One thing leads from another

Do you ever have this problem where what you’re reading for one reason turns out to be mostly relevant for another? This is where I am currently. I should primarily be working on the book – well, actually, I could take a minute or two away from that at the moment as my editor is reviewing the whole body text prior to advising me where best to cut – but the book on the stack I picked up to give some archaeological background in the vague section about hardly-visible frontier communities, which became when fully realised the Queen Mary paper that is somewhere in a print queue even now… where was I? Oh, yes—you see what I mean by the title—that book is now telling me more about peasant resistance to lordship, which has more to do with a future project about legitimate authority.

Catalan peasants at work, from the Biblia de Ripoll

Don't mess with that one, he's got a billhook...

Well, if not that I should be working on the extra reading needed for any of the three papers I’ve had accepted that need revisions. But you know that van Engen volume that’s generated me so many posts? I originally got that out of the library for an article about the making and use of charters that, you’ll have noticed, hasn’t featured in any of my numerous reactions to the book’s material. And the book I’m mainly reading for the one on land clearance and frontier resettlement has actually dropped me into a really good article by Josep María Salrach which is going to underpin my paper for the Haskins Society conference, which is instead about the sense in which Carolingian royal power operated and was respected in Catalonia in the later Carolingian period. This keeps happening. Every time I try and focus on something I find I’m working on something else by the time I finish the reading…

I could try and draw some serious point about how this is inevitable because the Middle Ages is a holistic category in which all phenomena interact, so Carolingian royal power does affect land clearance and vice versa… and I could even sustain it, because some of these peasants clearing land are later referred to in charters by which they sell it as “first men on the royal land”, supporting their tenure by reference to the king’s claim to waste lands, an authority which can’t reach them and is therefore untoppable, but which is strengthened by this reference in the minds of the audience as long as that claim is worth making.1 You see? But actually what’s happening is that I’m getting sidetracked and if these papers are ever coming out, I need to, if not read less, at least read the things I actually picked up the book for first and leave the others for future days…

Now actually this weekend has gone on various birthdays and weddings and last-minute changes of plan to see more friends and play more old board games and this is not a bad thing, but really it hasn’t solved this problem very much. It has however by the great kindness of a dear friend solved my long-ago-mentioned computer problems and much of today has gone on taking advantage of this to get the new machine set up. Well, I’m typing on it now and it has pretty much all my data on it, and this generally heralds an awful lot less wasted time on computers pretty soon. Whether that means I get more or less done and you get more or less to read though, will be revealed in due course.

1. For example in Federico Udina Martorell (ed.), El Archivo Condal de Barcelona en los siglos IX-X: estudio crítico de sus fondos, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas: Escuela de Estudios Medievales, Textos XVIII, Publicaciones de la Sección de Barcelona no. 15 (Madrid 1951), doc. no. 114 or 116, discussed Jonathan Jarrett, “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London 2005, p. 87.


One response to “One thing leads from another

  1. I know what you mean….and I sympathize. But such reading and the thinking it causes also leads to making connections betwen things that no one else has seen yet, and that can be a good thing.

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