Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Amarium Magnum Essay Competition

Yesterday I received a package from which I knew would be my copy of James Hannam's long-awaited God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science. On opening the package, however, I found to my surprise not one but two copies of Hannam's book. It seems that in my feverish excitement at finally getting my hands on a copy I accidentally ordered two copies rather than one. Now, I certainly don't begrudge the vast sums of money James is probably making from his sky-rocketing sales and I'm happy to add a few more of my hard-earned dollars to the pit of cash in which I imagine he rolls around each day. But as nice as the book is (yes, a review is coming soon) I don't really need two copies on my already crowded shelves.

So I've decided to make the spare copy the prize in the inaugural Armarium Magnum Essay Competition. The winner will not only have their winning essay published here on the blog to the admiration of all, but will also get a copy of Hannam's fine hard-cover volume winging its way to them in the mail.

The topic if the competition's essays will be:

"Christianity caused the Dark Ages: Discuss"

Entries can be up to 7,000 words and should be submitted by e-mail to this address by November 30th, 2009. All readers of this blog are eligible, with the exception of those whose names are "James Hannam" and who recently wrote a book on Medieval science. Good luck.


Phil.B. said...

So are we to assume that there were Dark Ages to be caused?

Tim O'Neill said...

So are we to assume that there were Dark Ages to be caused?

Given the collapse of the Westertn Roman Empire, the dwindling to nothing of long distance trade, the collapse of educational infrastructure outside the Church, the decline in material culture, the end of building programs, the end of literacy in Greek and the loss of thousands of works of ancient science and philosophy until their rediscovery in the Twelfth Century, I don't think we need to "assume" anything.

But if you want to argue there were no Dark Ages between 500 and 1000 AD, I look forward to reading your essay.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Tim,

It's Louis XI from TWC here. I got to say that at a glimpse I agree perfectly with the title of this book, from other readings. Practically every savant in the Middle Ages was also a Priest of some sort, and we owe them not only the preservation of timeless Classics, but also the systematic foundation of "Science" as we know it. Ockham, de Floris, etc... All laid the basis for the establishment of the systematic search of knowledge during the 12th, and the manuscript mania of the 13th.

The ironic part, if you mind well of Siggy, is that his twisted "Medieval" concept of history is a product of... The Middle Ages! That's right. It was de Floris who first postulated an "Age of the Son - of the Father - of the Holy Ghost" (don't know if that's the exact order), and in the XVII century that got twisted to "Ancient-Medieval-Modern" without a change in its underlying spiritual meanings.

In reference to the Middle Ages, I've also come into contact with a curious insight - the Reformation is a product of the Middle Ages, and Calvin, Zwingli, et all were only the last in the line of many arduous reformers. We see in the Middle Ages important "reformer" personalities: de Floris (yet again, was the first to use the word reformare), Arnold of Brescia, Jacopone da Todi (who attempted a stricter approach)... All the way to Wyclif and the later Gothic.

This is just one of the examples pertaining as to how the Middle Ages were crucial to shape the mentality of later Europe. Unfortunately, many of these names are obscure to us, short of specialized insights which I hope this book would offer.

... Another curious "fact", which I cannot precisely assert now, is a 1322 manuscript on Astronomy by John of Ligneres, based on the Alfonsine Tables but with slight deviations which "hinted" at Copernicanism, and which were reportedly used by Copernicus himself as a basis for his later work.

Etc... Etc... Etc...

Anonymous said...

Forgive me if this is too obvious, but let me ask: is the topic given the point we must argue for, or may we argue against it? Thank you.

Tim O'Neill said...

is the topic given the point we must argue for, or may we argue against it?

You could do either. So long as you make a cogent, well-supported case that stands up to critical scrutiny, of course.