Despite our image of medieval people living in a world of superstition, abject terror, and haunting Gregorian chants, there was also a surprising amount of nonbelief. Peter of Cornwall, prior of Holy Trinity, Aldgate, complained in 1200: ‘There are many people who do not believe that God exists, nor do they think that the human soul lives on after the death of the body. They consider that the universe has always been as it is now and is ruled by chance rather than providence.’
— Ed West, 1215 and All That: Magna Carta and King John
Asides like this make me smile. Not because, to use the empty-headed cant term, I’m looking for “representation” of my Epicurean perspective in historical works. I just like it when the abstraction of historical narrative gives way enough for us to catch a glimpse of the singular people who populated the past, unaware and unconcerned with how difficult they might be making things for future historians.