All posts by shabbycheek


Discussion exercise

Make up four sentences about your leisure habits (at least one of them should be false [not true]). Use the following words/phrases

more often than not

every so often we

 most weeks we …

Most of the time

once in a while we ….

every now and then

 Verbs exercise

Choose five of the following verbs and use them to make up sentences about yourself:

  • stop
  • avoid
  • persuade
  • remember
  • refuse
  • try
  • help
  • end up
  • hope
  • encourage
  • pretend

The exercise is based on the ‘quick review’ on page 12 of Face2Face, Upper Intermediate.

 Agreeing and disagreeing exercise

Look at these sentences.

Are they ways of agreeing (A) or disagreeing (D)?

  1. I don’t know about that.
  2. 1 can’t really see the point of that.
  3. Oh, do you think so?
  4. 1 see what you mean.
  5. Oh, I wouldn’t say that.
  6. 1 see your point.
  7. 1 suppose that’s true, actually.
  8. You might be right there.
  9. That’s a good point.
  10. Well, I’m still not convinced.
  11. Well, I can’t argue with that.
  12. 1 suppose you’ve got a point there.

TIP! We often follow an agreement phrase with but to challenge the other person’s opinion: I see what you mean, but I think it’s much better to let them eat when they want.

Past tense exercises

Look at the underlined phrases. Tick the correct phrases. Change the incorrect ones.

  1. I used to go out with friends’ last night.
  2. I’m usually waking up at 7 a.m.
  3. I’d have pets when 1 was a child.
  4. Occasionally I’ll stay in at the weekends, but I normally go out.
  5. I’m always lose things.
  6. I didn’t use to watch as much TV as I do now.

Frequency exercise

Make 4 sentences using these words/phrases.

rarely                                  more often than not

              seldom                                  once in a while

occasionally                  most weeks


every now and again

Fill in the gaps with a preposition.

1 I’m excited … moving house.

2 I’m afraid we’re not satisfied …. the service.

3 I’m not aware …. Any problems.

4 We’re very fond …. dogs.

5 He was disappointed …. His results.

6 I’m impressed …. the food.

7 I’m sick ….. waiting for her.

8 They’re not sure ….. the colour.

9 Jon’s famous ….. being late.

10 I’m shocked ….. the price of houses.

11 She’s terrified ….. the dark.

12 He’s always been fascinated …. magic tricks.

Used to discussion

  1. Tell each other two sentences about someone you admire using be used to or get used to.
  2. Tell each other about something someone you despise will have to get used to in the future.
  3. Tell us about something your classmate wasn’t used to doing before, but is used to doing now.
  4. Tell each other about something you think your classmate could never get used to


Vacation talks

Tell us about some of the things you will be doing in the Winter vacation.

What are the pleasures of winter? What will you do?





Ta-Nehesi Coates The Case for Reparations A critical thinking reading

Ta-Nehesi Coates The Case for Reparations

A critical thinking reading


Coates argues that America owes African Americans a great reparation for slavery and its consequences.


Connections and comparisons (editor’s preface)

Germany, reparations to Jewish people 62 billion dollars (1998) + 1 billion (2013)

US Japanese Americans 2 billion

African Americans 0 billion.

Anchors his argument with two prefacing quotes. Why use Deuteronomy and John Locke and anonymous?

In the first part of his essay ‘So That’s Just One of My Losses’ Coates recounts the experiences of Clyde Ross. Clyde Ross was born in 1923, raised on his family’s farm in Mississippi, where they suffered Jim Crow laws and debt peonage, the state’s theft of their property and, consequently, were reduced to sharecropping. His father advised him to submit and not resist as resistance would result in being murdered. Clyde Ross left to join the army, fought for his country in WWII, and returned to Clarksdale Mississippi which remained a racist tyranny. He took art in the great migration moving North to Chicago in 1947, got a job as a soup taster, married, had children and enjoyed the relatively less racist social environment. In 1961, He bought a house in North Lawnsdale where the predominantly Jewish community, exceptionally, encouraged integration. The contract for the house was deliberately exploitative and designed to allow the lender to earn excessive profits from the buyer and then to use indebtedness to force him to release the asset back to the lender at a greatly devalued price. This was he only type of contract that Black Americans could access, as banks were not prepared to make normal loans for black buyers. Black American homeowners were then subject to redlining which marked their neighbourhoods as uninsurable and thereby ruined the value of the house, making the repayments on the loan for the house greatly exceed its value, and ruin their ability to escape from the debt trap by re-selling (as the house became near worthless, and the neighbourhood became a ghetto). Thus in the 1960s, 200 years after the end of slavery (1865) Americans were being locked out of the American Dream of homeownership by racist financing and government regulation. Clyde Ross joined other Black Americans in resisting this new form of exploitation and in 1968 the Contract Buyers League took the sellers to court seeking reparations for their losses (they lost the case in 1976).


Q1. Why recount the narrative of Clyde Ross at length (slightly more than 11 pages)? What does the narrative contribute to the author’s main argument? What myths relating to the American Dream might the author be challenging? Is his challenge effective?


In part II, ‘A Difference of Kind, Not Degree’, Coates explains the income asset and locational (segregation) inequalities suffered by Black residents of North Lawnsdale, Chicago and more generally, America. He suggests that these inequalities mean that the younger generation are effectively trapped in the ghetto.

He then briefly attacks another racialised myth relating to the American dream (inequality is the result of Black American culture and came be overcome better hard work and better behaviour).

In part III, ‘We Inherit Our Ample Patrimony’, Coates sketches a brief history of calls for reparation. The response to those calls, that Black Americans have already received sufficient benefit, by being taught to work, to speak English and worship Christ, has remained constant.

He discusses John Conyer Junior’s HR 40 Bill, which asks for a study of slavery and its ongoing effects and the creating of recommendations for remedies. Coates argues that the Bill has never been taken up tells us something about American democracy. It tells us that the historical memory is racialised, selectively recalling the positive legacies as effective in the present (we are democratic and maintain our creed) and downplaying the negative legacies (slavery and its effects are long finished with). Our privileges our imagined as holding no debt to past and ongoing racism).


In part IV “The Ills that Slavery Frees US From” Coates outlines the positive benefits that accrued and accrue from that negative racist legacy. Democracy, freedom, equality and wealth were built on the violent exploitation of African Americans, enabling white American business to enjoy the very cheap labour of slaves, and their value as commodities.


Coates uses the story of the Brown family’s separation to describe slavery as social murder (the murder of social selves, of family and wider relationships) in contrast to the freedom enjoyed by white Americans, arguing that the latter depended on the former. The price of white freedom was the murder of Black society.


In part V, the author argues that slaveowning was viewed as a foundational and aspirational part of American society (aspiration is basic to the American Dream) just like homeowning has been. He then argues that Black Americans have been ecluded from the American dream of homeownership throughout the periods in which Americans enjoyed state supported upward mobility and more equitable access to the American dream.


In Part VI ‘Making the Second Ghetto’ Coates argues that Chicago has been and  remains one of America’s most  segregated cities and that the cause has been and continues to be racism and white self-interest. He returns to the story of Clyde Ross, who had to go to extraordinary lengths to make a measure of the American Dream possible for his family. Despite his efforts he couldn’t succeed on an equitable basis for lack of sufficient money (not because of lack of hard work or responsibility). Like him other Back Chicagoans might work very hard and still lose the homes to exploitative white financiars.

In part VII

Coates concludes by arguing that the wealth gap is the ongoing form of the racist exploitation of Black Americans that developed and continued from slavery, that America has been and is the destroyer not the nurturer of Black American families and that America must make historical amends, recognising the truth of the past and ongoing racist harm, and material reparations to remove the inequalities that trap Black American families in the ghettos. He calls for a healing that is both spiritual and material that recognises the origins of America not as the home of democracy and freedom for all, but of white democracy and freedom dependent on the oppression of African Americans. It is a stunted form of society that needs to mature to become a civilization.




Hong Kong Mammoth Peaceful Rally Sunday December 8

Hong Kong: mammoth rally marks six months of pro-democracy protests

Sea of protesters pour on to streets calling for elections and inquiry into police tactics



A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looks out over a sea of people marching in Hong Kong on Sunday.
A protester wearing a Guy Fawkes mask looks out over a sea of people marching in Hong Kong on Sunday. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Hong Kong in a mass show of support for an anti-government movement that shows no signs of flagging as it enters a seventh month.

The march on Sunday was mostly peaceful, in a rare break from the escalating violent scenes of recent weeks.

Chanting “Reclaim Hong Kong, Revolution of our time!”, a sea of protesters formed a two-mile-long human snake winding for blocks on Hong Kong Island, from the Causeway Bay shopping district to the Central business zone.

It was the first time in nearly four months that the march organiser, Civil Human Rights Front, had been given police permission for a mass demonstration. The organiser of million-strong marches in June estimated that 800,000 people participated in Sunday’s march. Police said 183,000 turned up.

Protesters march for human rights in Hong Kong

Protesters march for human rights in Hong Kong on Sunday. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Buoyed by the landslide victory of pro-democracy politicians in the district elections two weeks ago, protesters were in high spirits, and there was a relaxed, carnival-like atmosphere.

Some chanted “Five demands, not one less!”, referring to a set of as-yet-unfulfilled political demands, including democratic reforms and an independent investigation into police brutality.

Quick guide

What are the five demands of the Hong Kong protesters?

Others directed their hostility towards riot police officers who were standing guard, calling them “dogs” and chanting “Hong Kongers, revenge!”, while making obscene gestures at them. Violent confrontations between police and protesters in the past few months have resulted in mutual hostility.

Some protesters spray-painted anti-China graffiti on a Bank of China building while others attacked a pro-Beijing bank. A Starbucks cafe, run by a franchise company seen as pro-China, was also vandalised.

