Hullo there! This is an occasional column, or similar, by me, Jonathan Jarrett, M. A. (Cantab.), Ph. D. (Lond.), for whatever may be occupying my mind on matters medieval and so forth. Matters medieval is kind of what I do: I have spent much of the last ten years employed either as a lecturer in medieval history or as someone working on medieval coins, and when I’m not teaching medieval stuff I’m probably reading about it, finding it in archives or standing on it. Or, of course, writing about it, including here. All this builds on research projects and employment in various academic and para-academic rôles in my past.

What were those projects and rôles, you may ask? And if the point of this exercise isn’t self-publicity, what is it eh? Well, I:

And there I currently am, with various further plans in ferment meanwhile. The sidebar should enable you to see what I’m busying myself with in that line. Anyway, this will serve for an introduction. If you need to know more, comment here or else use the contact details on this webpage or my Academia.edu page to get in touch with me. I hope you enjoy reading the blog!

Lastly, however, I should say two things: firstly, that this blog is my own opinions and does not in any way reflect the views of my employers, whoever they may currently be, and secondly, that all text on this blog except names, titles and quoted material is my own, and that I claim copyright in it under English law. You may not reproduce it without my permission except as governed by fair use legislation in English law. I have pursued infringements on my material before and will do again if necessary. On the other hand, I make no claim of copyright on the images used in the blog, many of which are not mine anyway; they remain subject to the copyrights or licenses under which I obtained them and the right to use them, where that was restricted, and those that I made, I place in the public domain except where they depict objects held by public institutions. There’s a legal argument about what rights they can claim in my images, but I don’t want to have it because of here!

68 responses to “About

  1. Hi, I couldn’t find an email address for you, but I’d like to talk to you about doing an article on what you do at the Fitzwilliam for The Heroic Age. Would you drop a note to the above email if you’re interested?

  2. Larry, I’ll answer this by mail, because comments here come through to my INBOX anyway so you’re already there. But for anyone else who might be trying to contact me through here, an e-mail address that should reach me is linked above and here, and when that stops being true I’ll update or replace this comment. (Last updated August 2015.)

  3. Jonathan, I tried to contact you through the “departmental webpage” link above, but it wouldn’t load the page for me. Could be my university has restricted access to certain Web sites, and it’s not allowing me to see it. I’ll try it again when I get home.

    Anyway, I have been a subscriber to your blog for quite some time, and I’m just now trying to fill out my blogroll — I’ve been slow to add other resource links to my website — and the category of “medieval resources” definitely needs some links added to it. I notice we share several of the same Web sites on our lists: I’m a regular reader of both Gabriele’s Lost Fort blog and Dr. Richard Nokes’ Unlocked Wordhoard.

    Was curious if you would like to trade links? I’ll add your site to my list and vice versa. Just let me know.

    Again, sorry for posting here.


  4. Steven, it won’t load for me either! I suspect our webserver must be down, sorry about that.

    I’ve been pointed at your site a few times by Dr Nokes’s Miscellanies, so blogrolling you is something I’ve considered, but I’m afraid I’m no more inclined to do so now than I was before. I wish you all success in your endeavours all the same, however.

  5. Jonathan, that is quite all right. I understand. Best of luck to you as well. I will continue to follow your blog in the future. Nice photos from today’s post by the way.

  6. On another note, the second comment I’ve had asking if I would consider setting up an RSS feed for this blog means that I should probably say here: guys! there is one already! It’s automatic in WordPress. If you were using Firefox you’d already have an icon to click on. As it is, try adding the feed (which is here) to your feed-reader, whatever it may be.

  7. You know, I am very fascinated by early Medieval Scotland… it’s interesting to know that’s what you did for your MA. And it must’ve been a nightmare trying to find any concrete evidence of it…

    • Well, that was why I liked it; the freedom to imagine! But yes, I did decide that evidence would help, after a while. Part of growing up I think, or just decreasing confidence in my own ability to construct things, who knows.

  8. Hi,

    I just found your fabulous blog via Ezra Klein.

    I just wanted to encourage you to consider joining ResearchBlogging.org, where we collect blog posts about peer-reviewed research. We’re looking for more bloggers in the humanities and social sciences. The “peer-reviewed” requirement can be a problem for humanities/social science types, who often write about books, etc., but when you have a post that meets our guidelines, we’d love to see your work collected there.



