Engraved Illustrations of Various Castles and Fortified Structures

The Medieval Castle That Pranked Its Visitors

At Hesdin, in France, the idyllic beauty of the grounds met the sadistic slapstick of the castle’s “engines of amusement.”
Burning woman witchcraft

Where Witch Hunts Began

Although witch hunts are associated with 17th-century Salem, many hundreds of thousands of "witches" were killed in Europe from the 13th century on.
Astrolabe

The San Zeno Astrolabe Tracked Time by the Stars

The astrolabe was a revolutionary tool for calculating celestial positions and local time. The device's design dates back to Islamic antiquity.
Monks in cloisters

When People Thought Charitable Donations Would Save Their Souls

As the Middle Ages progressed, monasteries became a major engine of economic activity in European communities.
A dog on trial

When Societies Put Animals on Trial

Animal trials were of two kinds: (1) secular suits against individual creatures; and (2) ecclesiastic cases against groups of vermin.
Ruth Mazo Karras

Ruth Mazo Karras

Ask a Professor offers an insider’s view of life in academia. Up this month: Ruth Mazo Karmas, Professor of History at the University of Minnesota.
Smithsonian Institution Building

Why America Went Medieval

In the middle of the nineteenth century, upper-class America went gaga over a vision of the medieval. Carpenter’s Gothic ...
Battle of Hastings tapestry

The Battle of Hastings and the Ongoing Fight for Britain

Nine hundred and fifty years ago, Normans sailed across the English Channel, landing on England on September 27, 1066. The Norman Conquest had begun.
alchemist

Inside the Alchemist’s Workshop

What tools would an alchemist use in the quest to transmute other elements into gold?
Doctor Death

Why Did the Plague Continue to Reemerge After the Middle Ages?

New research suggests alarming details about the plague, which repeatedly devastated populations across Europe, Asia, and Africa over the centuries.