As darkness fell, tensions escalated as riot police and a large group of militant protesters confronted each other in Central, the end point of the protest route. Black-clad protesters occupied a major thoroughfare and got behind makeshift barricades built with plastic roadside barriers, umbrellas, metal sheets and bamboo poles. A box marked with the message “Do not kick, it may explode” was spotted on the road.

Pro-democracy protesters pack the streets of Hong Kong. Photograph: Jérôme Favre/EPA

Riot police officers pointed non-lethal shotguns at people gathered there and ordered them to leave. A water-cannon vehicle was standing by.

Police said protesters threw petrol bombs outside the high court and the court of final appeal and spray-painted the outside walls of the high court building, which “seriously challenged the spirit of the rule of law”. Local media reported that the message “Rule of law is dead” was emblazoned on the building.

Many protesters expressed anger that the Hong Kong authorities have ruled out further concessions despite the landslide victory of the pro-democracy camp in district elections, widely seen as a vote of no confidence in the government. The extradition bill that sparked the wave of protests was belatedly scrapped in September, and the Hong Kong leader, Carrie Lam, said no further concessions would be made, despite growing calls for an independent body to investigate police brutality.

“So long as there is no ‘one man one vote’, people cannot use civilised means of toppling an unqualified ruler,” said a 49-year-old teacher who was marching with his two children. “I don’t endorse violence, but I understand people’s frustration because they have lost faith in the rule of law.”

Riot police officers stand guard as pro-democracy protesters take part in the demonstrations. Photograph: Miguel Candela/EPA

“I want Hong Kong to return to the normal Hong Kong,” said 58-year-old Ming Lui. “If Hong Kong is to turn into China, I’d rather die. We won’t win, but I will fight till the end of my life.”

Joseph Cheng, a retired political scientist at the City University of Hong Kong, said the return of peaceful protesters on the streets indicated that ordinary Hong Kongers remained critical of the government, despite the recent violent clashes that drew criticism of militants.

“People are saying the government is responsible for all this,” he said.

Talking about The Immigrant


The opening scenes of the movie are set in New York harbour, where we first see the Statue of Liberty as the boat comes in.

The Immigrant’s American Dream

In American mythology, the U.S. is, as the national anthem puts it, “the land of the free / And the home of the brave!”

It’s a land in which in which all citizens are thought of as being equal and free. As Thomas Jefferson wrote

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

The American dream is encapsulated in the idea that every individual American should have an equal right to become her or his best self. Citizens have the right to try to realize their hopes.


Historically, a key element of the American myth of a land of hope and freedom is the idea that America gave welcome to the world’s migrants. For many foreigners, the idea of American freedom has been a magnet attracting them to migrate to the United States.

New York’s Statue of Liberty is a famous icon that represented welcome to the 19th century immigrants who later became American citizens.


For generations, America has served as a beacon of hope and freedom for those outside her borders, and as a land of limitless opportunity for those risking everything to seek a better life. (U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus).

Some would argue that the Congressman’s story of American welcome is a myth (i.e., it’s a lie). Chinese people might have thought that, historically. For example, just as America was welcoming masses of European migrants in the 19th and 2oth century, it enforced measures to exclude Chinese migrants, including most famously the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). So, the idea that all men were created equal didn’t include Chinese people (until 1943).

Just as the Statue of Liberty is an icon of the myth of welcome to the land of the free, New York’s Ellis island and San Francisco’s Angel island immigration prison are historical symbols of one of the gaps in American equality.


Let’s remind ourselves of the characters and then have some discussions.









Discussion 1.

  • What is The Immigrant about?
  • What happens (what is the story)?
  • What genre/s is/are used for this movie?


Discussion 2.

Eva and Magda escape poverty in Poland, after the first World War. They come to New York by boat and try to pass through the immigration process on Ellis island.

The immigration guards were going to detain Eva and return her to Europe because something happened on the boat journey that suggests she is a woman of low morals. Her uncle and aunt who live in New York have not come to collect them, so the immigration guards believe Eva has nowhere to stay and no legal way of supporting herself.

Eva’s sister Magda is detained in the Ellis Island hospital because her illness might be contagious. The only way to get her out is to pay a lot of money as a bribe.

Magda meets Bruno Weiss from the Travelers Aid Society who offers to help get her into New York. It turns out he runs burlesque shows and girls and makes extra money from selling booze (alcohol). Bruno gives Eva food and board and work, but the work is prostitution.

The questions:

  • Eva becomes a prostitute. Hao bu hao? Why/why not?
  • If Magda was your sister, what would you do?


Discussion 3.

At the end of the movie Bruno takes Eva back to Ellis island. Eva talks with Bruno before she rescues Magda by paying a bribe with the money her aunt gave her.

Bruno tells all her all the bad things he did to her and says, ‘forget about me, I’m nothing’. He refuses to go with them to California. Eva tells him he’s not nothing and kisses his hands.

What did he do to or for Eva? Was he right or wrong to do so? Who is right? Is Bruno, as he says, “worth nothing”?


Discussion 4.

The Immigrant is about the American Dream, the dream that American is a land of opportunity and freedom for immigrants. The statue of Liberty in the first images of the movie are a symbol of that dream, and Orland/Emile tells the immigrants on Ellis island to keep believing in their dream.

In recent years, political talk about migrants has made the American Dream for migrants seem to be ‘fake news’.


Making American Great Again: some strands of Trump’s political discourse


“When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” (Trump, 2016).

Trump, Muslims

During a discussion about migrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa, Trump fumed: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”


The question:

Trump’s views on immigrants. Hao bu hao? Wei shenme?



Lesson 7. The American Dream, Class, Race and Immigration (over two weeks).

Nimen Hao,

for this (two week) lesson we are doing two things.

First, you worked on an exercise on the Robert Putnam readings.

I will give some feedback and guidance, and talk about the critical thinking in another inequality reading.

Then I will tell you a little more about the American Dream, this time from the perspective of the immigrants and Black Americans who may or may not see American as a land of welcome and opportunity.

Inequality and the American Dream (continued)

Reading Putnam group exercise.

Finish reading Robert Putnam’s chapter. Summarize the reading.

1. What are his main themes, what is he saying, how does he say it?

2. Consult the list of critical thinking standards. What aspects of critical thinking does his passage meet?. Be specific and show how he meets the standards.

3. Briefly comment on whether you found the questions in this exercise difficult or easy. If difficult, say why.

Write your group’s result on a piece of paper. Put your student numbers, Chinese and pinyin names, as well as English names if you have them.

Inequality Homework.

To think further about inequality and the American Dream you may read “Class in America” by Gregory Matsios from Rereading America (665-697). Pay careful attention to the aspects/standards of critical thinking the author employs.

Revising the Readings

OK, let’s do some revision on the critical thinking  in the Putnam and Matsios readings together.

First, the Putnam reading and your summaries.

In the exercise last week I asked you to answer three questions, the first of which was:

1. What are his main themes, what is he saying, how does he say it?

We could start with the first part of that question. We might want to put it into other words (to suit our way of thinking and explaining). For example, we could ask ourselves:

  • What is the heart of the matter?
  • What is the most significant idea in Putnam’s reading?
  • ‘What is Putnam basically saying’?

We could do that with many readings right? What is the author the basically saying?  What is her main point? What is the heart [or crux] of the matter?

Tip1: When reading critically, it is a good idea to read the introduction and the conclusion first (before reading the whole thing). We can often find the author’s main ideas in the introduction and conclusion.

Application for our own writing.

And we could keep this questioning in mind for our own writing. What am I basically saying? What is my main point/my main idea? Have I clearly stated it/them in the introduction and conclusion?

Putnam’s main idea: your explanations.

For the Putnam reading, one of your groups started with this point, and correctly identified it:

The American Dream was much more possible in the 1950s than it is nowadays”.

Then some of you correctly identified how Putnam refined (further defined, elaborated) his main points in two key ways:

1. The change has been a great decrease in absolute and relative social mobility. The second of these is particularly important in terms of his theme of equality: low relative inequality means little opportunity to pursue the American Dream of upward social mobility.

2. Although there are some limits in terms of racial and gendered equality of opportunity, the major obstacle is class difference. Nowadays, poor people have much less opportunity for pursuing their American Dream than did poor people in the 1950s.

Once we have included Putnam’s elaborations of his main point, we can restate it (re-summarize) more precisely:

Putnam is measuring and analyzing changes in equality of opportunity and he suggests that while racial and gender have improved,  class inequality has drastically worsened since the 1950s.

Tip 2: Reviewers often start their reviews by summarizing the main ideas/arguments/themes of a book. So you might choose to read a review or two to get an overview before reading an authors chapter/book.

Now let’s look at the second part of that question,

1. What are his main themes, what is he saying, how does he say it?

We could put this part of the question into other words (to suit our way of thinking and explaining):

  • How does he elaborate his main themes and ideas?
  • How does he make his argument?
  • How does he support his argument?

Several of you identified key aspects of the ‘how’ of Putnam’s chapter.

1. He takes a specific example (the people of Port Clinton), argues that the example is indicative of wider trends (it can be generalized from, it is not exceptional).

2. He compares and contrasts (1950’s Port Clinton, current Port Clinton).

3. He identities key aspects of his theme of equality (class, race, gender).

4. He uses a series of narrative examples to flesh out (elaborate) his themes (the stories of Don, Frank, Libby, Cheryl, and Jesse, in the 1950’s; the stories of Chelsea and Dave in current times).

5. He connects the specific findings of changing equality of opportunity in Port Lincoln with national trends, using credible statistic data.

6. He uses these comparisons and connections to support his propositions that class inequality has greatly increased in America,.

Critical thinking in Putnam’s chapter.

OK, let’s review our ideas about the use of critical thinking in Putnam’s passage.

Clarity: Putnam elaborates his points, giving examples and refining  his concepts. His examples illustrate his ideas about changing equality of opportunity.

