Divine Intervention and the 885 Siege of Paris

Through much of 885 and 886 A.D., a large force of raiders from Scandinavia besieged Paris. An eyewitness account of the Viking siege has survived: the Bella Parisiacae Urbis (Battle of the City of Paris) by Abbo, a monk of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Brother Abbo did not seek to produce a literal and accurate […]

The Chinese Legation to the Paris Commune

In 1870, the government of China had to send an emergency legation to Paris in response to an incident in a Chinese port. It was an unusual circumstance; this was only the third formal diplomatic mission sent by the Qing dynasty to the Western world. A translator with the 1870 mission, Zhang Deyi, had served […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 2: The Conquest)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford their steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. The kingdom already had a king. Anyone who bought what the popes were selling would still have to conquer Sicily themselves. […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 1: The Hook)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford the steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. In fact, Sicily already had a king who was none too pleased with the whole affair. These popes weren’t selling control […]

The Marriage Politics of Blanche of Castille

Blanche of Castille was Queen of France from 1223 to 1252. She was a juggernaut – one of the most powerful people on the continent. She led spy rings, commanded armies, and helped turn France into the pre-eminent power in Europe. The story of how she negotiated a marriage for her son, King Louis IX (the […]

NPCs from Christine de Pizan’s City of Ladies

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“No, I’m the Real Martin Guerre!”

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A Wedding to Remember: Three Lais by Marie de France

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The Politics of the First Witches’ Sabbaths

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Hu in the Asylum

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Madame Chouteau’s Clever Frontier Inheritance

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Apostolic Succession, Donatism, and the Hidden Pope

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Lord Thomas of Marle, the Wickedest Man of His Generation

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The Heretic Vendetta

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Montaillou: The Spy-Infested Anthill Village

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