Blogging carnival, Blogging the past, Britain, Dark Age, Dark Ages, Education, England, Heritage, History, Medieval Period, Middle Ages, Migration Period, North Sea Region, Public engagement, the Dark Ages
I have agreed to write a short piece for an upcoming e-book on the subject of ‘Blogging and Archaeology’. The e-book will be part of the #BlogArch movement over at Doug’s Archaeology. As a relatively new blogger I don’t necessarily have much to contribute, but thinking about what I would like to write prompted a deeper reflection on the nature of this blog, and why I created it.
Many academics maintain a blog as a means to communicate new ideas and engage a wider audience with their research. With regard to scholars of the early medieval period, for example, the blogs of Howard Williams, Martin Rundkvist and Frands Herschend are all good examples. I do not yet feel in a position to write a serious blog, though, as my research career is very much still in its infancy.
Creating a blog called Darkage-ology was, to me at least, something of a bold move. No serious archaeologist would ever use the term ‘Dark Age’ in a publication these days. People now say ‘early medieval’; an objective, chronological and altogether more suitable term. The ‘Dark Ages’ were so-called on account of their lack of historical documentation and, therefore, knowledge. The archaeology of the period, however, is not particularly dark at all. The period may not even have been as violent and miserable as previously thought.
It might seem a little odd, then, that a new PhD student, eager to establish himself and gain the acceptance of his scholarly peers, would use the phrase as the title of a blog. Not only might it come across as unprofessional, but one could also argue using the term reinforces a history-centric view of the past. Whilst these are good points, the fact of the matter is that most people on the streets of Britain might have little idea of when or what the early medieval period was, but everyone has heard of the ‘Dark Ages’.
The name Darkage-ology, then, sets the tone for the blog and its intended audience: the interested but not necessarily specialist reader. The great thing about archaeology, though, is it often becomes an obsession and you can always guarantee a specialist readership as well! Archaeologists simply love reading about archaeology.
So my philosophy is thus: let’s just blog the past and see how many people we can get interested. And it has been rewarding, too. Every retweet, comment or linkback is a nugget of happiness. My favourite has to be:
I literally could not have paid someone to better describe how I wanted the blog to be received!
So here we are blogging the past as a form of public engagement. And why not? A blog post, after all, is just a condensed, more engaging and easier-to-digest journal article laced with autobiographical elements. Blogging seems, at least in my mind, to be the best medium in which to share knowledge in a free and accessible way.