Increased recognition and research capability

I figure you’ve probably had about enough of me this week, what with the strike posting, so for the regular post of the week I shall keep things short with two bits of good news amid the current woes, and not even backdated like most of my posting. (Well, a little bit, but not as much as usual.)

In the first place, those of you who’ve been tracking me a while may remember that I arrived at Leeds in the post of Lecturer in Early Medieval History and the mission, more or less, of keeping coverage of the years with three digits going in whatever fashion I thought best. Apparently, despite my early difficulties, that has gone all right because on 30th June I was able to accept promotion to Associate Professor in or of [no-one seems sure] Early Medieval History. My core mission remains unchanged, but this does mean that people sending me mail from the US addressed to Professor Jarrett will technically no longer be incorrect! There are also implications for my take-home wage (still not keeping up with inflation of course) that make the 15-page form, 19-page CV and 18-month process (admittedly thrown sideways by Covid-19 like so much else) a bit more worthwhile, but mainly it’s quite nice to have some form of reassurance that actually, I have been doing my job not just well enough but well enough for it actually to be a better job. But actually probably nearly as important for my academic future is this:

Volumes 2 through to 8 of the Catalunya Carolíngia on the blogger's shelf

Yup, that’s a whole lot of uniform-looking books on a shelf all right…

What is that? you say, and I answer, it is the entirety of the Catalunya Carolíngia charter volumes, on my shelf and ready for use and consultation, which is to say that I now own texts of every known charter from Catalonia prior to the year 1000. You must all have seen these volumes in my footnotes, but until very recently they took up less space in my house because not all of them existed yet. It’s been a long project, founded by the lawyer and amateur scholar Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals in the 1920s, which saw the royal charters for Catalonia and the charters of Pallars and Ribagorza published beginning in 1926 and finishing in 1955, and then a long nothing till Ramon Ordeig i Mata published the 1,500-odd documents from Osona and Manresa in 1999. Since then Ordeig seems to have been the magic ingredient, as every subsequent volume except the three covering Barcelona, which came out in 2019 thanks to Ignasi Baiges i Jardí and Pere Puig i Ustrell, has been completed by him, even if it wasn’t started by him, and in 2020 that culminated with volume 8 for Urgell, Cerdanya and Berga.1 The facility this gives my work is hard to explain. It has dramatically slowed work on the book because of having new data, the dangers of which I have described before and which have again come true, but you see, now I have everything there is: almost no future evidence of this kind can be expected to be discovered.2 That means that if I check my notes and the indices to these volumes I can be pretty sure how much something does or does not occur over a corpus of just about 5,000 documents and about 20,000 square miles over two-and-a-bit centuries. It may only be in print, but it’s still a heck of a searchable database, and I intend putting it to work for many years yet. If I ever meet Ramon Ordeig i Mata I will shake his hand gratefully; his work has really made, and continues to make, my research possible.3

1. I won’t cite all the volumes here now, as those who really want to can find the details themselves without trouble, but there is a useful history of the project in Gaspar Feliu, “La Catalunya Carolíngia” in Joandomènec Ros, Jaume Sobrequés i Callicó, Mercé Morales Montoya, Josep María Salrach Marés, Feliu and Marta Prevosti i Monclús, Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals: sessió en memòria, Semblances bibliogràfiques 97 (Barcelona 2021), pp. 75–89, online here.

2. There probably are more documents in private hands still—indeed, I kind of live in hope of one or two caches that went missing during the Spanish Civil War turning up some day—but it’s probably not many that go back as far as my period of interest, and the project had already been quite good at getting at the ones that do exist. Their advantage was largely having Church connections, rather than government ones, as far as I can see, because a similar government venture did not meet with the same success: see Daniel Piñol Alabart, “Proyecto ARQUIBANC – Digitalizacion de archivos privados catalanes: Una herramienta para la investigacion” in Antonella Ambrosio, Sébastien Barret and Georg Vogeler (edd.), Digital diplomatics: The computer as a tool for the diplomatist?, Beihefte der Archiv für Diplomatik 14 (Köln 2014), pp. 99–108.

3. A lot of other people are owed thanks here too, but especially Josep María Salrach who made it much easier for me to get several of the volumes. I should also note that the intention of the Institut d’Estudis Catalans is actually to turn it into an electronic database too, via Project CatCar, which has already generated a lot of interesting essays about what these documents have to tell us about Catalonia’s past. I’m sure the full electronic version will make a difference when it exists but right now, just wait till you see what I can do with all these indices!

16 responses to “Increased recognition and research capability

  1. grats on the Ass-Pro. well deserved. Carry on :)

  2. Congratulations on the promotion! Very richly deserved.

  3. Congratulations Jonathan, both on the promotion to the professorship (very well deserved) and on completing the collection of Catalan charters before 1000 (very exciting)

  4. Huuuge congratulations.
    What a palaver, though: 15 page CV?

  5. Congrats. And at least it’s not Arse-Pro, eh?

    Have you ever heard David Starkey’s explanation of why he settled on Tudor history? It was the first English period with enough documentation for the historian, and the last period without too much.

