The Early Modern Commons

About The Early Modern Commons

EMC is something of an experiment. Blogs are, as we all know, quite fluid. They spring up, vary in activity levels, shift in focus over time, go dormant, and sometimes disappear altogether. Nonetheless, I hope it will be useful. General feedback is welcome using the contact form here.

Principles, and what EMC is and is not

  1. EMC is an aggregator, "a web site or computer software that aggregates a specific type of information from multiple online sources" (wikipedia).
  2. It is not a blog or a blog platform. It does not host blogs and does not post original content.
  3. It is not an archive or full record of the content of the blogs included.
  4. It is not a comprehensive collection of early modern blogging (not even in English).
  5. It is not trying to steal or profit from bloggers' work in any way, but simply to connect bloggers and potential readers.

I aim (a) to include only enough information on this site for readers to identify blogs and blogging of interest to them; (b) to clearly identify and link to the source of all content; and (c) use only publicly available information. However, if your blog is listed here and you wish to have it removed (in whole or any part of the content), I will respect this: please contact me.

Blogs' Information

All information in blogs' profile pages is derived from the blog itself. Short descriptions, where available, have been extracted from the description field in feeds, blog's sub-titles or about pages. Further detail has been manually retrieved from information provided by blog owners themselves, where this is readily accessible: bloggers' statements of purpose and biographical information; associated Twitter accounts; frequently-used blog keywords. Only publicly-available information about bloggers is included. (If a blogger using a pseudonym links explicitly to a real-name source and appears comfortable to have their real identity associated with the pseudonym, then I will include the real name; otherwise, I use only the pseudonym.)

Blog Tags have been assigned by me, for convenience and as a rough guide. They represent quite broad and/or popular categories that point to the main interests of a blog. Most blogs will have multiple tags, but they are certainly not intended to cover every topic their owners might sometimes write about. The list of keywords is compiled from the blog's own commonly used post categories/tags, if available, and may give a more detailed picture of the blog's coverage.


Titles and extracts from blogs' RSS feeds are included to give a taste of the writing and topics covered. Post categories/tags are searchable here, but the content of posts is not.

EMC is not a full archive of any blog's content, and it is not manually curated. Things to note:

  1. An RSS feed usually contains only the most recent posts in a blog; older posts 'drop off' the feed as they drop off the blog's front page. Unless I start aggregating a blog when it's very new and all its posts are contained in the feed, there will inevitably be older posts that I've missed.
  2. EMC does attempt to capture a record of every post from the point at which a blog is added to the database, but this can sometimes fail. (Conversely, occasionally posts may be duplicated.)
  3. It only collects content in blog posts, not comments or static pages.
  4. It only collects for display a portion of the content of blog posts (unless they are very short), usually about 20 words of the main body of the post, plus categories/tags.
  5. Occasionally, EMC captures a post that is subsequently deleted by the blogger. If I become aware of this I will remove the post, but unfortunately this can't be guaranteed.

Suggest a blog

If you know of an early modern-related blog (or similar online journal) that isn't listed here, please submit it for consideration using this form. NB: only blogs that publish a web feed can be included.

Other than this technical prerequisite, a substantial concern with early modern (c. 1500-1800CE) topics and things is the only essential requirement, although regretfully I may not be able to include blogs that aren't written primarily in English. They do not have to be scholarly. They don't need to be exclusively concerned with early modernity, although it should be a major component of a blog's content and the blogger's stated interests. Nor do they have to be very regularly updated.


Much of the information on EMC has been automatically extracted from the RSS feeds published by blogs. This means that the site is very much dependent on material created elsewhere and does not have any control over the content of that material.

Information on recent posts is updated about five times a day, not in real time, so may not always mirror the most recent content on the blog itself. Sometimes feeds fail to update; this may be because the update at this end didn't run properly, or because the blog has moved or is down, or the feed XML code is not validating correctly.

Occasionally I break things. Normally they get fixed again quite quickly, but if any problem persists, use the contact form to get in touch.

I don't follow all of the blogs listed here, so won't always know about changes. I get notifications about feed errors that I keep an eye on, and I'll attempt to check that links are working fairly regularly, but it's almost inevitable that at any given time some of the information here will be out of date. Changes can be reported at any time using the suggestion form (select the 'amendment' option).

If you think a blog might have been hacked and pose a security risk, please let me know as soon as possible using the same form or my general contact form.

How it's done

For anyone interested in setting up a similar aggregator for their own field of interest: there are various tools available for online aggregation (eg Planet), but this is the approach I've taken....

  • The essential tool to get feeds is SimplePie.
  • Information about blogs and blog posts is stored in a custom-built MySQL database and CMS.
  • Originally I used WordPress for the blogs database, making extensive use of WordPress's built-in custom fields to structure the data from the XML feeds, and this worked pretty well, but I wanted a more lightweight, tailor-made solution. WordPress also has a number of useful plugins for gathering content from feeds and turning it into blog posts.

Site Updates

December 2017

  • moved site to (this simplifies administration as it now shares a server with similar sites)
  • withdrawal of separate conference blogs feature; in future such blogs will be added to the main database

April-May 2015

  • refreshed visual design of site and made it more mobile/tablet-friendly
  • database: fixed issues with character encoding; cleaned up duplicates in posts and post tags data tables

September 2014

  • added conference blogs and feeds

May 2014

  • added monthly archives for posts

July 2013

  • new layout for the recent posts page using Isotope
  • tweaked home page layout
  • adjustments to search queries used for the jobs and conferences pages
  • added an RSS feed for the jobs page

December 2012

  • added post categories search and tag cloud (using jQuery)

August 2012

  • converted site from Wordpress to custom database
  • started aggregating blog posts' content into database