Accuracy: The examples are based on interviews and surveys; he also uses statistics. All of these can be checked and compared with other examples and statistics.

One way to check would be to compare and contrast with other locations (for example, Port Clinton and Brooklyn New York).

Another way would be to take other examples of equality and inequality from his themes. One that might be worth doing would be to cite 1950s generation equality stories and statistics for other black people. We could ask the critical question: are Jesse and Cheryl’s stories really typical of equality of opportunity for black people of that generation?

Precision: Putnam’s passage is specific, detailed and exact.

Relevance: Putnam’s example of Port Lincoln is, he argues, indicative of broader trends in equality of opportunity. His historical comparison is well-fitted to his argument and helps the reader reflect on the main trends and particular aspects of the issue (fall equality of opportunity).

We could still question the relevance in some aspects.

  • Is it really reasonable to generalize from this one small town in the rust belt? Is Port Clinton really relevant to the wider themes of social mobility and equal opportunity?
  • Are the narratives he gives really indicative of the trends he identifies (supported by statistics)?
  • Are there other trends and examples that might change the way we can reasonably think about inequality of opportunity (for example, is race really less important than class)?

Depth: Putnam’s chapter achieves it’s depth by engaging with the complexity of the problem of growing inequality. The chapter does this through its historical comparison, well-elaborated examples, use of conceptual categories (class, gender, race; equality of distribution, equality of opportunity, absolute and relative social mobility), connecting of the particular to the general.

Note, the chapter is only an introduction to the book, so adequately judging how well Putnam deals with the complexity of the issue he discusses would have to wait until we read the whole book.

Breadth and fairness:

By examining equality from the point of view of people of different races, genders and classes, and engaging with them sympathetically (he thinks of them as ‘our kids’), Putnam gives quite a lot of breadth and fairness.

Other writers might take different approaches to the problem, and we would (again) need to read the whole book to see if Putnam gives room for other critical views.


The chapter makes sense. Putnam proceeds from stating his main idea to elaborating his examples and then generalizing by connecting to broader national trends. His historical comparison develops logically (1950s/present) and his concluding section summarizes well (as well as raising other theoretical/methodological issues more relevant for the rest of the book).


The American Dream is the key social myth for American society, and an important aspect of the dream of opportunity is that it should be equitable. So Putnam’s subject could be said to be highly significant for Americans (and anyone interested in America).

Whether a reader thinks  his wider argument about civil society is as significant as the problem he identifies might be more questionable (is community spirit or the lack of it. really the most significant issue? What about the political economy, neo-liberalism, racism?)

Points about your critical readings.

  • Some of you identified the main ideas and summarized them well. Others did not.
  • Some of you tried to summarize his ideas on the basis of just half the story (i.e., the 1950s/the present).
  • Some of you described what you had read thoroughly, others did not (for example, you only covered some of the examples, like the later comparison between David and Chelsea).
  • Some of you got side tracked by minor themes and missed the most important ones.

Identifying how Putnam meets the critical thinking standards

  • Some of you did well identifying how Putnam’s passage meets the standards.
  • However, some of you were not accurate enough and need some more familiarity with the standards and practice using them.
  • A few people said some of the categories seem to overlap, so let’s have a discussion about that (I’ll put them up on the board now).

“Class in America” by Gregory Matsios from Rereading America (665-697).

Let’s briefly reflect on the main ideas in this reading, and how the author makes his argument.

Matsios argues that the idea that class inequality is not important in North American society is a myth (in the rationalist sense, myth as a lie).

He identifies four forms of that myth and counters them with statistical evidence.

Matsios’s critical thinking is well structured.

I. Set’s up a proposition (his myth)

class distinctions are not relevant to U.S. society


Tells us he is going to show how its false (how we mistakenly hold a set of beliefs that obscure the reality of class differences and their impact on people’s lives).

2. Outlines the four aspects of the myth and forms questions to test them.

He tests them against some well-chosen (relevant) statistical evidence, uses some illustrative examples (Eiffel tower for wealth distribution, biographies of Harold, Bob and Cheryl)  and provides a series of summations (he calls them ‘realities’ 1-10) that counter the myths.

Myth a. We are a middle class nation.

Question: Are there significant class differences among Americans? If these differences do exist, are they getting bigger or smaller?

Myth b. Class doesn’t really matter in the United States.

Question: Do class differences have a significant impact on the way we live?

Myth c. We live in a land of upward mobility.

Question: How much upward mobility is there in the United States?

Myth d. Everyone has an equal chance to succeed.

Question: Does everyone in the United States really have an equal opportunity to succeed and an equal voice in our democracy?

3. Concludes by arguing that North America is highly inequitable in terms of class and that the American capitalist system involves ongoing class exploitation, in line with racial and gender discrimination

The article demonstrates good critical thinking including reasoning with evidence, a logical structure based on questioning, investigating, complexity (including depth and breadth), accuracy, specificity and precision.

The Immigrant’s American Dream.

Its time we begin to think critically about the immigrant’s “American Dream,” one expression of which is the song I want to live in America from the 1960s musical, West Side Story.

Founding myths again (1): the American Dream for immigrants

In American mythology, the U.S. is, as the national anthem puts it, “the land of the free / And the home of the brave!”

It’s a land in which in which all citizens are thought of as being equal and free. As Thomas Jefferson wrote

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  (Declaration of Independence, 1776).

The American dream is encapsulated in the idea that every individual American should have an equal right right to become her or his best self. Citizen’s have the right to try to realize their hopes.

Give Me Your Weak Quote Give Me Your Tired Your Poor Your Hudd Emma Lazarus Like

Historically, a key element of the American myth of a land of hope and freedom is the idea that America gave welcome to the world’s migrants. For many foreigners, the idea of American freedom has been a magnet attracting them to migrate to the United States.

New York’s Statue of Liberty is a famous icon that represented welcome to the 19th century immigrants who later became American citizens.


For generations, America has served as a beacon of hope and freedom for those outside her borders, and as a land of limitless opportunity for those risking everything to seek a better life. (U.S. Congressman Spencer Bachus).

Some would argue that the Congressman’s story of American welcome is a myth (in the rationalist sense, i.e., its a lie). Chinese people might have thought that, historically. For example, just as America was welcoming masses of European migrants in the 19th century, it designed measures to exclude Chinese migrants, including most famously the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). So the idea that all men were created equal didn’t include Chinese people (until 1943).

Just as the Statue of Liberty is an icon of the myth of welcome to the land of the free, San Fransisco’s Angel island immigration prison is a historical symbol of one of the gaps in American equality.

Chines women in an immigration holding cage, Angel island.

In recent years, political talk about migrants has made the American Dream for migrants seem mythical (in the rational sense, i.e., a lie).


Making American Great Again: some strands of Trump’s political discourse


  • “When Mexico sends it people, they’re not sending their best. … They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people” (Trump, 2016).
  • Trump blames undocumented (Mexican) immigrants for “the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or their loved one”.
  • At rallies and in TV interviews, Trump charged that Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born federal judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case, was incorrigibly biased against him because “we’re building a wall. He’s a Mexican.”

Trump, Muslims

The American Dream and racism

Background: Slavery in the U.S.

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Slavery was based on racism “the division of people in a “race system”( like Apartheid) where certain races are biologically subordinated others. For the dominant race, the purpose was economic.

A slave was treated as a legal form of property and could be bought, sold, or given away like other personal property. Like a horse, a capable slave could be worked or bred.

Slavery had been practiced in British America from early colonial days, and was legal in all Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and their revolutionary colleagues in the Congress of 1776 grounded the new nation’s independence on the declaration “that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

It lasted in about half the states until 1865, when it was prohibited nationally by the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

That’s known as emancipation (freedom from slavery).

That amendment meant that slavery could only be practiced as punishment for a crime. What actually happened was that, in the Southern American states at least, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing. Large numbers of African Americans were defined as criminal in some way, and the southern economy was thereby, in practice, able to reneslave them.

] During and immediately following the Revolutionary War, abolitionist laws were passed in most Northern states and a movement developed to abolish slavery. Northern states depended on free labor and all had abolished slavery in some way by 1805 (some Northern states adopted immediate emancipation, and others had gradual systems of abolition). The rapid expansion of the cotton industry in the Deep South after the invention of the cotton gin greatly increased demand for slave labor to pick cotton when it all ripened at once, and the Southern states continued as slave societies. By 1850, the newly rich cotton-growing South was threatening to secede from the Union, and tensions continued to rise.

When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a platform of halting the expansion of slavery, seven states broke away to form the Confederacy. Due to Union measures such as the Confiscation Acts and Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the war effectively ended slavery, even before ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865.


Contemporary Racial inequality in the U.S.

According to a Census Bureau Current Population survey, for every $100 in income earned by white families, black families earn only $57.30, and for every $100 of wealth held by white families, black families have only $5.04.

African-American communities suffer entrenched and ongoing disadvantages in education, health, housing, labour, income and criminal justice.  (Krivo and Peterson, 2010).

Black Americans are far more likely than white people to be stopped, frisked, arrested, jailed, shot and executed by the state, while the racial gaps in unemployment are the same as 40 years ago, the racial disparity in wealth and income is worse than 50 years ago. They have the right to eat in any restaurant they wish; the trouble is, many can’t afford what’s on the menu.

(Gary Younge, “Remember this about Donald Trump. He knows the depths of American bigotry”, The Guardian, 2017/09/26).

25 per cent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Yet the U.S has just 5 per cent of the world’s population.

Today the prison population is more than 2 million. The majority of those imprisoned are African Americans, but African Americans are a minority of all Americans.

Criminal courts sentence black defendants more harshly than white defendants. Many black defendants accept a plea (plea guilty) because they cannot afford competent legal representation.

