Tag Archives: Martin Ryan

Name in Print XIII & XIV and Lights VIII & IX: the problems are also possibilities

[This was originally posted on 26th January 2014 and stuck to the front page, but now I’ve reached the point in my backlog where it would originally have fallen, I’m releasing it to float free in the stream where future readers might expect it. Don’t laugh, chronology is important to historians…]

Even though this too is after the fact, it definitely deserves to be announced before I crunch through the relevant backlog. You first heard about it in September 2011, writing it in time for the deadline provoked me even to blank verse in December 2011, I actually told you what it was later that month; in March 2012 it was signalled that the revisions had been sent off; by the time we were dealing with proofs I was well into blog slough; but since October 2013 the world has been richer by a rather snazzy blue volume with my name on it, along with my co-editor Allan Scott McKinley’s, and this volume is called Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters. It is the eventual publication of some of the highlights of the Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Diplomatic sessions that Allan, myself and Martin Ryan ran at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds between 2006 and 2011, and it is rather good if I do say so myself.

Cover of Jonathan Jarrett & Allan Scott McKinley (edd.), Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters, International Medieval Research 19 (Turnhout: Brepols 2013)

Cover of Jonathan Jarrett & Allan Scott McKinley (edd.), Problems and Possibilities of Early Medieval Charters, International Medieval Research 19 (Turnhout: Brepols 2013)

If you are wealthy, you can buy it as a good old-fashioned stack of bound pieces of paper between board covers here, or you can if you choose buy it in electronic segments here. Each chapter has its own bibliography so they stand alone quite nicely, though obviously, since we wrote them with sight of each other’s copy and often actually hearing each others’ thoughts at Leeds, and because as editors Allan and I knocked authors’ heads together virtually when they were addressing the same concerns, they stand better together. And who are these highly-esteemed authors, you may ask? And I answer with a list of contents as follows:

