Publication Spotlight: Early Medieval Hagiography

medhagiography.pngBlog written by Dr James Palmer

“How is your book… your novel going?” Angus inquired politely as he sipped at his coffee. “The one about the Scottish saints?” Antonia sighed. “Not very well, I’m afraid. My saints, I regret to say, are misbehaving”. Love over Scotland, Alexander McCall Smith

And indeed, for Antonia, they are. They get grumpy and might not even really like each other. Saints are, after all, people, and not always particularly pure. They also have to live in the same societies as everyone else, full of petty jealousies, alcohol, greed, and people with bad ideas. Or, Antonia fears, maybe she is projecting her ideas on them.

I wrote Early Medieval Hagiography with these issues firmly in mind. Saints, or at least writings about them, have long been seen as both reflections of the societies that produced them and efforts to shape those societies. Hagiographies can supply wonderful, rich data for studying the early Middle Ages, from Ireland to Byzantium and sometimes beyond. But they can also present minefields for those dealing with them, both because they were not written to tell us about the past in a straightforward manner, and because of the baggage of how we have tried to study them ourselves.

Initially, I was approached by Arc Humanities Press (an imprint of Amsterdam University Press) to write an introduction to these saintly biographies that was, apart from being introductory, provocative, different, and grounded in enough hard research to say things to a hardcore audience. And preferably with a global angle. In short: it was going to be a challenge. We needed a twenty-first century guide to the subject that captured the field and at least attempted to tilt it to an awkward angle. It also need to bring scholarship on different regions – actually, in the end, stretching from Ireland to Japan – into sight to help future comparative studies.

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Schaffhausen, Stadtbibliothek, MS Gen. 1, f. 1 – a copy of the Life of Columba, made on Iona before 713, image attrib. e-codices, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

My plan was simple: I wanted to write a study that took the reader through the process of writing about saints, from their creation to our efforts to use saints’ Lives. It needed to start with people reading old saints’ Lives, hearing oral legends, remembering and misremembering things, and then trying to make their friends look like saints. There was no process of canonisation in the early Middle Ages, no rules about ‘how to make a saint’. Of course, some saints, like the Englishman St Boniface of Mainz (d. 754), looked like a saint in life because he had read all about them. His enemies were capable of doing so too, which was inconvenient for him and his followers, but which was good (for me) for showing how people negotiate status when there are not really any rules to follow. It also allowed plenty of scope for unusual saints: married-with-children saints, bishop-murdering saints, holy fools hanging out with prostitutes, saints who had performed no miracles whatsoever but who were a bit angsty. Every time one subverts our modern expectations about what a saint should look like, we should be jolted to consider what that says about shifting social norms, then and now.

Once somebody had written an account of their favoured saint, what they did with it was important. Hagiography did not just exist as stories: they were parts of books, of libraries, of sermons and debates, with real institutional contexts and with people engaging with them. Turning to the early manuscript evidence as I did, you can see people attempting to recontextualise saints by juxtaposing the new and the old, women and men, martyrs and confessors – all to give them new meaning. People composed calendars and martyrologies as guidebooks that linked into liturgical cycles (or often, more likely, just to help to decide what stories to read out at dinner time for entertainment). Order controls meaning.

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St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 566 – a calendar of saints that tells you in which book you could find the story about them, image attrib. e-codices, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Having built up a sense of how people wrote hagiographies, and then one of how people used them, the third angle was no less important: how do we use them? The modern classic on the subject, Hippolyte Delehaye’s Les légendes hagiographiques (1905), came directly out of efforts to remove dubious saints by applying rigorous source criticism (much of which boils down to entirely reasonable variations on ‘don’t trust anything too much without good reason’). The development of hagiography studies in the century that followed, unsurprisingly, very much mirrored historiographical trends more generally. Ideas from philology, gender studies, anthropology, postmodernism and comparative religious studies came into play, combined, and fell out of fashion again, leaving a varied toolkit for future analysis. But always, it seems, scholars sought ways to get lost pasts to speak to present concerns, however objective and neutral they claimed to be. There is a long history of being polemical about who is right and who is wrong about how, at the end of the day, historians ought to read hagiographies. What we need to do is to be methodologically promiscuous and find questions – not answers! – from different fields. In particular, we need to get away from the surprisingly dogged insistence that we don’t need to think about method or theory if we ‘read with care’.

