The Early Mendicants: Francis, Clare and Dominic Class Trip


Blog written by Meg Hyland

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Photo attrib. Frances Andrews, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Just as a cold snap descended upon St Andrews, our Special Subject class left the auld grey toon behind for five incredible days on a tour of mendicant Italy with Professor Frances Andrews. In her module The Early Mendicants: Francis, Clare and Dominic, we have been studying these three thirteenth century saints through close reading of the texts that flowered around each of them in the wake of lives, characterized by intense religious fervour. After a great deal of planning, we were able to take our research out of the classroom and into the medieval cities where these individuals lived, preached, prayed and died.

Where else to begin our journey through medieval Italy than the city to which all roads lead? Rome was not built in a day, but we certainly tried to walk it in one. Although our feet ached by the end of the day, the payoff was a whirlwind tour of the city’s medieval mendicant landscape (and an impressive Fitbit step count). Visiting the city’s medieval churches brought fresh clarity to many of the issues we encounter in the sources. The chandelier-decked nave of the Franciscan church Santa Maria in Aracoeli and the glittering cosmatesque pillars of the Lateran cloister, for example, served as architecturally didactic emblems of the eternal tension between the ideals of apostolic poverty and the “beauty of holiness” that plagued the medieval church.

The texts we labour over in the library came to life nowhere more vibrantly than in Assisi. The translation of Clare’s body up the mountainside from her monastery to San Giorgio in the hot Italian summer takes on a new physicality when you have scaled the steep path yourself. The delight in the natural world that inspired Francis to compose The Canticle of Creatures is easily shared by anyone watching the sunset over the olive groves beside San Damiano. Perhaps the most incredible match of experience to text was in the Upper Basilica of San Francesco. Medieval history has never been so tangible as when we gazed upon the phenomenal frescoes on the walls while Frances Andrews read us the passages of Bonaventure’s Life of Francis that inspired each image in a whisper (so as not to arouse the ire of the policeman patrolling the pews).

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Photo attrib. Juan Salmoral, CC-BY-ND-ND 2.0

Of course, the landscape has changed since the time of the mendicant saints, sometimes dramatically – there were probably not so many gelaterias in Innocent III’s Rome, nor such affordable pizza places in Dominic’s Bologna. The museums of Perugia and Bologna house a concentration of valuable religious art so dense that it would have overwhelmed the medieval mind. But other things remain the same. A kitten scurries around the monastery where Clare once told a cat to bring her a towel. The Pantheon still lets the rain in through the roof. Beneath the layers of modern industry and ornament, a more ancient bedrock remains, from the Etruscan stones of Perugia to the tiny church of the Porziuncola huddled beneath the dome of the vast later basilica.

To study medieval history is often an exercise in the imagination, building up in the mind an image of people and places remote in space and time. On this trip, however, we had the incredible opportunity to see for ourselves the incredible art and architecture that these charismatic figures inspired their followers to commission. We are grateful to Frances Andrews and the School of History (not to mention anyone who patronized our library bake sale) for giving us this opportunity. Our thanks are also due to the people in archives and museums who helped us access the primary sources and those who showed us great hospitality: the Dominican archivist in Rome, the director of the museum of the Porziuncola, Professor Giovanna Casagrande and Amilcare Conti. All of these people enabled us to experience first-hand the rich physical world that the early mendicants inhabited, adapted and created.

Monthly Round Up: December and January

colinkidd.jpgNews

The Heirs to the Throne project has launched a podcast series: a selection of the finest ‘Heir of the Month’ essays will be made available as mini-lectures.

A Companion to Intellectual History, edited by Professor Richard Whatmore and Dr Brian Young, has been selected as an ‘Outstanding Academic Title’ by Choice Magazine and has been included in the magazine’s annual list in its  January 2017 issue. Dr John Clark also contributed a chapter to this volume.

Dr James Nott has been awarded a Royal Society of Edinburgh grant for a series of research workshops on how historians can best collaborate with artists, museums and others working in Scottish cultural institutions. The workshops will be held in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee.

