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"A prosopography of medieval European noble and royal families"
May 17, 2010 3:12 PM   Subscribe

Charles Cawley's Medieval Lands is an encyclopedia of every major European noble family (and most minor ones) from AD 500 to 1500. Even as a work in progress, its scale is staggering.
posted by Iridic (27 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoah, great stuff here. Thank you!
posted by christopherious at 3:26 PM on May 17, 2010


Houston, I have a boner...
posted by supermedusa at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you; I'll be passing this important information on to a variety of angry peasant mobs and returned Crusaders with a penchant for expropriation, tights-wearing and woodland camping.
Silliness aside, this is really something.
posted by Abiezer at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2010


they totally missed the Von Whelkensteins.
posted by The Whelk at 3:33 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't worry, call toll free and we can have a mob round within a single working day (offer not valid during harvest time) ... oh, I see what what you mean.
posted by Abiezer at 3:39 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Holy hell... This is fantastic!
posted by strixus at 3:40 PM on May 17, 2010


An excellent resource of very narrow application. Apart from students of medieval history, probably of most use to authors of historical fiction. There are a dozen ideas for stories on every page.

A few years ago I spent many hours playing Crusader Kings, a video game that's pretty much the "Sim" version of this stuff. If you like the linked website, you'll probably like that game.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:42 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Crusader Kings (along with its must-have expansion, Deus Vult) is a habit I've never quite been able to put down. This site is only fuel for the flames...

Great post!
posted by a small part of the world at 3:53 PM on May 17, 2010


Medieval nerd head implosion in 3...2...1....
posted by DrGirlfriend at 3:57 PM on May 17, 2010


..er, fuel for the flames of my passion for CK:DV, that is... (metaphor fail)

It's also worth noting that the depth of cross-referencing and citations to original sources is very impressive. Never again will you have to resort to Wikipedia to find out what Bede had think about so-and-so's consanguinous marriage to what's-their-face...
posted by a small part of the world at 3:59 PM on May 17, 2010


It's worth noting that this site is dwarfed by ThePeerage, a site which currently indexes 434,088 people.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:08 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Awesome stuff. Thanks for this.
posted by never used baby shoes at 4:09 PM on May 17, 2010


IOANNES Dukas Komnenos Angelos, illegitimate son of MIKHAEL [II] Komnenos Dukas Angelos Lord of Epirus & his mistress Gangrene --- (-before Mar 1289).

Musta been a mistress' market back then.
posted by basicchannel at 4:19 PM on May 17, 2010


Finally, rich Europeans are getting some attention!
posted by DU at 4:24 PM on May 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


Awesome. Thanks for posting this. (Yes, I was a medievalist in an earlier life, namely grad school.)
posted by immlass at 5:21 PM on May 17, 2010


Every now and then I meet someone who claims noble ancestry - lineage from some duke or earl or something. I was delighted to learn that among those of primarily English / Scottish / German ancestry, if one goes back something like ten generations, the odds of having at least one noble ancestor out of the 2,046 one would have back that far (the 1,024 from the tenth generation, plus all subsequent generation down to one's parents), are gigantically greater than having none at all.

So all those special snowflakes walking around who feel the blue blood course around in their veins are actually the commoners, those with an ancestry of pure peasant are the hereditarily elite (at least in terms of the regions above, although this may be true elsewhere, of course.)
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 5:24 PM on May 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure medievalists are super-snobby about this project, and generally reject its validity. As a recovering graduate student medievalist, I was going to come in here and point out its many flaws.

When I actually looked at the site, though, I have to say I don't have many complaints. It seems well-footnoted and well-organized.

I suppose the one complain that could be made is that the sources used are of varying accuracy -- the accuracy of some early sources especially is highly debatable. But, of course, there's nothing else to work with.

I think the real reason many medievalists don't like this is because they have no control over it -- it's a non ivory tower project that the famous names can't stick their names to.

So I suppose you can count me as a non-snob, which is a good step on my road to recovery.
posted by hiteleven at 5:42 PM on May 17, 2010


Cool. My family go back to 1136 according to that site. Which is more accurate than my previous understanding of 12th century.
posted by wilful at 5:50 PM on May 17, 2010


Finally, rich Europeans are getting some attention!

You may want to read The Royal We, an article in The Atlantic Monthly.

The way math works, every generation one goes back in time from the present, the number of direct relatives doubles - so you have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, etc.. pretty soon it starts adding up, as exponential numbers do. BUT at the same time, the further back in time you go, the fewer people were alive. Fairly quickly, we are all directly related to the same people. How quickly? Read the article to find out, but the title says it all, we (of European descent) are all of Royal lineage.
posted by stbalbach at 6:10 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


You may want to read The Royal We, an article in The Atlantic Monthly.

I'll see your May 2002 and raise you an August 1987.
posted by DU at 6:14 PM on May 17, 2010


Stupid Saxony Flanders
posted by hal9k at 6:15 PM on May 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you like the linked website, you'll probably like that game.

Very probably! I linked the website, and I like that game.

I'm pretty sure medievalists are super-snobby about this project, and generally reject its validity.

I looked into this a bit and uncovered this old thread from RootsWeb. Besides demonstrating that anybody into Magyar chronography is not likely to be into it casually, the thread does raise some questions about Cawley's scholarship, particularly his occasional reliance on outdated or eccentric secondary sources. But that was four years ago, and I don't doubt that he's addressed many of those issues during his constant and meticulously documented revision.

Imperfections aside: there are alternatives that can match Medieval Lands for breadth and granularity, but I've yet to find anything online that can rival it for transparency and organization.
posted by Iridic at 8:27 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Damn it, Iridic. I had plans for this summer.
posted by Some1 at 8:52 PM on May 17, 2010


There's no love for us Swiss I see. A pox on thee!
posted by DavidandConquer at 9:13 PM on May 17, 2010


From the site: This "back-to-basics" approach has enabled numerous new discoveries to be made and many challenges to traditionally accepted genealogies to be proposed.

I look forward to the rise of the FMG tag among the aristocracy.
posted by zippy at 9:34 PM on May 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I looked into this a bit and uncovered this old thread from RootsWeb. Besides demonstrating that anybody into Magyar chronography is not likely to be into it casually, the thread does raise some questions about Cawley's scholarship, particularly his occasional reliance on outdated or eccentric secondary sources. But that was four years ago, and I don't doubt that he's addressed many of those issues during his constant and meticulously documented revision.

It won't matter to the ivory tower folks unfortunately. If it's not developed in-house, it's simply not so.

Medieval studies is very Old World/old school in its outlook. If this same information was packaged in a long-lost tome from the 1930s that only a select group of folks knew about, they'd be crazy about it.
posted by hiteleven at 12:45 AM on May 18, 2010


A terrific site—many thanks for posting it, Iridic! I've long been familiar with Ross's Friesian.com (your "alternatives" link), and I enjoy his lively style of writing, but he's both too discursive and too positive for my taste. This guy not only has amazingly thorough documentation but he sticks to the point and is very clear about what is a fact and what is dubious. Screw the ivory tower folks!
posted by languagehat at 6:03 AM on May 18, 2010


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