one of them was a general and owed his title to the backing of the army. The ugly truth (seldom spoken) is that the Roman Empire was a military dictatorship. And like many military dictatorships, the most frequent method of regime change was a military coup. Roman Empire is a misnomer. It was not so much the Roman Empire as it was the Roman Banana Republic – 500 years of military dictatorship.

So the real, important question to be asked of Roman history is not why did the Empire fall, It’s why did the Republic fall? Why did it cease to hold elections and turn into a military dictatorship?

I challenge you to take up the study of Roman history. The answer to that question is fascinating, and frightening.

I could say much about the Middle Ages and the Germanic kingdoms that succeeded Rome. Here again, our nomenclature is misleading. Rome was not conquered by the Germanic tribes. The Germanic tribes had no kingdoms of their own. They were homeless. They crossed the frontier of Rome (the Danube River) as illegal immigrants. And the hollow and rotted out shell of the Roman Empire collapsed under the weight of their migrations.

And in one of the great ironies of church history, barely a century after the urban, lower-class persecuted Christian church had succeeded in converting the Roman aristocracy, Rome was conquered by pagan barbarian tribes and it would take several more centuries for the conquered Roman Christians to convert their Barbarian masters.


Much could and should be said about the development of law and liberty in medieval and renaissance Europe. The struggles of the 12th & 13th century led to The Great Charter of the Liberties of England, and of the Liberties of the Forest – a radical notion that the king was bound by the law.

That notion was more prominent in the late Middle Ages and then was rejected by the monarchs of the 16th & 17th centuries who claimed to rule by direct authority from God. England went through a civil war and ten years of military dictatorship sorting that out. The result brought the king’s back under the authority of the Magna Charta and the law. One could argue that Locke, Hobbes, and the Glorious Revolution were a recovery and revival of early medieval notions of kingship.

But I want to come back to that bit of foreshadowing I spoke of before. I don’t want to steal the thunder of the next figure, but I want to make an important point about the connection between liberty in the United States and liberty in Europe.

I mentioned that Gibbon published The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1776. His work typified the ongoing study of the ancient world which had been revived in Europe at the end of the middle ages.

At the end of the Middle Ages came a period of time dubbed the renaissance or rebirth because of a widespread movement which sought to revive the ancient world. Across European culture, for several centuries, there was an intense interest and devotion to studying Greece and Rome. It began with a revival of languages and literature. It spread to a revival of artistic styles and subjects. The protestant Reformation itself fits organically into this cultural preoccupation with reviving the classical world. This fascination with the ancient world persisted for several centuries. It was the exact opposite of our modern notion of progress. Renaissance men did not believe that everyone who had lived before them was stupid and insignificant. Rather, they believed that the wisdom of the ancient world had been tragically lost and that it could and should be rescued and revived. The motto of the Renaissance was “ ad fonts” – back to the sources.

The culture of the 18th century, the 1700s in America was still the culture of the Renaissance, with an emphasis on studying the classics of Greece & Rome. The culture of the Enlightenment and the rejection of authority and the past was just developing in Europe – but not yet in North America. The colonies were not on the cutting edge of cultural trends. They were a cultural backwater, lagging behind and maintaining the attitudes and culture of earlier centuries.

And what model did the American colonists turn to when they wished to establish a new form of government, independent of the British monarchy? They consciously chose the form and features of the Roman Republic – with an eye towards avoiding its deficiencies, but with a thoughtful recognition that it had governed the Roman World successfully for 500 years.

And so I would assert that the founding of the Roman Republic is the last expression and accomplishment of the spirit of the Renaissance. It looks backwards to the ancient world for guidance and wisdom. The renaissance began with language and literature and spread to the arts. The spirit of the renaissance, when applied to the problems of the church produced the upheavals of the protestant reformation.

And then finally, the renaissance results in the revival of ancient political thought and forms and the founding of the American republic.

The American revolution looks back to the ancient world. The French revolution is a horse of a different color. Its spirit is almost the antithesis of the renaissance. It rejects all past authority. It treats all ancient authority with suspicion and contempt. The proximity in time is misleading. They not the expressions of the same cultural movement, they are the antithetical expressions of two separate and opposite cultural movements.

So. The origin of Liberty in Europe took us back to ancient Rome, via the Renaissance.