Arthur der Weduwen has won the Elsevier/Johan de Witt Thesis Prize for his master thesis, titled ‘The development of the Dutch press in the seventeenth century, 1618 – 1700’. A two volume bibliography, Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, based on this same thesis will be published in May.

Anne Rutten was awarded the 2016 Dorothy Dunnett Academic History Prize for her essay ‘And There Was Proof: James II, the Black Douglases and the Fifteenth-Century Power of Documents’.

Staff Activity. 

On 2nd December Dr Nina Lamal gave a talk at the IHR Low Countries Seminar in London. The talk was entitled ‘The Low Countries in the news: Italian information networks on the Dutch Revolt’.

On 5th and 6th December Dr Shanti Graheli gave two guest lectures at the University of Udine, entitled, ‘Il mondo del libro antico in un guscio di noce: introduzione all’USTC’ and ‘Dove i libri sono tutti monadi. Benvenuti a The World’s Rarest Books.’

On 9th January, Dr Tomasz Kamusella talked on ‘The Normative Isomorphism of Language, Nation and State’ in the Institut für Osteuropäische Geschichte at the Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria. On 10th January, Dr Kamusella spoke on ‘The National Silesian Movement in Postcommunist Poland: Between Democracy and Nationalism’ in the Institut für Slawistik at the Universität Wien, Vienna, Austria. He also spoke on the same topic onn 13th January for the Ústav politických vied SAV (Institute of Political Sciences) and the Ústav etnológie SAV (Institute of Ethnography) in the Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia.

Dr James Palmer contributed to the Radio 3 Sunday Feature ‘Apocalypse How’ on 15th January.

Dr Nathan Alexander gave a talk, entitled ‘Debating Nonreligious Identity: A Historical Perspective’ to the Dundee branch of the Humanist Society of Scotland on 16th January.

On 16h January, Dr James Nott delivered a talk on ‘The Dance Hall and Women’s Emancipation in Britain 1918-60’ at Shoreditch House, London.
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From 18 to 20 January Professor Elena Marushiakova and Professor Veselin Popov took part in the MigRom Final Conference as invited key note speakers with an opening presentation entitled “Migration vs. Inclusion: Roma Mobility from East to West”.

On 22nd January, Dr Emily Michelson published an article in the Times Higher Education blog, entitled ‘Historians make the best healthcare workers.’

On 27 January Sarah Easterby-Smith gave a paper entitled ‘Picturing Banks’s networks: patrons, scholars and botanical merchants’ at an AHRC workshop at the National Portrait Gallery, London, on ‘Science, Self-fashioning and Representation in Joseph Banks’s Circles’.

On 28th January Dr Konrad Lawson gave the talk “From the Regional to the Global: Pan-Asianism to World Federalism in the Aftermath of Japanese Empire” at a Leiden University symposium on Global Regionalism as part of the Contemporary History and International Relations Research Seminar.

Recent Publications

David Allan, ‘“Winged Horses, Fiery Dragons and Monstrous Giants”: Historiography and Imaginative Literature in the Scottish Enlightenment’ in R. McLean, R. Young and K. Simpson (eds.), The Scottish Enlightenment and Literary Culture (Bucknell University Press, 2016).

Colin Kidd, The World of Mr Casaubon: Britain’s Wars of Mythography, 1700-1870 (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Julia Prest and Guy Rowlands (eds.), The Third Reign of Louis XIV, c. 1682-1715 (Routledge, 2016).

Publication Spotlight: The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286–1707

Blog written by Dr Jacqueline Rose

politicsofcounselIs it true that behind every successful ruler there is an exhausted adviser? It has certainly often been the case that ‘evil counsellors’ have been blamed for bad government. But if grumbling about special advisers looks like a distinctly modern phenomenon, think again.  Such figures have often operated in the shadowy world of political manoeuvring, whether characterised as benign mentors or cunning manipulators—or both.