The final part of Early Medieval Hagiography seeks to apply lessons from the other themes of the book, and to reassess what difference studying hagiographies has made to early medieval studies. Here, I turned to the big issues: How ‘dark’ were the Middle Ages? How important were ethnic and religious identities? Did people really not have any sense of the world beyond the horizon? And, of course, for every example that confirms our worst prejudices about the period, there is at least one saint whose story has unsettled them. In fact, more often than not, hagiography forces us to see the early Middle Ages as a much more complex time than even many working on them like to admit, and forces us to see more of society in action than just a few rich white men at the top. The challenge the book ends with, then, is how we can take these kinds of observations to build new histories that are both methodologically rigorous and which speak to our needs. Antonia could rest easy: we have been projecting our concerns onto saints for two millennia and we are not going to stop now.

St Andrews Book Conference 2018: Print and Power

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Dr Alexandra Hill with her book

Blog post written by Dr Nina Lamal

Between June 21 and 23, the Universal Short Title Catalogue team hosted its annual book conference.  This year’s conference theme was Print and Power, organised by Jamie Cumby (University of St Andrews), Nina Lamal (University of Antwerp) and Helmer Helmers (University of Amsterdam) and generously supported by the History Department of the University of Antwerp. Within the scope of the conference theme , scholars from across Europe, the United States, and Canada discussed multiple ways in which civic and ecclesiastical authorities recognized the potential and power of print, and how it was used to govern and communicate with their citizens from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century.

The conference hosted sixty attendees at St Mary’s College where twenty-six papers, spread over two and half days, provided stimulating conversations and discussions. The conference began with a panel on printing for the government with case studies from Germany, the southern Low Countries and Papal Bologna. Later that day, papers discussed printing propaganda and news in papal Rome, France, the Dutch Republic, and the Holy Roman Empire. The day ended with two more papers on the role of  printed books within international relations. On Friday, panels focused on reformation in England and the Holy Roman Empire, as well as the challenging of religious authorities in Milan, Antwerp and London. Other sessions were dedicated to the power of the image within print, and how patronage enabled the tracing of careers of individual printers in Italy and Krakow. The conference ended on Saturday with a panel devoted to printing in the Dutch Republic and a session on the use of print by colonial trading companies and institutions.

20180621_174609During the evening, the conference provided further activities. On Thursday evening, Special Collections exhibited lots of wonderful material related to our participants’ papers. Among the items on display were sixteenth-century Italian ordinances printed in Bologna and Naples. A specific book of interest was an Arabic translation of Euclid’s Elements, which was printed in Rome in 1594 in the Typographia Medicea. This oriental press was a commercial venture, heavily sponsored by Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici, who aimed to sell these Arabic books in the Ottoman Empire. On Friday evening the participants enjoyed a wine and beer reception, which celebrated the launch of St Andrews’ graduate Dr Alexandra Hill’s monograph Lost Books and Printing in London, 1557-1640. An Analysis of the Stationers’ Company Register.

The proceedings of this conference will be published in Brill’s The Library of the Written Word. Next year, another conference will take place, with the theme of  Crisis or Enlightenment? Developments in the Book Trade, 1650-1750. This conference will happen between 20 and 22 June – for more information, please visit http://www.ustc.ac.uk.

 

 

June Round Up

News

medievalworldCongratulations to Professor Carole Hillenbrand for being awarded a CBE for ‘Services to the Understanding of Islamic History’ on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2018

Congratulations are also in order for Drew Thomas, who was awarded an Early Career Research Fellowship Grant from the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester

Staff Activity

On 5th June Dr Emily Michelson ran a workshop at the British School of Rome on Religious Minorities in Early Modern Rome

New Publications

Timothy Greenwood. ‘Basil I, Constantine VII and Armenian Literary Tradition in Byzantium’. In Teresa Shawcross and Ida Toth (eds.), Reading in the Byzantine Empire and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Carole Hillenbrand and Robert Hillenbrand. ‘Ancient Iranian Kings in the World History of Rashid Al-Din’. Iran: Journal of British Institute of Persian Studies 56, no. 1 (May 2018): 34-46.

Caroline Humfress. ‘A New Legal Cosmos: Late Roman Lawyers and the Early Medieval Church’. In Peter Linehan, Janet Nelson, and Marios Costambeys (eds.), The Medieval World (Routledge Worlds, 2018).

Chandrika Kaul. ‘Gallipoli, Media and Commemorations during 2015: Select Perspectives’. Media History 24, no. 1 (2018): 115-141.