And the cautionary part of that tale is that each expression of liberty which I have mentioned was not marked by a slow, steady progressive improvement. Rather in Israel, in Greece, in Rome, in the Middle Ages there are brief, compressed, miraculous expressions and instantiations of Liberty. But they do not last. They decay, they decline, they rot. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowy. But they do not build upon each other brick on brick, course on course.

The course rather is a sawtooth pattern. Liberty is achieved… and then begins to fade, and often seems to disappear – until another generation comes along and is miraculously empowered to create a culture, a movement, a political nation where liberty becomes real.

May your generation be such a miraculously empowered generation. Because we do not need progress. We need a renaissance of liberty. We need a revival of liberty.

Thank you.

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It will be some time before we are able to get these printed, but in the meantime we wanted to make them available to anyone who is interested. You can browse online here or download a .pdf to your own computer. You can even print your own copy if you’d like.

Our history study packages are typically designed for use in one semester, so now’s the time to order for the new year. Break out of the textbook box. Give your children real stories about real people. Reclaim history for them and for yourself.
Greenleaf Press 2010 Retail Catalog

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We’ve always been big proponents of the study of art history as a part of the study of any historical time period. Along with literature, art provides abundant opportunities to explore what people in another time thought, valued, believed, or were interested in. Art can be studied with students in any age or grade level. The kind of discussion you will have will vary with the age of your students, but even first and second graders will find the Pyramids, the Parthenon, and the Pantheon fascinating.

For younger students, we highly recommend the Mike Venezia series – with 47 separate short, quirky books on artists from Giotto to Warhol. For older students, there are several good survey books, but if you and your students are interested in going a bit deeper, we have some wonderful new resources to recommend.

The first is a very handy reference book, 10,000 Years of Art from Phaidon Press published in 2009. It is VERY reasonably priced, at $11.95 and includes color images of 500 works of art. Best of all, they are arranged in chronological order.

Here’s an example: Circa 800AD, photographs of a cast bronze figure from Sri Lanka and the Book of Kells (an illuminated Bible) from Ireland. Along the header of the pages are the dates and location of each work of art. The text underneath each image is a concise, well-written summary of why each work is important.

A few pages later, with dates of 1072 and 1075 are a silk painting by the Chinese artist Guo Xi, and a panel from the Bayeaux Tapestry (which tells the story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066).

In 1303 we have Giotto’s masterpiece, Lamentation Over the Dead Christ (from the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua) and facing it the 1308 Sienna Altarpiece by Duccio.

And then, a more modern example, from 1930, Grant Wood’s American Gothic and on the facing page Salvador Dali’s Persistence of Memory from 1931.

There are 500 images overall, with many familiar and famous names (Rembrandt, Vermeer, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Chagall, Klee, Picasso, Van Gogh for example). Included are a large number of pieces of sculpture and more than a dozen illuminated pages from Europe, Arabia, India, & China.

The Phaidon book is extremely useful in giving teachers, parents, and students an overview of key pieces and getting them in sequence and context. If you want to study a particular work of art in detail, then you’ll want a reference book with a larger format, but as a guidebook/reference book, the Phaidon 10,000 Years of Art is a superb place to start. The book is a 543 page paperback and quite economical at $11.95 – available directly from Greenleaf Press.

For those who would like a more in-depth look at medieval architectural styles, I have run across a wonderful series of oversize hardbacks from Parkstone Press. While there are ten volumes in the full series, I would recommend in particular the volumes on Romanesque Art and on Gothic Art. For a study of the Middle Ages, these are the two broad important schools. The Parkstone volumes are gorgeous. They are oversize (9.75″x11″), and all pages are color on glossy paper. At 200 pages each, I would have expected them to cost $40 to $50 each but was quite pleasantly surprised to find that they are priced at a very economical $19.95.

Romanesque Art
covers the architectural style of churches and monasteries built in the early Middle Ages (in Italy and in northern Europe) in the first 2/3 of the book and then devotes the final third to Romanesque sculpture and painting.

Gothic Art introduces the distinctive elements of Gothic art and architecture and then covers dozens of the great gothic cathedrals with beautiful color photography of both interiors and exteriors. Like the Romanesque book, it has a complete section on sculpture and painting as well.

Both of these volumes are excellent reference works. The color photography is beautifully done. I could sit and browse through them for hours. Your students will be captivated as well. If you’re studying the Middle Ages, these are two reference books you really should have.