  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Introduction: problems and possibilities of early medieval charters”
    Written by me to an agenda thrashed out between myself, Allan, Martin in the early stages and Professor Pauline Stafford, one of the series editors, in the later ones, this tries to sum up where we currently are in early medieval charter studies and what this book is doing in them that’s new. I give you an extract below because I’m pleased with it both as prose and as publicity.
  • Martin Ryan, “‘Charters in Plenty, if Only They Were Good for Anything’: the problem of bookland and folkland in pre-Viking England”
    Martin here tackles one of the most tangled problems in Anglo-Saxon history with clarity and balance; at the end he hasn’t solved it but it’s much much clearer what the problem actually is, and I was setting this to students as soon as it was physically possible for them to get it. Martin also deserves praise for turning in a damn-near-perfect text. Neither Allan nor I could think of anything to change in it.
  • Allan Scott McKinley, “Strategies of Alienating Land to the Church in Eighth-Century Alsace”
    The charters of early Wissembourg have been mined by many a historian looking for party alignments in the great struggle between noble families for domination of the palaces of the Frankish kings that would eventually end in the triumph of the family who would become the Carolingians. Allan, with characteristic panache, shows that this is probably wrong since the Wissembourg donors’ activities make more sense in local, family contexts. He also wins the contest for longest footnote in the book.
  • Erik Niblaeus, “Cistercian Charters and the Import of a Political Culture into Medieval Sweden”
    Erik joined in the sessions with the brief of showing something of how a society that was new to charter use picked up and incorporated them into its political operations, and he does so with great clarity whilst also finding time to give a few nationalist myths a reasonable roughing-up on the way. I learnt a lot from this one.
  • Charles West, “Meaning and Context: Moringus the lay scribe and charter formulation in late Carolingian Burgundy”
    Charles carries out a classic micro-study here, getting from ‘why does one village in tenth-century Burgundy have a layman writing its charters?’ to ‘why and how are documents changing across Europe in the run-up to the year 1000?’, and makes some very sharp suggestions about how the two join up. He also got his favourite charter onto the cover, so read this to find out why it’s important!
  • Jonathan Jarrett, “Comparing the Earliest Documentary Culture in Carolingian Catalonia”
    I think this is actually my most rigorous piece of work ever. It has tables and pie-charts (though on those see below the cut), it uses numbers, it has a big dataset and lots of electronic analysis. What it shows, I think, is that the Carolingians didn’t change the way that documents were written when they took over Catalonia, but that the local bishops probably did in order to come up with something definitively local that was then spread through cathedral-based training and local placement of local priests. That might seem a lot to believe but that’s why I had to do it properly! Editor’s privilege: this is by far the longest chapter in the volume, but I think it’s important. Of course, I would…
  • Arkady Hodge, “When is Charter Not a Charter? Documents in Non-Conventional Contexts in Early Medieval Europe”
    Arkady definitely wins the prize for widest scope here: this chapter runs from Ireland to the Crimea via Canterbury and Bavaria, and what it finds in all these places is charters recorded in Gospel Books or other such contexts. He wisely asks: if this supposedly unusual preservation is so widespread, perhaps it’s… usual?
  • Antonio Sennis, “Destroying Documents in the Early Middle Ages”
    This one we were lucky to be able to include, a paper from before our sessions ran for which Antonio had not found a home. In it he asks why people would even destroy documents, and concludes that there are lots of reasons and far from all of them fraudulent or tactical, but all of which merit thinking about.
  • Charles Insley, “Looking for Charters that Aren’t There: lost Anglo-Saxon charters and archival footprints”
    Coming out of his work for the publication of the Anglo-Saxon charters of Exeter, Charles is faced with a lot of what diplomatists call deperdita, lost documents that are however attested in other documents, and does some very clever work to make something of the patterns of what does and doesn’t exist in his material. This one also probably has the most jokes of any of the papers, though Arkady is also in contention.
  • Shigeto Kikuchi, “Representations of Monarchical ‘Highness’ in Carolingian Royal Charters”
    If you’ve seen the texts of many early medieval royal charters you’ll have observed that the kings are no less splendid in their titles than our remaining European monarchs are now: majesty, highness, sublimeness, and so on scatter their documents. Shigeto however spots habits in these uses that seem to actually tie up to deliberate strategies of presentation and differentiation between the various Carolingian rulers, which not only may help to spot when something is off about a text but also gives us a potential window on the actual kings’ decisions on how to present themselves.
  • Morn Capper, “Titles and Troubles: conceptions of Mercian royal authority in eighth- and ninth-century charters”
    Contrariwise, in a thoroughly contextualised assessment of the titles used for Mercian rulers in their diplomas during the period when Mercia was both a political force and issued charters, Morn shows that what we have here is not necessarily the kings’ choices of self-presentation, but, maybe more interestingly, the recipients’ or their scribes’, and it’s very revealing.
  • Elina Screen, “Lothar I in Italy, 834–40: charters and authority”
  • Alaric Trousdale, “The Charter Evidence for the Reign of King Edmund (939–46)
    Despite their different centuries and countries of interest, these two papers are doing very similar things, which is one very familiar to me from Catalonia: looking at an area and time where there is almost no wider political narrative material available to historians and reconstructing events and power politics from the charter evidence, and both come up with new ideas about what was going on at their chosen monarchs’ courts at their chosen times as a result.
  • Julie Hofmann, “Changes in Patronage at Fulda: a re-evaluation”
    Julie here presents probably the most tech.-heavy paper, but it gives her extra chops: she goes about what would be an analysis of who gives what where quite similar to Allan’s except that having a database of the voluminous material from Fulda lets her seek precise answers to important questions like that necessary classic, “what are the women doing?” This not only offers some answers to that question but also explores the difficulties in gendering this kind of evidence and what it gets one to do so.

I don’t think there’s a chapter here that isn’t important in its field, and there are several that I’m proud to think may be important over several. Most importantly, any one of them can probably tell you something extra about your own field. As I put it in the closing paragraph of the introduction:

“The eclectic selection of papers is therefore part of the point: all of these studies can inform, and have informed, several or all of the others. This justifies the hope that readers of this volume will come to it because of something they need to read for their own purposes, but discover before putting it back on the shelf that there are other things that interest them which will also help them think over their material and its uses. We also hope, therefore, that even if some of the possibilities we present cause problems, the problems will also be possibilities.”

