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Best of 2011

The Most Popular Subjects of the Year at the Medieval History Site

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Here at the Medieval History site, there are hundreds of topics covered in thousands of pages. From broad subject matter like warfare or daily life to specific issues such as the Norman Conquest or Fresh Meat & Fish in the Middle Ages, there's much to explore -- and more added all the time.

Of course, some topics are more popular than others. And in 2011, a few stood head and shoulders above the rest. Here is a countdown of the top ten most popular subjects, and the specific articles that drew visitors within those subjects, at the Medieval History Site this past year. I haven't included individuals (they get their own top ten), but I have added less "popular" pages related to the subject -- some closely, some not so closely -- that are worth a look.

10. Medieval Children

Beating out the Vikings by a hair (and Japan by a fingernail) is our series on medieval children. Perhaps present-day school children are learning about what life would have been like from a child's perspective; I'd certainly like to think so, and that these articles have helped. In any case, the most popular segments are presented below, in order of their popularity.

Also of interest:
Medieval Games and Pastimes
No matter what the era, kids new how to have fun.

9. Renaissance Love Poems

Renaissance poetry is characterized by more personal, intimate subjects compared to much of what had gone before. These poems celebrate romantic love as it had never quite been celebrated.

Also of interest:
A Medieval Love Story
The style of Renaissance poetry may have been new, but romantic love was as old as humankind.

8. The Book of Kells

This stunning manuscript is the most important artifact to have survived from medieval Ireland. Its history is fascinating; the images in our gallery, even more so.

Also of interest:
Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry
Another beautiful medieval book.

7. Defining the Middle Ages

Believe it or not, the question of when the Middle Ages began and ended is by no means settled. There are many different ways to look at the matter; this article covers several.

Also of interest:
The Medieval History Starter Quiz
Even newcomers to the subject might know more than they think.

6. Medieval Clothing and Fabrics

One of the best ways to understand what medieval life was like is to put on a medieval outfit, as any reenactor will tell you. And fortunately for us, many generous reenactors out there have put their research, patterns, and photos up on the web. The directory offers links to several good sites. There are also articles by your Guide that visitors have frequented, each of which may help put this large topic in perspective in their own unique way.

Also of interest:
Medieval Sumptuary Laws
Laws were passed to limit the medieval version of "conspicuous consumption" in food, drink, household furnishings and, of course, fashion.

5. The Crusades

There is without a doubt no subject more controversial, more misused, and more misunderstood than the Crusades. I hope that the steady traffic to these pages means that visitors are interested in learning what actually happened and why, instead of piling up ammunition to use in blasting whatever they don't like about Christians, Muslims, the medieval Catholic Church, or the Middle Ages in general. There are important lessons to be learned, and frankly, none of us can afford to be holier-than-thou about it all. Except for those of you who really are holy.

Also of interest:
The People's Crusade
How religious fervor can lead to tragedy.

4. A Medieval Atlas

I just love maps. Don't you? We're evidently not alone. A Medieval Atlas is my map resource, containing maps here at the Medieval History Site as well as links to maps on the web. Some of the maps here at the site were created by Yours Truly. I find the process of creating maps both stimulating and therapeutic, and I intend to continue doing it! Even more popular than the main page of the resource were Maps of Constantinople.

Also of interest:
Political Map of Europe - 1346
I made it myself!

3. Medieval Clip Art

This is just a bit of fun I had, way back when About.com and the web were new. (Pretty new, anyway.) Yet it always draws quite a bit of traffic. No surprise, really, since clip art is generally extremely popular and medieval history is generally, um, not. It's actually cool that, at long last, it isn't the highest-ranking page on my site. People actually find two scholarly medieval subjects more interesting! All the clip art was created by your Guide, which just goes to show you what a great graphics program can do for you.

Also of interest:
Art Styles, Periods, and Manifestations
Clip art is fun. Real art is better.

2. Beowulf

I know. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I first noticed how well this Old English Poem was doing. Of course, there have been a few movies based on it in the last few years, and I'm sure some bright high school teachers have been assigning it lately in their literature and history classes to capitalize on any interest those films generated. Still, the numbers were particularly high, and I've got to say I'm thrilled. I thought that as a lover of the poem, I was part of a serious minority.

Also of interest:
First Page of the Beowulf Manuscript
A fairly clear image of the one-and-only text.

1. The Black Death

I suppose it should come as no surprise that more visitors are interested in this horrific event than in anything else that happened in the Middle Ages. There's something in the human psyche that delights in the misery of others. At least it happened a long time ago, and the horrible disease, while still extant today, is easily cured with fairly accessible medicine -- if caught in time. Even more popular than the introductory page was my rather graphic description of symptoms, Death Defined.

Also of interest:
How to Avoid the Plague
Something every time traveler really should know.

That's it for 2011! I can hardly wait to see what 2012 brings.

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