Sunday, June 09, 2024

12th Century Influencer

A remarkably well-informed if rather judgemental review of London as a venue for city breaks in the twelfth century by Richard of Devizes, then a monk and ‘influencer’ at St Winifred’s in Winchester. 

Richard was the first to use the term Holocaust to refer to the mass murder of Jews, then also a feature of London life.

Indeed, the Chronicon he penned, from which the above is an excerpt, is written in character — that of a French Jewish cobbler providing travel tips and up-to-date goss on the goings on in England and the Crusader states of the Levant. 

Some modern scholars have interpreted the document as a cunning satire on some of the antisemitic prejudices of the time, sending up in particular a regional-historical variant of the blood libel, in which Jews were thought to prowl around Winchester hunting young Christian boys in order to carry out ritualistic murders.

He also famously described Robin Hood’s erstwhile foe ‘bad’ King John as a raging madman who "emitted foam from his mouth", another characteristisation/media cliché which has survived almost 800 years. 

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