Dr. Scott Bruce, Professor of History, and Dr. Lucy Barnhouse, Fordham history department alum (2017) and currently Assistant Professor of History at Arkansas State University, both had featured articles appear in the February issue of the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History. Both their articles deal with the theme of ghosts.
Patrick DeBrosse – History department PhD Candidate (Cohort 2017-18) working with Dr. Nicholas L. Paul – is currently working on his dissertation, entitled: “Adorned with the Ring of St. Valerie”: History, Lyric, and Political Culture in the Limousin under Angevin Rule, 1154-1215.” In this week’s From the Archives, Patrick shares some of his experiences while researching at the
What is your current research on?
My doctoral dissertation examines the political culture of the Limousin region of France (around Limoges) in the aftermath of the region’s annexation into the Angevin Empire, a polity ruled by the kings of England during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. I attempt to use the writings of monks and the songs of troubadours to understand how medieval imperialism worked at a local level. I am particularly interested in the effect that living in a large empire had on Limousin expressions of identity, constructions of history, and perceptions of the wider world.
My research in the summer of 2022 focused on my chapter which explores the construction of history within the Limousin. I want to understand which new historical stories interested the people of the Limousin during the Angevin period, how Limousin monks and troubadours used history to reinforce their political values, and ways that Limousin authors reinvented old historical stories to maintain their relevance in a new era. A major goal of my summer research was to investigate the figure of St. Valerie, a woman venerated as an ancient martyr within the Limousin.
What archive(s) did you visit and can you describe the archive a little?
One of the archives I visited this past summer was the Archives départementales de la Haute-Vienne in Limoges, France. This is a small archive run by the local government on the outskirts of the city. I went for the medieval material, but they had much more that would have been of interest to scholars of early modernity and modernity.
The building is fairly inconspicuous from the main street (there is a lining of trees), and the signs are small, so it can be easy to miss: it took me a minute to convince myself that I was in the right place. The inside, however, is very clean and well-maintained, and a lot of the things inside looked relatively new. You are supposed to register for a research pass before you arrive. After you deposit your bag in the lockers by the entrance, you can pick up your pass at the main desk (straight ahead, at the end of the corridor and through the doors).
The staff is smaller than you would find at a major archive, but large relative to the number of researchers that I saw working. There are usually at least two staff behind the desk to assist you. None of them seemed to be fluent in English, but if you (like me) struggle with spoken French, they are very patient should you need to write down the French or use a translator app on your phone. You choose your own seat, and are allowed to take photographs.
To request documents/manuscripts, you write the information on a paper slip in pencil. They will bring the box/folder to you at your seat when it is ready, but only one at a time. When you are finished with one box/folder, you can return it to the cart at the desk, hand the staff member the accompanying slip, and receive your next item. There are charging ports built into the research desks, but I did have trouble fitting my Apple laptop charger into them (it was too bulky to fit into the cubby). They also have a couple of rows of desktop computers.
A particularly useful part of this archive are the open-shelf printed materials that line two walls of the reading room. These include print catalogs which are mostly digitized, but which are easier to skim in hard copy. They also include a number of rarer local history resources, such as a complete set of the Bulletin de la Société archéologique et historique du Limousin.
What was the most exciting part of your archival trip?
For me, the most exciting part of the trip was seeing some of the autograph notes written by the monk Bernard Itier. The vast majority of the material I work with survives only in later copies, but in the case of Bernard, it is possible to find the original, handwritten notes that he wrote into the blank spaces of other manuscripts. It is really great to see these notes in person, since even though some of the notes are edited, the materiality of the notes is not always clear to me. In this archive, I got to see several small documents that Bernard had used almost as scrap paper: charters, chirographs, etc. This material context allows me to imagine Bernard’s writing practices much better than I could without seeing them for myself.
What was a challenge you encountered during your research? How did you overcome it?
It was unbearably hot during my time in Limoges (I think it was close to the all-time record high in France). Since my hotel was a far walk, and there was no feasible transit alternative, I had to time my walks very carefully so that I was not risking heat stroke at the peak hours of sunlight. It also meant that I had to acquire sunscreen and a hat, and figure out which routes to the archive took me through the most shade. Since I didn’t want to walk all the way back to town in the heat at lunchtime, I had to get smarter about planning my meal times and packing snacks in my bag to eat in the coffee area. Plenty of water was key. And (at the risk of TMI), I had to make sure that I didn’t request my manuscripts too quickly when I arrived, since the last thing you want is to get sweat on something from the twelfth century.