For much of history, the role of the adviser was idealised. This was the case in much of the period covered by the contributors to the recent volume on The Politics of Counsel in England and Scotland, 1286–1707. This was an era in which good counsel was seen as the way to foster good rule; that is, where a monarch governed for the common interest and common good, and not tyrannically, for their own private benefit or wilful pleasure. Counsel evolved to meet the needs of this age of Anglo-Scottish warfare and unions, dynastic and religious upheavals, and developments in local, national, and colonial government—not forgetting the adaptations in advisory practices required to fit each new monarch’s personality.

Using the poetry, drama, government records, and political treatises of the period, contributors to the volume examine ideas about advice and the role it played. Some instances of political failure come up—James III of Scotland, killed during a rebellion in 1488, and Charles I, executed in 1649—are the most prominent. But there are also signs that rulers could be open to advice, at least on some points, some of the time.

Appropriately, contributors to this volume benefited from each other’s counsel through a workshop held in St Andrews in May 2014, which was made possible by the British Academy’s award of a grant from the Browning Fund and a British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant; and by support from the School of History and the Institutes of Scottish Historical Research, Intellectual History, and Reformation Studies. Alongside the editor, the volume features chapters by St Andrews-based authors Michael Brown and Roger Mason, and one by Claire Hawes, at the time a PhD student here and now based in Aberdeen. This reflects how suitable a base St Andrews is for the larger Politics of Counsel research project from which the workshop and volume derived.

While substantial in its own right, the volume aims to create a framework for future research on political advice—past, present, and future. It provocatively suggests ways in which even ‘failed’ advice might actually contribute to political life. So the next time you hear on the news that the power and influence of ‘spads’ has been criticised, don’t assume it’s a symptom of the decline of modern politics. Bad advice may just be an age-old excuse: easy to make, but deserving of sharper analysis.

Ronald Cant and St Andrews

 

Blog post written by Sarah Leith, former Mlitt student and starting her PhD at St Andrews in September

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Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Strathmartine Trust, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

As you wander along North Street, pause for a moment beneath the looming tower of St Salvator’s chapel and if you look down at the ground, you will find the Protestant martyr Patrick Hamilton’s initials visible amongst the cobble stones. The dreaded ‘P.H.’ pinpoints the position where the sixteenth-century martyr was burnt at the stake and it now marks the area where students fear to tread, lest they fail their degrees. Continue eastwards and your eyes will meet with the imposing grey ruins of a mediaeval cathedral, which used to welcome monarchs and pilgrims but now attracts coaches full of tourists from all over the world. Take a left along North Castle Street and cast your eyes upwards to the window of the Castle from which Cardinal Beaton’s body was hung in 1546. A sense of Scotland’s past is unavoidable as you traverse St Andrews’ mediaeval streets today. Ronald Cant, the University of St Andrews’ first lecturer in Scottish history was dedicated to the preservation of this historic townscape as well as the promotion of St Andrews University’s history.

From his appointment in 1936 until his retirement in 1974, Cant was devoted to securing the teaching of Scottish history at St Andrews University but he also held a passion for the history of the university itself. He penned works regarding the university’s past and as Keeper of Muniments, he was undeniably the ultimate authority on this topic. The historian is best known in the university today for his The University of St Andrews: A Short History. It is a must read for anyone intrigued by any aspect of the University’s past, from its fifteenth-century founder Bishop Wardlaw to the building of the 1970s University Library in which, incidentally, can be found many copies of the work. However, although his articles concerning the Scottish universities’ influence upon Scotland’s Enlightenment continue to be authoritative Cant’s academic output was on the whole, limited. (1)

Rather than extensively publishing articles in scholarly journals, as did his contemporaries, Cant preferred to produce small booklets for the benefit of heritage societies. His Festschrift is dominated by these small publications and a perusal of this list hints at his dedication to the preservation of historic towns across Scotland. (2) Cant was also a key figure in the founding of the St Andrews Preservation Trust in 1938 and he played an invaluable role in saving St Andrews’ historical domestic buildings from demolition. (3)

