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The Last Knight - Does History Repeat Itself?

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Ryan Tabor

Mrs. Rigney

History 104

November 21, 2017

“The Last Knight”; does history repeat itself?

        The middle ages could be defined as a time of hierarchy. Lords and ladies ruled over vast swathes of land, known as manors, and have people work for them. The aristocracy had lavish feasts and parties and dressed in extravagant clothes as the lower classes were unable to afford or even access such luxuries. Fast forward to modern day, and we see a drastically different civilization. Travel time has been reduced to hours, if not minutes thanks to aviation technology and cars. Stone and steel skyscrapers dominate the skyline of every major city around the globe. Indoor plumbing is commonplace in households and death by infectious disease has gone down tenfold. However, when we look past all that, we must ask ourselves; did we really change much?

The simple answer is that we have not. If we look at the media and daily life of the rich and the middle class/working poor, we’ll see that we honestly haven’t changed much. This is due to four self-evident factors; some members of the upper class today occasionally neglect and/or abuse the lower classes, often throw huge parties and celebrations, set a standard for high, lavish living, and they often have workers to work for them around the clock.

        One of the most prominent similarities between the aristocracy of the middle ages and the billionaires of today is the neglect and occasional abuse of the lower classes. On page 48 of Norman Cantor’s The Last Knight, it is mentioned that a noble family known as the Plantagenets had feelings for those inside their social group and family, but didn’t have sympathy for those of the lower class and working poor and that having feelings for the lower classes was simply out of their moral compass.  This is common in the world today. For instance, in 2015, Conrad Hilton, Paris Hilton’s brother, said that he was above the rest of the passengers on a plane he was on, even going so far as to call them peasants.

Another example would be, that at one of Kanye West’s concerts in Australia, he demanded that a person in a wheelchair stand up, even though they physically could not. Moments like these demonstrate that, much like aristocrats in the middle ages, some modern billionaires and people of high social status generally do not care for the well-being of the lower classes and think that they are lesser than themselves. However, it is not only the fans and the public who are mistreated, it is also the people who are working for them.

        In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a job as a bureaucrat served as an alternate lifestyle to that of “endless fighting and feasting” (Cantor 47). However, this did not mean that life was easy for them. Bureaucrats often had to work in cramped offices and work for hours upon hours each day, sometimes even the entire day; usually while the lord went off on trips to his vacation spots (Cantor 47).

This is reminiscent of modern jobs, such as office workers or secretaries who, like bureaucrats, work long hours only earning a modest income while the boss goes home or away on trips. With the economic hard spot we’re in today, working long hours for little pay is more common that we’d like to think. Unfortunately, this is not the only noticeable difference between the commoners and the millionaires. This difference is more cosmetic in nature.

        The third similarity between the medieval aristocrats and the modern billionaires is in how they dress. In The Last Knight, the author states that aristocratic families and individuals often had well-crafted clothing. Silks were imported from places like East Asia to be woven into gowns and coats. Jewelry was often sewn into the clothing (Cantor 72). This is pretty much parallel to the celebrities and billionaires today, who have their outfits tailored to their form and design specifications and are made from exotic cloths and dyes.

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