Published in 2008, Romanesque Art is a hardback, 200 pages, $19.95 from Greenleaf Press.

Published in 2008, Gothic art is a hardback, 200 pages, also $19.95 from Greenleaf Press.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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Usborne has been producing quality color reference books for children for several decades now. Their books have always featured lots of original color artwork along with short, explanatory paragraphs which function as expanded captions. Medieval World joins two other classic titles that we have long recommended, The Greeks and The Romans. Like them, it is a 96 page paperback, with color art-work printed on high-gloss pages.

The sequence of topics is arranged in chronological order, with broad coverage of cultural topics and details. The book opens with a 2-page spread on The Byzantine Empire, and then a page on The Barbarian Kingdoms, and a page on Return to Christianity which mentions the Irish monks, Augustine’s mission to the Angles, and an illustration from the Book of Kells. These are followed with coverage of the Rise of Islam and the Vikings.

In the middle third of the book, there are spreads on Living in a Castle, Living in a Village, and Living in a Town. There is also extensive coverage of church history, with pages devoted to The Power of the Popes, Enemies of the Church, Building a Cathedral, Going on a Pilgrimage, and Monks and Monasteries.

The High Middle Ages are well covered, with pages on The Rise of Burgundy, The War of the Roses, Triumphs of the Turks, The Rise of the Russians, and the Struggle for Spain.

The final third of the book takes a more global perspective with coverage of Africa, India, China, Japan, North America, Aztecs, Mayans, Toltecs, and Incas during the Middle Ages.

There are a few concluding spreads which introduce the developments which marked the transition from the later Middle Ages into the Renaissance. Topics include Artists of Italy, Ideas and Inventions, and Voyages of Discovery.

The reading level on the text is approximately grades 5-8. Younger children will enjoy looking at the pictures and having the text read to them. Older students (including high school and adult) will find a wealth of information here that goes well beyond what is covered in traditional textbooks (much more interesting, too!)

I highly recommend all of the books in this series. Medieval World makes a great companion to the Famous Men of the Middle Ages.

Medieval World is a paperback, 96 pages. You can order it directly from Greenleaf Press for $14.99 by clicking on any of the links in this review.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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I’ve just finished several days of quite rewarding work re-organizing and generally making some welcome improvements to the Greenleaf Press website.
The short version: We’ve added categories and organized the books in a much more logical and convenient fashion for each of the major periods of history. Rather than having to wade through all 50 or so books in the Ancient Egypt category, you will now see our Study Package books on the first page, with links to Reference Books, Historical Fiction & Biographies, and Activity & Coloring Books. Here’s the way it now looks:

Over the past two years, my goal has been to make online shopping as easy and straightforward as browsing a print catalog. We had ten years experience putting a print catalog together, and I really enjoyed finding books, reviewing books, and then finding a spot in the catalog to put a group of books together that I wanted to highlight.

It’s been a struggle to figure out how to do this on the web. Over dinner the other night, I was discussing the current state of the web site with our son and daughter-in-law. Both have worked for Greenleaf in the past, and they have made lots of contributions to the development of books and web presence. While talking with them, I had an epiphany on how to present books to shoppers on the web.

Adding categories and additional links give more organization to how we present books and lets shoppers more easily find what they are looking for.

It has also let me re-discover and give more prominence to certain books and groups of books that were getting lost in long lists on several parts of our site.

Case in point: Ralph Moody’s Little Britches series. These are terrific books, and more timely now than ever. They were set in difficult economic times around the turn of the century and tell a powerful story of hard work, honesty, determination, and adaptation to change. But we carry 145 books in our main category of 19th century. How could shoppers find the books when they are listed on one page out of 15? The answer of course, was to help shoppers find what they are looking for by giving them more descriptive categories and links at the “top” page of each section.

Here’s what the re-designed entry page to our books on the 19th century now looks like:

greenleaf_19thThe Little Britches Series now has its own page and link from the top of the session. This is very close to the way I would have laid these books out in a printed catalog – with some visual box/background to set them apart and make them easy to find for people who are looking for them – and to try to catch the eye of people looking over and browsing by conveying quickly something what they are.

