, ,

Medievalists.net is one of my favorite sites. They collate all kinds of fascinating (to medievalists, anyway!) articles and news stories, like this one on their blog, about an NC State research project to trace the source and dates of medieval manuscripts using DNA testing on the parchments:

North Carolina State Assistant Professor of English Timothy Stinson . . . says genetic testing could resolve [problems in determining manuscript origins] by creating a baseline using the DNA of parchment found in the relatively small number of manuscripts that can be reliably dated and localized. Each manuscript can provide a wealth of genetic data, Stinson explains, because a typical medieval parchment book includes the skins of more than 100 animals.

It’s exciting to see science, history, and literature working together!

They also provide a trove of images of the recently discovered Staffordshire Hoard of Anglo-Saxon-era gold & gems, and an interview with Ian Mortimer, author of A Time Traveller’s Guide to the 14th Century. Although the title initially makes me think of one of the best books about time-travelling to the 14th century, Connie Willis’s The Doomsday Book, it seems as if Mortimer may have found a way to make history come alive:

The idea that became Time Traveller’s came to me in 1993. It was to write a history book that not only appealed to the reader but also directly prioritised their interests. Being a fan of the Douglas Adams books, my first idea was a ‘hitchhiker’s guide to history’. I planned to include all the extraordinary facts I knew about the English past, from Henry VIII passing legislation requiring those guilty of mass poisoning to be boiled alive (it was enacted twice), to nineteenth-century wife sales, reactions to public executions, great escapes, secret treaties, etc.

Sounds a bit silly on the surface of it, but he seems to have done the serious research and I suspect you’d know a lot more about life in the 14th century after reading Mortimer’s Guide than after reading Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror–which medievalists have probably read anyway.