Andrew Peacock. ‘Firdawsi’s Shahnama in its Ghaznavid Context’. Iran: Journal of British Institute of Persian Studies 56, no. 1 (2018): 2-12.

Elena Marushiakova-Popova and Veselin Popov. ‘Between Two Epochs: Gypsy/Roma Movement in the Soviet Union and in the Post-Soviet Space’. In Magdalena Slavkova, Mila Maeva, Rachko Popov, and Yelis Erolova (eds.), Between the Worlds: People, Spaces and Rituals (Sofia: 2018).

ILCR 2018 Comparative Legal History Workshop

This blog has previously been published on the ILCR website

ilcrOn 11 and 12 May 2018, the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research held a workshop on the theme of comparative legal history. The aim was to explore the ways in which comparative legal history could be approached, and to hear examples of these approaches from the variety of papers delivered throughout the workshop.

The first day began with a keynote paper delivered by Alice Rio (King’s College London) which explored comparative approaches to studying early medieval legal culture. Papers were then given by Susanne Brand (vice-administrator of the Anglo-American Legal Tradition project) on the early history of bills of privilege in the Common Law, and Felicity Hill (Cambridge) on the use of general excommunication of unknown malefactors. This allowed a comparison to be made between the creative use and development of legal process within secular and ecclesiastical spheres.

The afternoon sessions began with papers from Danica Summerlin (Sheffield) and Ashley Hannay (Cambridge) on a panel discussing the nature and emergence of sources of legal authority, from the impetus behind the Statute of Richard III (Hannay) to the emergence of decretal collections in the twelfth century (Summerlin). This was followed by a panel discussing lordship and law in twelfth and thirteenth-century England and Normandy. Hannah Boston (Oxford) gave a paper on private charters and seigneurial courts in twelfth-century England, and Cory Hitt (St Andrews) discussed the nature of twelfth and thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman and Old French legal texts, and what we can learn about their authors through a close reading of the texts.

Next was a panel featuring the postdoctoral researchers on the Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law project. Each researcher outlined their research and the directions they intend to take during the course of the project. Andrew Cecchinato spoke about Blackstone, English law and Roman law; Sarah White discussed the potential influence of Roman Law on English Common Law through the medium of procedural treatises used in the English church courts; Will Eves spoke about the Roman Law concepts of possession and proprietas in Roman law, and their potential influence on the early English Common Law; Attilio Stella discussed feudal law in twelfth and thirteenth-century Italy and the way in which feudal practices were framed in reference to Roman legal categories.

The day concluded with a roundtable which offered thoughts on comparative methodology and issues emerging from the preceding papers. The panelists were: John Hudson (St Andrews); Thomas Gallanis (Iowa); Jacqueline Rose (St Andrews); and Danica Summerlin (Cambridge). This was then followed by a wine reception at the University of St Andrews Department of Medieval History.

The second day began with a panel discussing various aspects of community involvement in legal process. Anna Peterson (Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto) discussed procedures concerning corruption in hospitals in Narbonne, 1240-1309. Gwen Seaborne (Bristol) then discussed the role of women as witnesses in medieval English law, with reference to the evidential problems raised by claims to tenancy by curtesy if an infant died shortly after birth.

The second panel of the day compared different types of legal literature in early modern England. Jacqueline Rose (St Andrews) discussed the writing of the English lawyer Bulstrode Whitelocke and his attitude to legal change in seventeenth-century England. Mary Dodd (St Andrews) then discussed pamphlet literature and constituent power in the English Civil Wars.

Following the lunch break, delegates had the opportunity to take a walking tour of St Andrews, kindly offered by medieval historian and expert of the medieval history of the town, Alex Woolf (St Andrews).

There followed two keynote lectures. George Garnett (Oxford) discussed the great English legal historian F. W. Maitland’s approach to legal history, and the nature of legal history as practiced by historians and as practiced by lawyers. The second keynote lecture was given by Magnus Ryan (Cambridge) on the Libri Feodorum and the practice of medieval lawyers in the later middle ages.

The workshop concluded with an interview forming part of the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research’s ‘Law’s Two Bodies’ project. This project investigates the question of ‘what is law’ from the perspective of legal practitioners. As befitting the workshop’s focus on legal history, William I. Miller (Michigan) was interviewed by John Hudson about the nature of law and legal practice in medieval Iceland. The answers were given from the imagined perspective of Njáll Þorgeirsson, a tenth and eleventh-century Icelandic legal expert featured in the eponymous thirteenth-century Njáls Saga.