So now, if you know you’re going to be studying the middle ages and you want to find some coloring books for your younger children – click on the Middle Ages category in the left-hand column and you’ll see this:

greenleaf_midagesAnd now, click on the link to Coloring Books, either in the text in the center column or in the categories list in the left-hand column (now that you’ve clicked on Middle Ages, the categories list displays all of the sub-categories).

This reorganization of the e-store has taken several long days to implement (and there is still a bit of tidying up to do) – not unlike re-arranging a physical store! The goal is to make it easier or you to find the books you are looking forward.

Feedback and comments welcome! Thanks to everyone who has shopped at Greenleaf over the past several years. Your purchases are what makes it possible for Cyndy and  me to continue to write new books to help parents teach history and literature to their children!

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

PS: Check out some of our other category sections below the chronological coverage of the major historical epochs, like our collection of Biography Series (Landmarks, Childhood of Famous Americans, and Mike Venezia’s Artists, Composers, & Presidents), DK Eyewitness Books, and the Politically Incorrect Guides.

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With the imminent publication of Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century, I decided to review, revise, & update the Greenleaf scope and sequence for the study of history.

After 20 years of teaching history, talking to homeschooling parents, and continuing to read and write on historical topics, I am more convinced than ever that the keys to teaching history to children are Chronology and Biography.

And I am also equally convinced that we need to be teaching the Bible to our children as a historical document. The Bible is not a collection of morality tales like Aesop’s Fables. The Bible is a historical account of God acting in history from the call of the Patriarchs through the Exodus, the Conquest, the Exile and the Restoration. I believe strongly that our kids should know the history of Israel as their first “model” for how to approach history. And the Bible’s pattern is to tell the story in chronological order and to focus on one key person at a time. The historical books of the Bible tell the story of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, etc… down to Daniel, Esther, Ezra, & Nehemiah.

With the new Famous Men book (and with a few excellent books from other publishers), Greenleaf is able to offer a complete history program for grades 1-8, and a plan for a second study of western civilization in the high school years.

You can download our 3-page Scope and Sequence here. Feel free to copy, forward, and/or print out as many copies as you’d like.

Page One is the plan for the elementary grades.

Page two is the plan for high school students:

And page three are alternate plans to do Western Civilization in four, five, six, or seven years of elementary school:

I’ll have more information about the imminent publication of Famous Men of the 16th & 17th Century over the next few weeks.

– Rob Shearer, Publisher

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Come to the Castle, by Linda Ashman, illuminated by S.D. Schindler

Tricking the Tallyman, by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by S.D. Schindler

These two books have at least two things in common. They were both published in 2009, and they were both illustrated (illuminated) by S.D. Schindler. They’re also both entertaining and educational, each with its own wry, quirky sense of humor.

Come to the Castle is subtitled, “A Visit to a Castle in Thirteenth-Century England.” Too often, the authors of children’s books succumb to the temptation to romanticize the middle ages. This book is decidedly realistic (if not downright un-romantic). This is not a dry reference book, but rather begins as a rhymed tale of the Earl of Daftwood and his plan to relieve his tedium with a bit of merriment – a tournament!

Steward, plan a tournament!
Herald, find your horse!

This is the opportunity to introduce the many different servants who serve the Earl of Daftwood. Here is the Steward’s response:

Steward, plan a tournament?!
The Earl is surely daft!
Though he has countless servants,
I am vastly understaffed,
Overworked, and truly weary
Of his constant recreation
(Oh, how I’d love a nice massage
And several weeks’ vacation!).

As plans for the party progress, we are introduced to the Herald, the Lady, the Cook, the Cleaning Servant, the Gong Farmer, the Knight, the Squire, the Suitor, the Earl’s Daughter, the Jester, and the Doctor. Each of these has his or her own unique perspective on the role they play in the life of the castle and what a great feast will mean for them. The details are well researched – the author consulted several medieval historians to get all the details right. Schindler’s illustrations are delightfully detailed and entertaining. In addition to illuminated letters on each page, there are numerous small touches tucked away into nooks and corners that provide a rich visual picture of medieval life.

The publisher indicates that the text is pitched for ages 4-8, but older students up through 10 or so will also enjoy the story. This would definitely make a great read-aloud for a child sitting in a lap and gazing at the pictures.

