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The Virus in the Age of Madness

Forget the world that came before. The author of American Vertigo serves up an incisive look at how COVID-19 reveals the dangerous fault lines of contemporary society.

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From the Blog

Medieval Strategy? The Great “Leper Conspiracy” of 1321 by Steve Tibble

September 11, 2020

Researching the development of the crusader states helped me appreciate the sensitive and sophisticated nature of medieval strategy. But it also demonstrated how extraordinarily disappointing human beings could be—and still are, of course.

At the end of the crusades, the Templars were suppressed by King Philip the Fair. They were accused of outlandish, unbelievable conspiracies, and their huge wealth was confiscated.

I was intrigued by this. On one level, it was all very clear. The French crown were in need of ready cash, so they had cynically invented outrageous, entirely spurious charges and used them as a pretext to plunder the riches of the Templars. So far, so obvious.

But what if that was not the whole truth? What if the king had really believed the mad accusations and conspiracy theories that he and his advisors were throwing around? And what if the French monarchy had made a habit of such behavior?

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Medieval Strategy? Do Fish Need Bicycles? by Steve Tibble

September 10, 2020

It is easy to see medieval warfare and politics as being long on activity, but chronically short on reflection. To misquote the 1970s feminist rallying cry, it is pretty obvious that hairy, unwashed medieval warriors needed strategy every bit as much as a fish needs a bicycle. Or at least that is what we often assume.

Contemporary chronicles, and most modern narrative accounts of medieval history, read more like a soap opera than a strategic planning document. Armies invade and fight. The warrior elite have their moments of glory or disappointment, a stream of celebrities wandering across the stage of history with chroniclers as their paparazzi. Not entirely aimless perhaps, but implicitly lacking in what we would now describe as any form of strategic direction.

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