The workshop organisers are grateful to the European Research Council, whose funding of the Civil Law, Common Law, Customary Law project (Grant agreement number: 740611 CLCLCL) provided the genesis of this workshop. They are also grateful to the St Andrews Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research for the financial support it provided.

The next workshop, Legal History, Legal Historiography, will take place 12 and 13 June, 2020 in St Andrews.

Postgraduate Skills Seminar: Nick Blackbourn, content strategist

Blog written by PhD student Konstantin Wertelecki

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Photo attrib. Neil Williamson, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

On Thursday April 12, former St Andrews Modern History PhD student Dr Nick Blackbourn, who currently serves as content strategist at FULL CREATIVE, addressed postgraduates on pursuing non-academic careers. This event was hosted under the sponsorship of the University’s Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD) under the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA) thematic initiative ‘Transitions’. He discussed his own professional path to a non-academic career and offered advice to those unsure whether to remain in academia, or to seek a profession outside their doctoral training.  The central theme of his talk focused on the adoption of preparatory measures to successfully transition to non-academic careers.

Dr Blackbourn opened his talk with an exposition on the job problem, explaining that professional academic applicants grossly outnumber the available research positions. He offered a solution: in order to increase job opportunities for professional academic applicants, jobseekers need to widen the range of industries to which they apply and possess a strong understanding of their skillset and abilities. The discovery of his own skillset enabled Dr Blackbourn to smoothly transition into the non-academic industry. As a doctoral student, he was frequently pressured to raise his profile as a historian, so Dr Blackbourn began an online blog in which he could express much of his unused thesis ideas. As his thesis dealt with historical aspects of the Cold War, this website eventually morphed into a public history blog on the Cold War itself. Since this period was such a popular topic, the blog raised his profile so much that Dr Blackbourn was published on other high-traffic websites. In addition, the BBC found his blog and interviewed him on issues regarding the Brexit.

During this time, Dr Blackbourn also found himself interested in marketing analytics. He began to experiment and learn about how websites attracted specific readers and what variables influenced audience traffic. In addition, he began to outsource his skills to individuals and institutions who wished to create and successfully market their own blog. His growing work experience and marketing proficiency eventually granted him a position as a content strategist at the FULL CREATIVE software company.  He described his role as a liaison between the company and customers, ensuring that FULL CREATIVE understood the audiences’ demands, and never to overpromise the product’s ability . Though the fields of business and academia are vastly different, Dr Blackbourn expressed his enthusiasm for business due to its fast-paced work style. Describing business as pragmatic, Dr Blackbourn noted that he appreciated how business projects took no longer than necessary to complete, and that there was quick turnover time between projects. The contrast with the meticulous research of academia, conducted over long periods of time could not be greater. Dr Blackbourn asserted that holding a doctorate enhanced his position as a businessman, as it projected company credibility.

To PhD students considering a non-academic career, Dr Blackbourn offered three pieces of advice. First, he suggested that students should participate in non-academic events, so that they would begin to recognise outside interests that could potentially be used as a springboard into a different career. Second, he recommended that PhD students apply to all the CV-building opportunities possible, to show off a rich and diverse set of skills. Adding to this, he lastly stressed that PhD students should be thoroughly aware of their own skillset. He explained that companies will hire candidates who can demonstrate how their collected experience and skills that they possess will suit the specific demands of the company role. Despite this rigidity, he also noted that general doctoral skills, like the ability to read extensive amounts of text quickly, to understand and analyse complex ideas, and to produce high volumes of written reports, were valuable as well. Closing his talk, Dr Blackbourn stated that his transition from academia to business was highly rewarding, as it granted appreciation and respect.

Postgraduate Skills seminar: Kate Hammond, Acquisitions Editor, Brill

Blog written by PhD student Konstantin Wertelecki

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Photo attrib. James Stringer, CC-BY-ND-ND 2.0

On Thursday April 19, former PhD student Dr Kate Hammond, who currently serves as publishing editor at Brill Publishing, addressed history postgraduates on pursuing a non-academic career in the publishing industry. This event was sponsored by the Centre for Academic, Professional and Organisational Development (CAPOD) under the Quality Assurance Agency Scotland (QAA) theme ‘Transitions’.  She discussed her own career path and offered valuable insights into the scholarly publishing industry regarding its structure, positions, products, and career opportunities.

