[This is an ongoing class that will continue for 15 weeks. Students are welcome to enroll in the full 15- week series or pick-and-choose the specific classes that suit their interests.]

In this class, we will explore Medieval history from a radically new perspective. We will do away with the Eurocentric model of Medieval history that is commonly taught in schools. Instead, we will explore the thousand-year period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Ottomans with a multi-focal world perspective. This class will draw attention to lesser-known non-European historians, such as the medieval Tunisian scholar Ibn Khaldun in order to give students a broader, and more culturally respectful, understanding of history.

In this class, we will look at traditionally-taught subject matter with a broader and more culturally aware world-view. History textbooks typically focus exclusively on raids and invasions by nomads against agricultural society. As a counterpoint, in this class, we will look at primary sources of Ming- Mongol history along the Great Wall during the Middle Ages that indicate that many raids conducted by nomads were actually revenge for the provocation and raids by the agricultural society, hence they were retaliatory raids. The razzias upon the Mongols beyond the Great Wall by Ming generals and their retainers have shown that sedentary society was in need of horses, cattle, meat, wool, hides, etc. Ming China’s big market for the nomadic goods drove Ming generals and their retainers to lead profitable, yet risky, and provocative forays against the Mongols.

In this class, we will go on a journey that will span continents and over a thousand years. We will learn about Tomoe Gozen, a fearsome Japanese female warrior of Feudal Japan, and learn about the nicer side of Attila the Hun- the self-proclaimed “Scourge of God”. We will start our journey in Scandinavia and explore how Vikings navigated with mythical sunstones and had the most advanced trading system of the time. We will end our journey in Mesoamerica after learning how a female translator helped topple the Aztec Empire, and how one Spanish soldier, Gonzalo Guerrero, went full-on Mayan and became a champion warlord of the native people.

The concepts of modernity, progress, and universal history have often been identified and taught in classrooms as inherently Eurocentric. The term “Eurocentrism” denotes a world-view which, implicitly or explicitly, posits European history and values as “normal” and superior to others. Europe used to be just one corner of the world, and a fairly peripheral one in historical terms. Its philosophies, technology etc., drew heavily on the influence of Asia and Africa. But in the colonial era, Europe set itself up as the center of the world and put together an exploitative system in which other areas were treated as its periphery. This legacy still lives on today in the Eurocentric world maps which we hang in our classrooms, and in the public school curriculum of our history classes which teach the rest of the world as nothing more than Europe’s periphery. This class aims to replace the Eurocentric model of history with a broader, more global perspective.

Polyhistoria classes emphasize critical thinking, analyzing, evaluating, and creating. We believe that students learn history best by doing what professional historians do.

(Read more about our approach to history.)

1) Students’ cameras and microphones must be turned on during the class.
2) This class requires the continuous use of logical thinking & hypothetical reasoning skills to critically analyze the topics covered in the class. Students must have the ability to think critically and logically to analyze the topics covered in the class.

This class is designed to include lots of interaction and discussion. Light, weekly homework assignments will be posted on the classroom wall each week for students who are interested in further learning.

[A lot of interaction in classes with more than 6 students can cause students’ computers to freeze and the video call to be dropped. Therefore, the class interaction level will be modified in classes with 6+ students because of the Zoom limitations. Larger classes will be taught in the format of an engaging lecture with moderate interaction.]

1 hour per week in class, and an estimated 0 – 1 hours per week outside of class.

Meets once a week for 15 weeks
4 – 9 learners, ages 12-17

1. Vikings (August 6)
-Exposing the Roots of the Viking Horned Helmet Myth
-Viking Navigation: Solar Compasses & Mythical Sunstones
-Trade Routes & Ulfberht Swords
-A Cryptic Code On A Medieval Sword & Scandanavian Riddle Culture
-From Olafir Thick-Legged to Ragnar Fur-Pants- Viking Nicknames
-Ivar the Boneless: A Viking Warrior That Drew Strength From His Weakness
-Did A Native American Travel Back To Greenland With the Vikings?
-A New England in Crimea
-Frisian, English, German & Other Languages From Old Norse