US leads world in fatal police shootings


Fact: In the first 24 days of 2015, police in the US fatally shot more people than police did in England and Wales, combined, over the past 24 years.

Behind the numbers: According to The Counted, the Guardian’s special project to track every police killing this year, there were 59 fatal police shootings in the US for the days between 1 January and 24 January.

According to data collected by the UK advocacy group Inquest, there have been 55 fatal police shootings – total – in England and Wales from 1990 to 2014.

The US population is roughly six times that of England and Wales. According to the World Bank, the US has a per capita intentional homicide rate five times that of the UK.

Police shooting victims disproportionately black

Young black males in recent years were at a far greater risk of being shot dead by police than their white counterparts – 21 times greater i, according to a ProPublica analysis of federally collected data on fatal police shootings.

The 1,217 deadly police shootings from 2010 to 2012 captured in the federal data show that blacks, age 15 to 19, were killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while just 1.47 per million white males in that age range died at the hands of police.

Who is killing all those black men and boys?

Mostly white officers. But in hundreds of instances, black officers, too. Black officers account for a little more than 10 percent of all fatal police shootings. Of those they kill, though, 78 percent were black.

What were the circumstances surrounding all these fatal encounters?

There were 151 instances in which police noted that teens they had shot dead had been fleeing or resisting arrest at the time of the encounter. 67 percent of those killed in such circumstances were black.

There were many deadly shooting where the circumstances were listed as “undetermined.” 77 percent of those killed in such instances were black.

Data show From 2005 to 2009, “officer under attack” was cited in 62 percent xxxvii of police killings.

Black Lives Matters

BLM is a protest movement against police brutality, including the unlawful police killing of black people.


Some protesters draw historical parrallels with current murders by police and historical abuses. A famous and typical case was the murder of Emmett Louis Till (July 25, 1941 – August 28, 1955). Emmet was a 14-year-old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after being accused of offending a white woman in her family’s grocery store. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans in the United States. Till posthumously became an icon of the Civil Rights Movement.[1]

The American Dream in sport and advertising (again, this time in relation to racism)

Let’s have another look at some contemporary sports advertising and film as discussion texts to think about the American dream in some of its current forms.

We looked at Colin Kaepernick, Quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers. Nike chose him as the face of their Just Do It advertising campaign.


Have another look at this recent Nike commercial starring the footballer.

We talked about Nike’s Just Do It campaign in relation to the American dream.

  • Described the representations in the commercial: what happens.
  • We described who the actors are and what do they do.
  • We talked about the messages being communicated and how do they relate to the American dream?

Actually, Nike’s commercial is deliberately controversial in its choice of Colin Kaepernick, as he is famous not just for being a great footballer, but for the being one of the leaders of the Bend the Knee campaign in American football, which is strongly linked to the Black Lives Matter campaign.

We’re going to talk about how these three things, the American Dream, Bend the Knee and Black Lives Matter are connected.

Black Lives Matter and the Bend the Knee Campaign: confronting racial inequality and police brutality

Let’s watch a short video giving a little about social context. What is “bending a knee”? Why are Colin Kaepernick (and many others) doing it?

What are the links between Bend the Knee and Black Lives Matter?

Well the Black Lives Matter campaign is all about police brutality (including shootings) of black people in the US.

Let’s watch a fictional representation to get an idea of the sorts of events that people are protesting about (Clip, The Hate U Give).

  • Black Lives Matters = campaign against police brutality (against Black Americans)
  • Bend the Knee = sporting protest; sportswomen and spectators stand for the national anthem at sports events; the campaigners kneel down instead to protest against discrimination against Black Americans (especially police brutality).

Kaepernick, in the interview above, goes on to say that ‘cops are getting paid leave for killing people… that’s not right by anyone’s standards’.

Let’s watch one more video to help us think about the relationships between the American dream, Nike’s Just Do It advertising campaign and the two anti-racist campaigns. This one discusses some of the reaction to Nike’s decision to use the spokesman of the Bend the Knee campaign as the face of its Just Do It campaign.

Trump’s view on Kaepernick’s Bend the Knee Protest:

  • I think it’s a terrible thing, and you know, maybe he should find a country that works better for him, let him try, it’s not gonna happen.”

Class Discussion.  (in your small groups then together)

Plan a group essay.

  • What do you think?
  • Is Colin Kaepernick right to bend the knee? Or, is his protest unpatriotic?
  • Is the meritocratic American Dream (of equal opportunity for all) damaged by racism, or are criminalized Black Americans responsible for their own situation? Could they succeed through hard work and talent?
  • Do you have any other critical reflections on the American Dream, race/racism and protest in America?
  • How will you make your argument/provide your analysis?
  • Use the critical thinking standards as a checklist and show how you can plan to make your work meet the requirements.


You should have started reading Ta-Nehesi Coates, Rereading America (1112-1162). Pay careful attention to the aspects/standards of critical thinking the author employs. The reading is quite long, so you can read it over two weeks (you need to have finished reading it by then).

ta-nehesi coates


Some exercises from F2F (chapter 2a)

Use the following percentages to fill in the gaps in the web page below.

25% 33% 50% 70%

So, what is good for me?

Many people are confused and worried about something that should be one of life’s greatest pleasures – eating. A recent survey done in the USA has shown that:

…. Of adults are confused by reports giving dietary advice.

…… believe that healthy eating means giving up food they enjoy.

…  feel guilty when they eat food they enjoy.

……. Don’t want the government to advise them on what sorts of food they should or shouldn’t eat.

Question: Do you think a similar survey in Tianjin would produce the same results?

Why or why not?

Look at these sentences. Which talk about repeated and typical behaviour? Which talks about a future action?

  1. Sometimes I’ll eat things I know are unhealthy.
  2. Tonight, I’ll probably have a burger.




Cassy: I resent the government telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat. And, urn, anyway, they keep changing their minds about what’s good and bad for you. You don’t know what to believe.

For example, I’m …we’re always hearing stuff about fat being bad for us. Er, it causes heart attacks and all that, but I heard on the radio only this morning that the French eat a high fat diet and they have fewer heart attacks than we do in America, so where, er, where does that leave us? As for me, well I don’t care

about how much fat I eat. Every day when I get home from work, I’ll have a coffee and half a packet of chocolate cookies. That’s a lot of fat. But, urn, I know what I like and I eat what I like. I’ve always been like that.

Tonight I’ll probably have a burger and fries for dinner -even more fat! And you know what? My mom’s always telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat, and the joke is, I never get ill and she’s ill all the time.


Ted: Most of the time I watch what I eat, but, er, sometimes I’ll eat things that I know are unhealthy like ice cream or pizza. But when I was a teenager I’d get up in the morning and go straight to the cookie jar. I used to be addicted to chocolate chip cookies -my mom used to hide them from me. And then I read a lot of books about health and nutrition, and I knew I had to change. One of the big killers is fat, so I’m always reading food labels to see what the fat content is. It drives my girlfriend crazy. And did you know that, er, Japanese people have far fewer heart attacks than Americans? That’s because they have a very low fat diet, you know, stuff like sushi, rice, that sort of thing. They don’t, er, they don’t add fat to anything, well, that’s what I heard anyway.

Listening and comprehension questions.

  1. What does Cassy say about French and American eating habits?
  2. Has Cassy’s attitude to food every changed?
  3. Who is healthier? Cassy or her mother?
  4. Does Ted ever eat things that are unhealthy?
  5. Why does he check food labels all the time?
  6. What does he say about Japanese and American eating habits?
  7. Whose attitude to food is most like yours? Cassy’s or Ted’s?

Look at the photos and work out who says the sentences below (Cassyy/Ted).

  1. Everyday when I get home from work, I’ll have a coffee and half a packet of chocolate cookies.
  2. I know what I like, and I eat what I like.
  3. My mum’s always telling me what I should and shouldn’t eat.
  4. But when I was a teenager I’d get up in the morning and go straight to the cookie jar.
  5. I used to be addicted to chocolate chip cookies – my mum used to hide them from me.
  6. And then I read a lot of books about health and nutrition, and I knew I had to change.

Look at the verb forms in bold in sentences 4-6 above. Complete these rules with Past Simple, would + infinitive or used to + infinitive.

We use the ………….. and ……………… talk about past habits, repeated actions and states.

We can use  …………………..   to talk about past habits and repeated actions. We don’t usually use this verb form with state verbs.

TIP. We don’t use used to or would + infinitive for something that only happened once: In 2003 1 gave up smoking, not in 2003 I used to give up smoking.

Look at these sentences. Are both verb forms possible? If not, choose the correct one.

  1. Last night I’d have/I had two burgers for dinner and I used to feel/I felt a bit sick afterwards.
  2. I rarely drink coffee now, but at one time it’d be/it used to be my favourite drink.
  3. I seldom pay attention to government reports about food because they’d change/they’re always changing their advice.
  4. I walk/I’ll walk to work just for the exercise and I frequently go/am going to the gym.
  5. Occasionally I eat/I’ll eat vegetables, not only because I’ll know/I know they’re good for me.
  6. I always worry/I’m always worrying about my diet.
  7. Once I used to try/tried not adding salt to my food. It tasted awful.
  8. When I was younger, I didn’t used to like/wouldn’t like


Fill in the gaps with the correct form of the verbs in brackets.

Before we (get) … married, Kath and I …. (live) in Boston. Then in 1966 we (move) …. To New York, where we (have) …. A small apartment. Back then, more often than not we (stay) …. at home in the evening because we … (not have) much money. Our son Ted says that I (always go on) …. About how poor we (be) … then, but it’s true. For example, every so often we (buy) …. Ted a burger as a treat, but Kath and I …. (never eat) out. But now that we … (have) more money we (go) …. To restaurants quite a lot. In fact, most weeks we … (eat) out at least twice. Most of the time we …. (go) to local restaurants, but once in a while we …. (drive) up to Boston and go to one of our favourite restaurants there. I really …. (love) Boston and every now and then I …. (think) about moving back there, but Kath …. (always tell) me that’s unrealistic.

