Firstly a confession. I know nothing about Medieval history. I don’t know anything about the geography, the travelling, the religion, the countries, the wars or any of it. This I am rapidly remedying through this podcast, The Human Circus.
The Human Circus dives deep into medieval history through key historical figures over loose seasons. The starting ‘season’ has 4 episodes whereas their second one has 7. The seasons run as long as it takes to tell the story of that key figure. With each season different aspects are spoken about but the podcast entails all those things that I don’t know anything about. Trade is very important, especially for travellers so there’s a lot of trade talk and stories about travelling through different countries. It’s very interesting to witness whole countries come and go through the eyes of different people.
The podcaster, Devon Field, uses a lot of sources and knowledge about a lot of different things. He also uses primary sources which I liked a lot because it shows how invested Field is in getting the information right. He also has a lovely voice, it’s melodious and soothing. The voice work is excellent and very easy to listen to. It’s not boring and you’re interested in everything he has to say.
This podcast is jam packed full of information. It’s a huge, interesting infodump of all you need to gain an understanding of what was happening in the world in medieval times. This is done through focusing on one person and their travels, but a lot is explained and talked about through slight tangents. Mainly it focuses on famous travellers and looks at the world through their eyes, going into meetings with allies and enemies that each traveller experiences.
Religion, trade, economy, wars, clothes, royalty and the movement of key players of the medieval years are all talked about in great depth, which is difficult to do seeing as there is a lot of history to talk about here and the episodes are around the 40 minute mark. But this is just enough time to get a good amount of information exchanged without boring the listener or going on too many tangents.
So far the people covered have been Johann Schiltberger, Thomas Pallam with the current season being about Marco and the Polos.
Standout Episode: To See the Mongols 1: Giovanni Carpine Goes East. This focuses on the Mongols expanse into the rest of the world. in 1241 Latin Christiandom was having a crisis and the Mongols seemed to be knocking on their door. They had defeated and then united all their rivals, destroying empires and then absorbing them or leaving them totally desiccated. They defeat everyone and they were coming for Europe. But then, suddenly, they’re gone. With the use of hindsight we can see some issues which led them to withdraw, the main one being that their Kahn had died and a new Kahn needed to be chosen, but the weather played a part too. So in this breathing space steps Giovanni Carpine.
I’ll let you get the rest of the story from the episode but it’s an interesting one. I’m happy to have discovered this podcast so I can fill the hole in my head about medieval history. Additionally, I found out this podcast is part of The Recorded History Network which has a lot of interesting history podcasts on it that I’m going to binge as well. Too many podcasts, not enough time!
5/5 sailing stars!