Category Archives: Blogroll

A penance, a picture and a question

I owe you a post from last week, but I am still on holiday just now, and I didn’t think when packing to bring the notes that would source the next real post (or even a record of what it is, though I think it’s about Chris Wickham redefining what we should mean by feudalism).1 The next thing that I have written up would probably be a professional liability to publish, so I won’t; but I should put something up.2 So what should it be?

Well, here’s an idea I won’t use. Years ago, the erstwhile blogger Carl Pyrdum of Got Medieval invented a sort of blog post called a Google Penance, in which one atoned for occasions when people found your blog via search terms that made clear they were really very much looking for something else, by posting something at least slightly related.3 The challenge, of course, was to keep it clean, and that wasn’t always easy. I’ve just checked my stats, and find that I’m in the middle of such a bad search moment; the hits on my recent post ‘Name in Print XXX: the other parcel from China‘ have lately gone through the roof. On due inspection this seems to be because it’s been circulating via social networks in Pakistan, as well as to other places from there, and that the reason for that is that something or someone was searchng for ‘China XXX’ or variants thereof and that is what started coming back. A hidden danger of Roman numerals for you all to consider! But other than suggesting some reading about Chinese knowledge of Roman science, I can’t think of anything safe to say that would answer that search query in some respect, so let’s move on.4

Nestorian priests in a procession on Palm Sunday, in a seventh- or eighth-century wall painting from a Nestorian church in Qocho, China

‘Nestorian’ priests in a procession on Palm Sunday, in a seventh- or eighth-century wall painting from a ‘Nestorian’ church in Qocho, China, by DaderotOwn work, CC0, Link, with snigger quotes all to be explained below

Then I thought, hey, if I can’t write a proper post from the point in 2019 when the blog’s backlogged to, maybe I have an image I downloaded then which is worth a post. Over lockdown I sorted out my image files, so this was an easy question to answer: I basically wasn’t downloading academic images in early 2019, and the only ones I did already went into a post here, the above being one of them. This is, I suppose, a picture of people in China, which is at least part of what my websearchers were after, so maybe it is the required penance, but it’s not really a post.

So instead here’s a question I’ve been meaning to ask for literally years. I only realised a few months ago that I’d accidentally deleted the stub I’d left to remind myself to do so. Since then I’ve been trying to remember, and this seems like the occasion. Shortly before I started this blog, as part of the same attempt to give myself an academic presence quicker than publication could, I put up a personal website. Some of you may have looked at it; it’s usually no more than a few months out of date. Now, one of its sections is a list of academic works I have notes on. I suppose that I thought it might be useful for people assembling bibliographies, but mainly of course it was supposed to demonstrate that I was doing the academic study thing and knew some stuff. And I have maintained it, in my normal obsessive-compulsive fashion, because it became part of my note-taking routine: copy up useful references, index item in my bibliography file, add it to website, and now make entry in Zotero. But in the sixteen years I’ve had that site up, no-one has ever been in contact with me about those notes pages, and I don’t have access to logs at that level so contact is the only way I could know if anyone was using them. And they are work to maintain, which quite possibly I have never really needed to do. So I just thought I’d ask you, my captive audience: have you ever used those pages, are they, you know, any use to you or anyone? Would you miss them if they, you know, went away? Just asking…

1. If I’m right, it’s a report on an early presentation of what became Chris Wickham, “How did the Feudal Economy Work? the Economic Logic of Medieval Societies” in Past & Present no. 251 (Oxford 2021), pp. 3–40, which is a game-changing piece of thinking.

2. It arose when a then-promising undergraduate asked me about academic careers, and I gave them the usual warning speech and then said, out of some sense that the case required it, that I would log my next week’s work for them so that they could see what the job involved. Having done so, in a period of quite bad industrial relations, I decided I couldn’t let the student have it, in case someone publicised it and I got into trouble. Industrial relations are now arguably worse, and I think there are better things I can do with such a log than stick it here. Plus which, it’s probably not actually very interesting reading!