Vocabulary (expressing frequency)

  1. Put the words/phrases in bold in the sentences above into these groups:

Lower frequency:

Higher frequency:

Discussion exercise

Make up four sentences about your eating habits (at least one of them should be false [not true]). Use the words/phrases we just listed in (a) [lower/higher frequency].

The European Late Middle Ages: towards Renaissance

In the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, European society developed many aspects of social development. It developed territorial states, parliaments, capitalist trade and industry, banks, cities, and vernacular literature.

The Catholic Church under the direction of the papacy reached its height  conflicted with the state, and led the disastrous Crusades in which a Christian west was pitted against the Middle East and Islam.

Fourteenth-century European crises led to the disintegration of medieval socities. However, new ideas and practices were emerging and the pace of change was quickening. The rebirth of Classical culture that some historians have called the Renaissance had begun.

Developing complex European society

During the High Middle Ages, European society was dominated by a landed aristocracy whose primary function was to fight. The nobles rationalized their warlike attitudes by calling themselves the defenders of Christian society, continued to dominate the medieval world politically, economically, and socially.

Over time medieval kings began to exert a centralizing authority and inaugurated the process of developing new kinds of monarchical states. By the thirteenth century, European monarchs were solidifying  the machinery of government that would enable them to become the centers of political authority in Europe. The actions of these medieval monarchs laid the foundation for the European kingdoms that have dominated the European political scene ever since.

The power of both nobles and kings, however, was often overshadowed by the authority of the Catholic Church

The High Middle Ages also witnessed a spiritual renewal that led to numerous and even divergent paths:

  • The development of centralized administrative machinery expanded papal leadership both within the church and over European society
  • There were new dimensions to the religious life of the clergy and laity.

A wave of religious enthusiasm in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries led to the formation of new religious orders that worked to provide for the needs of the people, especially their concern for achieving salvation.

First of all, there was a tendency to stress the performance of good works, including acts of charity, as a means of ensuring salvation.

  • Bequests to hospitals and other charitable foundations increased.
  • Family chapels were established, served by priests whose primary responsibility was to say Mass for the good of the souls of deceased family members.
  • A growing emphasis on indulgences.
  • people sought to play a more active role in their own salvation.
  • Greater participation in pilgrimages (journeys to holy sites)
  • Popular mysticism (the immediate experience of oneness with God) and lay piety in the fourteenth century.

Meister Eckhart (1260–1327), sparked a mystical movement in western Germany. Eckhart was an educated Dominican theologian who preached that a union with God was attainable by all (including the uneducated) who pursued it wholeheartedly.

Eckhart’s movement spread from Germany into the Low Countries, where it took on a new form, called the Modern Devotion, founded by Gerard Groote (GROH-tuh) (1340–1384). His messages were that to achieve true spiritual communion with God, people must imitate Jesus and lead lives dedicated to serving the needs of their fellow human beings His followers came to be known as the Brothers and Sisters of the Common Life, spreading through Germany, Netherlands.

A number of female mystics had their own unique spiritual experiences. For them, fasting and receiving the Eucharist (the communion wafer that, according to Roman Catholic doctrine, contains the body of Jesus) became the mainstay of their religious practices. Catherine of Siena, for example, gave up eating any solid food at the age of twenty-three and thereafter lived only on cold water and herbs that she sucked and then spat out.


But as Dissent from church teaching and practices grew, a climate of fear and intolerance developed as the church responded with inquisitorial procedures to enforce conformity to its teachings. this small beginning, a movement developed that spread

Changes in Theology

The fourteenth century presented challenges not only to the institutional church but also to its theological framework. In the thirteenth century,

Thomas Aquinas’s grand synthesis of faith and reason was not widely accepted outside his own Dominican order.


The philosopher William of Occam (1285– 1329) posited that the truths of religion could only be known by an act of faith and were not demonstrable by reason. The acceptance of Occam’s nominalist philosophy at the University of Paris brought an element of uncertainty to late medieval theology by seriously weakening the synthesis of faith and reason that had characterized the theological thought of the High Middle Ages. At the same time, Occam’s emphasis on using reason to analyze the observable phenomena of the world had an important impact on the development of physical science by creating support for rational and scientific analysis.

The Middle Ages spiritual renewal also gave rise to the crusading ‘‘holy warrior’’ who killed for God.

Byzantine Decline, renewal and the road to the Crusades

After the Macedonian dynasty was extinguished in 1056, the empire was beset by internal struggles for power between ambitious military leaders and aristocratic families who attempted to buy the support of the great landowners of Anatolia by allowing them greater control over their peasants. This policy was self-destructive, however, because the peasant-warrior was the traditional backbone of the Byzantine state.

The Byzantine Empire faced external threats to its security as well. The greatest challenge came from the Seljuk Turks who had moved into Asia Minor—the heartland of the empire and its main source of food and manpower. After defeating the Byzantine forces at Manzikert in 1071, the Turks advanced into Anatolia, where many peasants, already disgusted by their exploitation at the hands of Byzantine landowners, readily accepted Turkish control.

The growing division between the Latin script Catholic Church of the West and the Greek  script Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Empire also weakened the Byzantine state. schismThe Eastern Orthodox Church was unwilling to accept the pope’s claim that he was the sole head of the church. This dispute reached a climax in 1054 when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius, head of the Byzantine church, formally excommunicated each other, initiating a schism between the two great branches of Christianity that has not been healed to this day.

The Comneni, under Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118), were victorious on the Greek Adriatic coast against the Normans, defeated the Pechenegs in the Balkans, and stopped the Turks in Anatolia. Lacking the resources to undertake additional campaigns against the Turks, Emperor Alexius I turned to the West for military assistance. The positive response to the emperor’s request led to the Crusades.

The Crusades

The Crusades were based on the idea of a holy war against the infidels or unbelievers. The wrath of Christians was directed against the Muslims and had already found some expression in the attempt to reconquer Spain from the Muslims and the success of the Normans in reclaiming Sicily.

At the end of the eleventh century, the Byzantine emperor, Alexius I, asked Pope Urban II (1088– 1099) for help against the Seljuk Turks. The pope saw an opportunity to provide papal leadership to rally the warriors of Europe for the liberation of Jerusalem and the Holy Land from the infidel (the Holy City of Jerusalem had long been the object of Christian pilgrimages.) At the Council of Clermont in southern France (1095), Urban challenged Christians to join in a holy war to recover the Holy Land.

The Peasant’s Crusade


The First Crusade was preceded by a ‘‘Peasants’ Crusade,’’ or ‘‘Crusade of the Poor,’’ Peter the Hermit, who preached of his visions of the Holy City of Jerusalem, convinced a large mob, most of them poor and many of them peasants, to undertake a Crusade to the east. They moved through the Balkans, terrorizing the natives and looting food and supplies. Their misplaced religious enthusiasm led to the persecution of the Jews, long depicted by the church as the murderers of Christ.

Two bands of peasant crusaders, led by Peter the Hermit, reached Constantinople. Emperor Alexius shipped them over to Asia Minor where the Turks massacred them.

The First Crusade 1096+

Pope Urban II drew on the warriors of western Europe, particularly France, for the first crusading armies. The knights (nobles) were motivated by religious fervor and opportunities for adventure (fighting), to gain territory, riches, status, possibly a title, and salvation—the pope offered a full remission of sins for those who participated.

For the pope and European monarchs, the Crusades offered a way to rid Europe of contentious young nobles who disturbed the peace and wasted lives and energy fighting each other. The Catholic Church had tried earlier with the ‘‘Peace of God’’ and ‘‘Truce of God’’ to limit the ongoing bloodletting in Europe, without much success.

Merchants in many Italian cities relished the prospect of new trading opportunities in Muslim lands.

In the First Crusade, begun in 1096, the crusading army probably numbered several thousand cavalry and as many as 10,000 foot soldiers. After the capture of Antioch in 1098, much of the crusading army reached Jerusalem in June 1099. After a five-week siege, the Holy City was taken amid a horrible massacre of the city’s men, women, and children (see Spielvogle, p. 295).

After further conquest of Palestinian lands, the crusaders ignored the wishes of the Byzantine emperor (who believed the crusaders were working on his behalf) and organized four crusader states (Edessa, Antioch, Tripoli, and Jerusalem). Because the crusader states were surrounded by Muslim enemies, they grew increasingly dependent on the Italian commercial cities for supplies from Europe. Some Italian cities , such as Genoa, Pisa, and especially Venice, became rich and powerful in the process.

The Second and Third Crusades

By the 1120s, the Muslims were striking back and the crusader states soon foundered. In 1144, Edessa became the first of the four Latin states to be recaptured. Its fall led to renewed calls for another Crusade, especially from the monastic firebrand Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, who gained the support of King Louis VII of France and Emperor Conrad III of Germany. Their Second Crusade proved to be a total failure.

In 1169, Sunni Muslims under the leadership of Saladin brought an end to the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt. Proclaiming himself sultan, Saladin succeeded in establishing his control over both Egypt and Syria and in 1187, Saladin’s army invaded the kingdom of Jerusalem and destroyed the Christian forces there.


Unlike the Christians of the First Crusade, Saladin did not permit a massacre of the civilian population and even tolerated Christian religious services in conquered territories. For some time, Christian occupation forces carried on trade with Muslim communities in the region.

In reaction to the fall of the Holy City of Jerusalem, Three European monarchs agreed to lead the Third Crusade: Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, King Richard I the Lionhearted of England (1189–1199), and Philip II Augustus, king of France. It was another failure. Barbarossa drowned while swimming in a local river. The English and French attacked by sea and met with success against the coastal cities, but were defeated when they moved inland. Philip retreated and, Richard negotiated a settlement whereby Saladin agreed to allow Christian pilgrims free access to Jerusalem.