What’s a good museum to visit while in Limoges?
The Musée des Beaux Arts was incredible. It is right next to the cathedral (which hosts food and antique fairs during the summer), and it has a really nice garden with a view of the city behind it. The building is the old bishops’ palace, and is stunning. The exhibits range from Roman and medieval artifacts (in the basement) to paintings to enamel artworks. Enamel is the artistic medium for which Limoges is famous, and I absolutely loved seeing their displays show the evolution of the art form from the twelfth century to the twentieth century. It was very cool.
Did you receive any funding to support your research?
What advice would you give to someone interested in pursuing historical research?
Talk to as many people as possible first: all our best ideas usually flow from conversations with friends and mentors.
From the Archives is a special series for the Fordham History blog which highlights the research experiences of members of the history department in an effort to bothshowcase their work and provide insight for future researchers preparing for their own archival projects.
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You can access their article here. Below is the abstract:
Monastic reading communities in early medieval Europe had a voracious appetite for the works of the Greek church fathers in Latin translation. This article examines the evidence for the availability of translated Greek patristics in western abbeys from the fifth to the ninth centuries through a survey of surviving manuscripts and monastic library inventories. While there was not yet a canon of officially recognized ‘fathers of the eastern church’ in early medieval Europe, this article shows how western monks favoured five of the six Greek patriarchs singled out as authoritative in the sixth-century Decretum Gelasianum. In terms of genre, they strongly preferred the homiletical writings of eastern Christian authors over their polemical works, because sermons and biblical homilies had greater utility as tools for teaching and preaching. Lastly, this article highlights the fact that the most widely copied Greek church father in early medieval Europe was also the most notorious and suspect thinker in the eastern church: Origen of Alexandria, whose skill as an author of biblical commentaries outweighed his notoriety as a condemned theologian in the eyes of western monks.
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This article examines artisanal employment agreements from the Catalan town of Castelló d’Empúries from 1260–1310, the period before and just after the formation of the first craft guild in that town. It addresses why craft guilds formed and what advantage guilds offered medieval artisans in contrast to pre-guild systems, with a focus on the market for artisanal training. The pre-guild artisanal labour market in late thirteenth-century Castelló was highly flexible, with a variety of terms and contract types under which craft training could be acquired. Artisans were free to make any agreement they found mutually satisfactory, but they were also at the mercy of the market. Trained artisans were not always the ones with higher resources and power compared to prospective learners. The cloth-finishers’ guild of Castelló closely monitored the market for training in their craft, and standardised the terms and contract formats under which training was offered.
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Esther Liberman Cuenca (PhD History, 2019), now an assistant professor at the University of Houston-Victoria (UHV), has recently been awarded three fellowships. They include a UHV Junior Faculty Grant for summer 2021, a Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society 2022-23, and a Junior Mellon Membership at the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies for 2022-23. She will spend her time in Princeton revising her Fordham doctoral dissertation into a monograph entitled “The Making of Urban Customary Law in Medieval Britain.” Dr Cuenca has also recently published “Led Zeppelin— ‘Immigrant Song’: Viking Medievalisms and the Afterlife of Classic Rock,” in One-Track Mind: Capitalism and the Art of the Pop Song (London: Routledge, 2022). In 2023, she has an essay forthcoming in Continuity and Change and is serving as guest editor of “Representations of the Medieval in Popular Culture: Remembering the Angevins,” a special collection for Open Library of Humanities.
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Sixteenth Century Society and Conference: 2021 Bainton Prize for History and Theology “The Roland H. Bainton Book Prizes are named in honor of one of the most irenic church historians of the twentieth century. Roland H. Bainton was professor of church history at the seminary of Yale University for many years, the advisor of many Ph.D. students, the author of over a dozen important books, and an ardent supporter of early modern studies.
