The Sudden Succession Crisis and the Fall of Askia Musa

In 1531, the askia (emperor) Musa I of the Songhai Empire in what is today northern Mali was overthrown by his brothers. But when they went to place one amongst themselves on the throne, they found one of their cousins beat them to it. This brief power struggle, its actions restricted almost entirely to close […]

Language Windows Into the Vagrant Underworld

Since I was first exposed to D&D, I’ve thought it was neat that one of the languages you could be proficient in was “thieves’ cant,” a language for rogues. Real life and real languages are more complicated, but secret languages do exist, and they have been used in criminal activity. One such is Rotwelsch, a […]

Herald-Inspectors

The role of the herald in Medieval western Europe was multifaceted: messenger, diplomat, announcer, and an expert in the system of personal and family insignia called “heraldry”. Starting in 1530 in England and Wales, royal heralds were sent out to verify that everyone using a coat of arms was approved to be doing so and […]

Divine Intervention and the 885 Siege of Paris

Through much of 885 and 886 A.D., a large force of raiders from Scandinavia besieged Paris. An eyewitness account of the Viking siege has survived: the Bella Parisiacae Urbis (Battle of the City of Paris) by Abbo, a monk of the abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Brother Abbo did not seek to produce a literal and accurate […]

The Abandoned God of Wat Kon Laeng & 13th Age Review

Sukhothai, in what is today central Thailand, was the capital of a Medieval Thai kingdom in the 1200s and 1300s. The city was later abandoned, and by the mid-20th century, the ruins were totally overgrown by jungle. When archaeologists began to study the site, they were initially perplexed by an odd pyramid south of the […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 2: The Conquest)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford their steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. The kingdom already had a king. Anyone who bought what the popes were selling would still have to conquer Sicily themselves. […]

I’ll Sell You Sicily, but You’ll Still Have to Conquer It (Part 1: The Hook)

From 1250 to 1266, four successive popes worked to sell the Kingdom of Sicily to any capable European warrior-aristocrat who could afford the steep asking price. The trouble was, the papacy didn’t own Sicily. In fact, Sicily already had a king who was none too pleased with the whole affair. These popes weren’t selling control […]

Five Dead Bodies in an Old Chaco Farmstead

In or around 1030 AD, two women, three babies, and two dogs asphyxiated to death in a farmhouse in a thriving community at the bottom of a canyon in New Mexico. Was this event a tragic accident or was it murder? Modern archaeologists have investigated the site thoroughly and lean towards accident – but it’s still […]

The Marriage Politics of Blanche of Castille

Blanche of Castille was Queen of France from 1223 to 1252. She was a juggernaut – one of the most powerful people on the continent. She led spy rings, commanded armies, and helped turn France into the pre-eminent power in Europe. The story of how she negotiated a marriage for her son, King Louis IX (the […]

The Villainous Sorcerer-King Against Imperial Mali

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The Buffalo-Ghost Queen of Imperial Mali

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The NPC Guest List at Babur’s Last, Greatest Party

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Chasing Your Boss’ Mirror-Universe Twin Through Punjab

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The Secret Peasant Book Club

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The Library of Ivan the Terrible

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