I have a confession. I have a twitter crush on Dr GIllian Kenney aka MedievalGill. She is one of a number of historians I follow there – probably an expression of my thwarted desire to be a historian. She specialises in “medieval sex magic women” (her description). I have not read her academic work, but her presence on Twitter is a joy.
The reason I am mentioning her now is because I was reminded about one of her pieces of writing from the time of the Irish gay marriage referendum. Back then (summer 2015) she was annoyed by all the people talking about “traditional marriage” in the narrow selective terms of the last 100 years or so. As an expert in the area (she has build her career on this) she instead wrote a great on what “traditional Irish marriage looks like when you go back 1000 years.
I can’t find the original one now, but a version of it is available on History Today.
There is a great section in it that I keep referring people to:
“The idea of family was thus dynamic and prone to change. In addition to engaging in multiple marriages and divorcing at will, the widespread use of fosterage meant that people could belong to much bigger family units than a nuclear one. Children could have parents who had been divorced. There were stepchildren, foster children, children born to concubines and raised in a wife’s household, children raised in religious establishments (perhaps raised by many mothers) and so on.”
When I look at the country around me, and my own situation I feel happier knowing that there is no normal!