    • Dave, I’m bemused by this. Are you under the impression that books in the humanities are not peer-reviewed? I think that almost any of my posts would qualify as being `about peer-reviewed research’ because I don’t read a lot that isn’t, but if there’s some more silent criterion involved I think I’d have to know what it is before I could sign up to try and meet it!

      • Hi Jonathan,

        I’m aware that many books are peer-reviewed, but since our site has focused primarily on science, the emphasis has been on journal articles. Sorry if I implied that books in your field are not peer-reviewed.

        Unfortunately our system doesn’t have a good way to create citations for books — the way it works is it looks up citations in databases and then gives respondents codes that they can use on their blogs to indicate that they are discussing that work.

        The basic premise of our site is that many bloggers will sometimes write serious posts about research, and other times they write posts that are more like rants or personal narratives. We try to collect just those serious posts, and one criterion that works quite well in the sciences is when the post cites a journal article. Most books in the sciences are not peer reviewed, and books are generally not cited in serious blog posts about science.

        Many bloggers in the sciences have offered the same complaint as you: “All my posts are serious and thoughtful, and they’re all about peer-reviewed research. Why should I bother to register with you?”

        From your perspective, that makes sense, but consider our readers’ perspective: They are looking for a site that collects research-based posts from a number of different blogs. It doesn’t matter to them whether a blog makes one post a month about research or three posts a day. They like the ability to find posts on the topics they are interested in, whatever the source.

        If you’re happy with your current readership and don’t want to expand to reach other readers, and if you don’t want your work here to be indexed so people can easily locate it, then, by all means, don’t bother registering. Most of our members say that when they do register, their readership and comment base increases, and that’s important to them.

        The larger problem, of course, is that our site doesn’t offer you a way to index your posts about peer-reviewed books. That’s something we’d like to be able to do in the future, but we need to come up with a system that makes it clear that only peer-reviewed books are acceptable. Perhaps we need to limit citing books to certain fields of study (where peer-review is the norm). We’re certainly open to suggestions.



        • Dave, thanks for feedback but I think I should take this to e-mail. I’m not sure whether or not we’re on the same wavelength here but I don’t think the open internet is a particularly sensible place to have the discussion… Expect to hear from me.

  9. Peer review for scientists always = blind, preferably double-blind, peer review. It’s easy to apply this to articles, but very difficult to apply it to books, because they are impossible to anonymize. However (this is for scientists), books published by serious presses do get read by other scholars ahead of publication, and the comments made are meant to be acted on, though we can all think of exceptions, e.g. when OUP didn’t bother to get the author of a book on a certain Anglo-Saxon ruler to engage with the comments of a distinguished reader. Sometimes the profit motive takes over.

    • It’s often difficult to anonymise articles too, of course, especially if one works on a fringe area or subject. There are not very many people who can review my work and I suspect most of them must know who I am by now when a manuscript of mine arrives for them. I certainly recognise at least one of them by style alone. So I suppose I can see your point, but I don’t think it makes it any more practical for me to contribute much to this gentleman’s site!

  10. Thank you for your critique today, since you made a point of view which I had not thought about. Sadly, it was in the midst of my excitement and innocence that things were related in a way that might have considered potentially inappropriate. I also come from an industry where excessive sincerity and opinion are highly valued, especially when you express the first thing that comes out of your mind. I do sincerely apologize for my comments to have been expressed that I did express them, as I meant no harm at all.

    • Oh no no, I don’t think you’ve done any harm. It was just the possibility that worried me, so I thought it would be best to mention it before rather than after…

      • And I do appreciated that you did, because you are right; it could’ve done harm, even if that was not my intention at all. I guess it’s a good lesson learned on the power of words.

  11. I really enjoyed that article of yours in The Heroic Age. Thank you for the link!

    For some reason it hasn’t registered with me before (although I’ve read this ‘about’ page) that you’re connected with the Fitzwilliam Museum. My husband and I will be in Cambridge later this month and were planning on a visit (I was sorely disappointed that both the Classical Archaeology museum and Fitzwilliam’s Roman/Greek gallery will be closed). Any tips?

    • You’ll just miss the Darwin exhibition, too, which is a pity. However, the Fitzwilliam’s Egyptian galleries are still very much worth seeing, our Rothschild Gallery of Medieval Art is small but full of beautiful things, and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on Downing Street may fill the gap left by Classical Archaeology. It doesn’t have so much of the beautiful stuff (unless you like Anglian grave goods and, really, who doesn’t?) but there is lots there. And, if you’ve not been to the Fitzwilliam before, the building itself is so ridiculously splendid inside that it’s worth seeing for itself.

