I’m back at work after a very unusual week, most of which oddity has been being surrounded by medievalists on something like a holiday. Some kind of report is necessary, and then two queued-up posts I wrote before I went can relieve the self-gratulatory tedium for you all.
Firstly, the strand that I was part-organising, “Problems and Possibilities in Early Medieval Diplomatic”, went very well. We were given slots that perfectly complemented the huge and important Texts and Identities strand, and that meant the people who would otherwise have chosen the other came to both. We all ran out of handouts, having not expected anything like as many people, and for the rest of the week people were telling me how interested they’d been and in some cases asking to participate in next year’s (which my co-organisers left me to sort out dammit, next year I’m being listed as organiser in that case). So this bodes very well, even if I don’t think my paper as was will make a publication piece without a lot more research (on which I did at least get some useful hints).
The cruel irony of it was, however, that I was talking about– well, I should give the by-now-legendary abstract, shouldn’t I?
Uncertain Origins: comparing the earliest documentary culture in Carolingian Catalonia
The Carolingian conquest of Catalonia was some fifty years old in most areas before the documents that now survive from the area were produced, but these earliest charters show a remarkable consistency of wording and formula across the whole of the Marca Hispanica that requires explanation. In this paper I explored the usual suggestions of Visigothic origins, and found them only satisfactory for testaments (which were closely governed by the Visigothic Law still in this area), and Carolingian importation, but by concentrating analytically on a few formulae showed that underlying the Catalan documents is an almost-uniform model which cannot as yet be parallelled from any other area. The paper concluded by inviting suggestions for further research or parallels.
The two formulae I’d particularly focused on—bear with me, non-diplomatists, it’s probably funny even to you—were the opening, or invocatio, which in Catalan charters but almost nowhere else is “In nomine Dei” and no more, and the beginning of the penalty clause, or sanctio, in which is detailed what will happen to anyone who infringes the document. In Catalonia this almost always began, “Quod si aliquis…”, `for if anyone…’ whereas everywhere else in the Empire it’s “Si quis…”, `if someone’. I maintained stoutly that this was not to be found anywhere in Europe other than here, and no-one disagreed.
The next session was blessed with a very interesting paper that Allan McKinley had talked Nicholas Brooks into giving, on knight’s fees in Anglo-Saxon England, of which of course there are conventionally supposed to be none. In disproving this, Professor Brooks handed out a transcript of a writ of King Cnut (est. 1016). I think only Allan noticed that its penalty clause started in “Quod si…”, but I certainly didn’t till he showed me, and Professor Brooks had circulated this handout by e-mail days before too. Otherwise it’s nothing like the documents that I was talking about but still: me and my big mouth, or something.
Otherwise, lots of interesting stuff (but minus points to the person who came up with the session title “Saints in the City”, I’m sure that wasn’t coincidence, and they haven’t let any of our jokes through after all), a great deal of drinking I confess and very much late-night talking with both collaborators and friends, and Professor McKitterick seeing me dancing, which I may live to regret but I hope not (to regret it, that is). Also a vast number of cheap books purchased which some day I may have time to read. But basically a success, I think. After that and then a remarkably disassociative weekend, it’s been quite strange coming back to work…