David Nicholas on #language use in the late medieval German elite

The “Golden Bull” of 1356… regulated the relations of king and electors and of the princes and their subjects [in the Empire]… [W]hile knowledge of German was assumed of the [seven] electors, they were admonished also to learn Latin, Italian and Czech. – David Nicholas, The Northern Lands – Germanic Europe, c. 1270-c. 1500 (2009)


Stephen Berry and Kathyrn Davidson on the economics of #NZEBs in Australia

Stephen Berry and Kathyrn Davidson, Zero energy homes – Are they economically viable?, Energy Policy 85 (2015) pp 12-21

This article estimates the additional cost, compared with measurements of subsequent energy consumption, of 53 new three and four bedroom houses on Lochiel Park, an estate in Adelaide, South Australia, which were built to a “net zero energy” standard.

The region has a “Mediterranean” climate.

Net zero is defined as an energy efficient building that generates sufficient energy on-site over the course of a year to supply all expected on-site energy services for the building users. The standard has the following elements:

  • energy consumption (including renewable energy?) of no more than 16 kWh/m2/year
  • (gas-boosted) solar thermal water heating
  • 1 kWp of PV per 100 m2
  • energy efficient appliances; CFLs or LEDs for lighting
  • air conditioning capacity limited to 4 kVA (input)
  • ceiling fans in living spaces and bedrooms
  • in-home energy feedback display
  • requirement for living spaces to be north facing

The cost is estimated compared to the building energy regulatory standard of NatHERS 5 Stars (<125 MJ/m2 [35 kWh/m2] per annum) otherwise applied at the time these homes were approved for construction. The additional cost of achieving the net zero standard is estimated at €2200 for tbe building envelope, €1100 for the water heater and €5200 for the PV, offset by a reduction of €125 in the cost of the heating and cooling system (using an exchange rate for the Australian dollar against the euro of 0,63).

In accordance with guidance from the Australian government, an annual real discount rate of 7% is used, with sensitivity analysis at 3% and 10%. Retail electricity and gas prices are assumed to remain at present-day levels in real terms (these are high: 21 eurocents/kWh for electricity and 9 for gas) as does the price for electricity exported to the grid (4 eurocents/kWh).

The financial impacts estimated are:

  • energy costs
  • income for exported PV
  • increased value of the house on resale (proxied by a discount of 1% of the value of the house at the moment of first occupation)
  • reduced cost for energy distribution infrastructure (estimated at €150 per year)

(It can be noted that all except the last accrue to the home-owner.)

It is assumed that the houses are constructed over a period of ten years.

Results: from year five, annual benefits exceed annual costs. Overall, the benefit-cost ratio is 1.9 with a 10% real discount rate, 2.4 with 7% and 3.5 with 3% – so the answer to the question in the title is “yes, zero-energy homes are economically viable”. The building envelope measures are barely so; the solar thermal does well; the PV does best of all.

The authors also remark that:

  • improvements in the building energy performance assessment tools, particularly their expansion beyond thermal comfort calculators, will facilitate industry learning about net zero energy homes, with associated cost reductions 
  • [s]eparate evidence from householder experiences at Lochiel Park suggests that any proposed change to the water heater standard may benefit from a parallel industry education and training programme to ensure improved installation and commissioning processes.


We went to see Richard II at the Globe theatre, in London.

I don’t understand how Shakespeare can make so much sense, four hundred years later. I wasted time. Now doth time waste me. In the interval we debated why Richard resigned – overheard other people doing the same thing.

Last January we saw Henry IV part I and II at the Barbican – it came as a nice surprise to me that the chap who appears in the play we saw today as Hereford, and then as Bolingbroke, is Henry IV.

It would be great to watch the whole series of history plays from Richard II to Richard III with overlapping actors, and then go on to Wolf Hall and Bring up the bodies.

(Someone should fill the gap of Henry VII. The Winter King, by Thomas Penn, is a great book about him.)

(Apparently when George RR Martin, the author of the Game of thrones, goes to book signings, he gets booed. He’s 66, not so young any more, he should be focussing writing the next volume. I feel a bit the same about Hilary Mantel. Short stories about Margaret Thatcher? I feel like saying to her, reproachfully.)


Alec Gillies

We come to Portsmouth from time to time, and like to look at the ships. Alec drew ourattention to the monitor M33, which Hampshire County Council conserved. Today we didn’t have time for a proper visit but made sure to have a look. In March it was wrapped up, today it was open for visitors.

M33 Portsmouth 915 3M33 Portsmouth 915 4

David Nicholas on the #UnionofKalmar

[In the late middle ages] [t]here is increasing evidence of Scandinavian regional consciousness. From the late 1240s the Scandinavian rulers and their retinues met occasionally at the mouth of the Göta river, where the three kingdoms nearly joined, to discuss matters of common concern… 

[Queen] Margaret… already ruled each of the Scandinavian kingdoms before the Union of Kalmar of 1397. The Union recognised Eric of Pomerania as king of all three, with the right to control castles and fiefs. The ruler was Danish, and the king had some direct authority in Norway but a looser suzerainty in Sweden… Although each country retained its own laws, each was expected to come to the aid of the others in war, and sentences of outlawry in one would be valid in all. The monarch was to respect their autonomy without trying to import innovations between kingdoms. Each country kept its separate Council, but the three were to make common cause in foreign policy… 

Margaret hoped for a genuine federal, not simply a personal, union, but the Union of Kalmar became the vehicle for Danish domination of Scandinavia, with some German assistance. It worked well in Norway, where both the monarchy and nobility were weak, but the Swedes never really accepted the Union. Still, it lasted with interruptions until Sweden seceded in 1523; Denmark and Norway remained together until 1814. Modern research has tended to emphasize national efforts to fracture the Union, particularly resistance to Danish control. Although high officials in all three kingdoms paid lip service to the Union, it is hard to avoid the impression that this was a cover for the pursuit of other agendas… 

The Union of Kalmar has superficial similarities to the other great federated states of the late Middle Ages: Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire and the union of Poland and Lithuania in 1386. All were purely dynastic, with the component realms keeping their own institutions and, generally, their personnel. But the Scandinavian realms were closer to one another than either the Polish or the Burgundian states. The three councils of the realm were technically a single committee, although Danes dominated in practice. – David Nicholas, The Northern Lands – Germanic Europe, c. 1270-c. 1500 (2009)

David Nicholas on princes and #cities

Maximilian of Hapsburg, who married Mary of Burgundy soon after her father’s death [at the battle of Nancy on January 5, 1477], was initially welcomed in Flanders, but nothing in his past dealings had prepared him for the urban environment of the Low Countries, with its long tradition of participation with the sovereign in state policy. – David Nicholas, The Northern Lands – Germanic Europe, c. 1270-c. 1500, 2009.

(Trailer: the next quotes from this lovely book, which is full of people called things like Louis the Posthumous, will be about the Kalmar Union.)

Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt on #nondrivers

[On a car journey in Cork] Ils s’arrêtèrent sur le pont Saint-Patrick aux trois arches et Baptiste fouilla dans ses souvenirs. Il proposa alors plusieurs directions contradictoires. Comme les gens qui ne conduisent pas, il avait une mémoire des lieux idiote, inutile, désaxée, s’appuyant sur des détails comme les plantes, les affiches, les vitrines, éléments qui avaient disparu. – Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, Les Perroquets de la place d’Arezzo, 2013