Historical Myths

Module Leader:
Andor Kelenhegyi
2019-2020 Spring
Arts and Humanities

Einstein failed in math! No no, he actually failed in physics! Even better: he failed in both math and physics! Have you ever heard this story, or shall we say: this legend? Can you recall any other incredible or funny stories about past events? What about Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake”? What about Pope Joan, the one and only female Pope, or that Spartans put disabled children on a mountain slope as a way of creating a strong society?

Common in all the above stories is that they are all fabrications, sometimes by contemporaries, sometimes by later generations. Interestingly, these fabrications are not only widely held and distributed in society, but occasionally also disseminated by professionals. Why do we fancy such stories? Why do we replace well-established scientific practices with stories like the above?

In this orientation level course, we will examine eight interesting, long-standing myths of history. We will analyse their claims and study historical sources to decide whether they fit our professional knowledge of the past. Through these eight myths of history, we will also discuss a variety of topics relevant for anyone dealing with the past in a professional manner (such as human relations to time and space, contemporary perspectives, objectivity, changing gender-roles etc.)

If you nurture even a fleeting interest in history or cultures of the past, you are more than welcome to participate on the journey this course entails!