The fourth crusade

Following Saladin’s death in 1193, Pope Innocent III initiated a Fourth Crusade, led by Venetians. On its way to the Holy Land, the crusading army became involved in a dispute over the succession to the Byzantine throne. The Venetians saw an opportunity to rid themselves of their greatest commercial competitor, the Byzantines. The crusaders sacked the great capital city in 1204 and created a new Latin Empire of Constantinople. It In 1261 the Byzantines ecaptured Constantinople. Their Empire had been saved, but it was no longer a great Mediterranean power, but comprised only the city of Constantinople, its surrounding territory, and as some lands in Asia Minor. Though reduced, the empire survived until the Ottoman Turks to conquer it in 1453.

The Children’s Crusade.


In Germany in 1212, a youth known as Nicholas of Cologne announced that God had inspired him to lead a Children’s Crusade to the Holy Land. Thousands of young people joined Nicholas and made their way down the Rhine and across the Alps to Italy, where the pope told them to go home. Most tried to do so.

The Fifth, Six, Seventh and Eight Crusades (fail).

The Fifth Crusade (1219– 1221) attempted to recover the Holy Land by way of the powerful Muslim state of Egypt. The Crusade achieved some early successes, but its ultimate failure marked an end to papal leadership of the western crusaders.

The Sixth Crusade was led by the German emperor Frederick II, took place without papal support because the emperor had been excommunicated by the pope. In 1228, Frederick entered Jerusalem and was crowned as its king without any battle as he had made an agreement with the sultan of Egypt. However the city soon fell to a group of Turks allied with the sultan of Egypt.

The last two major Crusades were poorly organized by the pious king of France, Louis IX. They were complete failures. Soon the remaining Christian possessions in the Middle East were retaken. Acre, the last foothold of the crusaders, surrendered in 1291.  The Crusades failed to capture and keep the Holy Land for the Christian West.

The Effects of the Crusades

European stability?

Some historians think the Crusades help stabilize European society by removing large numbers of young warriors who would have fought each other in Europe and believe that Western monarchs established their control more easily as a result.


Although there may have been some broadening of perspective that comes from the exchange between two cultures, the interaction of Christian Europe with the Muslim world was more intense and more meaningful in Spain and Sicily than in the Holy Land.


The Crusades contributed to the economic growth of the Italian port cities, especially Genoa, Pisa, and Venice (see also below). However, while the Crusades may have enhanced the revival of trade, but they did not cause it. Even without the Crusades, Italian merchants would have pursued new trade contacts with the eastern world.

Negative legacies

Some historians have argued that the Crusades might be considered a ‘‘Christian holy war’’ whose memories still trouble the relationship between the Muslim world and the West today.

Other historians argue that the early crusaders were motivated as much by economic and political reasons as religious ones.


The first widespread attacks on the Jews began with the Crusades. As some Christians argued, to undertake holy wars against infidel Muslims while the ‘‘murderers of Christ’’ ran free at home was unthinkable. With the crusades, the massacre of Jews became a regular feature of medieval European life.

Jewish people were massacred in Rhineland, in 1096;  expulsed from England, for example, in 1290 by order of Edward I, and had previously been required to wear badges identifying themselves as Jews.

In 1168 the accusation of ritual child murder was made among the Gloucester Jews and more were killed. The fabrication spread to Northern France in 1171, where the population of an entire Jewry at Blois was burned to death. Whenever a Christian child died accidentally or in some uncertain manner, the Jews were accused, in Bury St. Edmund in 1181, in Bristol 1183, in Winchester 1192, in London 1244 and in Lincoln in 1255, resulting in massacres of Jews each time. This Blood Libel which began in England would, over the next hundreds of years, spread to more than 150 other Jewries from the Rhineland to the Middle East, with great loss of Jewish life each time.

13-14th century crisis

The Papacy

The papacy of the Roman Catholic Church reached the height of its power in the thirteenth century and met its limit during the fourteenth.

The struggle between the papacy and the monarchies began during the pontificate of Pope Boniface VIII (1294–1303).

King Philip IV (1285–1314) of France, desired new revenues and claimed the right to tax the French clergy. Boniface VIII responded that the clergy of any state could not pay taxes to their secular ruler without the pope’s consent.

Underlying this issue was a basic conflict between the claims of the papacy to universal authority over both church and state, which necessitated complete control over the clergy, and the claims of the king that all subjects, including the clergy, were under the jurisdiction of the crown and subject to the king’s authority on matters of taxation and justice. In short, the fundamental issue was the universal sovereignty of the papacy versus the royal sovereignty of the monarch.

The confrontation between Pope Boniface VIII and Philip IV of France led to a loss of papal power and the removal of the papacy to Avignon on France’s border in 1305 from Rome.

In 1377, Pope Gregory XI returned to Rome. He died, in the spring of 1378. When the college of cardinals met, they elect the Italian archbishop of Bari as Pope Urban VI (1378–1389). Many of the cardinals (the French ones) withdrew from Rome, claiming that they had been coerced by the mob into electing Urban. The dissenting cardinals thereupon chose a Frenchman, who took the title of Pope Clement VII and returned to Avignon.

Since Urban remained in Rome, there were now two popes, initiating what has been called the Great Schism of the church. Europe’s loyalties soon became divided: France, Spain, Scotland, and southern Italy supported Clement, while England, Germany, Scandinavia, and most of Italy supported Urban. These divisions generally followed political lines and reflected the bitter division between the English and the French in the Hundred Years’ War.

The Great Schism lasted for nearly forty years and had a baleful effect on the Catholic Church and Christendom in general. A new conciliar movement based on the belief that church councils, not popes, should rule the church finally ended the Schism in 1417.

The Black Death


At mid-14th century, the Black Death, a devastating plague that wiped out at least one third of the European population, with even higher mortality rates in urban areas.

Social responses

  • Some people escaped into alcohol, sex, and crime.
  • Some, such as the flagellants, believing the Black Death to be a punishment from God, attempted to atone for people’s sins through self-inflicted pain. I
  • Jews were scapegoated in many areas, suffering discrimination and worse.


  • Economic crises including a decline in trade and industry, bank failures, and
  • Social upheavals, including peasant revolts pitting the lower classes against the upper classes.

The Hundred Years War (1353-1453)

The Hundred Years’ War, a long, drawn-out conflict between the English and the French.

Armored knights on horseback formed the backbone of medieval armies, but English peasants using the longbow began to change the face of war.

After many defeats, the French cause was saved by Joan of Arc, a young peasant woman whose leadership inspired the French, who also began to rely on cannon and were victorious by 1453.



The Italian City-States

Italy, fourteenth century. Papal opposition to the rule of the Hohenstaufen emperors in northern Italy. Lack of centralized authority had enabled numerous city-states in northern Italy to remain independent of any political authority.

The center of the peninsula remained under the rather shaky control of the papacy.

southern Italy was divided into the kingdom of Naples, ruled by the French house of Anjou, and Sicily, whose kings came from the Spanish house of Aragon.

Two general tendencies:

  • the replacement of republican governments by tyrants and
  •  the expansion of the larger city-states at the expense of the less powerful ones.

By the end of the fourteenth century, three major states came to dominate northern Italy: the despotic state of Milan and the republican states of Florence and Venice.

Duchy of Milan

Located in the fertile Po valley, at the intersection of the chief trade routes from Italian coastal cities to the Alpine passes, Milan was one of the richest city states in Italy.

The Visconti family established themselves as the hereditary despots of Milan in 1322. Giangaleazzo Visconti who ruled from 1385 to 1402, extended Milan’s power over all of Lombardy and even threatened to conquer much of northern Italy until the duke’s death before the gates of Florence in 1402.

Republic of Florence

Florence, like the other Italian towns, was initially a free commune dominated by a patrician class of nobles known as the grandi. But the rapid expansion of Florence’s economy made possible the development of a wealthy merchant-industrialist class known as the popolo grasso—literally the ‘‘fat people.’’

In 1293, the popolo grasso assumed a dominant role in government by establishing a new constitution known as the Ordinances of Justice. It provided for a republican government controlled by the seven major guilds of the city, which represented the interests of the wealthier classes. Executive power was vested in the hands of a council of elected priors.

Around the mid-fourteenth century, revolutionary activity by the popolo minuto, the small shopkeepers and artisans, won them a share in the government. Even greater expansion occurred briefly when the ciompi, or industrial wool workers, were allowed to be represented in the government after their revolt in 1378. Only four years later, however, a counterrevolution brought the popolo grasso back to power. After 1382, the Florentine government was controlled by a small merchant oligarchy that manipulated the supposedly republican government.

By that time, Florence had also been successful in a series of wars against its neighbors. It had conquered most of Tuscany and established itself as a major territorial state in northern Italy.

Republic of Venice



The republic of Venice, on the north eastern coast, had grown rich from commercial activity throughout the eastern Mediterranean and into northern Europe.The Venetians took to piracy and derived some of the early wealth from attacking Islamic trading ships in the Adriatic sea.

Venice also developed a trading fleet and by the end of the tenth century had become the main western trading center for Byzantine and Islamic commerce. It sent wine, grain, and timber to Constantinople in exchange for silk.

By 1100, Venetian merchants began to benefit from the Crusades and were able to establish new trading centers in eastern ports. There the merchants obtained silks, sugar, and spices, which they carried back to Italy and the West.

A large number of Venetian merchant families became extremely wealthy. In 1297, these patricians took control of the republic. In this year, the Great Council, the source of all political power, was closed to all but the members of about two hundred families. Since all other magistrates of the city were chosen either from or by this council, these families completely dominated the city.

