[Guest blog post by Marcus Meer, research assistant at Münster University, Germany. ]
Coats of arms tend to receive scanty attention from historians. This is partly because heraldry and its sources appear inaccessible due to the complicated terminology of the blazon and the tedious chase of arms in armorials, but also because it seems like heraldic signs have little other to tell the cultural historian than the identity of their armigers.
The blog Heraldica Nova tries to prove the opposite by presenting and discussing cutting-edge research on heraldry from the perspective of cultural history. Since heraldic signs were an ubiquitous phenomenon of medieval and early modern societies, the blog argues, coats of arms can open up new perspectives for historical research taking an interest in historical discourses, symbolic communication and visual culture, focusing on topics such as identity, familial, amicable and political alliances, mentality, the imaginary or gender. These new perspectives are promoted in programmatic posts on the potential of using heraldry in cultural history, and demonstrated in case studies and summaries of on-going research in the field.
Since getting started with heraldry, just like other ancillary sciences of history, can prove quite cumbersome, the blog provides materials to guide your first steps in investigating heraldic signs. This includes tutorials on identifying unknown arms , overviews of the most important bibliographies and journals of heraldry, databases and tools that will help to analyse heraldic sources, and overviews and reviews of recent publications applying modern approaches to medieval and early modern heraldry.
Additionally, a list of digitised armorials, linking to digital copies of 48 medieval armorials from all over Europe, provides immediate access to one of the major heraldic sources. For the time being, the list contains all the genuinely medieval armorials available in digital format, some of which are also accessible at your fingertips in the Bodleian Library stacks. In the future, later copies of medieval armorials (which are excluded as for now) and a vast number of early modern armorials will be added to the collection.
Heraldica Nova is meant to serve as a platform to present and discuss within a community of historians and heraldists from all over Europe that already attracts more than 4,500 visitors per month. Students and academics alike that would like to share ideas they have, problems they face, or results they found in their research on medieval and early modern heraldry are invited to discuss them within the blog’s community. Case studies, research notes, summaries of talks, papers or presentations, suggestions and reviews of interesting literature as well as calls for papers are all most welcome in English, French and German. Of course, readers are most welcome to comment in these languages, too.