Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Utility of Using Google to Find Medieval History in the News

I'm an "Americanist" but I have to admit that I have the most fun digging into the history of Late Antiquity/Early Middle Ages. About a year ago, I set up three key-word alerts via Googles news spider: "Dark Ages", "medieval" and "medievalist". I figured they'd give me a heads-up for interesting stories that may crop up from time to time. The results have been interesting, and maybe even illustrative.

By far, the most predictable results have been related to the "medievalist" search term. Pretty much every story is about some professor who will be giving a talk somewhere or who has written a book. "Medieval" has also been predictable, but for different reasons. While many of the stories (this is anecdotal, I didn't keep stats) were about various topics in medieval history, I could always count on a story or two about the "Medieval Warm Period" showing up. In the debate about global warming, the MWP has a large role to play. Nonetheless, using "medieval" (or a permutation) does provide good results.

And then there's "Dark ages." Rarely do stories containing this term actually have anything to do with medieval history. Mostly, it's used as a rhetorical pejorative against something or other that the author believes is backwards or barbaric. As such, it's essentially useless as a search term for finding new stories on medieval matters.

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