Fordham Historians Fill the Pages of Leading Journal

JMH title image

With a world wide audience and a rigorous but efficient peer-review process, the Journal of Medieval History (JMH)  is a popular venue for established historians as well as those publishing their research for the first time. It is a mark of the strength and vitality of Fordham’s History Department that consecutive issues of the journal will feature the work of no fewer than five Fordham historians at different stages of their careers.  To learn more about these contributions and the people and research behind them, read on!

The issue of JMH that went online in September 2014 (40:4, 2014) includes three contributions by Fordham medievalists. The first is by Elizabeth Kuhl, a PhD student in the final stages of writing her dissertation on the works of the twelfth-century Norman monk Stephen of Rouen. Elizabeth’s article, which began as a paper in a History department seminar, is entitled “Time and Identity in Stephen of Rouen’s Draco Normannicus.” According to the abstract, the Draco

recounts the history of the Normans from mythic origins to 1169 using an idiosyncratic style and structure that works to undo chronological strictures and strengthen the identity of the Norman dynasty against their Capetian enemies. Juxtaposing ancient and contemporary events, the non-linear narrative historicises the conflict between Henry II and Louis VII and presents contemporary events in the same epic style as Roman and Carolingian history. The Empress Matilda emerges as a focal point for the narrative as well as for Stephen’s conception of Norman dynastic and historical identity. Instances of direct address allow Stephen to raise and debate competing understandings of the Norman past while arguing for his preferred vision. Understood in this way, the Draco expands our ideas of historical writing and the perception of the past in the Anglo-Norman world.

If you reading this at an institution subscribing to the JMH you can read Elizabeth’s article here.


A letter in French from the Hospitallers of Outremer to King Edward I of England,

A letter in French from the Order of Knights Hospitallers in the eastern Mediterranean to King Edward I of England

The second article is by Dr. Laura K. Morreale. Laura received her PhD at Fordham after writing a dissertation on the uses of vernacular languages in local historical writing in northern Italy. Laura is now Associate Director of Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies, where she directs a number of new initiatives including the French of Italy and French of Outremer projects. Her research and work on these projects led her to consider the much- neglected corpus of letters composed on the eastern crusading frontier by members of the crusading military orders. These letters were then dispatched to the Order’s powerful supporters in Europe, such as King Edward I of England. As the abstract for her JMH article explains:

This study examines the use of French for documents employed by the Hospitallers in the Holy Land from 1231 until 1310. The period of greatest French-language production, from 1231 until 1275, occurred when the Order’s central convent was in Acre. During this time, texts were exchanged primarily between the Hospitallers and Westerners in the East, not with French speakers in the West. Early on, French was employed as an oral and written language, and this practice encouraged the continued use of French-language texts among the Hospitallers, whose members were informed of policy changes through public readings of legal texts. French-language document production diminished in the 1270s, when permanent Christian settlements in the East were threatened. Hospitaller French-language documents were then employed primarily for internal purposes, in conjunction with other French-language writings to defend the Order whose purpose came under attack once members were expelled from the Holy Land.

The third article is by Dr. Elizabeth Hardman. Elizabeth also received her PhD in History from Fordham, and is now Assistant Professor of History at Bronx Community College. Her article in the JMH is related to her dissertation, entitled “Justice, Jurisdiction, and Choice: The Church Courts of Carpentras in the Fifteenth Century.” “Using notarial records” the abstract explains

this article explains who sued whom at the bishop’s court at Carpentras, why they did so and how the court managed people and their debt disputes. In 1486 and 1487, creditors pursued 240 suits over unpaid loans (about three-quarters of the court’s business). Litigants spanned the social spectrum and included both Christians and Jews, suggesting that the court was well embedded in the local economy. This diversity, as well as the predominance of ‘horizontal lending’, matches regional trends. Drawing upon anecdotal evidence and quantitative work, the court’s procedures, functions and appeal are explained. Since most loans were made orally, proving their existence was difficult. Cases rarely reached rulings and creditors could not expect from ecclesiastical judges the coercive innovations adopted by secular courts. Yet, this church court was a popular forum to authenticate debts, pressure debtors into confession and encourage peaceful, private concords.

But Fordham’s triumph in the JMH does not end with this issue! Another recent PhD, Dr. Christopher Beck, who now teaches at Wright State University, will be publishing in an an upcoming issue in 2015. He wrote to tell us a bit about the forthcoming article.

The article is entitled, “Common good and private justice: letters of marque and the utilitas publica in fourteenth-century Marseille,” and it discusses, as suggested in the title, thirteenth and fourteenth century political theories about governance and actual communal practices of conflict resolution. The argument is that the council, following notions of what was “good for the commonwealth,” would suspend granted judicial rights to citizens if doing so was what was the most “useful” for the city. I also theorize where the sources were for the council’s language regarding commonwealth, pointing to some very compelling links with notable political theorists within the Neopolitan-Angevin court.

William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Striguil. Why was his crusade forgotten?

William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Striguil. Why was his crusade forgotten?

And finally, the previous issue of JMH (40:3) featured an article by Dr. Nicholas Paul, an Associate Professor in the History Department at Fordham. Dr. Paul’s article, which is related to his work with Laura Morreale on the French of Outremer project (mentioned above), considers a conundrum that has long stumped historians: why does the extensive biography of the famous knight William Marshal, earl of Pembroke and Striguil (d.1219) hardly mention his two years on crusade? From the abstract:

Generations of historians have struggled to understand this missing episode and have offered a variety of explanations. This article offers a new solution to this old problem, by placing the History of William Marshal for the first time in the broader landscape of contemporary writing about the crusades and the East. It is argued that the period in which the History was written was one of intense reflection on the crusading past. A survey of contemporary narratives reveals that the biographer had two options, to admit that his crusade had been a failure, or to reground the story within a growing romance tradition. Eschewing both options, he chose silence.

We’ve given you a lot to read, but if you’re looking for more, you can check back on this blog for further news of the publications of Fordham’s faculty and graduate students.


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