Last night I had the pleasant experience of peer approval, which is something I hadn’t had the chance to experience for some time. As the now-altered sidebar has been telling readers of these pages for some time I was presenting a paper entitled “Neo-Goths, Mozarabs and Kings: chronicles versus charters in tenth-century León” and it went very well, with only slight pacing errors, and a number of searching questions. ‘Tis the advantage of working on so marginal an area of course, but not many people could tell me that I was wrong; Wendy Davies was however there and didn’t, which was encouraging.
I thought it would be worth giving a kind of abstract here, and maybe even tie some of the more various reflections earlier posted here together, so here goes.
Neo-Goths, Mozarabs and Kings: chronicles versus charters in tenth-century León
The paper reprised the historiography of the three texts usually collectively known as the Asturian Chronicles, and evaluated their supposed status as cornerstones of the Reconquista ideology. Concluding that only the so-called `erudite’ redaction of the Chronicle of Alfonso III really contains the neo-Gothic ideology that these texts are widely considered to sing with, the vexed problem of its dating was opened.
Since the dates of the text are not fixed, we cannot as has often been done date ideology in the area from it (even if the text is representative of a wider popular feeling, which is not at all clear). We can however perhaps compare ideology in the area and date the text from it instead, and in this the charters of León are crucial. These charters are notable both for their number, and for the large number of persons appearing therein with Arabic names, even in apparently ecclesiastical offices. Families chose names for their children in these groups from both Arabic and Occidental traditions without apparent fear or favour, and persons in these groups often had a name from each tradition which they chose to use or not to use as context suggested. These people appear in some number immediately after the shift of capital from Asturian Oviedo to León in 914 and for a generation or so are of considerable importance as frontier settlers and developers.
Historiography has been divided on the origins of these people and others like them less detectable, and this paper did not resolve this question although several ways of breaking down this data that might answer this question were tested. The main conclusion that this evidence led to was however that such persons were especially obvious at the Leonese court, beyond the level at which they appear in non-royal and non-Leonese contexts or any area where they might be thought to be locals. This was used to argue for a courtly culture of mixed-tradition convivencía at the court of León that suggested that the neo-Gothic ideological message of the `erudite’ Chronicle of Alfonso III would have met little success there. It is therefore more likely to be a product of the same period and court as the other known chronicles, c. 883 Oviedo, and its dating should be considered accordingly early.
There’s loads more that one could do with the Arabic names, and the seminar came up with some good suggestions, but the first thing that I’m going to do with it is send a draft to Julio Escalona Monge and see what he thinks I should do with it. Then it can be used to source research funding proposals and occasionally start another paper off. I have too much else on with my main topic area to concentrate much more on this for a bit.
This seems to make the next due paper that I promised the Departmental Seminar at some unfixed point in Lent Term, which means that for the time being I can concentrate on stuff for actual publication!