There then followed a period of seminar fail: notes of what might have been

As the second week of term dawned here I organisationally ploughed into the dirt somewhat, and started missing things I’d wanted to go to. The first lecture was probably an active factor here, but I was very much struggling to work out a daily routine that would let me actually get incidental things done as well as routine ones, and to be honest I still am. It’s not much of a post to say what I missed, but I just want to take stock, avoid any expectations of particular seminar reports and beg for notes or guest entries from anyone who made them, I guess.

Dedication stone of Lyminge Abbey

Dedication stone of Lyminge Abbey

I did not make it to Gabor Thomas presenting at the Medieval Archaeology Seminar here on 18th October, which was a pity as Gabor is a man who can make strap-ends interesting so to hear what he’d do with material like, “Recent excavations at Lyminge: settlement, community and conversion in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Kent”. If anyone made it to this and would be able to spare a few short words, that would be great, though the project website is a start at least. I did have quite a good reason for not making it to this, though, and we’ll come to that next post.

Gold aureus of Emperor Commodus in the Government Museum, Chennai (Madras)

Gold aureus of Emperor Commodus in the Government Museum, Chennai (Madras)

Likewise, I did not make it down to hear my erstwhile quasi-colleague and friend, I think, yes! friend, Rebecca Day presenting to the Royal Numismatic Society on the 19th October, because I was lecturing the next day, but she has been kind enough to send me a text of her paper, “Late Roman and Byzantine gold coins in the Madras Government Museum – fashion, imitation and the economics of religious devotion”, and I can tell you that it includes, by way of passing reference or deeper exploration, Roman obsession with Indian food, early medieval Indian faking of Roman gold coins (some of which were then exported to China!), 6th-century Tamil poetry and 9th-century Byzantine flat-earthism, which is I reckon a reasonable amount of bang for the aureus. I can say more about this if you would like, and if she doesn’t mind, but I hope and assume that it will be published.

Obverse of a silver penny of King Æthelred the Unready

Obverse of a silver penny of King Æthelred the Unready

Then the next day I didn’t make it to London again, this time for Professor Simon Keynes, presenting the David Wilson Lecture for the Joint Institute of Archaeology and British Museum Medieval Archaeology seminar and the Institute of Historical Research Earlier Middle Ages seminar, on “The Archaeology of Æthelred the Unready”, and although I have been hoping notes might appear on the Cambridge ASNC Department’s blog, as yet no such luck. I actually saw Professor Keynes a few days later at a meeting of the Sylloge of Coins of the British Isles/Medieval European Coinage committee, on which I now have the honour to serve (which means it’s my fault once more, though it’s not my fault the webpage hasn’t been updated any more…), and he said there was no text, as such, and that may be why. Still, again, I’d welcome comments from anyone who was there and feels able to offer them.

1548 woodcut of John Wyclif

1548 woodcut of John Wyclif, the original Lollard

Between Professor Keynes and Dr Thomas that was two of the more relevant things to what I’m teaching that I might have gone to, and I didn’t, so it was ironic that the next thing I did make it to was Alexander Russell presenting at the Medieval History seminar here on 25th October, to the title, “England’s Involvement with the General Councils of the Church, 1409-1449″, which was I think not something I myself can use, though there were lots of interested questions from others and it was certainly interesting of itself. I’ve expressed uncertainty about whether I should cover these here already, however, and I think that I won’t this one, as it’s far enough out of my period that I feel under-qualified and also I don’t think the speaker would expect or necessarily welcome it. But I was at least reminded that I should really know more about Lollards if I’m going to go round doing things like this.1

So, I offer those mainly as points of discussion. Blogging will resume with the standard ridiculous self-promotion and then with a pedagogical question for those of you in the USA, and finally a proper IHR seminar report such as is expected by the readers of what I have now heard called “your improving blog”, and readers, he meant it transitively. I am not sure this post will have improved you much but, if not, better luck soon!


1. If you feel an urge to say something like O HAI CEILING LORD CAN HAZ FREE WULL PLZ at this point, at least provide the accompanying macro. (And if you have no idea what I mean, you may as well start with the big one

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11 responses to “There then followed a period of seminar fail: notes of what might have been

  1. Oh HAI. Glad u can haz teh blogging cuz ur frenz dey wuz getin boared. Moar on the posh jobz plskthxbai.

  2. I’ve been looking at tracking the early waves of plague. The silk road seems to have been much older than I imagined. Active through the Roman empire from beginning to end? I’m really interested in the very early maritime silk road. It seems to me that the maritime route was faster and more accessible than the overland route.

    • Now that’s interesting, because that question came up at least in passing in a subsequent seminar by someone else entirely, Susan Reynolds, who was suggesting (as part of something much larger) that although the maritime routes were always active the landward silk road was more important until it was closed by the Mongols, which is when east-west maritime trade became the big deal. If you are right about the greater speed of the seaward route, one would have to ask: was it more dangerous? was there more money to be made on a route with lots of points en route (despite the tolls they presumably levied)? was it just possible to move more overland? What were the advantages of the landward route that kept it operating at all, basically, if sea was easier and faster?

      • I think which route was favored must have depended a great deal on the politics of the states along the road, especially Persia and Kazakhstan. I imagine a lot of short distance trade along the silk road kept the land route open.

        I wrote on Contagions a while ago (“beyond Pelusium”) about a trade war between Byzantium and Persia over trade with India and therefore the silk road. They were positioning themselves to try to control the maritime trade but neither had complete control of the sea route to the Red Sea. I would guess that this means that Persia could cut Byzantium off from the land route if they wanted.

        As for why the land route was favored for a while, I would guess that would have to do with ships available, naval fleets and pirates, and the status of ports. If the ports collapse for political reasons, then trade along the maritime route will be hurt. I wonder though if we could access Arabic records if we would still think that the land route was ever dominant.

        • I agree that the states’ politics must have been immensely relevant, and I think you’re right that an obvious point in favour of the Silk Road is that much trade didn’t need to go all the way along it. I think the states’ politics must have been a positive advantage as well as a negative factor sometimes, though. There was so much money coming out of tenth-century Transoxiana, for example, that I’ll bet traffic to it boomed for a few decades, Ibn Fadlan taking the chance to go and be horrified by the Rus’ and so forth… I wonder if the sea trade could ever have carried the sort of volume of goods that that kind of window might allow through.

          • Well, dirham hoards are numerous dating from the end of the eight century, and in the later era, the commerce just boomed, and the Arabs loved all the stuff coming from the North, especially, for an unknown reason, furs. (And people are saying that fashion is just became such an irritating thing nowadays…while there were people in Bagdad more than a thousand years ago, who wore furs in the middle of the summer…)

            Regarding the trade Transoxiana, Thomas S. Noonan, and more recently, Roman K. Kovalev wrote some excellent articles.

            • It’s from exposure to some of Noonan’s stuff (via Mark Blackburn’s) that I’m mainly able to write even that much about Transoxiana. Good point about the furs: their destination had never struck me before…

  3. Pingback: Seminary LXIX: me telling stories « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  4. Pingback: Seminars LXXVII & LXXVIII: into Lyminge and out of Medina « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  5. Pingback: Seminar CLXI: how to dig up Anglo-Saxon farming | A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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