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Cutting edge diplomatic (CFP and eyecandy)

durhamknife1

Problems and Possibilities in Early Medieval Diplomatic

For the last four years a group of early-career scholars have organised sessions advocating and exemplifying the critical use of charter evidence in early medieval history at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, under the general title of ‘Problems and Possibilities in Early Medieval Diplomatic’. Papers have covered all angles of the subject, from diplomatic to databases, from formulas to fictions, witnesses and women, and a volume of essays from them is now in compilation. Speakers have ranged from professors to postgraduates and audiences have been both numerous and interested. Now the organisers invite submissions for the 2010 edition of the strand at the Leeds Congress, which will run 12-15 July. Papers that coincide with the general Congress theme, which is ‘Travel and Exploration’, will be particularly welcome but there is no need to conform to this to be considered. If you work with charter material from the early Middle Ages, generously defined, and have innovative approaches, unfamiliar issues or intriguing complexities, or just a critical story to tell, and you can form them into a twenty-minute paper, we would like to hear from you. Please make yourself known at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe with contact details which can be passed to the sessions organiser for this year, Dr Martin Ryan (Manchester).


For anyone else, the image is one of three charters preserved in England which retain a knife which was used as a token of the original transfer; it is Durham University Library, ref. DCD 4.3.ebor.4. The actual document is later than the knife, because, as the caption relates, when the Prior of Durham Cathedral brought it in evidence in court in 1213 objection was raised to its unusual nature and obvious portability and a new, chirograph, document was made to carry it. You can see the legend C I R O G R A F V M along the top edge. But, as the article I borrowed this image and caption from shows, knives as transfer tokens was quite usual practice among the conquering Normans in the eleventh century. That article is Michael Clanchy, “The Norman Conquest and Anglo-Saxon Literacy” in Past and Future: the magazine of the Institute of Historical Research Vol. 3 (London 2008), pp. 6-7. So there you go.

Advertisement for my collaborators’ learning

I observe that at the Heroic Age blog, the programme for the upcoming MANCASS conference can now be viewed in its full glory, which is, for Anglo-Saxonists at least, reasonable to considerable. I mention it merely because you may, if you’ve been reading really closely, or are actually one of the participants, remember that two of the speakers, Allan Scott McKinley and Martin Ryan, are my collaborators in making Leeds sessions about how to use charters happen. Alex Burghart is another colleague of a sort, and his stuff is always interesting, and of course with both of Professors Higham and Brooks speaking there will be entertainment and erudition aplenty. I may well have to trot along myself, but even if I don’t, it’ll be worth attending I should think. Wednesday 26 March, so still time to register…

Leeds report II

Now that I’ve sunk back into the medieval blogosphere I gather that I was at the wrong sessions at Leeds, as I have come back entirely unable to snicker about medieval underpants. It bothers me already how many legs this story has found: Carl Pyrdum seems to have collected most of them at Got Medieval but Richard Nokes adds much-needed unreal perspective at the Unlocked Wordhoard. (He goes on to give this blog a plug that has something like quintupled its apparent readership, for which I owe him due thanks!) All the same, although as Matthew Gabriele comments on Carl’s post, it’s nice to see medieval hygiene making it onto the web rather than the lack of it, the story does crazily miss the point of what Dr Mostert will have been saying. I should leap to his defence, but for two things. Firstly, Carl has done so already and likely far better than I would. Secondly, but for Dr Mostert’s taste and discretion, my and my collaborators’ session at Leeds last year would have been called “Who Gives a Sod (and Why?)”, a joke only funny to charter historians, so I find it vindictively amusing that he is now all over the Hypermation Intersoupway for talking about underwear.

