Seminary featuring yours truly

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.

The cathedral of San Salvador de Oviedo, capital of the Asturias

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!

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6 responses to “Seminary featuring yours truly

  1. Dear Mr. Jarrett:

    First of all, I must say I’ve been reading your blog for months (always being a pleasant and interesting experience). So thanks a lot, perhaps you can’t imagine how wonderful it’s for a person like me (I’m a History student from Spain) being able to access to such amount of information about a first-level scholar community. Here in Spain we’re used to a kind of archaic, mostly irrelevant scholarship (some exceptions be made, of course), so for me your blog is quite “refreshing”.

    On the Asturian Chronicles, I understand from your abstract that you present the idea of the 3 chronicles being written in the same period (IX century 80’s) as a new idea. However, that contemporariness is a common-place in all the scholarship and editions I know, which (since Sánchez-Albornoz, at least) tell that the first one was the Albelda Chronicle (the least “gothicist” of the three), followed, not much later, by the Rotense (with some clear traces of “gothicism”), which was almost inmediately corrected by a new and much more erudite version, the Sebastianense, in which we find Gothicism at its highest level. Rotense and Sebastianense form the “Alfonso III Chronicle”.

    I think Sánchez-Albornoz, Díaz y Díaz, Barbero & Vigil, Gil Fernández & Ruiz de la Peña & Moralejo (editors), and Besga Marroquín agree about all this points, so I can’t see where the novelty is. Perhaps foreign scholarship argues about a much later date for the “erudite” version of Alfonso III Chronicle?

    Kind greetings from Asturias.

    • Dear Pamphilus,

      thankyou for this lengthy consideration of my abstract. In fact, the suggestion that the Chronicle of Alfonso III is later than the rest, as late indeed as the colophons of its manuscripts which assign it to García I or Ordoño I, comes from within Spain, from the pen of Ubieto Arteta: A. Ubieto Arteta, “La redacción «rotense» de la Crónica de Alfonso III” in Hispania Vol. 22 (Madrid 1962), pp. 3-22. You are right, however, that it has been taken up more widely abroad than in Spain: see Peter Linehan, History and Historians of Medieval Spain (Oxford 1993), pp. 142-145 for some commentary.

      All of this, however, was not the key point of my paper – back in 2007! – which was twofold: firstly, that the neo-Gothic agenda so often attributed to these texts can really only be substantiated for the Prophetic Chronicle and the Rotense redaction of the Chronicle of Alfonso III, and secondly, that such an agenda belongs to Oviedo, rather than the court at León which was seemingly thronged with Mozarabs and Arabicized Christians both immigrant and local. If the texts are all to remain some kind of court product, then that court is much more likely to have been Oviedo than León, which perforce makes them early, but I’d be equally happy to accept a later and non-official redaction. At the moment, however, I have no plans to take this work further, as you’re not the only person who thinks it has problems!

      • Thanks for your kind answer. Your suggestion about Mozarabs is very interesting, since almost everybody here in Spain seems to identify Mozarabs with Neo-Gothicism. In fact, the common explanation for the appearance of a Neo-Gothic ideological claim in the kingdom of Asturias is the coming of Mozarabs fleeing from al-Andalus. I think there’s a strong belief among many Spanish historians which encourages them to present Mozarabs as a kind of “real Spanish people” who, consequently, were Catholic, spoke a Romance language, and were hostile to those wicked Muslims (Neo-gothicism would be a consequence of this supposed hostility)… The usual interpretation of the “martyrdom movement” which took place in IX’s century Cordoba and was leaded by saint Eulogius, is a perfect example of this bias.

        Is there any printed or online version of your paper? My research interests are now far away from the Early Middle Ages, but, since the Spanish scholarship on the kingdom of Asturias has hardly advanced at all on the last decades, reading a new point of view from abroad would surely be a delightful experience.

        • Thankyou for the continued interest! So far the paper has not made it to print; I have tried, but since I’m using personal names, charters and historiography, it’s very hard to convince experts from all three fields that I know what I’m doing. The scholarship may not be moving much, but it certainly accumulates and since this is not my main field either, I’m not aware of enough of it yet. Because it may yet make it to print, however, I’m loathe to put it online. I could send you a draft version if that would be of interest; my e-mail address is here.

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