no news is good news

Cover of Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes 155
It might look to the casual reader as if I don’t have anything good to say about anything that I read, but it’s not so. For example, almost all the stuff I’m reading in the Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes documents conference I’m going through is really useful, and alerting me to the fact that a lot of the stuff I noticed about Catalan documentary practices is not in fact unusual, just not very well known outside the field (which is more or less what I’m trying to change of course). But writing about that here seems unnecessary, partly because I’ll hopefully be able to point you at an actual article before very long, and partly because putting stuff up that I’ve just found out but should have known for ages doesn’t make me look terribly clever, even if it happens to us all.
Història de Catalunya Salvat in series
Then on the other hand I’m reading an excellent book by Josep María Salrach, and I’m learning a lot from that too, mainly just in terms of how different things that I’d picked up from reading Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals or Eduardo Manzano Moreno knit together in a Catalan context but also generally in terms of cultural detail and (again) things I should have read already. And I don’t even agree with all of it, so you’d think I could find something to go to work on in established style, but the disagreements I have are so subjective that they look almost like statements of faith. Mostly I question how important certain social phenomena were, like Gothic self-identification (I’m not going to say ‘identity’ because that implies more truth than I happen to reckon it deserves). Generally, Salrach here makes appeals occasionally to imponderables of how people felt about things which I’d prefer to say we can’t explain (mentalités again), where I’d probably prefer to refer to ambition and “the economy, stupid“. But as I say, that’s more personal taste or even faith than a proper historiographical disagreement, so I don’t really have an argument. So it doesn’t get written about here, which is a little unfair. So instead let me say that, if you only read one book about medieval Catalonia, you could pick this one (assuming that you can read Catalan of course—I found I could on the basis of French and Latin without any actual training) and if you remembered much of it you’d qualify as being surprisingly well educated on the subject.

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