  12. This is my first visit to your site, so please forgive me if my question is not pertinent. I recently listened to the audiobook of How the Irish Saved Civilization, and I seem to recall that one of the early saints (Patrick? Columba? Augustine?) gathered up a bunch of fellows who didn’t have much to do (because they weren’t making war on each other any more?) and inducted them into monasteries and had them copying Greek and Roman archival treasures that would otherwise have been lost? I could listen to the book again (it was beautifully read by Liam Neeson), but I’m not sure I could easily find the reference, or that I understood it well the first time. Do you have a posting that relates to this interesting topic? And how did the Irish monks get the precious manuscripts?

    • I don’t have a post specifically on that, but there’s an awful lot of work on it, a summary of which is presumably what Mr Neeson was reading here. A lot of the copying and saving of Classical texts was done on the Continent, not just by Irish clerics who had moved there as missionaries or penitential exiles but by Franks and others, some Irish-trained but by no means all. And the whole process you’re describing here unrolls over four hundred years or more, rather than being solely down to the first missionaries to Ireland. I don’t see much of use on the web about this at a first glance but after Christmas, if you want, I can suggest some books that might be of interest.

  13. I just found this site, and thank you Jonathan for putting it up! There seems to be precious little on the web about pre-1000 Europe, and believe me, I will be ransacking all of your citations and bibliographical info!

    Do you have any ideas for sources on Charlemagne’s short-term Lombard wife? She is a remarkably intriguing figure to me, and I’m finding more dead ends than anything while searching for material on her.

    Laura Minnick

    • There really isn’t very much: I heard Jinty Nelson talking about this not so long ago and the conclusion was largely that there’s no basis for the name she’s sometimes given (Desideria) and that the poor girl was probably at Pavia in 774 when Charlemagne steamed up with replacement bride Hildegard in tow. Jinty’s new book on Charlemagne will presumably have chapter and verse when it comes out, and Rosamond McKitterick has also spoken on the subject and so there may be references in her Charlemagne: the formation of a European identity. As far as I’m aware, though, the sources are basically limited to the various court or nearly-court annals and the Liber pontificalis and we just have to make what we can from those fragments. Sorry!

  14. Jonathan,

    Hello, my name is Craig. I live in the USA, and I graduated a year ago from Roger Williams University with a BA in Art History.

    I recently became interested in medieval art (thank/blame my Medieval Art course for that), and so I recently acquired a copy of “Mediaeval Folk in Painting” by Ann Johnston to help me make my own medieval-style images. I was doing an online search for her and more of her stuff, and then I found you and your blog.

    • I don’t think that’s the same Ann Johnston, sad to say… Or perhaps happily, for you, since it holds the possibility that the artwork you’re after is still being made.

  15. Hi — Yes, I linked to you, but not in a post! I put you on my blogroll, which was called “speakers” (“habladores”), because you are Tenth Medieval, you say interesting things sometimes on blogs I read, and I am for Medieval Studies. Then I nixed the whole blogroll because I have altogether too many links. I am in the process of moving it to my chaotic research blog, http://sptc.wordpress.com, where it will reappear as that category gets rebuilt over there! Cheers.

    • Aha, well in that case I don’t know why WordPress keeps reporting it as a current link, but thankyou for the consideration! Tenth Medieval is not the name of the blog, FWIW, that’s A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe, but due to Blogger’s rather idiosyncratic implementation of OpenID I often turn up in comments as tenthmedieval, I admit.

  16. Tenth Medieval is more mysterious, I like it.

  17. critcalmass

    Sorry for my highly tardy reply to your question on my blog.

    I’ve asked at my blog in the past if anyone could point me to the basis for the ‘little dark people’ beloved of Victorian authors as indigenes of Britain; would you be able to point me to work on the Neolithic immigrants you suggest here might be ancestral to the Western populations of Britain? It seems as if that would be the place to look to start answering my old question. Thanks for any suggestions!


    The moral discourse of climate: historical considerations on race, place and virtue.

    David N. Livingstone


    This looks like it answers your question.


  18. JOnathan,

    I have another question for you. I’m looking for information on Carolingian-era holiday and how they were celebrated- Christmas in particular. However, all I’m finding is a) a finger pointing at the liturgical calendar and no more- effectively a dead end, b) stuff on much later medieval holidays, and c) most of b is complete bovine exhaust.

    What am I doing wrong? Do you have any suggestions? So far I’m empty-handed.

