01 Apr 2008

The Open University and BBC FOUR go Inside the Medieval Mind

Professor Robert Bartlett

Professor Robert Bartlett

Professor Robert Bartlett, one of the world’s leading medievalists, is the host on a new landmark history series Inside the Medieval Mind.

The four-part series, co-produced by The Open University, will explore the mindset and lifestyle of medieval citizens and will reveal what motivated people who lived between 800AD and 1400AD and what beliefs we share with our ancestors.

The series, beginning at 9pm on Thursday April 17, is the first in a season of medieval-themed programmes on BBC FOUR this spring.

Medieval expert Dr Rachel Gibbons, Open University Academic Advisor on the series, said: "This is an important series for several reasons. Robert Bartlett is one of the most authoritative voices on the subject of medieval history and is a voice the audience can trust. The academic research that has gone into this programme is impeccable and the viewer will learn so much about the times just by watching.

Inside the Medieval Mind

Inside the Medieval Mind

"The series’ approach is groundbreaking among history programmes. It doesn’t just present events and stories as historical fact, it examines why things happened and why people thought and acted as they did during the Middle Ages. It aims to understand a society rather than just talking about it. The series is not a conventional narrative of important dates; it uses the evidence of historical events and the words and thoughts of people alive in the time to truly get ‘inside the medieval mind."

Each hour-long episode, titled Knowledge, Sex, Belief, and Power, will focus on a different aspect of medieval life and will be a snapshot of life through all levels of the social hierarchy from the lowliest peasant to the highest Lord.

Knowledge explores the disenchantment of the medieval world, as a rediscovery of ancient knowledge and new methods of scholarship in universities led to an intellectual and scientific revolution during this period, whilst exploration and trading contacts expanded the medieval world view beyond all imagination.

Sex investigates the private lives of medieval men and women, looking at theories of sexual difference, the realities of male-female relationships and courtly romance, and the attitudes of the Church authorities and wider society to marriage, sex and sexual practice, homosexuality, virginity and the celibate vocation.

Belief explores the fundamental place of religious faith and practice to the identity of people in the Middle Ages. It looks at the relationship between the physical and supernatural worlds, the place of pilgrimage, the sacraments and the power of demons, angels and saints in everyday life and the changing relationship of the Church to monasticism, crusading and those outside conventional Christian society.

Finally, Power analyses the workings of medieval secular society and the assumptions of people at the time about inequality and the distribution of power. It looks at the lot of the peasantry under feudal, forest and common law codes, the realities of chivalry and the military role of the aristocracy, and the relationship of the medieval king to his subjects – and what might happen when that relationship broke down.

The series also looks beyond the shores of Britain in the Middle Ages to better reflect a fluid and vibrant period when people, beliefs and ideas spread across continents. Viewers will learn more about the interaction of nations and societies in the medieval world than ever before.

The Open University has also produced a free medieval map for viewers, marking several of the locations visited by Robert Bartlett in the series and revealing key facts about each. This can be obtained by calling 0870 900 9581or by visiting www.open2.net

Editor’s Notes

Inside the Medieval Mind is an Open University/BBC co-production for BBC FOUR.

The first episode of the series will broadcast on BBC FOUR from Thursday April 17 at 9pm.

Executive Producer for the BBC is Debbie Cadbury. Series Producer for the BBC is Julian Birkett. Executive Producer for The Open University is Catherine McCarthy. The Open University Academic Adviser is Dr Rachel Gibbons.

The Open University and BBC have been in partnership for more than 30 years, providing educational programming to a mass audience. In recent times this partnership has evolved from late night programming for delivering courses to peak time programmes with a broad appeal to encourage wider participation in learning.

All broadcast information is correct at time of issue.


Related Courses and programmes from The Open University:-
- Y160 Making sense of the Arts
- AA100 The Arts Past and Present
- A200 Exploring History: medieval to modern 1400-1900
- A172 Start Writing Essays
- A173 Start Writing Family History
- A180 Heritage, Whose Heritage?

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