Story time

Medieval historians assumed that their books would be read aloud, so they address their audiences as both "readers" and "hearers." One book, Ordericus Vitalis's Ecclesiastical History, even contains symbols indicating where the reader should make changes in the pitch of his voice while reading.

Learning by rope

While most cultures adopted some form of writing to keep their records, the Incas solved this knotty problem with knots. Their system, called quipu (or quipo) consisted of one long rope to which 48 secondary cords were attached; smaller cords in turn attached to these. The colors of the cords indicated their subjects, including land deals, economic figures, tribute accounting, and ceremonies. Knots represented ones, tens, and hundreds. Quipu did not preserve narratives, but it kept the Incan empire running smoothly at the national and local levels.

The dating game

Early Christian historians placed great importance in determining accurate chronologies. Historians in different regions calculated chronology independently, leading to contradictory liturgical practices (such as celebrating Easter on different dates) and confusion in comparing their histories. Later historians would even combine multiple chronologies in their historical works—Nennius's History of the Britons makes use of at least 28 different chronological systems. Bede was one of the first to use the anno Domini (A.D.) system, proposed by Dionysius Exiguus around 527, using the Incarnation as the central event from which all years are counted. Bede occasionally uses the designation B.C. (before the Incarnation) as well, but the B.C. count did not replace the old Roman system until the 1400s.

Retirement Age

When Christians had to find some way to account ...

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