Although the doge (or duke) had been the executive head of the republic since the Early Middle Ages, by 1300 he had become largely a figurehead. Actual power was vested in the hands of the Great Council and the legislative body known as the Senate, and the Council of Ten (formed in 1310) came to be the real executive power of the state. The Venetian government was respected by contemporaries for its stability.

In the fourteenth century, Venice also embarked on a policy of expansion. By the end of the century, it had created a commercial empire by establishing colonies and trading posts in the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea as well as continuing its commercial monopolies in the Byzantine Empire. Along with Italian merchants from other cities with ttrading posts in Cairo, Damascus,and a number of Black Sea ports,  they acquired goods brought by Muslim merchants from India, China, and Southeast Asia. Some journeyed to India and China in
search of trade.

At the same time, Venice also began to conquer the territory adjoining it in northern Italy.

Medieval Culture

Much of the art of the period depicted the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse described in the New Testament Book of Revelation: Death, Famine, Pestilence, and War. to some people, the last days of the world appeared to be at hand. the ‘‘fat people’’ back into virtual control of the government.

In art, the period also produced Giotto, whose paintings expressed a new realism that would be developed further by the artists of the next century.

Latin remained the language of the church liturgy and the official documents of both church and state throughout Europe, the fourteenth century witnessed the rapid growth of vernacular literature, especially in Italy. The development of an Italian vernacular literature was mostly the result of the efforts of three writers in the fourteenth century:

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

Their use of the Tuscan dialect common in Florence and its surrounding countryside ensured that it would prevail as the basis of the modern Italian language.

Dante Alighieri (DAHN-tay al-lih-GAIR-ee) (1265– 1321) came from an old Florentine noble family that had fallen on hard times. Although he had held high political office in republican Florence, factional conflict led to his exile from the city in 1302. Until the end of his life, Dante hoped to return to his beloved Florence, but his wish remained unfulfilled.

Dante’s masterpiece in the Italian vernacular was the Divine Comedy, written between 1313 and 1321. Cast in a typical medieval framework, the Divine Comedy is basically the story of the soul’s progression to salvation, a fundamental medieval preoccupation. The lengthy poem was divided into three major sections corresponding to the realms of the afterworld: hell, purgatory, and heaven or paradise. In the ‘‘Inferno’’ (see the box on p. 323), Dante is led by his guide, the Classical author Virgil, who is a symbol of human reason. But Virgil (or reason) can lead the poet only so far on his journey. At the end of ‘‘Purgatory,’’ Beatrice (the true love of Dante’s life), who represents revelation—which alone can explain the mysteries of heaven—becomes his guide into ‘‘Paradise.’’ Here Beatrice presents Dante to Saint Bernard, a symbol of mystical contemplation. The saint turns Dante over to the Virgin Mary, since grace is necessary to achieve the final step of entering the presence of God, where one beholds ‘‘the love that moves the sun and the other stars.’’16

Petrarch Like Dante, Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch (1304–1374), was a Florentine who spent much of his life outside his native city. Petrarch’s role in the revival of the classics made him a seminal figure in the literary Italian Renaissance. His primary contribution to the development of the Italian vernacular was made in his sonnets. He is considered one of the greatest European lyric poets. His sonnets were inspired by his love for a married lady named Laura, whom he had met in 1327. Though honoring an idealized female figure was a long-standing medieval tradition, Laura was very human and not just an ideal. She was a real woman with whom Petrarch was involved for a long time. He poured forth his lamentations in sonnet after sonnet:

I am as tired of thinking as my thought

Is never tired to find itself in you,

And of not yet leaving this life that brought

Me the too heavy weight of signs and rue;

And because to describe your hair and face

And the fair eyes of which I always speak,

Language and sound have not become too weak

And day and night your name they still embrace.

And tired because my feet do not yet fail

After following you in every part,

Wasting so many steps without avail,

From whence derive the paper and the ink

That I have filled with you; if I should sink,

It is the fault of Love, not of my art.17

In analyzing every aspect of the unrequited lover’s feelings, Petrarch appeared less concerned to sing his lady’s praise than to immortalize his own thoughts. This interest in his own personality reveals a sense of individuality stronger than in any previous medieval literature.

Boccaccio Although he too wrote poetry, Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) is known primarily for his prose. Another Florentine, he also used the Tuscan dialect. While working for the Bardi banking house in Naples, he fell in love with a noble lady, and under her inspiration, he began to write prose romances. His best-known work, the Decameron, however, was not written until after he had returned to Florence. The Decameron is set at the time of the Black Death. Ten young people flee to a villa outside Florence to escape the plague and decide to while away the time by telling stories. Although the stories are not new and still reflect the acceptance of basic Christian values, Boccaccio does present the society of his time from a secular point of view. It is the seducer of women, not the knight or philosopher or pious monk, who is the real hero. Perhaps, as some historians have argued, the Decameron reflects the immediate easygoing, cynical post plague values.

Boccaccio’s later work certainly became gloomier and more pessimistic; as he grew older, he even rejected his earlier work as irrelevant. He commented in a 1373 letter, ‘‘I am certainly not pleased that you have allowed the illustrious women in your house to read my trifles. . . . You know how much in them is less than decent and opposed to modesty, how much stimulation to wanton lust, how many things that drive to lust even those most fortified against it.’’18


Another leading vernacular author was Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400), who brought a new level of sophistication to the English vernacular language. His beauty of expression and clear, forceful language were important in transforming his East Midland dialect into the chief ancestor of the modern English language.


The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories told by a group of twenty-nine pilgrims journeying from the London suburb of Southwark to the tomb of Saint Thomas a` Becket at Canterbury. This format gave Chaucer the chance to portray an entire range of English society, both high- and low-born. Among others, he presented the Knight, the Yeoman, the Prioress, the Monk, the Merchant, the Student, the Lawyer, the Carpenter, the Cook, the Doctor, the Plowman, and, ‘‘A Good Wife was there from beside the city of Bath—a little deaf, which was a pity.’’

The stories these pilgrims told to while away the time on the journey were just as varied as the storytellers themselves: knightly romances, fairy tales, saints’ lives, sophisticated satires, and crude anecdotes. Chaucer also used some of his characters to criticize the corruption of the church in the late medieval period. His portrayal of the Friar leaves show’s his disdain for the corrupt practices of clerics. Of the Friar, he says: He knew the taverns well in every town. The barmaids and innkeepers pleased his mind Better than beggars and lepers and their kind.19

And yet Chaucer was still a pious Christian, never doubting basic Christian doctrines and remaining optimistic that the church could be reformed.

Christine de Pizan (c. 1364–1430)

Because of her father’s position at the court of Charles V of France, she received a good education. Her husband died when she was only twenty-five (they had been married for ten years), leaving her with little income and three small children and her mother to support. Christine took the unusual step of becoming a writer in order to earn her living (see Spielvogel, p. 315). Her poems were soon in demand, and by 1400 she had achieved financial security.

City of Ladies on accusations of men quotepic

Christine de Pizan is best known, however, for her French prose works written in defense of women. In The Book of the City of Ladies, written in 1404, she denounced the many male writers who had argued that women needed to be controlled by men because women by their very nature were prone to evil, unable to learn, and easily swayed. With the help of Reason, Righteousness, and Justice, who appear to her in a vision, Christine refutes these antifeminist attacks. Women, she argues, are not evil by nature, and they could learn as well as men if they were permitted to attend the same schools:

‘Should I also tell you whether a woman’s nature is clever and quick enough to learn speculative sciences as well as to discover them, and likewise the manual arts. I assure you that women are equally well-suited and skilled to carry them out and to put them to sophisticated use once they have learned them.’’20

Much of the book includes a detailed discussion of women from the past and present who have distinguished themselves as leaders, warriors, wives, mothers, and martyrs

for their religious faith. She ends by encouraging women to defend themselves against the attacks of men, who are incapable of understanding them.

A New Art: Giotto

The fourteenth century produced an artistic outburst in new directions as well as a large body of morbid work influenced by the Black Death and the recurrences of the plague.

The city of Florence witnessed the first dramatic break with medieval tradition in the work of Giotto (JOH-toh) (1266–1337), often considered a forerunner of Italian Renaissance painting.

Born into a peasant family, Giotto acquired his painting skills in a workshop in Florence. Although he worked throughout Italy, his most famous works were done in Padua and Florence.

Coming out of the formal Byzantine school, Giotto transcended it with a new kind of realism, a desire to imitate nature that Renaissance artists later identified as the basic component of Classical art.

St. Francis of Assisi Sermon to the Birds

Giotto’s figures were solid and rounded; placed realistically in relationship to each other and their background, they conveyed three-dimensional depth. The expressive faces and physically realistic bodies gave his sacred figures human qualities with which spectators could identify. Florentine painting in the early fifteenth century pursued even more dramatically the new direction his work represents.

Medieval Society

New inventions made an impact on daily life at the same time that the effects of the plague were felt in many areas of medieval urban life.

One immediate by-product of the Black Death was greater regulation of urban activities by town governments. Authorities tried to keep cities cleaner by enacting new ordinances against waste products in the streets. Viewed as unhealthy places, bathhouses were closed down, leading to a decline in personal cleanliness. Efforts at regulation also affected the practice of female prostitution.

Medieval society had tolerated prostitution as a lesser evil: it was better for males to frequent prostitutes than to seduce virgins or married women. Since many males in medieval towns married late, the demand for prostitutes was high and was met by a regular supply, derived no doubt from the need of many poor girls and women to survive. The recession of the fourteenth century probably increased the supply of prostitutes, while the new hedonism prevalent after the Black Death also increased demand.

As a result, cities intensified their regulation of prostitution. By organizing brothels, city authorities could supervise as well as tax prostitutes. Officials granted charters to citizens who were allowed to set up brothels, provided they were located only in certain areas of town. Prostitutes were also expected to wear special items of clothing—such as red hats— to distinguish them from other women. It was assumed that the regulation of prostitution made it easier to supervise and hence maintained public order.

