Thứ Năm, 31 tháng 1, 2013

Do Not Try to Recreate This 16th-Century German Cat Bomb at Home

Think you're the first person to consider the offensive capabilities of cats and birds in a hypothetical war against zombies space invaders enemies of the Holy Roman Empire? Think again!

Click here to read more from The Atlantic

Thứ Tư, 30 tháng 1, 2013

Bulk of Timbuktu manuscripts survived occupation unharmed

The majority of Timbuktu's ancient manuscripts appear to be safe and unharmed after the Saharan city's 10-month occupation by Islamist rebel fighters, experts said on Wednesday, rejecting some media reports of their widespread destruction.

Denying accounts that told of tens of thousands of priceless papers being burned or stolen by the fleeing rebels, they said the bulk of the Timbuktu texts had been safely hidden well before the city's liberation by French forces on Sunday.

Brittle, written in ornate calligraphy, and ranging from scholarly treatises to old commercial invoices, the Timbuktu texts represent a compendium of human knowledge on everything from law, sciences and medicine to history and politics. Some experts compare them in importance to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

News that they were mostly safe, from people directly involved with conservation of the texts, was a relief to the world's cultural community, which had been dismayed by the prospect of a large-scale loss.

Click here to read this article from Reuters

When Newspapers Were New, or, How Londoners Got Word of the Plague

Daniel Defoe's novel about London's 1665 plague can help us understand new media. No, really.

 The plague was abroad. Londoners knew not where it had come from, only that it was upon Holland. "It was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus," Daniel Defoe wrote in the opening of his historical novel, A Journal of the Plague Year.

 The book, which many read as something like non-fiction, bore the webby subtitle, being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665, and bore stamps of authenticity -- it was "Written by a citizen who remained all the while in London" -- and intrigue, having "Never [been] made public before."

 Which, as a journalist of the web era, made me think: that Defoe knew how to gin up some pageviews! And in fact, Defoe did. (If you can't see the translation to the headline argot du jour, allow me: 73 Amazing and Horrible Things That Happened During the Plague, From Someone Who Saw Them With His Own Two Eyes. And no, I didn't count. But the point is: no one's counting.)

Click here to read this article from The Atlantic

Thứ Hai, 28 tháng 1, 2013

Priceless manuscripts missing in Timbuktu

The fabled city of Timbuktu, a place of enigma for centuries, has now given the world another mystery: What happened to thousands of priceless, ancient manuscripts that have vanished into the dusty Sahara winds?

 When hundreds of French soldiers rolled into the remote desert city in northern Mali on Monday, cheered by thousands of residents who were ecstatic that the Islamist rebels had fled, one of the biggest fears was the fate of Timbuktu’s ornately crafted manuscripts, as precious to world history as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

 The city’s mayor, exiled far away in Mali’s capital, alleged that the Islamist extremists had torched the manuscript libraries, burning them to the ground. This was quickly disproved by a Sky TV crew embedded with the French soldiers, who found the main library intact, alleviating the worst fears of many scholars.

 Inside the library, television reports showed a few small piles of ash, along with dozens of empty boxes. Up to 10,000 manuscripts were gone. The immediate assumption was that the Islamist militia groups had stolen or destroyed them – although subsequent reports suggested that many of them had been hidden and saved.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

20 Bizarre Examples Of Medieval Marginalia

Some crazy examples of what people in the Middle Ages drew in their manuscripts. Lots of sex and violence.

Truth, lies and historical fiction; How far can an author go?

Authors Philippa Gregory and Wayne Johnston can tell you that historical novelists have to deal with some odd complaints, most of which stem from the fact that everyone from the living descendents of their fictional characters to the fans of medieval monarchs will cheerfully ignore the words “a novel” blazoned on the cover.

 Gregory has written numerous novels about Tudor and Plantagenet women, including her latest, The Lady of the Rivers, about Jacquetta of Luxembourg, a figure from the War of the Roses. She has also co-authored a history book, The Women of the Cousins’ War, that includes a biography of Jacquetta. 

Johnston’s bestselling 1998 novel The Colony of Unrequited Dreams controversially gave Newfoundland premier Joey Smallwood an unrequited love. Now, Johnston has published A World Elsewhere, which introduces fictional Newfoundlanders into a psychopathic household inspired by Biltmore, George Vanderbilt’s palace in North Carolina.

 Globe and Mail arts writer Kate Taylor, herself the author of a novel based on the Dreyfus Affair, titled A Man in Uniform, asks Gregory and Johnston just how much a historical novelist is allowed to make up.

Click here to read this article from The Globe and Mail

Chủ Nhật, 27 tháng 1, 2013

9 Most Important Medieval Assassinations

The mythos of the assassin fascinates even as it horrifies. It fascinates because it allows for the actions of one to bring down a corrupt or tyrannical regime that has no avenue of redress for those not in power. It horrifies because the sudden actions of one can threaten an entire nation--or in the case of World War I--the world's stability.