2. Anglo-Saxon Britain (August 13)
-The Anglo-Saxon Conquerors: Creators of Medieval England
-Beowulf: An English Tale of Scandinavia
-The Great Heathen Army: Viking Coalition That Became an Anglo-Saxon Nightmare
-The Magnificent Treasures of Sutton Hoo, The Final Resting Place of Anglo-Saxon Royals
-Runic Script & Code of Honor in the Epic of Beowulf

3. The Normans & England in the Middle Ages (August 20)
-Wait, The Normans Were Vikings Too? I Thought They Were French?
-Normans- Rapacious Colonizers & Harbingers of a More “Civilized” Culture
-Charlemagne’s Legacy & Influence in the Normans’ Approach to Ruling
-How The Norman Conquest Can Teach You Thousands of Foreign Words Instantly
-Trial by Combat, Dueling, and The Court of Law

4. Hunnic & Mongolian War Machines: Horsemen of the Steppe (August 27)
-The Scourge of God: Did Attila the Hun Really Deserve the Nickname?
-The Huns: Otherworldly Beasts of Roman Propaganda
-Hunnic & Mongolian Systems of Governance & Diplomacy
-Hanım: The Turkic (& Mongolian) Word for “Lady” & Its Origin
-Wait, the Germanic Goths & the Huns Were Related?
-Why Did The Huns Trigger The Great Migration? (Völkerwanderung)
-The Runic Writing of The Huns & Turks
-Artificial Cranial Deformation & The Treaty Bride Controversy
-Huns, the Xiongnu, & the Mongols: Shared Traits of Nomadic Steppe Horsemen

5. Trade Routes & The Silk Road (September 3)
-Portolan Maps- Too Accurate To Be Medieval
-Central Asia- Leader of the World In Science, Art, Trade & Economic Development
-The Sufi poet Hafiz of Shiraz & The Poem That Infuriated Tamerlane, The Turco-Mongol Ruler
-The Scholar In Afghanistan That Predicted North and South America 500 Years Before Columbus
-Did Medieval Asia and Britain Interact? The Huns In England
-Yiddish: A Merchant Language
-Did Ancient Irrigation Technology Travel The Silk Road?
-The Black Death
-How The Plague Collapsed Civilization & Created A Massive Power Vacuum

6. Islamic Golden Age (September 10)
-The House of Wisdom (Bayt al-Hikmah): One of the Greatest Libraries in History
-The Wisdom of the Caliphs
-Philosophy, Mathematics, Medicine, Astronomy, & Optics
-Khawla Bint Thalaba & The Power Of Women In The Islamic World
-Ali ibn Abi Talib: The First Imam According To Shia Muslims
-Umar ibn al-Khaṭtāb: One of the Most Powerful & Influential Muslim Caliphs in History

7. Medical Theory In the Islamic World & Medieval Europe (September 17)
-Al-Zahrawi: The Legacy of the Father of Modern Surgery
-Avicenna (Ibn Sina): Author of Al Qanun fil-Tibb, “The Canon of Medicine”
-The Grave That Heals: An Irish Folktale Proven True
-The Black Death- Its Origin, Spread & Connection to HIV Immunity -Medieval Medical Books Could Hold the Recipe for New Antibiotics -The Economic Aftermath Of The Plague

8. Pax-Arabica & Al Andalus- Moorish Spain (September 24)
-Guitars, Algebra, Oranges, Medicine & Pillows
-The Pinzón Brothers & Columbus
-The Origin of Romeo & Juliet
-Islamic Sages/Mathemagicians
-The Re-Conquest (Reconquista) of Iberia
-The Real Don Quixote

9. The Crusades (October 1)
-Why the Crusades Were Not a “Clash of Civilizations”
-The Arab Banking System & The Knights Templar
-Damascus Swords That Cut European Swords In Half
-The First Crusade & The Plea for Aid by the Byzantine Emperor, Alexius I Komnenos
-The Relatiatory Recapturing of Jerusalem By a Muslim Army Led By Saladin
-The Deadliest Medieval Order of Assassins: The Hashashins

