My family and I started playing board games when I was in high school in the early to mid-2000s. Catan (formerly known as The Settlers of Catan) was the game that introduced us to this world-within-a-world. Its popularity grew during my college years, and it is considered one of the “gateway” games that led to the explosion in popularity of modern board games in the last fifteen years or so. Klaus Teuber, the German designer of the game, unfortunately passed away earlier this year on April 1st. In memory of the late Klaus Teuber, I thought it would be an interesting exercise to explore the real world historical inspirations which make up the fictional world of Catan.
Catan was originally released in 1995 to moderate success, but its popularity soared at the turn of the millennium. To date, Catan has sold over 40 million units in 50 languages across the globe. Hard-core board gamers even casually refer to 1995 as a benchmark in the history of the hobby: B.C. (before Catan) and A.C. (after Catan)—thus, we are currently in the year 28 A.C. That may sound silly to us history buffs, but the game’s popularity really was a landmark moment in the history of board games. No game like Catan had seen this much mass appeal and success before. It brought strategic and complex games to the mainstream market, and inspired a whole new genre of board games, known as Eurogames, which has been refined and expanded in the decades since. Continue reading Catan: Playing with Pieces of History→
Recently, the Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, part of the Polish Academy of Sciences, unveiled a new interactive map feature on their website: Mapy z Przeszłością (Maps of the Past). The online tool superimposes historical maps over a modern map of Central and Eastern Europe, allowing researchers to visualize and compare shifting borders and place names over time. The turbulent nature of Poland’s history, with its boundaries expanding, contracting, and disappearing over several centuries, is reflected in the geographic range of the maps available as overlays. The new map tool is useful for users with ancestry from modern Poland, Germany, Ukraine, Belarus, and Lithuania, or the historical territories of the German, Russian and Austrian Empires.
In Central and Eastern European genealogy, you will encounter placenames that changed depending on who controlled an area and when. This complicates research as we sort out and weigh the accuracy of the various placenames that are found in American sources. For example, researching a Lithuanian immigrant ancestor, you may find that their town of origin is reported in its Polish form in American sources, reflecting the official name from the early nineteenth century. The same town or village may be recorded in another record with an approximation of its Russian name, from when Lithuania was part of the Russian Empire. The town name may also appear in its Lithuanian form, which became official in the twentieth century. Researchers with Jewish ancestry may also find a distinct Yiddish form of their ancestral town or village recorded in American sources. Continue reading A New Tool for Interpreting Central and Eastern European Maps→
Following the example of his mother Queen Elizabeth II, the new monarch of the United Kingdom has officially chosen his first given name as regnal name: King Charles III. I previously speculated that the new king might choose the names George VII , Philip, or, as a longshot, King Arthur . Historically, it’s popular for monarchs to choose their first names–since the creation of the United Kingdom, the only monarchs to break the pattern by reigning with a subsequent given name have been Victoria, Edward VII, and George VI.
Regnal names in the United Kingdom have a complex history, particularly those which were used for monarchs of England or Scotland prior to the unification of the two kingdoms. Until 1603, England and Scotland had separate monarchies, although royals of the two kingdoms frequently intermarried. (All English monarchs since Henry II were descendants of Malcolm III of Scotland, and all Scottish monarchs since James II of Scotland were descendants of Edward III of England; see this chart.) Queen Elizabeth I’s closest heir after her death was her first cousin twice removed (in two ways), King James VI of Scotland, who subsequently became known as King James I of England. Continue reading Regnal names in the U.K.→