Clearly devoted both to the University of St Andrews and to the Auld Grey Toon, Cant was also eager to promote Scottish history outwith St Salvator’s ivory tower. Strolling through the cobbled streets and wynds of St Andrews or venturing out from his home on Kinburn Place and along the viaduct, Cant stopped to speak with this person and with that person, whether an academic or a local. He would engage those passing by with interesting facts, such as his belief that Cardinal Beaton’s tomb lies under the grass in front of South Street’s Madras College. With ease he straddled that grey area between town and gown as day and night he frequently filled lecture halls with both students and locals, the latter waiting with anticipation for his enthralling talks held on Friday evenings.

Ronald Cant must be remembered and praised for his role in the establishment of the permanent study of Scottish history at the University of St Andrews and for his extensive work concerning this university’s own history. He should also be lauded both for his protection of St Andrews’ tangible history and for his outreach to the local community. Indeed, without his vision and preservation work, the historical centre of St Andrews, which we all enjoy wandering around and exploring today, would very likely look quite different.

(1) R.G. Cant, ‘The Scottish universities and Scottish society in the eighteenth century’, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 58 (1967), pp.1953-1966; Ronald G. Cant, ‘Origins of the Enlightenment in Scotland: the universities’ in R.H. Campbell and Andrew S. Skinner (eds), The Origins and Nature of the Scottish Enlightenment (Glasgow, 1982), pp.42-64.

(2) Dugald MacArthur, ‘Bibliography of the Works of Ronald Gordon Cant’, in G.W.S. Barrow (ed.), The Scottish Tradition: Essays in honour of Ronald Gordon Cant (Edinburgh, 1974), pp.259-263.

(3) Elizabeth Williams and John Lindsey, Saving St. Andrews: A Short History of the St. Andrews Preservation Trust (Fife, 2003).

Ronald Cant and the Establishment of Scottish History Teaching at the University of St Andrews

Blog post written by Sarah Leith, former Mlitt student and starting her PhD at St Andrews in September

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Photo reproduced with the kind permission of the Strathmartine Trust, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Today, Scottish history enjoys its rightful place as part of the history curriculum at the University of St Andrews: first and second year modules delve into Scotland’s past; there are honours courses devoted to the nation’s history; a Scottish Historical Studies MLitt is offered, and there are numerous PhD students researching a wide variety of Scottish topics. However, it was not until around the mid-twentieth century that Scotland’s first university offered the serious and permanent study of this subject to its students. Flying the flag for Scottish history at St Andrews University during this time was the historian Ronald Cant. Having been appointed mediaeval history lecturer in 1936, the historian almost immediately began his mission to single-handedly secure the study of Scotland’s past at this university. Although characteristically modest and unambitious, Cant was a pioneer who fought a long and lonely battle to gain recognition for his subject, with a Scottish history chair finally being created in 1974, the year of the historian’s retirement. Read more of this post

Medievalists in Scotland Meeting

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

On the third of December, The St Andrews Institute for Medieval Studies welcomed almost a hundred medievalists from all over Scotland for a day of friendly chats and scholarly exchanges of ideas. Victoria Turner and Audrey Wishart organised this fantastic day in St Andrews, following the example of a similar event six years ago. The first Medievalists in Scotland meeting had been a great success, so the third of December had been widely anticipated by many!

The event was opened by a short speech, courtesy of the newly installed Principal Sally Mapstone. As a medievalist herself, she encouraged the participants to embrace all the new possibilities currently arising in medieval studies, without forgetting the material details of the sources everyone worked with. After these wise words, participants were free to mingle during the poster session. Not only senior lecturers from St Andrews were present: postgraduates and academics from all over Scotland attended, working on a wide variety of subjects.