10. The Protestant Reformation (October 8)
-Martin Luther, Against the Sale of Indulgences
-The Printing Press & Manuscripts
-Martin Luther Unleashes A Pandora’s Box Of Religious Anarchy
-Murderous Millennial Preachers & Prophets Take Over the German City of Munster
-Economic Effects Of Protestantism

11. Ming China (October 15)
-Great Wall Of Ming China: The Longest Cemetery On Earth
-The Great Wall as Perilous Frontier for the Mongols
-Reconsidering Nomadic-Sedentary Relations in Premodern Inner Asia
-China’s Weapon Innovations
-The Chinese May Have Beaten the Famous Voyage of Columbus by 70 Years
-Zheng He: Famous Chinese Explorer Who Added Wealth and Power to the Ming Dynasty

12. Feudal Japan (October 22)
-The Amazing Story of Yasuke: The Forgotten African Samurai
-Unknown Weapons of the Samurai: The Forgotten Warrior Arsenal from Feudal Japan
-The Honorable Death: Samurai and Suicide in Feudal Japan
-The Horo: Inflatable Cloak That Protected Samurai From Incoming Arrows
-The Portuguese Traders That Kidnapped & Sold Japanese As Slaves
-Why Foreigners Were Expelled & Christianity Was Ferociously Uprooted
-Japan’s Self-Imposed Isolation for Over 200 Years
-How Japan Crashed China’s Economy

13. Europe Seeks Asia & Meets the Americas (October 29)
-How Black Pepper Won Europe From a Better Pepper
-How Interpreters Helped Topple the Aztec Empire
-La Malinche And The Conquest of Montezuma’s Aztecs
-Gonzalo Guerrero: Father of the First Mestizos and Army Captain of the Mayans
-Myths of the Spanish Conquests
-Forgotten ConquIstadors, Indigenous Allies
-The Pinzón Brothers: The Muslim Captains Of La Pinta and La Niña
-How the End of the Re-Conquest of Iberia Triggered A Flood of Soldiers In The Americas
-Their Cortes and Our Cortes, Spanish Colonialism & Aztec Representation
-Pre-Conquest Metallurgy & Trade of Mesoamerica

14. The Aztec (November 5)
-What Montezuma’s Aztec Sounded Like – And How We Know
-Why The Aztec Capital Was Built In A Swamp
-Chinampas, The Floating Gardens of Mexico
-Aztec Societies & Mythology Behind Violent Human Sacrifice
-Who First Started Extracting Beating Hearts of Victims on Temple Altars?
-Princess Eréndira of the Purépecha
-The Aztec Origin Of Guacamole

15. The Maya & The Olmec (November 12)
-Aztec & Mayan Are Totally Different Languages & Cultures. Sort Of.
-The Maya Codices: The Precious Remaining History of an Eradicated Civilization
-A Deaf Ruler & Mayan Sign Language
-Yucatan Children Learn Math Better Thanks to Ancient Mayan Numeral System
-Birds, Stones, and Jaguars: Piecing Together the Multifaceted Ancient Olmec Religion
-Failed Crops Caused Economic Crash for Mayan Chocolate Currency
-Chontal Maya, The Phoenicians of the Americas

Thrilled by the opportunity to teach cutting-edge social science scholarship to teenagers, I leapt at the opportunity to teach classes online. I enjoy old, rare books and gardening in Colorado, where even the incompetent can have beautiful roses. In addition to teaching and gardening, I remain actively involved in competitive sports, and you are cautioned not to wager against me at the ping-pong table.

I teach ancient languages, human & political world geography, history, philosophy, economics, political science …and anything else that catches my interest.


Feel free to send me an email at crystal@polyhistoria.com


Come hang out with me on Twitter for more tidbits of interesting research, linguistic curiosities, and forgotten history.

Weekly Enrollment
$18 USD per learner, per week

(Pick-and-choose specific weeks that suit your learner’s interests and schedule.)

On Tuesdays at 5pm Mountain