Thursday, December 01, 2011

Epochs of European Civilization: Antiquity To Renaissance

Epochs of European Civilization: Antiquity To Renaissance starts with a lecture on the Jews.

Wait a second. Israel part of Europe?

Well, geographically, it may not be. But the European geographic boundaries are arbitrary at best. Culturally, the Jewish culture has played a big role in the European state. Christianity sprung out of Israel to become the dominant religion of Europe. Even the Jews that remained played important parts in the emergence of the European power. The Jewish bankers were indispensable to the European monarchs. Even as they were persecuting Jews, they would hold on to their key financial authorities. The separation and persecution of the Jews helped them to grow stronger and develop special skills and attributes that benefited European society. (Does that mean that the integration of Jews in to modern society will hurt them?)

These lectures pay a lot of attention to the role of religion and church within the culture of Europe. This makes a lot of sense. The Catholic can be considered the de facto continuation of the Roman empire, and spent a thousand years as the dominant force in Europe. The conversion of different peoples were also significant events in the middle ages. From this perspective, the crusades were seen as a way to "unite" the disparate small kingdoms. The underlying theme helps tie together many of the other key "battles" and "events" in ancient European history and makes for very informative lectures.

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