Come to the Castle is a hardback, 40 pages and available directly from Greenleaf Press for $17.95

Tricking the Tallyman is subtitled, The Great Census Shenanigans of 1790. It is 1790, the year of the very first U.S. Census. Phineas Bump, Assistant Marshal of the United States rides into the Vermont town of Tunbridge in order to get an accurate count for the census. But a rumor has preceded him that the purpose of the census is to assess taxes and that the more people he counts, the more money the town will have to pay in taxes. The town resolves to trick the Tallyman. Phineas is told that most of the buildings in town are abandoned. He suspects he’s being tricked, but posts his results in the town square.

The townspeople now learn that the purpose of the census is to determine how many votes Vermont should have in the new Congress. More votes would mean a better chance for a road and a post office. The townspeople ask for a recount – and attempt to trick the Tallyman yet again. Everyone gets counted twice, at least!

Phineas posts the new results, grumbles “Tis a tally not worth the paper it is written on.”

Finally the townspeople figure out the truth: the census is for taxes AND for representation in the new Congress. Phineas is persuaded to count one more time.

“We’re the town that tricked the Tallyman – twice! But then, we decided ’twas better to be fair and true. And so we were. Entirely.”

The author’s note at the end includes the six questions asked at each household during the first US Census. 650 assistant marshals were employed by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State to President George Washington to determine the official population of each of the states.

Once again, Schindler’s illustrations are delightful. They show us what life in a small town in the Vermont woods looked like in the 1790s. The family scenes and facial expressions are delightful. One learns a lot about colonial life just by looking at the clothes, the houses, the furniture, the toys, and especially the town scenes.

Tricking the Tallyman is also targeted to children, ages 5-8, but like Come to the Castle, the story will be interesting for students up through age 10-12. Since next year (2010) is a census year, this book is very timely, and could be used as part of a study on US History and the US Congress. Should the number of congressman from your state change? How will we know? How will the government find out?

Tricking the Tallyman is a hardback, 40 pages and available from Greenleaf Press for $17.99

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The delicacy of the new Secretary for Homeland Security is now causing her to refrain from using the word “terrorism.”

This is, of course, sophistry.

Terrorism is not the invention of Al-Qaeda, nor is it a defining characteristic of radical Islam.

It has a meaning that is fairly simple to understand. An act of terrorism is one that seeks to cause an adversary to experience fear. Its intent is to demoralize and move the opponent to alter his behavior and conform to the will of the terrorist. just as War is Politics, carried on by other means (Clausewitz), so terrorism is War carried on by other means. The object of all three (Politics, War, Terrorism) is to impose one’s will on the adversary.

The Persians practiced terrorism. So did the ancient Greeks. So did the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and on occasion, the Egyptians. The Romans practiced terrorism. But the targeting of non-combatants was condemned by Christianity, and so terrorism was only sparingly employed through 1000 years of Christendom, and when it was used it almost always provoked horror and condemnation.

The classic terrorist tactic is the massacre of prisoners, or the sacking of a city which has refused to negotiate, surrender, or consider paying tribute. The execution of a conquered garrison or the sacking of a city has no immediate tactical advantage. But the act is intended to serve as a warning to other cities of the terrible consequences of resistance.

Genghis Khan was famous for his use of terror. During the Mongol conquest of China, his forces would arrive at a Chinese city and erect a large white tent for Genghis. If the city submitted to his rule, it might be looted, but the lives of the inhabitants would be spared. if there was no response to the white tent, then a red tent was erected in its place. If the city now fell the soldiers and male inhabitants of the city would be executed, but the women and children would be spared. If the city continued to resist, a black tent would be put up – signifying that when the city fell, all of it’s inhabitants would be executed. And they were. It’s difficult to calculate numbers 800 years after the fact, but rough estimates indicate that 30 million people were killed in China by Genghis and the Mongols. Terrorism worked.

Genghis’s grandson, Hulagu Khan (brother to Kublai Khan) used precisely these tactics in his conquest of the Middle East in 1258. He besieged Baghdad, and when it fell after a one-month siege, the Mongols executed almost the entire population of the city. Estimates range from 100,000 to one million. In 1260, Damascus surrendered to the Mongols rather than suffer the same fate.

The notion that individual human lives have immense value is a western ideal. It is not exclusively Christian, but the notion is certainly central to Christianity. It is historically true that the influence of Christianity had the effect of setting limits in warfare. It is a western, Christian, notion that civilian, non-combatants should not be targetted or deliberately killed.

