Episode 12: Getting Medieval on Earendel

Once upon a time, the people of England had a mythology rich in symbolism and metaphor pointing to the ultimate truth. There was one story in particular which captured the imagination of poets, the story of a star that entered into time and lifted the people of the world out of darkness. The star’s name was Earendel—but what did his name mean? Who among men was so wise that he could unravel the riddle and make clear the mystery? J.R.R. Tolkien believed he knew! O come, O come, and learn the story of the star!

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The O Antiphons of the Advent Lyrics I. “O King of the people and their hearts’ desire; O Cornerstone, who make both things one: come and save humanity whom you have fashioned from clay.”  II. “O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel; you who open and no one closes; who close and
no one opens: come and lead the captive sitting in darkness and the shadow of death from his prison-house.”  III. “O Jerusalem, city of God most Hig…

Episode 11: Getting Medieval on Old English*

To judge from the current debate among Anglo-Saxonists about the racism of their own field, Old English literature is simply one boss fight after another, starting with the battle between Beowulf and Grendel. It’s true! Old English poets loved a good boss fight! But it wasn’t the fight that most English professors would have you believe.

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Rejoice now in spirit, thrive in the solace
Of the Savior, take comfort in Christ.
Gather glory, guard your treasure-house,
The secure space of your heart’s holdings.
Bind up your thoughts. Be careful with vows.
A true companion sometimes proves false;
Promises can unravel so a friendship is undone.
The world sometimes weathers rough storms,
The tempests of untrusted, and suffers doom.
There is one heart’s haven: one firm faith,
One living Lord, one sacred baptism,
One eternal Father, the precious Prince
Of all peoples, our Maker who has shaped
Creation and country, firmament and fields,
The wonders of the …

Exposing Howard Zinn’s Fake History of America

Special episode

Mary Grabar joined me for a conversation about her new book on the way in which Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States has warped Americans’ understanding of our nation’s history.

Mary Grabar is a resident fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization and the founder of the Dissident Prof Education Project. She taught for twenty years at the college level, and she has written and lectured widely on the problems facing American education.

We talked about the kinds of rhetorical techniques Zinn used to promote his moralizing critique of America from Columbus to the Vietnam War, and how his vision of America as essentially corrupt has been promulgated in our schools.

How did Zinn manage to capture the imagination of so many Americans? How can we counter his Manichaean vision of American history in the classroom and in the culture at large?

Totally unauthorized! (Aka on YouTube.)

Join us!

For a complete list of my videos, podc…

Episode 10: Getting Medieval on the Emperor by the Grace of God

His supporters satirize his opponents’ anxiety about the extent of his power by calling President Trump “God-Emperor,” but the taunt is only effective because Americans are not supposed to want kings, never mind emperors. And yet, how else would one define the West? Can there be civilization without hierarchy? Can there be peace without an emperor? Throughout the Middle Ages, European Christians looked to Charlemagne as the model for the emperor who would defend Christendom and bring back the glories of Rome. How much did Charlemagne himself contribute to this ideal? Would the Franks of the eighth and ninth centuries have recognized later representations of Charles as emperor and king?

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Without an Emperor, there will be, sooner or later, no more kings. When there are no more kings, there will be, sooner or later, no more nobility. When there is no more nobility, there will be, sooner or later, no more bourgeoisie or peasants. This is how one …

Episode 9: Getting Medieval on the Battle of Tours

Eighteen years ago, at the beginning of the third millennium after the birth of Christ, Muslim jihadists flew planes into the Twin Towers in New York City. Was this a watershed in the clash of civilizations? You would think after eighteen years, we would know, but historians have been arguing for centuries about the meaning of the Frankish encounter with Muslim forces at the Battle of Tours-Poitiers.  Spoiler alert: The Franks won! But how was the battle remembered? Do we have Charlemagne to thank for defeating the Saracens? You know very well the story is more complicated than you have heard!

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The Mozarabic Chronicle of 754 First Continuator of FredegarEinhard (d. 840), Life of Charles, trans. Samuel Epes Turner (1880)Gregory of Tours (d. 594), History of the Franks, trans. Earnest Brehaut (1916)Vegetius, De re militariThe Song of RolandEvents The Battle of Tours-Poitiers, October 10 (or 25?), A.D. 732 The Battle of Vienna, Sep…

Episode 8: Getting Medieval on Charlemagne’s Elephant

Where did Charlemagne get his elephant and what does it tell us about the relationship between the Franks and the Mediterranean world that once was Rome? The answer may surprise you—it certainly surprised the Danes!

Without Islam, the Frankish empire would probably never have existed, and Charlemagne, without Muhammed, is inconceivable. —Henri Pirenne 
Video with subscription at Unauthorized.tvSee also my lectures on medieval history for the Charlemagne Institute.


Einhard, Life of Charles, trans. Samuel Epes Turner (1880)Chapter 16, on Charlemagne’s foreign relationsPeople—and elephant
Henri Pirenne (1862-1935)Charlemagne (reigned 768-814)Harun al-Rashid (reigned 786-809)Abul-Abbas (d. 810)Pirenne’s disappearances   PapyrusWines of GazaOil from AfricaSpicesSilkGold coinage Elephants, including Charlemagne’s Richard Hodges, “Charlemagne’s Elephant and the Beginnings of Commodisation in Europe,” Acta Archaeologica 59 (1988): 155-68Paul Edward Dutton, Charlemagne’s Mustache …

Medieval History at the Charlemagne Institute

Earlier this summer, I was invited to spend a day at the Charlemagne Institute for Defending and Advancing Western Civilization talking with the Alcuin Interns on three major themes in medieval history. We talked about Charlemagnemonasticism, and the conquest of Constantinople in 1204. Our texts were Einhard’s Life of Charles, Jocelyn of Brakelond’s Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, and Geoffrey of Villehardouin’s Chronicle of the Fourth Crusade. I also spoke about the website for this course.

Regular videos for Unauthorized.tvreturn next week!

Assigned texts

Einhard and Notker the Stammerer, Two Lives of Charlemagne, trans. Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976); new edition, trans. David Ganz (London: Penguin, 2008)

Jocelyn of Brakelond, Chronicle of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds, trans. Diana Greenway and Jane Sayers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989)

Joinville and Villehardouin, Chronicles of the Crusades, trans. Caroline Smith (London: Penguin, 2008)

For the syl…