3. Carl’s now-inaccessible blog was proudly but not unjustly described by him at a conference years back as ‘kind of a big deal’, and although it was easier then to be one he was leading the pack. Some reflection in Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Blogging the Middle Ages”, in Brantley L. Bryant, Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog (New York City NY 2010), pp. 29–42, which was actually also my first print citation…

4. If you do want this, try Matthew P. Canepa, “Distant Displays of Power: Understanding Cross-Cultural Interaction among the Elites of Rome, Sasanian Iran and Sui–Tang China”, ed. by Canepa in Ars Orientalis Vol. 38, Theorizing Cross-Cultural Interaction among the Ancient and Early Medieval Mediterranean, Near East and Asia (Washington DC 2010), pp. 121–154, and Krisztina Hoppál, “The Roman Empire According to the Ancient Chinese Sources” in Acta Antiqua no. 51 (Budapest 2011), pp. 263–306, DOI: 10.1556/AAnt.51.2011.3-4.5.


I’m sorry for the slight hiatus here; there have been one or two issues, let’s just leave it at that, and while I did get most of a post done on Sunday there wasn’t time to finish it. It should … Continue reading

Metablog XI: link clear-out

As is now normal, alas, I have to apologise for the gap in posting; there have been exam marks to finalise and then, heavens help me, I actually took some time off to do non-medieval things. But now I am back and I’m trying to work towards the point where I’m not just up to date with my own stuff but also with at least some other people’s. That’s still a long way off but as a first effort I have taken a long haul through the links in my sidebar, taking out those that no longer existed or are inactive, updating those that had moved and fixing some typos in what survived. Now, everything I’m linking to should be some kind of relevant and active.

There’s room in such an exercise for reflection, of course. It’s noticeable, for example, that most of what I had to prune was in the Resources section; I had to take out far fewer blogs even though my criteria for them are more stringent (viz., they have to have medieval content less than a quarter old on the front page). It seems that a one-person operation with commercial hosting is more practical to maintain than a static institutional website, who knew? Well, we all knew it probably, but it shouldn’t really be that way should it? Digital continuity is for some reason something the Academy can’t manage as well as WordPress. Then again, it may be the one-person thing. When it can be someone else’s fault if something isn’t done, it’s easier for everyone to ignore it maybe? Certainly, group blogs seemed to have survived less well than single-author ones, though obviously this is not real statistics given it’s a selective sample of a tiny size.

A conceptualisation of the blogosphere by analogy to the Earth's atmosphere

A conceptualisation of the blogosphere by analogy to the Earth’s atmosphere, located and explained at Perishable Press (linked through)

Then there’s nostalgia (which is, as we know, not what it used to be). It’s not just me that’s had trouble keeping up with updating; some of the most venerable medievalist blogs, the ones who were an encouragement to me that other people did this thing when I was starting and who have been written about as bloggers, are now silent or dormant. In some cases there were real, sometimes fairly awful reasons; in some cases like mine it’s just acute time shortage; but I guess that it’s also that for a lot of now-silent bloggers online interaction has moved, to Facebook or Twitter. I don’t use those (because as Stuart Airlie once insightfully told me, it’s all about control) but no less a figure than Geoffrey Chaucer shows how this can happen. It’s not that blogs are dead, despite worries to that effect for many years now. There are also several fairly new blogs on the roll, but they are more noticeably academic publicity operations and less anonymised relations of the life academic than was once the case. The medium continues, but it’s now being used for different things, indeed roughly the things I set out to use it for when I started, although I slipped towards the middle of that continuum fairly rapidly. I doubt I started the trend, I think it was the pressure for impact and relevance that did that, but it is still noticeable. There’s still masses to keep up with, of course, and as yet I can’t, but I do hope to again some day. Now, at least the list of what I can’t keep up with is up to date again…

Collecting from Cliopatria

Screenshot of the History News Network magazine website

Screenshot of the History News Network magazine website

Long-term readers may know that I used to be a contributor to a group blog at the Humanities News Network site, which was called Cliopatria. Cliopatria was kind of a lead singer and his backing band; Ralph Luker, the editor, did most of the posting and various other people chimed in every now and then, and from 2009 to the blog’s closure in 2012 I was one of those people. I always found Cliopatria a difficult audience to pitch for; I had been asked to contribute as a medievalist, but despite my efforts and those of the two East Asian studies people also contributing the bulk of both posting and commenting was modern-US-centric. I therefore wound up focusing my activity there either on things about scholarship on the Middle Ages I thought would interest other fields or, and here I had company, on the state of the Academy. Some of that material also appeared here, and I generally mentioned here when I’d got something up there, but I did try and make sure that I was writing distinctly for each blog.