Dr Hammond opened her talk with a general overview of the academic publishing industry and its structure. Brill operates with three central divisions: Finance and Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Editorial. In the industry, Finance and Operations not only maintain daily business operations, but also retain sustainable fiscal flow. Employees who work in this department include accountants, finance analysts, IT Support officers, record managers, production editors, and distributors. Sales and Marketing sells the books published. Jobs in this department include marketers, sales representatives, and sales and marketing managers. Dr Hammond noted that academic publishing marketing differ from trade publishing marketing because of the concentrated industry of scholarly publishing. Academic marketers must possess skills to not only to understand the subject of the product they sell, but they must also be able to present these academic books to international customers. The Editorial division lies at the heart of the academic press. Within this department, publishing directors develop company strategies, and project managers, acquisition editors, and assistant editors review incoming proposals to determine if they are appropriate for publication.

Serving as a publishing editor in the Editorial division for Brill Academic Publishing, Dr Hammond, further detailed the diverse duties of her job. Projects are developed based on the demand of the academic market, in accordance with the latest research trends. From this framework, a certain number of books, journals, and other products are published per year, in agreement with expected revenue. Dr Hammond explained that a typical work week consisted of soliciting book submissions, reading and assessing book proposals, maintaining and expanding a published book or journal series, researching topics in her chosen genre of academic publishing, conducting market research, and creating fiscal projections for proposed books and series.

Dr Hammond expressed that despite the seemingly strong differences between the academic publishing business and academia itself, she found her doctoral training extraordinarily useful for her role as an academic publishing editor. As a publishing editor, one maintains their project, just as a scholar maintains their thesis. An editor must understand the market, just like a PhD student must understand a field of research. A publisher must network and market to grow projects, just as an academic must engage with others to further their own project. Both the editor and the academic must have strong organisational skills to balance multiple projects, be they professional duties or research, teaching, and conferences. Furthermore, Dr Hammond explained that her experience in academia serves as an advantage in the academic publishing industry, as she is familiar with the university hierarchy, methods of researchers, and even such matters as the academic calendar, which differ from business culture.

Dr Hammond obtained her position as publishing editor after receiving experience at Brill Publishers through a Marie Curie Initial Training Network,  Power and Institutions in Medieval Islam and Christendom. She asserted that for her, and other PhDs, doctorates may permit quicker ascension through the ranks of the academic industry publishing industry. Though she stressed that such companies are looking for business-minded editors, academic experience is always welcome, as are freelance publishing experience and related internships.

April and May Round Up

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Photo attrib. to Dunnock, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Staff Activity

On 24th May Justine Firnhaber-Baker gave a keynote lecture, ‘Seigneurial War and Peasant Revolts, or What’s in a Name?’ at the Medieval Culture and War Conference in Brussels

New Publications

Margaret Connolly, ‘The Representation of King Conred’s Kight in The Miroir and The Mirror’.  In Catherine Batt and Rene Tixier (eds.), Booldly bot meekly: Essays on the Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages in Honour of Roger Ellis (Turnhout: Brepols, 2018): 51-68.

Rab Houston, ‘The composition and distribution of the legal profession, and the use of law in early modern Britain and Ireland’. Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis (April 2018).

 

Tomasz Kamusella‘Jak chronić śląszczyznę’ (Translated: How to protect the Silesian
language?). Tygodnik Powszechny (March 2018)

Colin Kidd, ‘Global Turns: Other States, Other Civilizations’, New England Quarterly 91,
no. 1 (March 2018): 172-199.

Colin Kidd, ‘The Scottish Enlightenment and the Matter of Troy’. Journal of the British
Academy 6 (March 2018): 97-130.

Simon MacLean. ‘”Waltharius”: Treasure, Revenge and Kingship in the Ottonian Wild West’. In Kate Gilbert and Stephen White (eds.), Emotion, Violence, Vengeance and Law in the Middle Ages (Leiden: Brill, 2018): 225-251.

Jacqueline Rose. ‘Roman Imperium and the Restoration Church’. Studies in Church History 54: The Church and Empire (June 2018): 159-75.

Guy Rowlands, ‘Keep Right on to the End of the Road: the Stamina of the French Army
in the War of the Spanish Succession’. In Matthias Pohlig and Michael Schaich (eds.), The
War of the Spanish Succession: New Perspectives (Oxford: Oxford University Press and the German Historical Institute London, 2018): 323-341.