Thinking Big: Academic Crackpot Edition

In the tradition of scholars throwing out ideas into the marketplace of ideas, you gotta love it. Except that it makes no sense….

Apparently there are a couple of German art historians (Heribert Illig and Gunnar Heinsohn) who floated the idea (back in the 1990’s) that everything that happened between the 7th century and the 10th century was actually made up by medieval German historians under Emperor Otto III; and that really these years didn’t exist, and so we’re really living in the year 1712 or so. This explains the dearth of archeological evidence for towns built in those times, the similarities between Merovingen and Romanesque art, and so on.

This ingenious and beautiful theory is unfortunately thwarted by cold hard facts, such as the monastery and royal chronicles and writings of lots of people in other countries, and the amazing amount of surviving paperwork that everybody managed to do in spite of Vikings, Muslims, and civil disorder. (They’re art historians, so that didn’t leap to their eyes.) Theology and church history and various saints certainly kept going, all over Europe. The post-Charlemagne Viking/Muslim pirate period of Europe was pretty bad, but it wasn’t quite that bad. (And Otto couldn’t possibly have paid or persuaded everybody to forge everything!)

Beyond that, there’s the evidence of the natural world. The stars kept moving and the tree rings kept growing, all those centuries. So unless Otto’s guys were supervillains or Time Lords, the “phantom time” theory just doesn’t work.

But you gotta love how they thought big…. 🙂

5 Comments

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5 responses to “Thinking Big: Academic Crackpot Edition

  1. It’s hard to be a satirist, and getting harder all the time.

  2. So…how about folks outside of the Medieval?

  3. Speaking as a conservative, there’s something attractive about dragging the world back to the 18th century…

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