International Medieval Congress masthead

Actually, although I don’t think I would have gone to that session anyway, I have to confess to not branching out as much as maybe I should have done this Leeds. I seem to have mainly spent it in Texts and Identities, which is a guaranteed relevant slot for any Carolingianist but I would have liked to see more archaeology and northern British stuff. Regrettably most of the archaeologists I wanted to hear from pulled out—a lot of people pulled out, in fact— and the best-looking British session clashed with one of our strand, so loyalty kept me away, allied with the hope that Alaric, the moderator, will be able to send me copies of the papers. So what did I do? Well, here goes.

  • First and foremost the keynote by Chris Wickham and Marc Boone; it’s always worth hearing Chris speak and this was a lot better than last year’s keynote
  • then our three sessions, `us’ in this instance being myself, Allan Scott McKinley and Martin Ryan, the original Three Musketeers of the New Diplomatic (as we wish to be entitled on the sign by the pyre on which they burn our many books when it all goes Fahrenheit 451), and this summer’s special guest stars, in no particular order Dr Elina Screen, Mr Alaric Trousdale, Professor Nicholas Brooks, Mr Alexander Ralston, Dr Alice Rio and Dr Charles West, several of whom have already changed bases so click those links while they’re hot
  • book-buying, dinner, drinking and ranting with Morn Capper, who was my boon companion for much of the Congress
  • the next morning a session being run by the first of those Alarics named above (at medieval congresses you get plural Alarics, it’s great), which contained stuff about Anglo-Saxon witches, Valkyries and a sterling performance by Martha Bayless who took the stand with no visual aids, proclaimed in a steady and ironic monotone that she used all paper that she herself was the visual aid, and while barely moving or varying her speech all paper still had us all captivated—I want her speaking coach
  • the second Texts & Identities session
  • a quick bus trip into Headingley to buy some food actually worth eating for dinner
  • the following Texts & Identities one because of an old supervisor and two always-inspiring speakers too, except that this year one of them wasn’t because I could hardly hear him, and Rosamond McKitterick got accused of being subversive by Jinty Nelson
  • yet another T&I session, which I was attending in the hope of picking up work on bishops but from which the speaker most relevant to that had pulled out alas
  • more book-buying and self-catered dinner followed by a small wealth of receptions, even winding up in the Early Medieval Europe one by mistake—I had meant to go, you understand, but had got the idea that it was the next day, and so was slightly disconcerted to find it happening round me—then an attempt at an early night spoilt by new books
  • the next morning’s first T&I as well, because Bernhard Zeller‘s evidence always fascinates me and I wanted to poach him for next year’s session
  • the revived T&I Time Archives thread, mainly to see if it was as much hot air as last year which I’m thankful to say it wasn’t, instead being very interesting but almost unrelated to its session title
  • still more book-buying
  • more of the Time Archives because of a friend presenting and another fascinating character
  • a T&I session on the papacy for very similar reasons
  • another dinner, then a picnic held by Rosamond, at which I met several interesting people, and then the dance, at which I may, may have danced a bit but only under acute peer pressure and mighty personal resolves; also accusations of scandal, absence of same and apparently secret societies
  • somehow messing up my alarm that night so as next morning to all but miss my housemate’s paper in the penultimate T&I session
  • going to two interesting papers in a (non-T&I!) session out of which unfortunately the speaker most relevant to my work had pulled without my knowing
  • and finally off home, after one piece of networking at a publishing stall that inevitably led to a last book being bought

So I was fairly busy. Any questions?

The irony hasn’t stopped yet, indeed; I had a mail when I got back (in fact I had lots, but moving on), and it was from Ashgate Publishing asking whether I wanted this book I’d ordered with them. I mailed them to ask `what book? I’m sure I brought them all home with me!’ but this didn’t stop a duplicate copy of one of the books I bought arriving on Tuesday anyway. I’m sure it’s dead good but I don’t want two of them. Bizarrely, this turns out to be unconnected with the mail, which was about another book they aren’t now going to send me a duplicate of. Funny people. Meanwhile, anyone want a spare copy of Chris Snyder‘s The Britons enough to slip me ten English for it?

Anyway! Too chatty! The following posts will in due course return you calmly into the arms of scholarly academe. Meanwhile, it is nice, as Professor Nokes also says, to remember occasionally that actually this damn discipline has fun in it when you look hard enough.