Four prizes are awarded yearly for the best books written in English dealing with four categories within the time frame of 1450-1660: Art and Music History, History and Theology, Literature, and Reference Works. The prize-winning book in each category is chosen by a committee of three SCSC members appointed by the president of the SCSC who shall also designate one of the three to serve as chair.” (https://sixteenthcentury.org/roland-h-bainton-prizes/)
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“The questions about poverty and charity we are facing now, in the middle of a major economic and public health crisis, are not new. They reflect our moral values as well as our social, legal, and political structures. (Tellingly, in the US, charitable giving is intertwined with tax codes.) To be sure, these values do change over time and vary across regions and cultures. In Judaism, tzedakah—roughly, charity—is a moral obligation, a mitzvah. (Although a mitzvah is also considered a good deed, in Hebrew it means a religious precept or commandment.) “Formal institutions for poor relief,” not just individual almsgiving, Kaplan writes, were already
“prescribed” in the Mishnah and the Tosefta—ancient Jewish texts from the second and third centuries CE. Zakat, or almsgiving, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
In Christianity, by contrast, charity is not a commandment or a pillar of religious practice, though Jesus’ teachings about poverty and wealth have played an important part in the development of Christian views on charity and on the role of the poor within society. In Christian medieval communities, for example, poverty was not considered shameful. Quite the opposite: poverty as a voluntary way of life was seen as a manifestation of piety, embodied most famously by Saint Francis of Assisi and the members of mendicant orders. In the seventh century Saint Eligius reportedly said, “God could have made all men rich, but He wanted there to be poor people in this world, that the rich might be able to redeem their sins.” The poor begging at church entrances were a common sight, offering the wealthy an opportunity to give alms. Even the word for “hospice” suggested an aura of holiness. In Paris, it was Hôtel-Dieu, and among Jews of Northern Europe it was called a hekdesh, related to the Hebrew root for “holy,” k-d-sh.
Then, Kaplan notes, echoing the historian Thomas Max Safley, “something happened to charity in early modern Europe.” In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, crop failures led many of the rural poor to move to cities. Frequent epidemics overwhelmed local hospices, and religious individuals and institutions alike were unable to provide adequate support to the sick and the poor. More formal solutions were needed, and almsgiving and poor relief became increasingly regulated. Now the poor were no longer seen as a means of redemption for the rich but as a public nuisance and a social burden, and perhaps as a vector of disease.
The cities began to define who was deserving and undeserving of aid. Public begging was increasingly banned, poverty was gradually criminalized, and residency was required to qualify for poor relief. In 1516, for example, Paris banished “vagabonds.””
You can follow Prof. Magda Teter on Twitter @MagdaTeter.
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Dr. Esther Liberman Cuenca, who earned her Ph.D. in medieval history at Fordham in 2019, has been awarded the 2021 Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize from the Medieval Academy of America, which recognizes a first article in the field of medieval studies of outstanding quality. The prize, for her article, “Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England,” Urban History 46:2 (2019): 180-201, was established by the Medieval Academy of America in 1971 and consists of a certificate and a monetary award of $500. It will be presented at the Academy’s 2021 Annual Meeting, hosted online by Indiana University, Bloomington. She is one of two winners of the award this year. The prize committee submitted the following citation.
In her perceptive and finely-crafted essay Esther Liberman Cuenca examines the expertise and duties of clerks in medieval English towns, and particularly their roles in creating custumals, or collections of written customs. She highlights and traces two fundamental aspects of clerks’ authorship, their legal and administrative expertise, and their roles in transmitting urban laws to posterity. Urban historians of the Middle Ages are familiar with custumals, documents found in almost every medieval towns that regulated the lives of their citizens, from markets and commerce to administration, social mores and hygiene. While historians usually locate and frame analyses of the documents within the history of urban politics and “normalization”, they rarely study who actually drafted them. Cuenca’s innovative article engages the historiography of urban literacy, and of the anonymous professionals who supported literacy within an urban institutional framework. Her careful analysis of their oaths and administrative practices, which often adapted older materials, reveals that town clerks played critical roles in transmitting customary law to future generations of administrators. Clerks were usually left in the shadow of their superior, and the vital contribution of Cuenca’s work is to bring these individuals to light by focusing on the creation, organization, and preservation of urban custumals, and most of all on their authorship. Were these clerks scriptores, compilatores, or commentators? By showing that they fulfilled all of these roles, Cuenca reaffirms their existence in urban memory.
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Amanda Racine (PhD student, Medieval History) has received a Fulbright Fellowship to France for 2020/21. She will be affiliated with Centre d’études supérieueres de civilization médiévale (CESCM) at the Université de Poitiers working with Professor Martin Aurell. Over the course of the year she plans to study extant oaths and customs spread across several archives in France: the Société Archéologique de Montpellier in Montpellier; the Archives départementales des Bouches-du-Rhône, the Archives municipales de Marseille, and the Bibliothèque municipale d’Arles, all in and around Marseille; and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) in Paris. Amanda has also been awarded a grant from the American Numismatic Society for the 66th Annual Eric P. Newman Graduate Summer Seminar in 2020 (delayed due to COVID-19). She plans to study the text and iconography of Frankish, Fatimid, Ayybuid, and Mamluk coins from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @AMNerbo.
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