Books, books and…. oh, more books! A neverending story.

Being a booknerd is almost a bare necessity if you want to study history at BA or MA level. To keep up with the vast reading requirements, you really must love reading and be prepared to invest a significant amount of your time in books and libraries. I’m not complaining! Best thing ever, right ?

So I checked my TBR list of books. I can tell you it is not getting any shorter. Sometimes I don’t know what I like better: reading the books, or browsing and buying books. Don’t underestimate the uplifting power of a good bookhunt. And off course, then there are the (online) magazines, myriad blogs, social media, and some historical fiction……

Last year I decided to clean up my bookshelves and start buying and reading more focused on a few subjects. The main part for the ‘non-fiction section’ is now focused on medieval history and art. I still buy a lot of ‘random medieval’ books, so I’m still trying to find more focus and specialize in some subjects. But which ones…. too many interesting topics.

As I checked my list, I noticed I accidentally created a theme, so I’m going to stick with that for now. I really want to know more about the ladies of the middle ages (not to be confused with middle aged ladies ;-). I think they played an essential part in the expansion of the medieval kingdoms and are deserving my attention. I noted that as I’m back at the university again after 15 years, a lot of perspectives have shifted away from ‘white male history’ and a lot of new perspectives are being explored. I like it!

Also, I have some other lovelies to read. As you see, this is more of ‘the random’ kind of books. Of the many interesting topics I can’t choose from, I know that ‘medievalism’ is one of my favorites: the Romantic image of the middle ages, systematically formed in the 19th century in reaction to the industrial society. For a large part it was responsible for a strongly romanticized and idealized Middle Ages that also influenced knowledge, image, views and study of the middle ages for some time. But, who knows, I’ll pick up the Ravens (cheeky birds!), Chaucer’s people (fun!) or Robert de Bruce (Scots!) first.

All I need to do now is find the time to read it all. So, new plan (or essentially the same plan as ever, but a good reminder):

  • put down my phone
  • stay away from Netflix
  • keep a blanket and my cat on stand-by
  • don’t read 6 books at once (but maybe 2)

Reading books should never feel like a chore. I admit, in a busy week it is sometimes difficult to find enough time to read. And if it is really busy, I start longing for some quiet reading time. It’s one of the things I can really relax to and can take my mind of things.

Books are a great joy and an essential need in my life. I actually live right on top of our local bookstore, so I can get my ‘fix’ very easily. Just some browsing is enough to brighten the day. As much as I love the Middle Ages, I really like living in an age (and country) where books are available everywhere.

The Book of Kells: free online course!

Detail from folio 114r © The Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin [IE TCD MS 58]

I’m a big fan of MOOC’s: Massive Open Online Courses. I follow them regularly on several platforms. If, like me, you are always interested in learning something new, this is an easy way to start. You can fit it into your schedule and ,usually, MOOC’s are free of cost.

If you browse these online platforms, like Futurelearn, EdX, or Coursera, you’ll discover a ton of interesting courses for history buffs. Medieval history is well represented with courses from renowned universities all over the world. Courses vary in length and in the level of actively participating: some have assignments and tests, some don’t.

Online platform Futurelearn will offer ‘The Book of Kells: Exploring and Irish Medieval masterpiece’ again, after a very succesfull run in 2018. I joined this course then, because I love this most famous medieval Irish manuscript. And although I visited the Book of Kells exhibition in Dublin at Trinity college, I learned a lot of new stuff.

This is a short course of 4 weeks and will explain not only the historical context, but also how a book like this is made. It shows you the entire journey through history of this book, untill it was put on display on permanent display at Trinity College. You’d be surprised what uses and abuses have marked this book in a 1200-year journey!

The course is taught by Dr. Rachel Moss (Associate Professor in the History of Art and Architecture) and Dr. Fáinche Ryan (Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Loyola Institute, both at Trinity College Dublin. Aided by short video’s, articles, photo’s and source material, they will share their knowledge in a very accesible manner.

If you really can’t wait, you can take a good preview of the digital Book of Kells. It is available for the public, since not everyone has the opportunity to visit the exhibition. And even if you do, there are only 2 pages on display at a time. You can find the complete manuscript at the digital collection of Trinity College Library.

Folio’s 12r, 27v en 34r. © The Board of Trinity College, University of Dublin [IE TCD MS 58]

>> Join now, together with many enthousiasts from all over the world, and start the course at March 18th. Enjoy!<<