Due to the high number of participants, there were two rounds of poster sessions. Everybody had been asked to craft posters beforehand, outlining their current research interests and projects. The geographical range spread from the Middle East to the far corners of Europe. Textile-oriented approaches were present alongside philosophical explorations, and the timeline of the Middle Ages was similarly approached from many different angles.

Following the poster session, participants were given the opportunity to meet in groups to discuss a variety of research interests. It will come as no surprise that a wide variety of interests exist among medievalists in Scotland: palaeography and manuscript culture, clothing/textiles, editing/philology, reception studies, spirituality/piety/relics, monasticism, gender, lordship/nobility/patronage, and governance/law. During these roundtable discussions, old and new approaches were all explored. After these workshops, participants met in groups again to discuss some of the latest trends in medieval studies, including: digital humanities, new materialism, emotions, academic/non-academic collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and palaeography. In certain panels, future collaborations were proposed, including workshops and conferences.

When the day ended, many medievalists had (re)connected with their colleagues elsewhere in Scotland. In the future, the Medievalists in Scotland Day will certainly be as successful in furthering research connections and bringing together scholars from all over the country.

Early Modern and Reformation Studies Reading Weekend

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Photo attrib. Stu Smith, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Blog written by Hannah Briscoe

In mid-November, Early Modern and Reformation Studies students and staff gathered around the warmth of a fire and the grandeur of a Scottish country house for our “Reading Weekend”—a favorite tradition and yearly highlight for the school.

After our first dinner together on Friday evening, Robert Frost (Aberdeen) kicked off the weekend with an impressively appropriate and mood-setting presentation, “Identity Doubtful: The Supposed Polish Portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie.” It was just the right setting for a bit of Jacobite intrigue. Afterwards, the evening continued for most with games, discussions ranging from philosophical to the ridiculous, drink and merriment. Saturday was a full day which included three meals together, three sessions, and a gorgeous afternoon for exploring.

The morning session was on the theme of printing and publishing. Marc Jaffre chaired what was a truly interesting panel of papers and following discussion. Andrew Pettegree, Arthur der Weduwen, and Jamie Cumby presented on the recovery of lost books, lost and found travel literature, and reasons for resistance to typographic change. After the all-important coffee and tea break, Jaap Jacobs (Dundee) chaired a session in which Edda Frankot and Jackson Armstrong (Aberdeen) offered insight into what it is like to work in a group on a funded research project. Claire Hawes (Aberdeen) then related her experiences in post-doctoral research and offered insights into how historians can engage with the community.

We reconvened after tea and coffee for an international panel discussion. Guy Rowlands was the moderator on “Crossing Continents. Two university systems divided by a common language (sort of).” Martine van Ittersum (Dundee), David Whitford (Baylor University, Texas), and Emily Michelson made up the panel which focused on comparing the American and British systems for undertaking a PhD as well as finding funding and the job interview process. In the evening, we enjoyed a fantastic pub quiz, courtesy of Jamie Cumby and Andrew Carter. Categories spanned early modern history, pop culture and movie trivia, US presidents and their moms, and many more!

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Photo attrib. shirokazan, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

After breakfast on Sunday, Prof. Karin Friedrich (Aberdeen) chaired a session in which Jessica Dalton, John Condren, and Lena Liapi (Aberdeen) spoke on the themes of conversion strategies of the Jesuits and Roman Inquisition, women as negotiators and political actors, and crime and the public sphere in London. Our final session was strictly ‘no staff allowed’. This panel was a chance for the MLitt students to hear from new and current PhD students about their experiences in choosing a topic, applying for PhDs, and to ask any questions they had about the process. There were a lot of great questions and insights offered, and it was a nice casual ending to the weekend before we all packed up the cars and headed back to the Kingdom of Fife.

The reading weekend has been a highlight for me in my first year-and-a-half at St Andrews. It is a great opportunity to get to know friends, colleagues, and lecturers in a relaxed environment. It offers exposure to academic presentations, the chance to get over the intimidation and just have a really great time—not to mention making the most of the incredible scenery and charms of Scotland.