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*The Real Middle Ages*
By Aron Miller

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The “Real Middle Ages” podcast is not a complete narrative of the the
Middle Ages. Instead author Aron Miller tackles discreet topics for several
episodes in a row before moving on to a new topic. His main focus is the
European medieval period, which he describes as the period between 476 CE
and 1492 CE.

In episode two he describes why he has chosen 476 CE as his beginning point
and what happened in the lead up to the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
In episode three he discusses several competing dates that could be used
for the end of the Middle Ages and why he has settled on 1492. (The first
episode is an introduction to the podcast. It probably could have been
shortened and added to the beginning of the second episode.) Although he
proclaims in his introduction that he will not turn the podcast into a data
dump of names and dates, his long beginning and end introductions do just
that. In his defense, though, it’s difficult to sum up any beginning or end
of a period without a lot of dates and names.

Miller states that he will “explore different characters and themes
throughout the Middle Ages that demonstrate the human experience.” And one
of his goals is to dispel common misperceptions and myths. For example, he
explains how the costumes for a 19th century Wagner opera lead to the
ridiculous horned Viking helmets we see all too often. He explains that
certain peoples or periods in time suffer from what he calls the “cool
factor,” which leads to all kinds of misperceptions. Case in point is the
Norse, or Vikings. A mythos has developed in popular culture about who the
Vikings were and how they behaved that isn’t supported by primary sources
or archeology.

Miller is an academic, so his early podcasts suffer as a result. For one
thing, he has three introduction episodes, followed by his introduction to
the Rus in episode four. That’s several hours of introductions straight out
of academia.

He starts to figure out how to do things better about episode eight or
nine, although he still has poor sound quality. And his pronunciation of
many words is jarring. But his writing becomes less of a masters’ thesis.
He starts learning how to speak conversationally. He adds fun little facts
and digressions.

Beginning in episode four he tackles the early beginnings of the Rus,
starting with a look at the Russian Primary Chronicle and its limitations
as a source. In episode five he describes the founding of the Rus kingdom
by Rurik.

He digresses during October 2017 with a two-episode look at witchcraft, but
picked up his look at the Rus again in November 2017, wrapping up in
December 2017 with the death of Vladimir the Great in 1015. He followed
that with a question and answer episode. In February 2018 Miller began his
new topic, A Norman Foundation, with a look at the beginnings of Normandy,
Rollo and the primary sources for this time period.

I enjoyed listening to the Rus episodes, particularly about their
interactions with Byzantium. I’m listening to the History of Byzantium and
that podcast just now is getting to the same time period and the same
interactions with the Rus. But I’m more interested in the Norman topic he’s
just beginning.

Miller’s web page offers illustrations and maps to go with his episodes,
along with a lengthy bibliography, but not much else. He has a Patreon
button, but he doesn’t ask for donations, at least not in the early
episodes. He does ask for reviews on iTunes of course.

I’m a binge listener, so I like history podcasts that have been around for
a few years and have many episodes available. Despite the fact that Miller
began his podcast a year ago, he only has 20 episodes in the can. I’ve
caught up to The Real Middle Ages and now have to wait three weeks or a
month for the next episode to drop. With my memory I often can’t remember
the previous episode by then. But if you listen more sporadically, Miller’s
slow delivery schedule may not be an issue for you.

“The Real Middle Ages” began in March 2017 and is up to episode 20 in March
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