Despite that, in general my posts went uncommented and in fact, it was then usual for me to get more comments and feedback here than anyone ever got on Cliopatria, so I posted there only rarely. Then, somewhere in 2011 I think, HNN had a redesign that changed their stylesheet and effectively wrecked anything that anyone had previously done with HTML tags; quotations ceased to be distinguishable from paragraph text, for example, and hyperlinked text appeared three point sizes smaller than that around it. Much of my existing content now looked stupid or wrong and it was hard to work in the new template; links inside the blog stopped working and posting, not just mine but everybody’s but Ralph’s, dropped right off. It struggled on a little longer and then Ralph finally closed the blog in early 2012. It remains readable, but I learn in writing this that Ralph himself died in August 2015, which I am saddened by. May he rest easily.

Since then, anyway, I’ve occasionally had reason to go back to my Cliopatria posts for something, and they are really hard to find. The site has been redesigned again since Cliopatria closed and things now look better, though not as good as they did before the first redesign; but the links to individual authors’ works have gone, as have all the comments, and its internal search is lousy. My name doesn’t appear over all my posts, and neither my own list of links or Google can bring back everything I wrote there. So for some time I’ve been meaning to put together a list of my posts, for my own reference as much as anything, and this is that list. In compiling it, I’ve discovered quite a number of things I had completely forgotten writing, and I fear that there may still be more I haven’t found. What I have, I’ve broken down by categories and arranged by date within them, and if you wanted to go and read any of them that would be lovely, though I’ve also indicated where they also appear here at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe because those are easier reading still. When it drops off the front page I’ll set this post up as its own page. In the meantime, this is what I did for Cliopatria.

Actual Research Posts

These were generally poorly-judged for Cliopatria and usually also appeared here. After a while I stopped doing them except out of guilt at having not posted for ages.

Medievalism in the Modern World

A long-term strand of my blogging, this, but all the more important where medievalists would not normally tread but modernists are still reading it. These are probably the posts I’m proudest of writing at Cliopatria, I think they were useful and good publicity for why having experts on this stuff is sometimes helpful.

The State of the Academy

I’m much less sure about these posts, as a rule. In particular, they mostly come from the point when the Conservative Party under David Cameron was just beginning to muck about with UK higher education funding; a lot of people were self-righteously angry and it was easy to get on that bandwagon without necessarily thinking too hard. After all, the government was directing baton charges against schoolchildren protesting about tuition fees; if you weren’t angry, you arguably weren’t paying attention. Also, though, for much of my time on Cliopatria I was at Oxford, which the more I look back on it (or read my leftover issues of The Oxford Magazine) looks like a bubble of small-c conservative privilege I wasn’t then fully able to see out of. The people writing in the Magazine clearly don’t represent their colleagues very widely—Oxford has not gone private, banned tourists from the Bodleian Library, legislated to remove authority from its own Council or cut back the university administration, or any of the other things for which they regularly campaigned, for a start—but Oxford also doesn’t represent the rest of UK HE very well, and I honestly just didn’t realise how true that was till I got out. So these posts come from an odd, and rather blinkered, place, and occasionally I got pulled up for that. Still, there are some good rants there and a few things I’d still stand by.


Entrevista a mi en Català

The seminar reports are catching up but reports on my other activity seem still to be mired in busy busy November 2014. At the very end of that month, I had the unusual honour of being interviewed for a Catalan history news website, a sort of recognition I’m very flattered to receive although I wish I could have given them a better photograph. Should you be interested, it’s here:

I should probably post the English, shouldn’t I? But I am writing this on a train to Birmingham to x-ray more coins and time and wi-fi are both scant, so I’ll wait to see if anyone wants it. Meanwhile, speaking of Birmingham, even while posting was sparse here I was still cropping up in other places on the Internet, not least the blog of the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages, as follows:

And then lastly, though I will write properly about All That Glitters soon I promise, even as Cross Country Trains carry me towards the next session, here is a snapshot about one of those we already did:

I have never been so twitterfied! Anyway, with that I must get back to what I am doing now, but here at least is some record of what I have been doing that you didn’t have before!

If you didn’t like that CFP, why not try this one?

The frontiers thing not catching your imagination? Perhaps you’re thinking: “So divisive! I want to look at what brings people together. Why couldn’t our subjects just all have been friends?” Well, Amy Brown of the Université de Genève has something made for you:

Elusive affection: Proposed session for Leeds IMC 2015 July 6-9

Organisers: Amy Brown (Université de Genève, amisamileandme), Regan Eby (Boston College)
Call for Papers (two speakers sought)
Deadline for abstract submission: 20th September
Send abstracts to: (will be forwarded to Regan Eby from there)

What is affection? Can we reliably locate or describe the features of affection between medieval persons, real or fictional?

