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Parallels Between Ancient And Modern Times

1479 words - 6 pages

The mandate of History can be described as studying our ancestor’s actions, successes and failures with the intent of students attaining the ability to understand parallels between modern times and our ancestral past. This study is conducted in hopes of enlightening the learner’s mind, in order to avert repeating the mistakes made in the past. Norman Cantor was a Professor at New York University where he taught History, Sociology, and Comparative Literature. After he retired from teaching, he wrote a series of books illuminating his life’s work. One of his last published literary works was, “The Last Knight, The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era”. In this profound and deeply enlightening novel he discussed the life of John of Gaunt and his family, as well as the wealth and privileges that were awarded to them for simply being born into nobility. To an educated mind, he successfully drew parallels between the elites of high society today and that of this landed aristocracy of the middle ages, not just in a comparative analysis of their wealth but in the desire to maintain the status quo in regards to the division of the social classes.
The study of the social interactions of society led to some very prominent theories on the social structure of a given society. Karl Marx, who was considered to be the father of conflict theory, claimed that in any society there is a division of social classes, where one group gets and maintains control of the other groups, oftentimes exploiting those of lesser social standing. This consequently leads to a conflict of the social classes in a struggle to gain or maintain power. The names of these distinct social classes have changed over time but their defining characteristics have remained relatively the same.
In the middle ages the aristocrats were typically the powerful wealthy class, while most often the peasants or commoners were the less fortunate class both in wealth and power. Ancient Roman culture had a very similar division of the classes; the nobles of the time were called patricians while the commoners were referred to as plebeians. This division of the social classes led to the struggle of the orders where the plebeians struggled to gain power and equality. In Norman Cantor’s book, he illustrates that the nobles of the time even drew upon the parallels between the commoners and the plebeians. This was made evident when he said that John of Gaunt was the front man for the royal family, since his nephew Richard II was only ten when he took the Crown. While assuming the role of the front man he approached the Commons; which at this time the commons managed to obtain some power in their ability to elect a Speaker in Parliament. Gaunt asked the Commons for a subsidy to pay for the war, but in his arrogance he referred to the Commons as Plebs. This insult would not fall on deaf ears; the Speaker denied his request and began proceedings to impeach government officials who...

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