 It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our political discourse and disagreement has never been more bitter and divisive. And while it is bad, there have been many periods in history that were equally--if not more--vitriolic and downright nasty. Take the Middle Ages, for one. Not only was it a politically raw and power hungry time, but the average citizen had very little say in matters of government. 

Historian Barbara Tuchman suggests this might be attributed to the fact that the Middle Ages was a very young society, with over half the population under 21. Many of the leaders of medieval kingdoms and dynasties were on the tail end of adolescence--or younger. William, Duke of Normandy, later known as William the Conqueror of England, was only seven years old when he became duke. Charles VII of France was 19 when he was crowned king, and Louis I, became Duke of Orleans at the ripe old age of 20. All that power un-tempered by age or wisdom was a heady thing and ripe for abuse. Assassination was an oft-used tool in their arsenal.

Click here to read this article from the Huffington Post

Ten Fantastic Facts and Legends of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

1. Edinburgh Castle is built high on an impressive 700 million year old extinct volcano called Castle Rock, in the middle of what is now the city of Edinburgh. People have lived on Castle Rock since the Bronze Age, around 850 BC, and there has been a royal castle on the site since at least the 12th century.

 5. The ‘Stone of Destiny’ or ‘Stone of Scone’ is kept at the castle with the crown jewels of Scotland. The stone is the traditional coronation stone of all Scottish and English Kings and Queens and has been much fought over by England and Scotland over the ages. As legend has it, the real stone was swapped for a fake either in the 13th century or the 1950’s, and to this day the authentic stone is still secretly hidden.

7. The castle is also one of the most haunted places in Scotland, one famous ghost being the Lone Piper. As the story goes, a few hundred years ago secret tunnels were discovered deep underground, running from the castle to other places in the city. A piper boy was sent down to investigate, instructed to constantly play his pipes, so those above could chart his progress through the tunnels. When the playing suddenly stopped, they went and searched for the piper boy but he had vanished. His ghostly pipes can still be heard playing in the castle to this day, as he eternally walks the dark tunnels beneath. 

Click here to read all Ten Fantastic Facts from Tea Time Magazine

Thứ Năm, 24 tháng 1, 2013

How the heavy plough changed the world

The world changed when a plough that could plough deep and turn over heavy clay soil was invented in the Middle Ages. Armed with massive amounts of data, researchers are now trying to document how a small technology leap turned the distribution of wealth on its head in medieval Northern Europe.

 The invention of the heavy plough made it possible to harness areas with clay soil, and clay soil was more fertile than the lighter soil types. This led to prosperity and literally created a breeding ground for economic growth and cities – especially in Northern Europe.

 Loose, more sandy and dry soil is more common in Southern Europe, where farmers were doing fine with the earliest functioning plough – known as the ard, or the scratch plough. This type of plough wasn’t, however, very good for ploughing the heavier, more clayey soils up north. For this reason, it was mainly the south that experienced prosperity and growth with growing cities all the way up to the early Middle Ages.

 “The heavy plough turned European agriculture and economy on its head. Suddenly the fields with the heavy, fatty and moist clay soils became those that gave the greatest yields,” explains Professor Thomas Barnebeck Andersen of the University of Southern Denmark.

Click here to read this article from ScienceNordic

Click here to read The Heavy Plough and the European Agricultural Revolution of the Middle Ages

10 Benefits of Establishing a Local Historic District

So you’ve decided you want to establish a local historic district and have considered where its boundaries should be. Now comes perhaps the hardest part: getting your community to buy into the idea.

Shaping local sentiment and opinions is always a complex task, and planning a local historic district is no exception. While the preservation community understands and appreciates its benefits, not everybody might feel as enthusiastic about it.

What’s more, all the local stakeholders -- homeowners, government officials, merchants, and property owners -- will endorse, change, or reject proposals depending on how well they understand the issues involved. So it’s up to the district advocates to make a clear and compelling case about the advantages of a local historic district. Not only will it increase community awareness, but it can also help avoid controversy later by building consensus now.

Here are 10 points you can share with your community stakeholders about what establishing a local historic district will bring to your area.

Click here to read this article from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Thứ Tư, 23 tháng 1, 2013

10 of the best medieval walled cities

By Bruce Holmes

For history buffs, photographers and anyone who’s ever said “Wow!” there’s nothing quite like the sight of a medieval walled city approached from a distance.

Then there are the explorations within, tours of castles, walks along the walls and shops and restaurants in medieval squares.

Many cities still have their medieval walls predominantly intact in various parts of the world. Did I mention my obsession? I’ve visited quite a few.

Click here to see this list from CNN, including Carcassonne, York, Óbidos and even Quebec City

Click here to see more Medieval Travel articles