Love of God, romantic love, and love between monastic peers or loyal knights: these and other kinds of love are well attested across the range of medieval sources and periods, but historians of friendship recognise the difficulty of bridging the gap between felt affection and the literary tropes of love. Love might be spoken or written of in situations where the parties were unlikely to feel positively toward one another, such as in reconciliations and peace treaties. In other cases, sources might borrow from the scripts of romance, friendship at court, or family in order to characterise a peculiar relationship, such as an opposite-sex friendship. Some forms of affection might be indicated without reference to the vocabulary of love at all.

We invite medievalists from any period or discipline to propose a paper relating to the history of affection, unconventional affectionate bonds, or approaches to situations in which we have insufficient data for firm conclusions concerning the presence or absence of affection in lived experience. The abstract for Amy Brown’s paper (focusing on 14th c english romance) is below, and we would particularly like to complement this paper with evidence from other periods or other literary traditions.

Sir Lancelot in the Friend Zone: strategies for offering and limiting affection in the Stanzaic Morte Arthur

Amy Brown, Université de Genève

In erthe is nothing that shall me let
To be thy knight loud and still

This promise appears in the Middle English Stanzaic Morte Arthur not as a proposition to a beloved, but as Lancelot’s counter-offer in rejecting the Maid of Astolat’s romantic desires toward him. This text features a negotiation sequence, not found in other versions of the Astolat narrative, in which Lancelot and the Maid attempt to articulate the terms of a relationship which is both like and unlike that of romantic love.

This paper aims to do two things: firstly, to set out the history of the concept of affection (linguistically distinct from the 12th c) and its overlap with medieval ideas of love. Secondly, to read the Maid of Astolat segment of the Stanzaic Morte as an instance in which comparison and analogy with familiar relationship types is used to establish affection at the core of an unconventional bond, that of opposite-sex friendship.

Final note, especially since Amy intends to distribute this CFP to Swiss colleagues: proposals for papers in English preferred, but we enthusiastically endorse the idea of panelists (esp. early career researchers) unaccustomed to working in English. Amy can volunteer moral support and/or editing assistance if helpful, and we will aim to moderate questions with opportunity for clarifications and translations as needed.

(Hey Amy, with an interesting topic like this, you should totally have a blog amirite?)


An alternative manifesto for this blog

“If I could live in any decade, it would definitely be the 960s.”

Probably as thinking humans you all read The Onion already and saw this when it was new, or when Another Damned Medievalist also linked it (though I can’t now find where she did so), but it appeals on so many levels…

“… Everyone was in this vibrant period of transition between Byzantine autocracy and fealty to large landowners, just trying to discover themselves. For a brief moment you had this optimism that made you feel like you could just stick your thumb out, hop in a passing cart transporting waterfowl, and go. Didn’t even matter where—you’d just take it easy at the next fiefdom and figure it out. Who was going to tell you no? The king? Edgar the Peaceable was on the throne and he didn’t care. It was a simpler time…”

I mean, I’m probably more a fan of the 970s myself—so many exciting possibilities as Europe begins to have access to gold again, even if it comes with a side-order of Muslim military campaigns of terror in Spain and Southern France, Norman ones of opportunity in Southern Italy and Viking ones of conquest in England… But the arts were so much more ambitious!—but he’s totally right about the 980s. That can only seem like a good decade if you don’t remember it!


OK, it is clear that my existing routine for updating this blog is not working. I won’t go into the details of that, as my obsessive-compulsive-like symptoms don’t deserve that much publicity, but let us simply say that the slot … Continue reading

Leeds blogger meet-up (better late than never…)

Various things have kept me away from electronic media till today, more or less since I last wrote, but events march fast upon us and not the least of these is the 2012 International Medieval Congress, to which I shall be departing tomorrow (or, looking at the clock, today) and at which there has in recent years been a bloggers’ meet-up. I’m not sure we’re up to strength this year but since there will be at least five of us and possibly more Magistra has been canvassing behind the scenes and has settled upon the following time and place: the Stables pub at Weetwood Hall, on Monday evening, from 20:00. I and she will certainly be there, I perhaps from earlier, and if you are a blogger of any kind you would of course be very welcome to join us. (Please, bloggers and others, bear in mind that some who might attend do not necessarily want their real names and their blogs linked more widely, and we ask you to be suitably careful about that.)