    • The funny thing is, that could just as easily have been said by a specialist on the late medieval period (c.1300 – 1500) or indeed a high medievalist (c.1050 – 1300). Meanwhile, us early medievalists, while we often insist that there’s a lot more literacy and surviving writing from our period than people (including medievalists working on later periods) tend to think, most of us are really on the same wavelength with the ancient historians, that “small is beautiful.” Indeed, the late Tim Reuter considered everything after 1300 to be basically early modern, and the late Richard Sharpe joked that “everything after Magna Carta is just journalism.”

    • A few years before, or somewhere else, and it would have been Senior Lecturer and none of these concerns could have arisen :-)

      That does sound like a thing Starkey could say, but I’d have to agree with Joseph here; it really does depend where you’re looking. I cut off my sample at about 1030 because after that the workload of dealing with the evidence more or less trebles. In England, Starkey might even be right about where that line of possibility is, but I personally would quail a bit at the full set of Pipe and Exchequer Rolls… So I think my line is that the eleventh and twelfth centuries bring bureaucracy and after that it’s no longer a lone-scholar kind of game…

      • At a certain level, what scale is considered perfectly manageable or dangerously unmanageable is of course purely a matter of personal perspective and how you like to work. For example, my masters’ thesis supervisor, John Nightingale, said once that while one of his colleagues at Magdalen can happily sift through a couple of hundred early twentieth century German children’s letters, he himself thinks that a close reading of Thietmar of Merseburg or Orderic Vitalis is more than adequate for a scholarly project. Likewise a friend of mine said she preferred the idea of working on prostitution in the fourth century Roman Empire to working on prostitution in Georgian London, differing there from many previous historians (including one whose had her work adapted into a hit TV series), in that the volume of evidence for the latter is just too unwieldy.

        I also think at a certain level its also qualitative rather than just quantitative. Like I don’t think anyone working on either side of the late medieval-early modern divide, except for maybe a few remaining ardent defenders of Starkey’s mentor Geoffrey Elton’s “Tudor revolution in government” thesis, would argue that England was a desert of bureaucracy and government records before 1485 or 1529. But precisely the kind of sources that political historians of Tudor and Stuart England like to focus on, like the calendar of state papers or the personal archives of government ministers (Cardinal Wolsey, Thomas Cromwell, William and Robert Cecil, Francis Walsingham etc), just aren’t really there before the reign of Henry VIII. But you could easily devote your entire scholarly career to studying the Close and Patent Rolls of the thirteenth and fourteenth century Plantagenet kings, or to studying the financial records of the late medieval English peerage (as K.B McFarlane did) or the letter collections of fifteenth century English gentry families like those of the Pastons, Stonors, Celys, Plumptons and Armburghs (the latter recently edited by Christine Carpenter, but still largely going unappreciated by the scholarly community), as McFarlane’s former pupils and their pupils and their pupils’ pupils have done. Looking outside politics and bureaucracy, if you’re interested in say gender then there’s abundant evidence for the practice and ideology of masculinity and femininity in late medieval court records (king’s bench, assizes, quarter sessions, municipal, manorial and ecclesiastical), but if you want to look for more intimate sources that focus heavily on the interaction between gender and selfhood then besides a still fairly small number of heterogeneous sources that don’t have much comparability to each other for the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, you have to wait until after 1550 when diaries become widespread among the gentry and the middling sort, their letters and correspondence start to more regularly show emotions beyond the conventional as opposed to much more irregularly earlier (i.e. in the Paston letters, or if we want to go back much, much further, to Einhard grieving for the death of his wife Emma). Likewise, thinking back to one of my earlier examples, if you want to write about the subjectivities of children, as opposed to how adult society viewed them, then you’ll have serious difficulty in finding any significant volume of sources on this before the nineteenth century at the earliest. Thus, to a certain degree, whether you see a period as being well or poorly documented really is a matter of what you’re looking for.

        • All very fair! When I was hunting jobs still I came to market my particular combination of diplomatic and numismatic expertises, which probably looked a bit schizophrenic, as coming from having the kind of research questions which were best answered from high-volume low-level material, like charters or coins. That doesn’t confine me to a period, but it does somewhat to certain areas. Though oddly, the areas are often complementary: no coins from my period of Catalonia, not really anyway and almost never found in context, while no charters from Byzantium bar a (good) few grants to Mount Athos… but I manage!

  6. Congratulations! It is splendid to get some good news, and I’m glad it all went through smoothly.

  7. A nice looking collection, indeed!

  8. Thankyou, all, your support and encouragement is as ever much appreciated!

  9. I do love a nice long run of identical-looking books. It is one of life’s great regrets that a 17 volume series I have changed format after volume 10, changing both type of cover (hardback to paper back) and size. To that end I am holding off buying the TTH Jordanes volume precisely because it is in hard copy only for now and it would throw out the rest of the paperback TTH volumes I have. Not retentive.

    • Well, it may comfort you to know that on the committee that manages the Medieval European Coinage series we have occasionally had fights with Cambridge University Press about this (and about not changing the colour scheme either), and that it does bother me more than a bit that volume 6 here isn’t quite as tall as the others. So you’re probably in good company!

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