A Natural History of Dragons

Dragons began life as snakes, but natural historians gradually began describing them in more fantastical ways.
A woman breast feeding her child, 13th century

Paying Moms to Breastfeed in Medieval Europe

The idea of offering remuneration to women for breastfeeding—even their own children—wasn’t unusual in late medieval and early modern Europe.
Tapestry of a unicorn hunt

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries Depict a “Virgin-Capture Legend”

They’re big in elementary school, but unicorn tableaux also have a complex iconographic history that combines religious and secular myths.
Medieval illumination of a dog, 14th century, from a Codex in the Czech Republic

The Hardworking Dogs of Medieval Europe

Not everyone can be a pampered pooch.
The St. Bernard Abbey in Hemiksem by Jan Wildens, 1616

The Complex Economics of Medieval Convents

Medieval convents were better funded than many scholars assume, thanks in part to royal patrons sympathetic to the holy women's mission.
Brothel by Joachim Beuckelaer, 1562

Regulating Sex Work in Medieval Europe

When sex work was considered a "necessary evil," legal brothels provided certain protections for the women who worked there.
Two women spinning silk in the 15th century

The Silkwomen of Medieval London

A group of skilled women ran the silk-making industry in 15th century London. So why didn't they protect their workers' rights by forming a guild?
Image from Livre des profits ruraux (late 15th century France)

The Landlord Asks for a Christmas Rose

Bizarre customs of landholding—from demands for flowers to ritualized flatulence—reflect the philosophy that developed under the feudal system.
bezoar goat

From the Belly of a Goat to the Mouth of a King

Bezoars, a strange lump formed in the belly of a goat, once were considered a panacea, and worth more than their weight in gold.
aristotle and phyllis

That Time a Woman Rode Aristotle Around Like a Horse

In the Middle Ages, the legend of Aristotle and Phyllis exemplified the “Power of Women” trope.