Your humble author Jonathan Jarrett in gratuitous black tie

This was taken shortly after a lengthy formal dinner, and doesn’t it show?

Thus, although Magistra’s academic identity is not what you would call secret any more, she has not yet gone so far as to put her name and likeness directly on her blog, whereas mine is all over the web, I suppose I will probably be recognisable for something other than probably being the only male in the gathering, and so if you’re looking for us you can look for me. And I currently look like this, not usually so formally attired but just about as tired… Maybe see you there!

My writing in other places (or not)

I have some hopes of resuming reasonably regular posting some day soon, but that day is not today, sorry; there are two papers needing rewriting, one requiring no little reading, two reviews to write neither of whose books I’ve yet read, and a multitude of other things almost all of which are late, and although this term’s crop of students is not, proportionally, as disaster-struck as last term’s, their misfortunes are still taking a bit of managing. But, I have been doing the odd little bit of blogging elsewhere, and I also wanted to mention a couple of other things connected with my text appearing on the Internet, since some of you have been kind enough to mention them to me.

My writing where I wanted it

In the first place, over the course of February I have put two posts up on Cliopatria. I’ve been having some misgivings over my place there, as I am an extremely occasional and fairly irrelevant presence by some measures, but it does avail me a place to get political, and thus, if you be interested in that, you can find it in two posts, entitled respectively, “‘They Are Trying To Rob Us of Our Right To Communicate’” (which was not about the SOPA Bill in the USA, though perhaps it should have been, but the motivations behind UK Higher Education policy such as it has been manifest here), and “A historian’s place in (current) politics”, which is more or less as it says. The latter has an egregious malapropism in it that Judith Weingarten quickly spotted, but the site appears to have lost my login details so I can’t currently fix it.1 Find it while you can!

My writing where I didn’t want it

[Update: the threats and exposure now seem to have paid off and as far as I can see the author mentioned below has taken my stuff down. However, I leave the paragraph here for continuity.]

In less cheerful news, I discovered very rapidly on February 12th that someone had grabbed about thirty posts from this blog and put them up on one of their own, to which I shall not link. I discovered this because they didn’t remove any of my numerous pingbacks to this site, and thus I could find out that they have not used my name, and so as well as stupid things like adverts for my books he has got my musings about being unhappy in church services etc. (or just unhappy) up under no name but `admin’, which is extremely odd to see and makes me quite angry. I am, of course, nothing to do with this site and I gave no permission for anything of the kind. I have been in touch with the author (who wrote to me about one of their other blogs, advertising the one where they’d loaded up my content! Perhaps not the brightest thief in the class, this person) and demanded they take the stuff down, I have been in touch with the abuse address at their web-host, but since none of this has as yet resulted in any action by anyone else, I am now also in touch with the University of Oxford’s lawyers and we’ll see what they advise. But since people had mentioned it to me in private, I wanted to say that I knew, and furthermore, firstly that if you’re linking to anything being run by someone calling themselves Djalma Bright, I’d appreciate it if you unlinked them, and secondly that if you work on Arthuriana your stuff may also have been raided there and you should probably Google some of your work’s key phrases up to make sure. I presume that the idea is that they get some of my search traffic for their own material, but perhaps they haven’t yet started writing any of that…

It’s all complications I don’t want, anyway, but it has made me rethink my copyright policy and decide that while I may guard my text fiercely, I don’t really see any point in not releasing my images, as in, ones I took, into the public domain. Does anyone else have any views on that they’d like to share?

My writing not being where I want it

Lastly, as I return to reading other people’s blogs again periodically, I discover that Blogger has had another reinvention of its spam protection Captcha gear. Either I’m a far worse palæographer than I thought, or just as with the previous version, their OpenID support is crooked again. Either way, if you’re on Blogger and running either of the two latest Captcha set-ups, I can’t comment on your blog except as name/URL and you will understand how just now I am concerned about authentication! So it’s not that I don’t love your various writings, I just can’t say so, and you might want to see if anyone who’s not on Blogger actually can…

1. And since the site’s various technical issues (such as the visible spell-check that only shows up in live posts) were another reason why I was considering quitting, it’s quite fitting that, having decided to carry on, I now can’t because of them…