Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope Resigns, the British Library digitizing medieval manuscripts, and more Richard III

Beginning today, we will be changing how the Medieval News blog is presented. We hope to bring you a new post every day or two, which will cover what medieval and history news stories are out there, and some interesting things that were also found online. We hope you enjoy the links and videos!

Can the Pope Resign?

Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he will be resigning as the Pontiff effective February 28, 2013. Also known as Joseph Ratzinger, the 85-year old Pope has been suffering from poor health. Still, this is a very surprising announcement, with the last Pope to resign being Gregory XII in 1415. A few months ago, we posted about The Pope who Quit, by Jon M. Sweeney, which details the papal intrigues surrounding the resignation of Celestine V in 1294.

Lines of beauty: British Library’s medieval manuscripts go digital

The Financial Times has profiled the British Library's efforts at digitizing its 25,000 medieval manuscripts, and profiles six of these items. Claire Breay, head of medieval and earlier manuscripts at the British Library, explains “Anybody can enjoy them whether they are the leading academic on some aspect of that manuscript … or a schoolchild doing a project." Some beautiful images here.

How I mapped the “lost” forests of Huntingdonshire 

Jason Peters has been examining records related to royal forests in Huntingdonshire during the Middle Ages. Using local archives and geographic computer programs, he was able to locate various royal and private forests in the county. In fact, nearly all of the county was legally considered a forest.

Peters explains, “A Norman-Medieval forest was, in effect, a legally defined conservation area where no matter who was the landowner construction, resource exploitation, habitat degradation and hunting of game could not be undertaken without Crown approval. The Forest of County Huntingdon was an evolving, dynamic, socio-political phenomenon, not limited to woodland habitat but extending across pastures, Fenlands, arable, meadows and rivers.

“There is 800 years of history that hasn’t been understood. People could be living somewhere that was a forest. By mapping areas that we now know were woods, we can understand the ecology of the area, which could be very important when considering any future development.”

You can check out Jason Peters' website, Posthumous Plans: Mapping Lost Landscapes, which officially launches later this week.

Richard III: Exhibition draws in the crowds at Leicester's Guildhall 

 The City of Leicester is already showcasing the story of Richard III, and has a temporary exhibition about the discovery of the English King. Here is a video of how it looks:

Richard III Memes

Some pretty funny work being done with Richard III this week...

Top Tips for Visiting Medieval Cairo

Finally, I want to point you to a podcast I heard the other day: Elizabeth Eva Leach, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford, spoke as part of the Engage: Social Media Talks series, about Blogging and Tweeting. Professor Leach is a medievalist who has developed a very good website about her work, and also tweets from @eeleach. For those interested in using social media as part of their academic career, this is well worth a listen too!