By Emily Ward
From discussions about how to decorate it for Christmas, to a phenomenon called ‘peak beard’, and even an entire forthcoming Somerset House exhibition, one thing is certain – beards are having their moment in the media spotlight. Facial hair has been linked with a range of characteristics across a number of studies, including one article in Behavioural Ecology in 2011 which noted that human perceptions of age can be augmented for those who have a beard. But, turning back the clock several hundred years, can the portrayal of beards in images in the central Middle Ages tell us something about age in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries?
by Marta Musso
On the 3rd of December, the Institute for Historical Research hosted a conference on the challenges and opportunities that the digital world offers to researchers in the humanities. As we live in the middle of the digital revolution, we don’t have full perception of the massive changes that the switch to digital is bringing about. However, over the past 30 years, more and more human actions have been conducted through digital tools (from MS-DOS computers all the way to smartlets) and, especially in the past 15 years, the web has created an exponentially crowded place of action and interaction. As ephemeral as web content is (a tweet is published and lost in just a few seconds), the problem of preserving online data for future studies is now an integral part of research in the humanities.
By Fraser McNair
The Frankish king Charles the Simple (r. 898-923) does not have a posthumous reputation as the brightest king who ever reigned. The most famous episode with which he is associated is one in which he was flipped onto his backside by an insubordinate Viking, who was told to kiss Charles’ feet and did so by raising the foot to his mouth rather than by kneeling (the image above shows a typical later view of Charles the Simple, getting toppled out of his throne by canny Vikings). This story, first told about eighty years after Charles’ death, comes from the same milieu as produced his nickname, simplex, often translated ‘the simple’.