In the wake of civil war and anarchy in England, a crime wave gripped the nation. Murders and other violent crimes were rampant. Henry II sought to reimpose law and order throughout the country by reforming the English legal system. In this episode, we look at Henry’s criminal justice reforms and the emergence of the English common law. We also explore the linguistic consequences of this legal reform.
During the reign of Henry II, the speech of England was dominated by three languages – English, French and Latin. In this episode, we examine the relative roles of those three languages, and we also explore how the social barriers between those languages were breaking down in the 12th century.
The marriage of Matilda’s son, Henry, to Eleanor of Aquitaine was a crucial event in the history of England and France. It produced a powerful realm which contributed to the return of peace and the end of Anarchy. In this episode, we explore these political developments, and we also examine the state of marriage in 12th century Europe. We also explore how these events shaped the vocabulary of the English language.
While civil war raged in England, a completely different culture was flourishing in southern France. In this episode, we explore the opulent court of Aquitaine and the rise of the troubadours. Love was in the air as a new type of poetry was created in the 12th century. We also examine words associated with Medieval entertainment and courtly life.
Check out the 10 American Presidents podcast for an episode about the development of American English and the influence of presidential speech on American English.
Much of the devastation of the Anarchy was carried out by knights who acted as thugs and bullies. For several generations, knights had served as the strongmen of western Europe. By the 12th century, the nature of knighthood was starting to change. The Church was taking a more active role in knightly affairs, and the mounted knights were gradually becoming lesser nobles. In this episode, we explore the evolution of the Medieval knight from mounted warrior to the eve of chivalry. We also explore the etymology of words related to knighthood.
In the years after Matilda’s return to England, the country descended into chaos and civil war. This period is known by modern historians as the Anarchy. The events were recorded by a scribe in Peterborough who wrote in an early form of Middle English. In this episode, we examine these events through the entires in the Peterborough Chronicle. We also explore several new pronoun forms which appear for the first time in these passages.
In this episode, we explore the outbreak of civil war in England as forces loyal to Matilda took up arms against King Stephen. The civil war led to a breakdown of central authority. The power vacuum was filled by local barons who constructed castles throughout the countryside. This ushered in a new era of siege warfare. We explore these events as recorded in the Peterborough Chronicle, and we examine how siege warfare influenced the English language.
Following the death of Henry I, the king’s nephew Stephen seized the throne and claimed the English throne before Matilda could get to England. We examine the reasons why Stephen was considered an acceptable alternative to Matilda. As soon as Stephen became king, he experienced challenges from a couple of English nobles. One of those nobles also happened to be the King of Scotland. We examine these initial challenges and explore the origin of Scots – the first version of English spoken outside of England.
The final continuation of the Peterborough Chronicle captured a major change in the history of the English language. That change was the loss of grammatical gender. The traditional distinctions between masculine and feminine nouns disappeared in the final few entries of the Chronicle. This development coincided with the first attempt to place a female on the English throne. In this episode, we look at the weakening of these traditional gender barriers.