We have posted over 1200 articles to Medievalists.net in 2012, which cover a wide range of areas and topics. Which were the most popular articles we posted? Here is the top ten list of articles, according to the number of views by our readers. In first place is an article about a very unusual dance craze from the 16th century. As usual, articles about to world of sex in the Middle Ages can be found among top ten list, as does papers about Tolkien, the Vikings, and Richard the Lionheart.
In 1518, one of the strangest epidemics in recorded history struck the city of Strasbourg. Hundreds of people were seized by an irresistible urge to dance, hop and leap into the air. In houses, halls and public spaces, as fear paralyzed the city and the members of the elite despaired, the dancing continued with mindless intensity. Seldom pausing to eat, drink or rest, many of them danced for days or even weeks. And before long, the chronicles agree, dozens were dying from exhaustion. What was it that could have impelled as many as 400 people to dance, in some cases to death?
Most of the English, if they know anything of early history, feel that their Englishness derives ultimately from a predominantly Anglo-Saxon ancestry, with perhaps a romantic tinge, but only a tinge, of later immigrant blood – Viking, Norman, Huguenot, or whatever.
In order to understand the regulations that were put into place to deal with prostitutes and their trade in medieval England and France, it is important to have an understanding of what the legislators were trying to regulate. Who were these prostitutes? What acts constituted prostitution? What actions made a person a procurer, pimp, or bawd?
If the husband caught the wife and her lover in the act, he could kill them and parties unable to prove their innocence had to undergo public penance.
Why did Richard I, a seasoned and expert warrior, expose himself to a bowman’s shot? Did the king and crusader put his life at risk to claim some grubby treasure dug up from the ground–why?
Some may challenge the authenticity of Tolkien’s fiction, claiming it was merely that and never borrowed from medieval culture. A closer investigation will prove this false, as Tolkien’s writings are wrought with innumerable medieval cultural references and influences, some seemingly speculative, others still strikingly similar to original sources.
Pre-medieval horticulture in the periphery of Europe may show interesting connections with the development of gardens in the more central parts of the continent.
While the chivalric ideal has continued to appear in British literature, Anglo-Saxon heroism with its bond between lord and thane has largely dropped away. The writings of J.R.R. Tolkien provide the striking exception to this.
If painting a slightly less stark picture of gender inequality than the above account of total repression for women and total freedom for men, modern scholars generally assume that medieval European courts did not enforce the Christian prohibition against husbands’ adultery.
Dubh Linn and Jorvik, as Dublin and York were known in the Viking Age, both experienced enormous change during their time as Viking colonial centers.
See also our list of Top ten medieval articles from 2011.