    • I dimly know from somewhere in my education that Christmas only assumed its current importance for rather later than this period, and that it was a less important feast than Easter or indeed Ascension at this time. But where I got that from, I no longer have any idea. The Royal Frankish Annals are quite keen on mentioning where the kings and emperors spent Easter and the Nativity, so something obviously happened then, not least assemblies, but where you would go for more I’m not sure, and certainly for anything less than royal celebrations (which you might get a flavour of from Einhard’s or Notker’s writings for example) I have no idea what source material there is. My Carolingian library is away from my Internet connection at the moment, but I will try and remember to do a cursory search of indices and come up with something. I suspect, though, that the reason you’re being pointed at the liturgy is that that’s the main source. I got further with ‘feast’ as a search term than anything else, but still nothing worth reporting.

  19. Is it possible to read a copy of your “Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia”? I lived in Barcelona from 1999-2003 and am particularly interested in that era’s power, and its economics, in Catalunya.

    thank you so much.

    • Dear Nancy, it most certainly is! Thankyou for your interest! The original thesis is available for download here as PDFs. However, you might want to wait just another month or two for the print version, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer 2010), of which I sent off the absolute final proofs but two hours ago, and which they currently say will be available December 15th 2010. Every single date they’ve given me for this has been wrong so far, but I don’t think it can be far off. Available for pre-order from Amazon

  20. Francois Soyer

    Dear Jonathan,

    I am not sure what email address you are currently using. Can I just confirm with you that you received my previous email telling you that your paper proposal was accepted for the conference in Southampton next July?

    All the best, Francois

    • Dear François,

      no, apparently not! My chiark, Cambridge and both Oxford addresses are all functioning at the moment, though Cambridge may soon cease, so perhaps it would be best to send to me at the Oxford one if you have it. You can see that in my Academia.edu profile. Thankyou for the good news! Yours,


  21. I just rolled an 18 on my 20 sided dice…what consequences will this have for my warthog mission behind enemy lines?

    • That’s all well and good, M. the honourable member for Belgium, but your e-mail address is bouncing, much like your plane I fear. Please to remove digit and clear mailbox!

      • Lord Hailsham

        Damn. You have seen through the cunning subterfuge but I failed to ensure that the email address still works. I haven’t used it since the court imposed the restraining order…
        Try this one out for size.

  22. Hi Jonathan,

    I’d like to suggest a small change to the way you post footnotes. It’s wonderful to be able to click on the number and go right to the FN, but it’s hell to go back—especially for one who has older eyes and thus has trouble finding those little numbers.

    I assume that you generate the HTML automatically, so why not put a clickable return pointer into the number at the footnote? You already have all the pieces of the machinery to do so—it would require just a small expansion of the HTML in both places.

    O’course, I enjoy reading your posts so much that I’ll keep right on reading them, but I’d bless you if you made it easier to do so.

    • I’ll have a look at that—I agree that I’ve found it helpful where it’s done, as for example at The Heroic Age—but meanwhile, surely your browser’s Back button will deliver you back to where you clicked? And no, no automagic: all the HTML in my posts is hand-cooked apart from the image tags, and sometimes even those when WordPress is having an off day…

  23. I just discovered your blog and I find very interesting talk about the medieval period, I have a blog, i search and study the remains of the county of Urgell

  24. Kathleen Hubert


    I was wondering if you accept guest post for your blog. If you do, I would like to submit a few. I’m a recent college graduate, with an English major, looking to build out my portfolio. I can write on a wide variety of topics and am sure you would be happy with the quality. Please email me back if you are interested. Thank you for your time.

    – Kathleen Hubert

    • I’m not averse to the idea of guest posts, but you’ll need to suggest some topics you might want to write about, either here or by e-mail, before I can decide whether it’s worth your while writing for here.

  25. Florian Dirks

    A very nice and interesting blog that you keep up here. I feel deep respect for finding the time to write articles for this site. Especially because I’m a PhD candidate in Medieval History at the moment.

    Regards from Germany

  26. Dr Janet Fairweather

    For Ildar Garipzanov’s bibliography you could try his wonderful article in Journal of Ecclesiastical History 63 (2012). I came upon it by a fluke while researching my forthcoming book on ‘Bishop Osmund: a missionary to Sweden in the late Viking age’.

  27. Temitope Adedayo

    I am writing to discuss the possible publication of texts on your blog regarding the International Summer School Programme 2014 organised by Bournemouth University (BU), UK’s number one new University in the Guardian University Guide for 2009 and 2010. Please let me know your email address so that I can send an attached copy of the text to you. Thanks for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.