As the Christian consensus has evaporated in the west, the less likely the culture has become to value or protect individual human life. Pragmatism is antithetical to natural law.

Terrorists are quite prepared to take innocent human life, because in their calculation this helps to achieve their ultimate objective (though this probably ascribes more rational analysis to terrorists than they deserve).

It is not just Islamic terrorists who think this way. Beginning in the Enlightenment, exemplified in the “Reign of Terror” of the French Revolution, an ever-increasing percentage of the west (and many of its intellectual elites) have been rejecting any notion of innocent human life. It is a short step from the “Reign of Terror” to the Anarchists’ “Propaganda of the Deed” to the social Darwinism of the German, Italian, Russian, and Chinese despotic Utopians.

Radical Islam is only the latest millenarian movement to reject the value of human life and adopt pragmatism and terrorism as their tools.

You cannot reason with them. You cannot persuade them to abandon terror. You can only defeat them.

Peace is never achieved by negotiation – only temporary cease-fires. Peace is achieved when one side is victorious over the other.

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I am, in general, a big fan of the DK books. Their Eyewitness series, with 160+ titles now, is an excellent resource for young readers (approximately 8-16) on a wide variety of topics. I’m busily adding all of the Eyewitness books into their own category in the Greenleaf online store. But beyond the Eyewitness books, with their museum quality photography, DK has also done some excellent development in traditional illustrated children’s books.

Parents, teachers, and students who will be tracing the history and connectivity of peoples and places from ancient through medieval and modern times will find the following two books very intriguing. They will definitely help your students to understand how the past still influences and is visible in the present.

The first title is A Street Through Time, by Dr. Anne Millard and Steve Noon. It is billed as a 12,000-year walk through history. The book focuses on a location somewhere in the island of Britain, along a river and presents a detailed over-sized two-page spread which depicts what the place looked like at fourteen key periods of history. The first picture is labeled 10,000 BC. We can pass lightly over this one, since it’s largely guess-work. The second scene is 2,000 BC and shows farmers who have constructed a simple village. By 600 BC, this village has passed into the iron age and grown in population. On a nearby hilltop is an iron-age fort similar to those found throughout southern Britain. In AD 100 our village has become an outpost of the Roman Empire. There is a Roman bath, a Roman temple, and a Roman market. In AD 600, things have slipped backwards. The Romans are gone, their buildings are in ruins. But the place by the river is still inhabited. In 900 AD things have gotten both better and worse. There is a stone church and new thatched residences, but there is also the threat of Viking raids. Our scene shows such a raid in progress. In 1208 AD, we have reached the high middle ages. The village has grown a bit. There is a castle on the hill now. In 1400 AD the village has turned into a town. There is a new stone church, new town walls, and a new stone bridge. The townsmen are prospering. In 1500 AD, the plague strikes. It’s not a pretty scene. The next scene is labeled 1600’s finds our town caught in the conflict between King and Parliament – civil war in fact. Some of the houses are burning, the castle on the hill is under siege, and there are soldiers marching in the fields outside the town walls. The 1700s are much more prosperous, even elegant. The residences along the river have been rebuilt. The castle is in ruins, but there is a Georgian estate constructed beside it. The 1800s show the effect of the industrial revolution. The effect on the town is mixed. Some prosper, but many of the workers are poor (grim times). The last two scenes show our familiar street in the late 1800s and today. The church is still there – a landmark to help us orient ourselves. The castle is in ruins, but has become a tourist attraction.

Among the other fun things to do with this book is to play a sort of “Where’s Waldo?” game. The illustrator has hidden a time traveler, named Henry Hyde in each scene. He keeps the same costume through the ages, and you can recognize him by the goggles on his head, his scarf, and long duster.

There are also text cues in the sentences printed in the margins that direct the reader to find particular features. A teacher or parent could use these very effectively with a child. An older student will enjoy the challenges on their own.

The book is oversize, 14″ x 10″, making each 2-page spread a full 28″ wide.

A Street Through Time is a hardback, 32 pages, with full-color illustrations throughout. It is available for $17.99 direct from Greenleaf.

