Here’s something slightly lighter of tone for the holiday period, which I will then follow, honestly, with the Barcelona thesis examination I’ve been mentioning for so long, just so that we can move on. But right now, here’s something I … Continue reading →
The winter holiday always makes posting difficult, and, as darkly implied last post, I have to shunt my next planned post because of people whom I can’t ignore making their final departures from among us. One was an academic contact, the other, as sometimeshappenson this blog, a musician I cared about (I suppose I still do; tenses are weird around the deceased). I thought for a few minutes about some way I could combine reflections on them, but to be honest, other than that neither of them minded causing a bit of trouble when they thought they were in the right, that both were 82 when they died, and that I imagine if they caught the same bus to the beyond they got on fine, it didn’t seem like a respectful way to salute either of them. So I’ll record them separately and hope that, if you’re here for historical content, you can hang on a moment.
Photo from Nik Turner’s final Facebook post, here borrowed from the The Isle of Thanet News, recording the death of a son of Margate
I got into much of that weird music via an ancient listserv mailing list which closed, finally, earlier this year. Up till then, more or less all news about Hawkwind and its friends and relations had reached me by that list. Thus, five weeks or so ago when I had Nik’s Space Gypsy on the stereo, I suddenly thought, ‘Christ, if he’d died I wouldn’t know.’ And of course, as almost has to be true when one of those forebodings strikes you, he’d moved on to the next phase of his cosmic journey, as his closest are choosing to put it, eleven days before. I’m not sure how comfortable a life he’d led, but it does seem reasonable to say that he spent it doing pretty much what he wanted and that lots of people were always glad to see him, and I personally would settle for such an epitaph, no problem.
Professor Paul Hyams presiding over a brunch debate at Cornell University in 2005, photo from the Cornell Chronicle, linked through
Then a few days later I got a text message, itself not untraumatic as my phone was slowly ceasing to work and has now had to be replaced with something more like a phone as others recognise them, recording the second departure. It took me a little while to confirm that Professor Paul Hyams had in fact gone, as new phone or not I’m still not doing Facebook and, as with Nik, that seemed to be where the news broke, but eventually his erstwhile employer and in some sense also mine, Pembroke College Oxford, posted an obituary, and I had to believe it. Cornell, his more recent posting, followed up a few days later.
Cover of Paul Hyams’ Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England (Ithaca NY 2003)
I don’t think anyone would say anything against Paul’s scholarship; his work focused primarily on justice and dispute resolution in high medieval England and the things they revealed about that society, and his book Rancor and Reconciliation is probably still the go-to treatment of feud-like dispute settlement by violence and the attempts by government either to stop or to manage it for post-conquest England. He also wrote on the origins of the common law, a field in which from what I see from the outside agreement is basically impossible but where his contributions were well respected. However, that tendency to cause trouble I mentioned meant that opinion was probably more divided on him as personality; even I saw him launch quite aggressive questions into a seminar discussion, as if scholarship was a gladiatorial arena and the contest won by making everyone else feel awkward (some gentle examples at the Cornell article which provided the photo above give an impression). I have to say that I never found him anything other than sympathetic, witty and kind in actual conversation, however. There might be reasons for that, one being that my father also used to play social engagement like that sometimes and it’s remained a habit among some of my family, so that I was just used to deflecting it; but actually, I don’t remember ever having to do that with Paul myself. And I think that the softer and odder reason is that I first actually met him in the company of Another Damned Medievalist, who knew his wife and could thus threaten him with unspecified social sanction when he played up, as a consequence of which he ruefully didn’t bother when he was around her and a more human Hyams came out instead. And because I connected to that network somehow, I always got the human Hyams. I may have been quite lucky in that; but still, as both scholar and raconteur, wit and good company, I shall miss him. There were many good reasons to do so.
So there is the sad news of the end of 2022, perhaps not all of it but I hope so, and soon, very soon I hope, I can try to prevent the blog falling further behind than the three-and-a-bit year mark I’ve been holding this year. But for now, I hope you’ll forgive me saying goodbye to these two gents, both big noises in their fields whose sound we shan’t hear again.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have been a bit absent of recent days, nay, weeks, and I’m sorry. Even this is just a placeholder, to say that despite Action Short of Strike somehow I don’t seem to have more time but rather the reverse, that this semester was in theory lightly loaded but has still nearly done me in, and that the week before last I had the partial excuse of actually having been out picketing – I’m in that trail above somewhere, but I still don’t have my pension back somehow – and then this week we’ve had no home internet for a lot of the time, which now seems to be fixed – just in time for the work internet to break down, in fact! But I still haven’t actually written you a proper blog post (and I warn you, when I do, it will be gloomy, sorry; events have again taken over my program).
So, you know, by all means do that! It is probably still the most important thing I’ve written…
You don’t need the citation, probably, but just in case, it is: Jonathan Jarrett, “Outgrowing the Dark Ages: agrarian productivity in Carolingian Europe re-evaluated” in Agricultural History Review Vol. 67 (Reading 2019), pp. 1–28.
I know my recall isn't perfect, and I'm always anxious to correct mistakes and happy to acknowledge them. If you think a correction is necessary or appropriate, please leave a comment or contact me by e-mail.