Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Most Popular Superheroes in the Middle Ages?

Everywhere you go these days, there are superheroes. In movies, on t-shirts, around theme park rides. They're and fill a sort of vacuum in American culture for mythology. It's very tempting take all sorts of stuff from American pop-culture and medievalize it, but I think superheroes would have a distinct advantage. First is that after a collapse of civilization, comic books would be the most accessible. Television and motion pictures would simply not be consumed as much, as no device to play them. People would still be able to use books, in theory. However, after a generation or so, the literacy rates would drop. Comics, at least those that would physically withstand the stresses of the time, are low-tech but visual enough. While most folklore takes decades, even centuries to codify, having reached millions of people at one point kind of evens that out.

I rated comic book superheroes by four factors: Recognition, (How broad an audience did they reach?) Seniority, (How long have they been around?) Iconography, (How easy would a character be recognized using the most basic of artwork?),  and of course, Non-Modern Elements. The conceit I'm using is that the more a character uses elements that are explicitly tied to modern elements, then more you have to kind of "plug in", and the more of a chance that character has to have stuff "plugged in". So someone with a lot of technology and operating by a modern civic code might not translate as well. I've basically just referenced characters with live action movies and TV Shows. For the record, I haven't included Thor. He would obviously have a place in the new Medieval world--certainly in Germanic Europe and likely in America as well. (And many Marvel characters probably get a boost by being connected with him)

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Native Americans in Medieval America

Despite being the original denizens of the continent, the latter half of the millennium has not been good to the aboriginal peoples of the Americas, particularly in the United States. War, disease, and marginalization has seen a horrific decrease in their numbers. Are things better for them in the medieval world?

Well, it's still not that great. The federal government did not treat them well, but a white population that didn't even have those nominal rules holding them back probably made things worse before they got better. Ironically, however, the isolation of these reservations (and their lack of urbanization) meant Native Americans were probably not hit as hard as other minorities in the U.S.

In the eastern half of the continent, it's likely Native American ethnicities and cultures have been pretty much absorbed, except for perhaps a few pockets in New York, Florida, Michigan, and especially Wisconsin. The overlay of a map of American reservations and the populations shows northern Wisconsin and Minnesota are isolated from most of the frontier communities. The populations aren't going to be sizable, but most of them are the size of regular villages in the present day anyways.

It's possible the most concentrated area of Native American society is Northwestern Arizona. Today is the location of the Navajo nation, and it may be isolated and yet robust enough to have a thriving native culture in the world of Medieval America. Around 100,000 people live around this area--a third of the population today, a little less than a third in that region today, which is pretty good for the continent and the region in particular. If one were to take the five million or so who identify as natives, that's one and a half million. A third of that would be 500,000, which I think would be the minimum for distinctly and definitively indigenous people. However, their contribution and influence, from both a biological and social influence, would be much, much wider.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Medieval Latin America Populations

It's probably safe to assume the populations of the old world is roughly analogous to what they were in the 14th century or so. And we know that US/ and Canada is roughly 61 million. So how many people live to in the nations to the south?

The first instinct would be to reduce the population by eighty percent, which would result in a combined populaton of 117 million. (Or 104 million if you were to draw from 2003 populations, when the blog was original written.) But a question I asked myself--much of this are was settled and colonized for centuries before Anglo-America, but it tended to be less populated until the 1950's, that is, heavy industrialization. Considering Florida, one of the most populated states in Industrial America and the most tropical region in the continental U.S., took a major population crash, would that apply to Mexico, Central and South America?

I decided to take a two-prong approach. The first was de-urbanization. I multiplied the population by the percentage of people who did not live in big cities. It's a pretty handy trick--the U.S. is about 80% urbanized, which is also the number by which Medieval America is reduced.  It's not a perfect system. De-urbanizing France gives you numbers it would be at in the Middle Ages, but applying  that to Great Britain gives you 12 million--more than the island can actually contain. So part two involved looking at the populations for these countries from about 1885-1890, as that would be the period the U.S. had a population a population of 57 million. This is also imperfect, since the U.S.'s population at the turn of the century was a discordant mix of burgeoning industry and an unsettled west, but that in so many cases, a late 1800s population was also its de-urbanized number means I'm probably onto something.  Anyways, I added the two figures and averaged them.  Making me more confident still was that I found the population of western South America matched that of the Inca Empire at its height.

The population would be about 66 million or so.  About half of them inhabit the  the are known as the Spanish main, the oldest settlements of the New World, probably a well-traveled part. As mentioned on the trade page, the Gulf Mexico is an important trade gateway, making the coasts very busy. For the most part, the denizens aren't too far removed from the coasts, and they wouldn't be given much incentive to start now. Central America pretty narrow, Except for ancient tribes, the interior of South America is pretty spacious.

An outlier for this would be South America's "Southern Cone". I actually upped Brazil's population from the average, giving it a still precipitous dip of 20 million to its modern 200+ million. This is because the lower area around the Parana (where it also borders other countries like Argentina, Uruguay) is relatively temperate, very fertile, making it a solid counterpart to Ohio, or Medieval France. The only thing that might keep the population from exploding too much is the possibility of wars breaking out over this very busy intersection.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


A map I saw that shows how largely urbanized this country is in the industrial age, (Although to be fair, a quarter of Medieval America lives in a a space not much bigger than all the blue area combined) It really needs to be stressed how much de-urbanization can cut off a nation's population. In medieval times, one in ten people lived in cities. In modern America, it's more like four out of five.

If you look at White's two population maps, the biggest differences are Ohio/Indiana and Florida. Florida, not having the infrastructure of the industrial era, has dissipated greatly, while the Ohio Valley is much, more populated. Curiously enough, Cuyahogo and Summit County aren't part of the super dense region of Ohio, and Franklin may just barely be in there. Wisconsin has also seen more of its population concentrated on the lake coasts--the area around Madison isn't as populated as today. Though it makes sense a lot of the Midwestern capital districts aren't as dense--government is less of a presence (and source of jobs) in the medieval world, and so the former capitals aren't really bustling metropolises unless they're on strategic harbors or rivers like Boston or Montgomery.

The so-called Bos-Wash region if a good example of this at work. In the modern era it made up about a tenth of the U.S.'s population. But now, it makes up much less. It's not that the area is particularly unlivable--in fact the Delaware river is actually pretty fertile in some places. Likewise, it's an important center of trade. But there's only so much square mileage to go around.