    • For reference, I am not usually interested in advertising events with which I have no connection on this blog, so this approach is unlikely to work. In any case, with my current backlog, the school would long be over before the post went up!

  28. Temitope Adedayo

    Thanks for your time and consideration.

  29. Nothing to say, only to beg. I am looking for ARCHAEOLOGICAL evidence of anything that even approaches theatre performances in GB in the 10th Century AD. ALL of what I’ve uncovered is opinion. There is such evidence in Denmark and what would later be called Saxony (poss. traveling theatre wagon remnants, paintings, graffiti), Northern Italy (nameless graffiti) and Northeastern Spain (nameless script fragments). Great Britain, not so much.

    So, I’m either looking in the wrong places, or there’s digging to be done.

    • All I can say is that I know of nothing, sorry. But though I fake one reasonably, I am not actually an archæologist and am by no means as read up in the literature as I could be. That I don’t know of it certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t anything. Sorry I can’t be more help!

  30. Thanks. Well, I had to try. It and pre-writing theatre are my two favorite areas and the most fun lectures for my classes at the college. I’ll keep searching. YOU keep up the good work. Good reporting is a rare talent which you have in abundance. I have been enjoying your articles ever since I stumbled across them.

  31. persnicketythecat

    Cool! I like Medieval history! I have my own history blog too! http://historyisfascinating.wordpress.com/

  32. Good article on the “Three Kings” of Moslem Spain. Although this may be a bit out of your bailiwick, since you are knowledgeable about early Medieval Spain, I was wondering if you knew of any scholarly sources about the Dark Age British colony of Britonia on the north coast of Hispania. There are a few brief mentions on the web but as near as I can tell not much available otherwise. Perhaps you could enlighten me in this regard. Thanks

    • The little I know is badly out of date! It comes from José Orlandis, Estudios sobre instituciones monásticas medievales (Pamplona 1971), which talks about the monastic bishopric of Mondoñedo that formed to administer the pastoral care of the excilic Britons there, mostly in as much as it interacted with the community of Saint Fructuosus with whom he was more concerned. Fructusous’s Life, which was long ago translated by a man called Nock and is presumably in one or other of the volumes since published as Lives of the Visigothic Fathers or similar, is probably the main basic source; I can’t remember if there are any others. But that’s a start!

  33. I very much enjoyed your blog, A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe. I am working on a history book-blog of my own, which can be seen at [one word] theoryofirony.com, then clicking on either the “sample chapter” or “blog” buttons at the top. My Rube Goldberg brain asks with an odd, well-caffeinated kind of logic: Why is there an inverse proportion between the size of the print and the importance of the message? Science. Commerce. Art. Literature. Military. Religion. I call this eccentric thinking the Theory of Irony and if your busy schedule permits, give a read, leave a comment or create a blogroll link. In any event, best of luck with your own endeavors.

    P.S. It concerns Classical, Medieval and Modern eras.

  34. I’ve just realised that this page hasn’t been updated for a couple of years. Oops! That will now get done…

  35. Hello, I’m looking for some advise from a medieval researcher on innovative weapons of war used in the period i can use in a fantasy novel. For example a mobile catapult that can attack any part of a city wall my pushing it across metal bars that are built into a fixed platform built by the attacking force. or similarly one that could be slid across a city wall for defensive purposes.
    I doubt these existed but it would be good to know if it would be feasible to do. I have other ideas as well but would like some input from someone who knows and understands the period a bit better than I. Please reply to my email so we can talk privately.

    • I have no e-mail from you so I suppose that you mean this comment, and my answer is so uninformed as to be very short, so may as well be here to stop other people hoping that I know something about this. My first response is whatever you are planning to have your characters build, it needs to be realisable in wood: large-scale metalwork of the type you’re envisaging really isn’t sensibly available in a medieval military situation. But one can do an awful lot with wood! My second response is that any catapult is mobile, to a degree, be that with rollers or a wheeled carriage or just dismantled and on people’s or animals’ backs, but that it really needs to be firmly set on the ground to operate, and anything that channels that contact with the ground would have to be able to survive really serious tension. And my third and probably most useful response is: I think you need a copy of this

  36. And as with every time someone comments here, I have just realised it was out of date again; now it isn’t, and hopefully this time won’t be for a while longer than usual!

  37. Hi, interested in your comments about Maxentius. On his visit to Wales in 300 he left a bastard child whose descendants founded the royal family of Dyfed. He is the 51st great grandfather of my girlfriend.

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