Tag Archive | EMconventions

Thinking too much about naming wars

I’m pleased my SMHBLOG post on naming wars has received a variety of comments, mostly providing specific case studies. Feel free to continue the discussion there.

I’m interested in the issue of naming wars in part because in the past I’ve tried to create a list of early modern wars and been stymied by the lack of names for many of them (in English at least). My interest has also been piqued because it’s surprisingly contentious – particularly by historians of different countries (say, what a French historian might call a war vs. what an English historian would call that same conflict – I’m thinking of the Nine Years War in particular). Naming wars is also intriguing because it illustrates how complicated history is, how much trouble we have trying to wrap up messy historical events in tidy little packages. Would you like to read my further thoughts on the complicated and seemingly-random process of naming wars? Of course you would. Read More…

Naming wars redux

I put up a new post at SMHBLOG on whether there’s a formula to naming wars (not just early modern). Check it out and contribute.

Early Modern Archaisms

One early modern convention leads to another. How self-perpetuating.

In a previous post I’d described the basic knowledge of early modern handwriting (paleography) that one needs in order to do well in the archives. In an attempt to crowdsource my research in the English archives, I included a photo of a particular word that was giving me fits. Several interpretations were offered, with the most plausible candidate (when measured by letter shapes) seemingly disqualified – it looked like that word (more or less), but that word didn’t make any sense in the context of that sentence. Or did it?

Welcome to the world of archaisms. Read More…

Paleography and Mystery Words

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of skulking in archival holes and corners, you’ve no doubt encountered the joy and despair associated with paleography. When I was a kid I wanted to be a paleontologist; little did I know that my future would take me in the slightly-different direction of paleography. Perhaps not as exciting as chasing after a T. Rex (but almost as dusty), being a paleographer means excavating knowledge from handwritten documents slightly younger than fossils. An American history grad student’s first introduction to paleography can be fear-inducing: about to set off on his great European archival adventure, a new professor suddenly introduces him to the concept of difficult handwriting in a class he was auditing. The level of panic only increased when a fellow grad student already across the Pond confirmed the challenge, warning that he had spent several *weeks* in the archives deciphering the handwriting, literally l-e-t-t-e-r by l-e-t-t-e-r, for day after day.

Over the years I’ve researched in numerous archives and therefore gotten pretty good at deciphering the paleography written by French and English hands c. 1700 – enough to impress most HIS 200 undergraduates at least. But paleography varies greatly not only by person, but by place and time as well, so I’ll post what little I’ve learned over the years – undoubtedly serious guides to paleography will discuss these more authoritatively than I can. What follows is a combination of observations and tips: Read More…

Mapping Conventions in Early Modern Europe

Having posted a few versions of maps I’ve attempted over the years, I should mention a few issues relating to early modern cartography. I’m far from an expert in the matter, so if you’re interested in the subject there’s a whole field of historical cartography out there – the journal Imago Mundi is the place to go to hear what the experts have to say.

As if early moderns weren’t confused enough keeping track of the multitude of ways they used names and dates, and even how they counted  men, they also had to deal with how to represent 3D space on a scaled-down 2D plane (i.e. paper): maps, in other words. The early modern period saw significant developments, from the late medieval development of maritime navigation charts to European explorers mapping the world, to the increasing precision of maps by the Cassini family in the mid-18C. Read More…

Dating Conventions in Early Modern Europe

Happy New Year! Or maybe not. As with so many other early modern phenomena, it depends. Read on to find out why.

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Counting numbers II: Measuring in Regiments, Battalions, Companies

One more point about army sizes: we usually convert army sizes into an absolute number of men, even though numbers of units (regiment or battalion or company) are the most frequently occurring measure in the sources, and sometimes the only size information available. Whenever we are forced to rely on unit totals, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the weaknesses in measuring size this way.

Royal army sizes in French Wars of Religion from Wood, The King’s Army, p. 230.

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