The Electronic Medieval Age
By Bo Franzén
Ennen Ja Nyt, Vol.4 (2004)
Abstract: This conference paper has been inspired by the fact that in recent years more and more medieval source material has been published digitally, often in database format. These electronic publications are mainly the result of converting primary or secondary sources, which have previously been either available in print or only obtainable for scholars as a single top copy in an archive, into an electronic format. These new publications open up for new possibilities for the medievalist: Hypotheses concerning large amounts of data can now be tested in ways that were impossible only a decade ago, not only since adding further information (other kinds of variables) has become easier, but also because of the development of PCs, i.e. new tools for searching, crosschecking and manipulating large amount of data.
My examples are mainly from new databases, and recent quantitative research, concerning Sweden and (to a lesser degree) Finland. Printed indexes of Swedish medieval men and women (roughly 38 800 rows) have been converted into a relational database. When divided chronologically and according to gender the female ratio slightly fluctuates during periods of the late medieval age and in the decades before the year 1350. My idea is that these fluctuations may reflect demographic disasters as well as recoveries. The study of life spans could increase our knowledge about life and death in those harsh times of famines and pestilences.