Main Medieval Stasis Discussion

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12:02:16 PM May 11th 2017
Most fantasy history doesn't give enough detail to say for sure that the events that happened 3000 years ago, when the evil was sealed in a can, didn't happen in the equivalent of that world's bronze age. Yet people are quick to call it medieval stasis just because it happened 3000 years before a medieval setting. There were nearly 5000 years between the early bronze age and the late middle ages. Some people just clump everything pre-industrial together and call it "Medieval" without thinking.

Bear in mind also, that ancient historical records are hardly reliable, so if the in-world lore says there were knights and castles 1000 years ago, it could likely just be the authors using the terms they are familiar with, like a medieval monk writing about biblical times and calling roman soldiers "knights". That doesn't mean the world is actually in stasis. Too many people here take in-world history at face value.

12:05:47 PM May 11th 2017
The point is that the character and the world feels static and unchanging from past-to-present in a way many writers in the Romantic age initially projected the medieval era to be. You are quite correct but this trope existing as a trope does not mean the trope is true.

And fantasy is after all Constructed World and what happens there is backstory.
10:29:11 AM Mar 23rd 2013
Removed natter-filled Real Life section with only peripheral connection to the trope. Here it is, for reference.

  • Averted in Real Life; the people of the Middle Ages certainly didn't think of themselves as living in stasis (or, indeed, in the 'middle' of anything). A perfect example of this would be the actions of Pope Innocent II who tried to ban crossbows which could be fired by people with little or no training and penetrate the armor of the finest knights. It was believed in some quarters to be so devastating a warfare equalizer that it would make all war unthinkable (It didn't).
    • This is actually a common misconception. In reality, he banned all missile weapons (including crossbows, but also bows, slings, etc) for wars between Christian nations, but absolutely nobody listened to him.
    • The invention of the longbow actually signaled the death of knights, as it was capable of piercing through their armor. The knights didn't like it, though, but recognized the usefulness of such a thing. So, they had serfs or servants fire the weapons instead of them. Then they started being deployed without the knights ...
      • Far from it, by the end of the 15th century, the longbow was reaching an impasse in terms of power, as it couldn't reliably pierce modern armor anymore (seen at Agincourt, for example) and were only ever used en masse in Scandinavia and the British Isles. Artillery, on the other hand, did make people comment on the end of knighthood.
        • Agincourt was an example of how archers could turn the tide of battle against heavily armed cavalry. They simply ran out of arrows before they could finish the job with their longbows (and thus, switched to their swords and we know how the rest of that story played out). Further on, the invention of man-portable firearms ended the reign of armored cavalry, just as artillery ended the widespread development of castles as fortified positions. The difference is in how technology marched on. Quality archers, not just any old conscript, had to be trained from youth in the use of a longbow to be at their most effective. When the first Hand Cannon came about, a conscript need only a couple weeks of training to be effective.
      • While the longbow was intensely powerful in the hands of a trained archer, its main drawback was the time required to master the weapon. It tooks years to learn and became the ultimate profession of anyone who used it simply because it demanded their very lives. This is evidenced in the fact that the spines of archers who used the weapons have been discovered horribly warped by lifelong dedication to the weapon. It was only at the advent of the gun when troops could be trained in mere weeks that armor began to fade away.
      • Recent discoveries have shown that while there were those who devoted their lives to being longbow soldiers, it wasn't absolutely necessary to devote one's life to practice. When shooting into a mass of troops, six month's practice (every day, granted) was sufficient. For 'wand shooting' and such, a good deal more skill was needed.
      • The technological advances were only part of the story in any case. Although the introduction of the longbow, firearms, pikes etc. meant that armoured cavalry no longer had the battlefields to themselves, they remained a potent force in battle until the second half of the 19th century (indeed the Napoleonic Wars ushered in a resurgence of armoured cavalry). They just no longer were knights, but professional soldiers (cuirassiers). The social and organisational changes were just as important. Because of more efficient taxation introduced around the time of the Hundred Years' War, monarchs became able to fund standing armies which were more suited to their purposes than the inefficient feudal armies of knights and levies.
    • It could be argued that it was played straight: the artists of the Middle Ages at least seemed to have no idea that people used to dress differently or other places looked different. First-century Judea or Rome is usually depicted in a very similar way to Mediaeval England, despite the fact that in the fourteenth century alone styles of clothing changed drastically.
      • Actually this was more a matter of not wanting to draw "historic" situations, but to transpose them into the artists' present for their relevance to the viewers. Which is why, for instance, in altar paintings showing e. g. the Crucifixion, the city of Jerusalem will very often be among the earliest existing painted depictions of the town in which the altar stood.
11:42:57 AM Mar 28th 2013
edited by Diagoras
Whoops, nevermind.
09:00:01 AM Mar 23rd 2013
"Scientific progress, moreover, was 'very' slow-paced from c.1400 to about c.1800...and had no practical applications beyond navigation, time-keeping, and killing people at range"

Anyone care to explain how the invention of the printing press factors into the above statement? How about the carrack ship design with innovative use of lateen sails, and the subsequent opening of the Americas? The invention of the microscope?

Or for pure science, accepted geocentrism? Calculus? The development of chemistry? Comparative anatomy? Geology?

This isn't even dealing with the weird tack of throwing out anything that's related to navigation, time-keeping, and military advancement, as those three have been some of the largest sources of technological change in any historical period and had significant effects.
09:23:57 AM Mar 23rd 2013
Accepted heliocentrism, surely? People used to think that everything revolved around the Earth (a fairly reasonable assumption, for its time), and as far as I can remember, only came around when discovering that Jupiter had moons.
11:46:43 AM Mar 28th 2013
Whoops, thanks for catching that. You're totally right, I meant accepted heliocentrism.
08:26:52 AM May 12th 2012
I find the assetion within the article that technology did in fact move forward a lot during the middle ages to be slightly suspect. While it is true all those things were invented then, for the vast bulk of the population it was meaningless. The vast majority of the population were peasant farmers, who lived much the same way in 1750 as they did in 500 BC, eking a meagre living from the land.

The only time when the average person could expect to live a substantially different life from their parents was after the industrial revolution.
08:47:27 AM Mar 23rd 2013
Huh? Crop rotation had a huge effect on the nature of farming, as did the growth of trade routes and capitalism. The urbanization of Europe, decreasing cost of first iron and then steel, windmills, and watermills all also changed rural life in significant ways.
11:48:11 PM Dec 10th 2016
^This. Even if most people don't notice the differences, that doesn't mean there aren't differences, and that doesn't mean the differences don't affect them.
09:09:02 PM Mar 15th 2012
It occurs to me that this trope is impressively similar to, and definitely related to, the trope Briefer Than They Think. Does anyone think that this justifies a link on both this page and that one?
11:00:58 AM Feb 14th 2012
The article itself seems to display a lack of understanding of the word science. Science is a method for gathering knowledge that should work in pretty much every conceivable world, as long as there is no intelligent entity actively screwing with scientists in one way or another. The article should use "laws of physics" or "laws of reality" instead, and also take into account that almost all worlds should allow for some kind of technological advancement, even if real world technologies are impossible due to different laws of physics.
09:07:31 PM Mar 15th 2012
edited by legendaryBuffoon
COMMENT DELETED I intended to start a new topic.
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