Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives

Examining 8 different European medieval lifestyles

Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives is a 2004 Emmy award nominated television documentary series produced for the BBC.

Written and hosted by Terry Jones, each half-hour episode examines a particular range of Medieval personality, with the intent of separating myth from reality.

Episode 1: The Peasant

Episode 1: The Peasant

The stereotype of the medieval peasant is a toothless, filthy, ignorant wretch. Or were they? Terry Jones discovers that peasants were in fact literate, emancipated, highly political and legally savvy, house proud and healthy, and responsible for the peasants revolt of 1381.

Episode 2: The Monk

Episode 2: The Monk

Terry Jones examines the truth behind the medieval monastery. The ideal of giving up everything for a life of prayer and solitude was often undermined by monks’ ability to make money out of almost anything; from sheep, iron-smelting, and even prayer itself.

Episode 3: The Damsel

Episode 3: The Damsel

The modern image of medieval women is passive, shy, vulnerable and constantly in need of rescue. But the reality is very different. The damsels that Terry Jones discovers, ran businesses, led armies and, when they felt like it, even abducted the lovers of their choice.

Episode 4: The Minstrel

Episode 4: The Minstrel

Terry Jones investigates the truth about Minstrels, often seen as luvvies wandering the country to entertain the courts of lords and ladies with whimsical songs. But medieval showbiz could be a very risky business, often finding themselves involved in wars and politics.

Episode 5: The Knight

Episode 5: The Knight

Terry Jones examines the romantic notion of the Knight in Shining Armour had little interest in rescuing damsels in distress. They were far more interested in the fine arts of killing people, making money and becoming famous. Terry discovers some unsavoury truths.

Episode 6: The Philosopher (Alchemist)

Episode 6: The Philosopher

Terry Jones puts a different view on Medieval scientists, or philosophers as they were known. Not only did alchemists, physicians and engineers of the Middle Ages make key scientific discoveries but they also had an ethical approach to their work.

Episode 7: The Outlaw

Episode 7: The Outlaw

Were medieval outlaws really like Robin Hood and were the sheriffs evil and corrupt. The answer is no. Terry Jones discovers that Sheriffs were pen pushing bureaucrats and the biggest threat to law were the gangs of upper crust outlaws terrorising the country for the sole purpose of getting rich quick.

Episode 8: The King

Episode 8: The King

Terry Jones asks just how much we really know about our medieval kings. Using the three king Richards as a sample, he discovers that ‘Good’ King Richard the Lionheart was anything but, and discovers one ‘king’ who’s been deliberately airbrushed from history.

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Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives