Tag Archives: career

Name in Print XVI

[This was originally posted on 22nd November 2014, when its news was hot off the press, but I’ve now reached that point in my legendary backlog, so I unstick this post to allow it to join the flow in the place it should originally have occupied. Besides, I bet you haven’t all bought the book yet…]

The teaching reading is still swamping me, I’m afraid, what with having so little spare time in which to find the hours for it, but, raising my head briefly, what do I find but that the third of my 2014 outputs has now emerged, taking the form of a paper in this rather handsome-looking volume.

Cover of Rory Naismith, Martin Allen & Elina Screen (edd.), Early Medieval Monetary History: studies in memory of Mark Blackburn

Cover of Rory Naismith, Martin Allen & Elina Screen (edd.), Early Medieval Monetary History: studies in memory of Mark Blackburn

When Mark Blackburn told us at the Fitzwilliam in 2009 that his long-running battle with lymphoma was now in its final stages, many plans emerged from the initial shock and sadness. One of them was this, a volume of essays which we knew, even then, short of a miracle he would not live to see but with which the editors, Rory Naismith, Martin Allen and Elina Screen, along with many others all wanted, nonetheless, to express somehow our personal debts and the great debt of the field of early medieval monetary and economic history to Mark’s vast energy, encouragement and scholarship. Now it exists, and while one obviously wishes he could have seen it, it more than fulfils its task: there are essays here by people in the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and France and by people at all stages of their academic careers inside and outside the Academy (because that last is allowed in numismatics), twenty-five essays in all, covering Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman, Viking, Scandinavian, Carolingian, Byzantine and Spanish coinages, and there’s also me.

fsmasbbovo

No, for once I am not just being self-deprecating in my announcement of a publication, I’ve just totted the contents up and I really am the only person in this volume not writing about coins, except in their absence, which is of course my numismatic speciality: instead my paper is about the supposed use of livestock as a currency equivalent in Northern Iberia in the early Middle Ages. I will admit that coins do get mentioned, but only to emphasise their absence. Still, this was a subject I came across during working on Medieval European Coinage 6 for Mark, I ranted about it in his office to his amusement and I think it would have amused him further to see it in print. I’m really pleased to be in this volume. I’ve only got two things forthcoming now, I need to pile more stuff into the queue! Happily there is an article in final revision on my active pile right now

Statistics, for the record: one draft only with two rounds of revisions, that draft submitted November 2012 for a final emergence in print October 2014, just short of two years. This is about average and it was a complex book to assemble considering how various the contributors’ employments and backgrounds are: I’ve changed jobs twice during its preparation and I’m not the only one either!


Full cite: Jonathan Jarrett, “Bovo Soldare: a sacred cow of Spanish economic history re-evaluated” in Rory Naismith, Martin Allen & Elina Screen (edd.), Early Medieval Monetary History: studies in memory of Mark Blackburn (Farnham 2014), pp. 187-204.

I seem to be writing another book

Not right now, I admit; right now I am doggedly trying to clear any research time at all between the marking, lecture preparation, training and rewriting a long-running module of my predecessor’s to cope with the kind of limits of digitisation I was writing about here the other day, and when I get that time there’s a review, an article and a final version of a conference paper that need sending off first, but nonetheless, since November last year I have been contracted to produce my next monograph and it’s about time I mentioned it here. It will (probably) be called Managing Change: Borrell II of Barcelona (945-993) and his times and I’m due to send the final manuscript to Palgrave MacMillan at the end of June 2016. I thought I should say something about why I think it’s worth writing, how I got it to contract stage and what will be in it, so here goes.

Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona (945-993) and Urgell (947-993), as pictured in the Rotlle genealògic del Monestir de Poblet, c. 1400

Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona, Girona, Osona (945-993) and Urgell (947-993), as pictured in the Rotlle genealògic del Monestir de Poblet, c. 1400 (from Wikimedia Commons)

At one level this book is getting written because of professional necessity, but at another one it’s because its seeds have been kicking round my head for years, the unwritten extension of one of the chapters of my doctoral thesis.1 You all know I have many thoughts about Count-Marquis Borrell II of Barcelona (and also Girona, Osona and Urgell). At the latter stages of my write-up process I was as far down my rabbit hole as to occasionally imagine a small avatar of him in my head shouting ineffectually at me to get on with it. I’ve been wanting to get this written ever since then but other things have kept seeming like more immediately useful ideas. Then, a few months after I’d started making a decent attempt to bring the blog up to date by blogging every morning, as I have described before:

“then Christmas happened and in that time someone heard me saying that if I was going to get another job after this one I probably needed to heed one academic’s advice and get myself a second book. That someone pointed out that I had been going on about the one I’d write for ages, and would probably be both happier and more successful if I actually got on with it, and they were right, of course, but really the only time I could free up for that was the time I was using for blogging.”

So with that grimly accepted there arose the question of what to write. I envisaged, and still envisage, this book as a semi-biographical study, because there is basically almost nothing written specifically about Borrell even in Catalan, so it seemed important to get the basics down, but then there would be thematic chapters picking up on the various aspects of his rule I think make interesting points of comparison.2 It seemed clear that I should start with the biographical part, to get that in order and also to demonstrate to a reader that there was a story here that could be told, but that meant getting the evidence into a state of arrangement I’d never yet managed. I have a database with all Borrell’s charters atomised in it, but there’s more that could be done, and once I’d done it I was surprised how much narrative evidence also had to be slotted in, either from Richer of Reims or from Arabic sources and all very bitty but still more than I’d realised and quite informative, to which one could add Gerbert’s letters and so on. I arranged all these into a conspectus of datable or near-datable nuggets of information, and by the end of it there were 218 different incidents of Borrell’s career on record, much more than we have for most tenth- or eleventh-century persons even at élite level.

Archivo de la Corona d'Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39

Archivo de la Corona d’Aragón, Cancilleria, Pergamins Seniofredo 39 (reduced-quality version), with Borrell’s alleged signature lower centre

Moreover, the very effort of getting them in order made coincidences and significances apparent that I’d never noticed before; two or three things happening in Manresa suddenly at the same time, an absence of appearance in Osona until much later than I’d realised, a gap in the evidence for Girona that I’d already noticed and tentatively blamed on Count-Bishop Miró Bonfill of Besalú and Girona actually being more endemic, and so on. I think the most obvious of these was that Borrell got married in the immediate aftermath of his brother, Miró III Count-Marquis of Barcelona (they shared) dying in 966, even though he was probably thirty-five already by then (and there’s no sign that Miró was married either). I’m still puzzling over that lack of attention to the succession, but in any case, it’s clear that plans then changed. So that sort of thing emerged from the close attention to chronology and made this feel a lot like research.

But the biography can be written, so I wrote it, and then after also spending some time making a list of all Borrell’s relatives documentable alive during his lifetime because keeping them straight in my head was proving impossible—and there’s sixty-four of them, which is also a fairly unusual source-base I think, though I doubt he knew even half of them himself—I also had stubs of three other chapters, one of which, on the conceptualisation of comital power, I dressed up for presentation and tentatively sent off to Palgrave with the biographical chapter, the conspectus and a proper actual proposal. I find it hard to say why I decided so quickly on Palgrave: they make nice-looking books, they shift copies and I want this book to make some sales, their academic standards are high enough to be credible, they don’t have the ugly copyright agreements of some companies, but one could say the same of other publishers. So far it has been a good choice, though; they acknowledged, sent out for review very quickly and the reviewer’s comments were, well… it would be fair to say that the reviewer saw in my proposal the potential for a whole other book, one which I’d like to write but it would take me years. I may yet, but I managed to convince Palgrave that with enough deliberate comparison built in, this book would do as a necessary stepping stone to the great new synthetic history of power and government in tenth-century Europe.3

I actually do think, though, that if such a book is to be written—and I think we need one, I do think the tenth century is a crucial period of formation in the mess of post-Roman Europe, in which the dust from the Carolingians’ attempt to renew Rome one last time settles in definitive ways that are hugely diverse because of the chaotic state of post-imperial disunification, and that if we can understand the tenth century better we will understand everything that follows from it better as a result—Borrell’s reign is an excellent place to start. Consider: he lived at the very end of the Carolingian rule of which he was the notional servant, and which he initially tried his best to ignore without actually disclaiming it.4 Big things were afoot; the Carolingians were finishing, the Ottonians were running into trouble, the Caliphate of al-Andalus was entering its dangerous red giant phase whose early end no-one could have foreseen, elsewhere in Europe the Vikings were back; everywhere or almost everywhere structures of government, finance, and even religion were in flux and proving unequal to the strains of the times. He was, indeed, caught up in and possibly held back the governmental privatisation process that we sometimes call the ‘feudal transformation’. All these things worked out different in Catalonia because of what Borrell did, the not-so-great man (because I don’t necessarily see him as a success) atop the big waves of historical change trying as best he could to make sure he and his family and (to a lesser degree, but a real one) his people came out of the curve more or less as they’d started or better. And we have more than two hundred documents of him busy at these things. Of course, as I admit up front in the book, that is to say that we know what he was doing on some of less than one half percent of the days he was alive, but that’s still surprisingly much for the tenth century. Something can be done here, and I’m now contracted to do it.

Political map of Europe circa 1000

Not a perfect map—is there such a thing?—but it makes the point: things with names we still have are on this map but they are not yet what and where we expect them

So at the moment, this is the way the chapter plan looks.

  1. Preface and Introduction
  2. Why the book needs to be written, the lack of a decent study of him and the outdated mistakes about his rule that still circulate, the above justification and how I’m proceeding

  3. Biography
  4. A chronological narrative of his life and career marking its big changes

  5. Ancestry, Rivals and Descendants
  6. His family and the ways in which they impinged on his life

  7. The Opening World
  8. His contacts abroad in an era when Catalonia was freshly expanding them5

  9. Money and the Economy
  10. Covering the fisc and the currency reform for which I’ve argued6

  11. Managing Manpower
  12. Reprising my doctoral work here slightly, the ways in which Borrell deployed patronage and upon whom

  13. Piety and Patronage
  14. A prince over the Church or a pawn of his bishops? A little from column A, a little from column B…

  15. Administration and Reform
  16. Principally with respect to the law and judges, since that’s what we can see, but also land management

  17. Theories of Rule
  18. How the counts and others who held power here thought of that and how it was expressed

  19. Conclusion
  20. I think I’ll have a better idea what this will be once I’ve written the rest!

I’m happy to talk about it more in comments, and equally happy in a strange kind of way to be nagged to get on with it; I’d like to be sure there’s an audience, after all. It will get done either way, though, and some day you’ll be able to buy it. Whether it’ll still look like this then, only the next year or so will tell, however!


1. Jonathan Jarrett, ‘Pathways of Power in late-Carolingian Catalonia’, unpublished doctoral thesis (University of London 2005), pp. 221-253, rev. as J. Jarrett, Rulers and Ruled in Frontier Catalonia 880-1010: pathways of power (Woodbridge 2010), pp. 141-166.

2. The basic reference is still Prosper de Bofarull, Los Condes de Barcelona vindicados, y cronología y genealogía de los Reyes de España considerados como soberianos independientes de su Marca (Barcelona 1836, repr. 1990), 2 vols, I, online here, last modified 23 July 2008 as of 14 January 2015, pp. 64-81; to it, as far as I know, the only specific studies of Borrell that can be added are Miquel Coll i Alentorn, “Dos comtes de Barcelona germans, Miró i Borrell” in Marie Grau & Olivier Poisson (edd.), Études Roussillonnaises offertes à Pierre Ponsich : Mélanges d’archéologie, d’histoire et d’histoire de l’art du Roussillon et de la Cerdagne (Perpignan 1987), pp. 145-162; Cebrià Baraut, “La data i el lloc de la mort del comte Borrell II de Barcelona-Urgell” in Urgellia Vol. 10 (Montserrat 1990), pp. 469-472; and Michel Zimmermann, “Hugues Capet et Borrell: Á propos de l’«indépendance» de la Catalogne” in Xavier Barral i Altet, Dominique Iogna-Prat, Anscari M. Mundó, Josep María Salrach & Zimmermann (edd.), Catalunya i França Meridional al’Entorn de l’Any Mil: la Catalogne et la France méridionale autour de l’an mil. Colloque International D. N. R. S. [sic]/Generalitat de Catalunya «Hugues Capet 987-1987. La France de l’An Mil», Barcelona 2 – 5 juliol 1987, Actes de Congresos 2 (Barcelona 1991), pp. 59-64, which is not a whole lot of pages despite the length of the footnote.

3. I don’t know who this reviewer was but I have an idea. If they know who they were, and happen to be reading, once this is out I want to talk to you about the next one sir or madam…

4. See J. Jarrett, “Caliph, King or Grandfather: strategies of legitimization on the Spanish March in the reign of Lothar III” in The Mediaeval Journal Vol. 1.2 (Turnhout 2012 for 2011), pp. 1-22.

5. Here still basically following Ramon d’Abadal i de Vinyals, Com Catalunya s’obrí al món mil anys enrera, Episodis de l’història 3 (Barcelona 1960, repr. 1987).

6. See J. Jarrett, “Currency change in pre-millennial Catalonia: coinage, counts and economics” in Numismatic Chronicle Vol. 169 (London 2010 for 2009), pp. 217-243.

Big News VI: Leeds for the future

So, I promised something about the hiatus and what was going on in it and this is that post. I made a serious attempt to get back up to date with the blog from July 2014 to Christmas 2014, but then Christmas happened and in that time someone heard me saying that if I was going to get another job after this one I probably needed to heed one academic’s advice and get myself a second book. That someone pointed out that I had been going on about the one I’d write for ages, and would probably be both happier and more successful if I actually got on with it, and they were right, of course, but really the only time I could free up for that was the time I was using for blogging. So I wrote and wrote, hoping that I would still be able to blog on some days, but as you will have seen, that didn’t really work. In any given day I was trying to write a thousand words or so, put in a day at work or teaching, deal with at least the minimum of housework and e-mail and get through the three most immediate three things on my to-do list and, if there was time, read or blog, and basically I never got beyond the three things before midnight. From January to March I was also teaching the fourteenth century for the first time in my life and trying to keep up with the same basic reading I’d set my students. There wasn’t much time spare.

Folie Charles VI forêt du Mans

That said, I did rather enjoy meeting Froissart properly for the first time...He goes on my list of medieval figures I'd like to have a drink with.

Also, I had committed myself to heroic levels of over-achievement rather than fall out of the machine, so that even once there were two sample chapters out for review with a press (about which process I will write separately), I also submitted two articles to journals, went to Catalonia again, then had to consider what I was presenting at Kalamazoo and organise my parts of the travel, and then I was in the USA and then I was giving a paper in Oxford and then it was time to start on the work for Leeds, during which time there was also a big funding bid going in of which I was part. And once I’m done on the Leeds paper, indeed, I’ll be needing to put together one for the week after and then I’m not committed to speaking before an academic audience until September but I do have two chapter-length pieces to write on coins at the Barber… So it’s been pretty busy (and there’s lots to write about).

Jonathan Jarrett standing atop the Castell de Gurb

Me standing on the Castell de Gurb, vainly trying to convey a sense of scale, image used by permission

But also in that time, as you may have noticed if you’re inside the Academy on the British side of the pond, in late January the government’s Research Excellence Framework published its initial results, allowing everyone in the top 30 universities in the UK to claim to be in the top 10 but also allowing them all to guess roughly how much money they might have for the next five years, and there was a consequent deluge of academic vacancies the like of which I have never seen before in this country, pretty much all permanent. So I was also applying for more or less a job a week after that started, and that lasted for two months. In total I applied for seven, I think, and had got some of the way with three other applications when, as it turned out, the first one of all offered me first an interview and then, to my surprise and delight, the post. And thus the real news of this post, already known to many it seems but very much worth announcing even so, is that as of September I will be moving to the University of Leeds to become a Lecturer in Early Medieval History, making up in some way for the retirement of Professor Ian Wood, and that will be my base and job for the foreseeable future!

Jonathan Jarrett plus contract from the University of Leeds

Incontrovertible evidence!

This is obviously really great news. Leeds is a brilliant place to wind up, with many colleagues of like interests and a great deal happening, and I’m really looking forward to it. I now have quite a lot to finish very quickly at the Barber, of course, and I’ve very much enjoyed Birmingham generally in academic terms, it’s been extremely supportive and very good for me as a scholar as well, broadening my comparative range and encouraging me to try for things I wouldn’t have before, as well as much improving certain other crucial details of my life. Still, it’s hard to see what a better outcome could be than this. Neither am I entirely leaving coins behind, not just because of various publication projects ongoing but because of local coin collections whose curators are willing to let me use them for teaching. So it all looks very much like development and success and that all-important security of knowing where one lives for long enough actually to put down roots. Mind you, it also looks like finishing that book, ideally an article or two and starting three new courses all of my own all at the same time; but actually that sounds pretty great too. It has already been suggested to me that I won’t have time to blog any more, of course, by someone who presumably hadn’t checked in in a while and realised I’d stopped already, but I have great hopes of managing it, you know. I may not in fact have blogged last year’s Leeds International Medieval Congress before this one again, I admit. But stay tuned anyway, I’ll be catching up. And now we know what the future holds, who knows what that will cause to happen!

The Parkinson Building, University of Leeds

The most obvious face of the University of Leeds, the Parkinson Building. By Tim Green from Bradford [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.


This post was written with the aid of Clandestino by Manu Chao and Maui by Kava Kava.

Metablog IX: the tenth century at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

The next post was supposed to be the third and final one wrestling with the figures from the polyptych of Santa Giulia di Brescia, but I realised while setting up the previous one that it was post no. 899, which means of course that this is post no. 900. A moment’s further reflection will then reveal to you that this means A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe has just entered its own tenth century, and I thought that was worth marking.

World history time chart for 800 to 1500 from H. G. Wells's The Outline of World History, p. 614

World history time chart for 800-1500, as drawn out in H. G. Wells’s The Outline of History, being a Plain History of Life and Mankind, revised edn. (London 1920), p. 614

As even this 1920s picture arguably has right, 900 was not a particularly auspicious time in world history, at least in political terms. Several great empires were in decline, with consequent dislocation, chaos and fragmentation, from China across to Western Francia, and the up-and-coming ones like Ottonian Germany, the Samanid emirate (not on Wells’s chart), Fatimid Egypt or the briefly revived Byzantium not yet evident in their trajectory. In Europe, at least, the climate’s slow improvement was probably leading to a slow increase in bottom-up prosperity, but the ways that was working out higher up the social scale where surplus was appropriated might have hidden any real benefit for the producers. I hope that little of this applies to the blog over its next hundred posts, but there will at least be a continuation of the kind of geographical spread that seems to have become typical here as I one way or another wind up working on or teaching almost everywhere in the Middle Ages.

Map of Europe c. 900

Map of Europe c. 900 care of Euratlas.com

I do still try and keep my focus on the tenth century, though, and I have therefore been asked whether I think there is any particular dynamic to the so-called ‘secolo di ferro’ that marks it out as an era to study. It seems to me that there is, and that it is the coincidental but contemporaneous disintegration of two superstates at opposite ends of the Mediterranean, the Carolingian Empire (a unit of sorts even in its divided form post-840) and the ‘Abbasid Caliphate, both continuing in some form but giving up much political space into which a myriad of new states intrude from around their peripheries, like young trees in a forest shooting up when big old trees falling opens holes in the canopy. By 1000 there would be several powerful polities in each of the zones these had dominated, Anglo-Saxon England, the Ottonian Holy Roman Empire, the Fatimid and Andalusi Caliphates, Byzantium enduring, the Turkic sultanates and the Samanid Emirate to name but a few, and the subsequent few centuries could be seen as a contest for supremacy that changed hands a lot in the East and that, in the West, no-one except maybe the papacy really won. When you’re looking at changes of centrality like these, it seems to me that the best place to be watching from is the edges, the old and new frontiers, where the consequences of such events can be seen as changes in political direction. That’s been my conviction for a long time and it continues to power my enquiries, and thus, my writing here. I hope it will also continue to keep you reading, at least until the millennium!

Back where the money is

Some of you may have been wondering, if you knew how temporary my lecturing rôle at Birmingham was, what has happened to me since it ran down by way of employment, and now that I have some pictures to go with the announcement it’s time to answer that silent question. Since August 2014, I have been and will for the next little while be the Interim Curator of Coins at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham

My new place of employ, really pretty much next to the old one


Two of the cases of the Faith and Fortune exhibition currently on inthe coingallery of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Two of the cases of the Faith and Fortune exhibition, and a really big map, all down to Rebecca Darley and Daniel Reynolds with help from Maria Vrij and Ali Miynat

The Barber is to the University of Birmingham roughly as the Fitzwilliam Museum is to that of Cambridge, which is to say, a university museum blessed with an excellent fine art collection that has also been lucky enough to acquire a world-class coin collection. The Barber’s strengths are especially in Byzantine coinage, where they have—we have—probably the best collection in Europe, but because of staff leave and other factors this has been essentially inaccessible for the last couple of years, except in connection with the Faith and Fortune exhibition I’ve mentioned and in charge of which I now more or less am, but for which I can of course take absolutely no credit.

Library shelving in the Coin Study Room of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham

Shelves of the Coin Study Room, library currently undergoing audit and reorganisation

Anyway, part of my job is exactly to end that inaccessibility, and there’s plenty of people already wanting to come and do either research or teaching with it, which is great. Where my actual expertise comes in, however, is that much of this collection is catalogued but not to database-compatible standards, those catalogues are not on the web and almost none of it is published, so there is a lot to do to get it where its contents are as well-known as they deserve to be and can be searched and studied from outside. But, these are things in which I have past form, so I and a slowly-growing roster of willing volunteers will get something done on that; watch this space. Right now, to do much work on the coins will mean watching this space:

Doors of the Coin Study Room in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, seen from inside with one of the coin vaults open and a tray out

Coin trays open and doors to coin room firmly shut. Security, you understand. But the real question is probably, which contains more gold? And actually we have plans to get data on the coins at least…

… but this is going to change. There are also some exciting research questions I’m looking forward to getting at with this collection. About those you’ll doubtless hear more as they develop but while a number of them are substantially other people’s ideas (not least Rebecca’s and Daniel’s, collaborators whom one could not hope to better) with which I’m able to help, some are my own fascinations which I had never previously thought of exploring. Stay tuned and I will tell you more! And for now, this is where I am and what I’m doing.

Name in Print XI

Cover of volume 59 of Historia Agraria (2013)

This is stuff you’ve already seen, cobbled down from one of the sticky posts above now that its due place in sequence has been reached. But perhaps you wanted to see it again! In April 2013 I achieved a personal first by getting published in Spain, and indeed, in Castilian, though that last came as something of a surprise to me when I got my copy as my text was English when I sent it in… The item in question was again only a review, this time of Scale and Scale Change in the Early Middle Ages, edited by Julio Escalona and Andrew Reynolds, The Medieval Countryside 6 (Turnhout 2012), which was a hard thing to review, because I know and respect many of the people in it, not least Julio and Andrew themselves and also Wendy Davies, and yet I didn’t want to just wave it by without reflection. Parts of it are in fact important and very interesting, but… If you want to see how I balanced these imperatives, it’s in Historia Agraria Vol. 59 (Valencia 2013), pp. 193-197. I have no digital copy, or I’d upload it somewhere, but maybe you can find it. And now, back to the new old content…

Name in the Book Somewhere I

[This post cobbled from the sticky one above now that due sequence has been reached in the backlog.]

In November 2012, the first of two chickens that had been out of the hutch for a very long time finally came in to roost. This was a volume with which I have had a complicated relationship, Documentary Culture and the Laity in the Early Middle Ages, edited by Warren Brown, Marios Costambeys, Matthew Innes and Adam Kosto (Cambridge 2013). If you dig far enough back in this blog you can find me talking about the Lay Archives Project, of which this volume is the fruit, because I did some database work for Matthew Innes, my then-supervisor, which was supposed to contribute to it. In the end it did not, and this is not the place to tell my side of that story, not least because there are others, but nonetheless, I put work towards this book, it now exists, it’s fantastically interesting if you want to know about how people used and thought about documents in the early Middle Ages (and I assume that if you’re reading this you probably do), and if you look carefully enough, you can find my name in it, and I thank them for that as well as for, you know, actually writing it!