The second DK book is constructed on the same pattern as A Street Through Time, but takes a broader view. A City Through Time is billed as “The Story of a City – from Ancient Colony to vast Metropolis.” The setting for this book is somewhere in Europe, at the mouth of a river on the Mediterranean coast – though the precise location is never specified. Rather than give an identical view for each snapshot in time, the depiction of the city in these spreads is a bit more varied. This allows for a more detailed examination of particular features and buildings. The story begins with a Greek colony in 550 BC (with a separate spread on the Greek temple), then continues to Roman civitas (again with a separate spread showing the public baths in great detail). There is a view of the medieval city (with detail on the castle) and then the more modern industrial port (and railroad station) and the steel and glass modern city (with a cutaway view of a skyscraper turned on it’s side).

This one is also oversize, 14″ by 10″ making each 2-page spread a full 28″ wide.

A City Through Time is a hardback, 32 pages, with full-color illustrations throughout. It is available for $17.99 direct from Greenleaf.

– Rob Shearer
Publisher, Greenleaf Press

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It is with great pride that Greenleaf Press announces the publication of the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature ($19.95) by Cyndy Shearer

For over ten years, Cyndy has been teaching high school literature classes in home school tutorial settings. For the past five years, she has been teaching all four years of western literature at the Schaeffer Study Center, in Mt. Juliet. We are very pleased to be able to publish the second volume in her four year syllabus. The Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature joins the already published Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature
($18.95). The Greenleaf Guides for years three & four (Early Modern Lit and Modern Lit) are under development – meaning Cyndy is already teaching them and refining the material.

Like the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature, the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature takes an inductive approach to the study of selected outstanding literary compositions. Rather than studying short excerpts from dozens of possible works, Cyndy has selected a representative set of selections for close study. Students are led by a series of questions that help them to read and understand the text, and then to reflect on the larger questions being dealt with and the authors’ worldviews. A high school student who completes these two literary studies will have a superior background and preparation for the study of modern literature – either in high school or college.

Beginning with Bede and Anglo-Saxon poetry, the Guide (with wry observations by Cyndy) takes students through Beowulf, Gawain, Chaucer, & Hamlet. A worldview bonus is the conclusion of the course with a study of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead – Tom Stoppard’s raucous verbal pyrotechnics on the themes of fate and death which uses two of the minor characters from Hamlet who get caught up in Shakespeare’s play and then try to puzzle out what the intrigues of Denmark mean when all the Shakespearean characters have left the stage.

The text is designed for an instructor (parent, teacher, or tutor) and student who are reading the text together. Some students may be able to complete this study on their own, but the best experiences will be the discussion of themes and issues with another reader. You don’t have to be an expert in medieval lit in order to teach this course – you just have to be willing to do the reading along with your student(s).

Cyndy is eminently well qualified to teach and write on these themes. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Queens College (she graduated in three years and wrote an undergraduate honors thesis on the poetry of T.S.Eliot). She has an MA in English from the University of Virginia, with an emphasis in contemporary American and European poetry. At U.Va. she participated in the graduate poetry writing workshop led by the gifted poet, Gregory Orr. Cyndy has been homeschooling the Shearer children since 1985, having graduated five from high school – and with six more still at home. She co-founded the Francis Schaeffer Study Center in Mt. Juliet with her husband Rob in 2003.

Along with the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature, Greenleaf Press is pleased to make available a complete study package which includes the Guide and all six of the texts selected by Cyndy for her course on Medieval Literature. The texts include:

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, by the Venerable Bede
Beowulf, trans. Rebsamen
Gawain, trans. Tolkien
Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, by Tom Stoppard
The Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature, by Cyndy Shearer

The Medieval Lit Study Package is available for $70.91 (regular retail – $78.70)

Also available from Greenleaf Press is the Ancient Lit Study Package which contains:

The Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature ($18.95)
The Epic of Gilgamesh (Sandars translation)
The Odyssey (Robert Fitzgerald translation)
The Oedipus Cycle (Robert Fitzgerald translation)
Antigone by Anouilh (Barbara Bray translation)

The Ancient Lit Study Package
is available for $61.08 (regular retail – $67.85)

Both the Greenleaf Guide to Ancient Literature and the Greenleaf Guide to Medieval Literature are also available as downloadable eBooks, making it easy for a parent/teacher/tutor to provide the text to their student, while using the eBook to follow along on their computer.

Needless to say, I highly recommend these high school literature courses for homeschoolers, classical schools, and any high school program that wants a thoughtful rich study of the history of Western Literature.

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