Family Life and Gender Roles

The basic unit of the late medieval town was the nuclear family of husband, wife, and children. Especially in wealthier families, there might also be servants, apprentices, and other relatives, including widowed mothers and the husband’s illegitimate children.

Before the Black Death, late marriages were common for urban couples. It was not unusual for husbands to be in their late thirties or forties and wives in their early twenties. The expense of setting up a household probably necessitated the delay in marriage. But the situation changed dramatically after the plague, reflecting new economic opportunities for the survivors and a new reluctance to postpone living in the presence of so much death.

The economic difficulties of the fourteenth century also tended to strengthen the development of gender roles. Based on the authority of Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas and other scholastic theologians had advanced the belief that according to the natural order, men were active and domineering while women were passive and submissive. As more and more lawyers, doctors, and priests, who had been trained in universities where these notions were taught, entered society, these ideas about the different natures of men and women became widely accepted. This was evident in legal systems, many of which limited the legal capacity of women. Increasingly, women were expected to give up any active functions in society and remain subject to direction from males (see the box above). A fourteenth-century Parisian provost commented that among glass cutters, ‘‘no master’s widow who keeps working at his craft after her husband’s death may take on apprentices, for the men of the craft do not believe that a woman can master it well enough to teach a child to master it, for the craft is a very delicate one.’’21 Although this statement suggests that some women were, in fact, running businesses, it also reveals that they were viewed as incapable of undertaking all of men’s activities. Europeans in the fourteenth century imposed a division of labor roles between men and women that persisted until the Industrial Revolution.

In practice, however, some women in the fourteenth century benefited from the effects of the Black Death. The deaths of many male workers in cities opened up new jobs for women, such as metalworkers and stevedores. In cloth making, women were allowed to assume better-paying jobs as weavers. Brewing became an all-female profession by 1450.

Widows also occasionally carried on their husbands’ shops or businesses.

Medieval Children

Parents in the High and Later Middle Ages invested considerable resources and affection in rearing their children. The dramatic increase in specialized roles that accompanied the spread of commerce and the growth of cities demanded a commitment to educating children in the marketable skills needed for the new occupations. Philip of Navarre noted in the twelfth century that boys ought to be taught a trade ‘‘as soon as possible. Those who early become and long remain apprentices ought to be the best masters.’’22 Some cities provided schools to educating and training the young.

As a result of the devastating effects of the plague and its recurrences, these same communities became concerned about investing in the survival and health of children. A number of hospitals existed in both Florence and Rome in the fourteenth century, and in the 1420s and 1430s, hospitals were established that catered only to the needs of foundlings, supporting them until boys could be taught a trade and girls could marry.

New Directions in Medicine

The medical community comprised a number of functionaries. At the top of the medical hierarchy were the physicians, usually clergymen, who received their education in the universities, where they studied ancient authorities, such as Hippocrates and Galen. As a result, physicians were highly trained in theory but had little or no clinical practice. By the fourteenth century, they were educated in six chief medical schools—Salerno, Montpellier, Bologna, Oxford, Padua, and Paris. Paris was regarded as the most prestigious.

The pre-plague medicine of university-trained physicians was theoretically grounded in the Classical Greek theory of the ‘‘four humors,’’ each connected to a particular organ:

  • blood (from the heart),
  • phlegm (from the brain),
  • yellow bile (from the liver),
  • and black bile (from the spleen).

Because the four humors corresponded in turn to the four elemental qualities of the universe—air (blood), water (phlegm), fire (yellow bile), and earth (black bile)—a human being was considered a microcosm of the cosmos. Good health resulted from a perfect balance of the four humors; sickness meant that the humors were out of balance. The task of the medieval physician was to restore proper order through a number of remedies, such as rest, diet, herbal medicines, or bloodletting.

Beneath the physicians in the hierarchy of the medical profession stood the surgeons, whose activities included performing operations, setting broken bones, and bleeding patients.

Their knowledge was based largely on practical experience.

Below surgeons were midwives, who delivered babies, and barber-surgeons, who were less trained than surgeons and performed menial tasks such as bloodletting and setting simple bone fractures. Barber-surgeons supplemented their income by shaving and cutting hair and pulling teeth.

Apothecaries also constituted part of the medical establishment. They filled herbal prescriptions recommended by physicians and also prescribed drugs on their own authority.

All of these medical practitioners proved unable to deal with the plague. When King Philip VI of France requested the opinion of the medical faculty of the University of Paris on the plague, their advice proved worthless. This failure to understand the Black Death produced a crisis in medieval medicine that resulted in some new approaches to health care.

One result was the rise of surgeons to greater prominence because of their practical knowledge. Surgeons were now recruited by universities, which placed them on an equal level with physicians and introduced a greater emphasis on practical anatomy into the university curriculum. Connected to this was a burgeoning of medical textbooks, often written in the vernacular and stressing practical, how-to approaches to medical and surgical problems.

Finally, as a result of the plague, cities, especially in Italy, gave increased attention to public health and sanitation. Public health laws were instituted, and municipal boards of health came into being. The primary concern of the latter was to prevent plague, but gradually they came to control almost every aspect of health and sanitation. Boards of public health, consisting of medical practitioners and public officials, were empowered to enforce sanitary conditions, report on and attempt to isolate epidemics by quarantine (rarely successful), and regulate the activities of doctors.

Inventions and New Patterns

The technological innovations that had characterized the High Middle Ages continued through to the 14th century.

The Clock

The mechanical clock was invented at the end of the thirteenth century but not perfected until the fourteenth. Some historians believe it was actually invented in Song dynasty China, and that the technology gradually made its way westwards.

The European time-telling clock was a by-product of a larger astronomical clock. The best-designed one was constructed by Giovanni di Dondi in the mid-fourteenth century. Dondi’s clock contained the signs of the zodiac but also struck on the hour. Since clocks were expensive, they were usually installed only in the towers of churches or municipal buildings. The first clock striking equal hours was in a church in Milan; in 1335, a chronicler described it as ‘‘a wonderful clock, with a very large clapper which strikes a bell twenty-four times according to the twenty-four hours of the day and night and thus at the first hour of the night gives one sound, at the second two strikes . . . and so distinguishes one hour from another, which is of greatest use to men of every degree.’’23

Clocks revolutionized how people thought about and used time. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, time was determined by natural rhythms (daybreak and nightfall) or church bells that were rung at more or less regular three-hour intervals, corresponding to the ecclesiastical offices of the church.

Clocks made it possible for people to plan their day and organize activities around the regular striking of bells. This brought a new regularity into the lives of workers and merchants, defining urban existence and enabling merchants and bankers to see the value of time in a new way.



Like clocks, eyeglasses were introduced in the thirteenth century but not refined until the fourteenth. Even then they were not particularly effective by modern standards and were still extremely expensive. The high cost of parchment forced people to write in extremely small script; eyeglasses made it more readable.


A significant change in writing materials occurred in the fourteenth century when parchment was supplemented by much cheaper paper made from cotton rags. Although it was more subject to insect and water damage than parchment, medieval paper was actually superior to modern papers made of high-acid wood pulp.


Another Chinese invention, gunpowder appeared in the West in the fourteenth century. The use of gunpowder eventually brought drastic changes to European warfare.



Its primary use was in cannons, although early cannons were prone to blow up, making them as dangerous to the people firing them as to the enemy. Continued improvement in the construction of cannons, however, soon made them extremely valuable in reducing both castles and city walls. Gunpowder made castles, city walls, and armored knights obsolete.


Talking about Crazy Rich Asians

The movie is director Jon M Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling 2013 novel Crazy Rich Asians.

The movie has been much discussed in terms of being a Hollywood-made representation of “Asianness” (not a real word). It’s the first Hollywood studio movie to feature a majority Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993. That’s more than 26 years ago.

Like The Farewell, it is in someways a trans-cultural family story, set in New York and Singapore (The Farewell was set in New York and Changchun).

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the main characters

Crazy Rich Asians partially a tale Chinese-American migrants (Rachel) and her mother who migrated from China.




eleanore rachel nick



Peik Lin Goh



eleanore party




Michael Astrid

Astrid Michael

Astrid and Rachel


rachel wedding

jealous b



Discussion questions 1. What’s going on?

What is the story about? What happens? What genres is the movie?

Discussion Questions 2. Culture clashes?

The film shows a version of Asianness, Americanness, and maybe Chinese-Americanness and some Chinese Englishness, but not other cultures like, for example, Malaysianness ( the ….nesses are not real words).

How does the film show/represent these cultures?

What do you think about how the film represents these cultures and their values? Hao bu Hao?

Discussion Questions 3. A suitable Girl?

This is the third movie about Grandmothers and mothers. In The Hate U Give Khalil deals so he can look after his grandma (she has cancer). In The Farewell the family lies so they can look after their Nai Nai (she has cancer).

In this movie Nick’s grandmother and Mother (Eleanor) don’t want Eleanore to marry Nick. Why not?

Hao bu hao?

Rachel gives up her boyfriend Nick because his Nai Nai doesn’t want him to marry her.

Hao bu Hao?

Discussion Question 3. The Farewell versus Crazy Rich Asians

Both The Farewell and Crazy Rich Asians are Chinese-American family stories involving big weddings. Decide which one is better and give your reasons.


Idioms again (textbook, lessons 9-10)


Speak Like an American Lesson 9

Nicole for President

Nicole discusses her plans to run for student body president. Nicole wants Ted to ask his friends to vote for her. Ted agrees, in exchange for her help with his homework.







Speak Like an American Lesson 10

Bon Visits the Village Market

Bob goes to the Village Market, a supermarket in town. He asks Carol, the owner of the store, if she would like to sell Susan’s Scrumptious Cookies. Carol agrees but isn’t able to tell Bob how much she’ll pay him.