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These seem to come around faster and faster – or maybe I’m just getting older… But it’s time for the sixth annual Revealing Records conference at King’s College London. This is a great forum in which to hear new graduate work based on original records. I recommend it if you’re in London later this month.

Here’s the blurb, courtesy of Kenneth Duggan’s academia page, where you can find a full program for the day:

Revealing Records VI

Now in its sixth year, the Revealing Records postgraduate research conference series brings together postgraduate researchers working with a wide range of sources from across the medieval world to share challenges and approaches through the presentation of their research. Featuring keynote papers from Dr Alice Rio (King’s College London) and Professor Paul Brand (All Souls College, Oxford) and a closing address delivered by Daniel Hadas (King’s College London)

Location: The Weston Room in the Maughan Library, King’s College London

When: 9.00-6.00, Friday 23rd May, 2014

Contact: revealingrecords@gmail.com

To register, please email the conference organisers at the above address. Registration is free.

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A session (or sessions) is planned for the Empire thematic strand at Leeds in 2014 on aspects of the ‘Angevin Empire’ from Matilda the Empress to Edward III. The goal is to trace the involvement of English monarchs on the continent and their relationships with and conceptions of subjects/vassals/lands there over a longer time scale than is normally considered under the rubric of the ‘Angevin Empire’. This is an excellent opportunity to test whether ‘Empire’ is a useful and appropriate category for analyzing such conceptions and/or relationships, and to begin developing a longer history of cross-channel governance that cuts through standard temporal boundaries such as regnal years and pivotal military moments. Comparative approaches are encouraged, and papers that address the question of French attitudes to English-Angevin rule or claims are also welcome.

Abstracts of 200 words should be sent to me (kathleen.neal@monash.edu) by 15th September.

Here’s a meeting that I shall be attending, although not, at this stage, presenting at, owing to the possibly ambitious list of things to which I’m already committed over the next three or four months. (What; me, bite off more than I can chew? Never!) The line up looks superb, so I’m very much looking forward to listening and absorbing. Registration is now open, and more details are here: http://events.history.ac.uk/event/show/9753

Ritual, State & Lordship

The conference will take place on 16 July 2013 at the New College of the Humanities, London, between 0900 and 1830. Registration cost: £5 for students/£10 for salaried attendees, to be paid on the day. In order to register please email the organisers at RitualsConference@hotmail.co.uk no later than 7 July.

Organisers: Lars Kjær (NCH), Levi Roach (Exeter), Sophie Ambler (KCL)

Bjorn Weiler (Aberystwyth): Introductory Remarks

Charles Insley (Manchester): Ottonians with Pipe Rolls?  Kingship and Symbolic Action in the Kingdom of the English

Levi Roach (Exeter): Full of Sound and Theory Signifying Nothing? Social Anthropology and the “Late Anglo-Saxon State”

Benjamin Wild (Sherborne): King Henry III and the Power of Aesthetics: Art & Ceremony in Thirteenth-Century England

Sophie Ambler (KCL): Making and Re-Making the King: the Ritual power of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Thirteenth-Century England

Christopher Tilley (KCL): “Communities of the Mind”: Ritual and Perception of Collective Political Identity in Thirteenth-Century England

Kenneth Duggan (KCL): The Ritualistic Importance of Gallows in England in the High Middle Ages

Lars Kjær (NCH): Hunting, Sociability and the Experience of Royal Favour

Nicholas Vincent (UEA): Concluding Remarks

It seems to be a trope of academic blogging to begin by apologising for one’s extended absence from the airwaves. So much so that it actually reminds me of the medieval monk (any medieval monk) who knew that the only way to begin a treatise was by insisting on his inadequacy for the task. Right; so we’ll consider that done and move on.

It’s not anything to do with the thirteenth century, or England, but it is still rather exciting that Jonathan Jarrett of A Corner of Tenth Century Europe (among other things) is going to be in Melbourne and talking about new work on the evening of 3rd April. So if you are around, come along. But let me know – because if the audience really starts to swell I am going to need to book a bigger room! We shall also be wining and dining Dr Jarrett at a local eatery afterwards, and you are welcome to join us provided you indicate your intentions in advance. A rather spiffy poster of which I am quite proud is here for you to download and print as a memento, and/or to promote the thing at your home institution should you wish.

This has just crossed my inbox, and although I can’t make it personally on this occasion, I’ve been a couple of times before. (In fact, it’s getting to the stage where to say “I spoke at the first one” might really count for something!) I can vouch that it is a meeting worth going to, so here it is: Revealing Records V. If you are a postgraduate student (or you have postgraduate students) working on any source/s that might be classes as ‘records’ I recommend heading to KCL in late May to meet and discuss with like-minded people. The quality of the papers will be good and the company cheery. Send your 200 word abstract to revealingrecords@gmail.com by 14 December.

Revealing Records enters its 5th year. Click through for a larger version.

I don’t know that I’ll make a habit of reblogging this kind of advertisement here, but it has come to my attention that the British Library are looking for a researcher on the Post-Medieval Legacy of Magna Carta, which sounds like a dream job for somebody, and seems pertinent to the content of this site. The 2.5 year post is in conjunction with the upcoming Magna Carta 800 exhibition which will take place in 2015, and to which I, for one, will definitely be going – possibly many times. If you want more information, look to the BL’s own manuscripts blog, and the specific job advertisement here. Applications close on 28 October. Good luck one and all!

Time seems to be getting away from me of late, so while I do have some pensive posts on simmer, they’re not quite ready for human consumption. In the mean time, I offer you this juicy morsel, which is the Call for Papers for Kings and Queens II, the second conference of the Royal Studies Network. The theme in 2013 is ‘Making Connections: Alliances, Networks, Correspondence and Comparisons’, and, as you may imagine, if I can’t come up with something to say about that I should probably hand in my credentials now and give history up as a bad job. The meeting will be held in Winchester in the week after Leeds 2013, so why not do both and gorge yourself on a feast of medieval wonderment?

Submissions for individual papers (250 word abstracts) or three paper panels (500 word abstracts) should be emailed to the organizers at monarchyconference@gmail.com by 31 December 2012.

Melbourne may not have been the first place you associated with the word ‘medieval’ when asked. That’s OK. We forgive you. We don’t have a lot in the way of medieval architecture (unless you count Gothic Revival), or famous kings and queens (except by proxy). But actually there’s a lot going on here that doesn’t involve the beach, koalas, or the complex love lives of Ramsay St.[1] The intellectual life of medievalists is thriving around town. If you are an international scholar – or an expat  Aussie on the lookout for an excuse to visit mum and charge it to your research budget what’s going on back home – please note the following opportunities! We’d love to see you down here.

Yarra River by twilight. Wikimedia commons.

1) ANZAMEMS 2013

[Update: the submission deadline has been extended to 21 September 2012, and early bird registrations are open until 30 November at a reduced price.]

The biennial meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies takes place at Monash University’s Caulfield campus in early February 2013. The call for papers closes on 1 September. There is a loose theme (“Cultures in Translation”) which you are welcome to address, but like other major meetings, in fact it is an open call. Limited travel funding is available for local and international postgraduate students (that’s grad students for any Americans who may be reading…). This meeting is known for its relaxed and friendly vibe, is within striking distance of all those wineries I was just telling you about, and – if you insist – it’s even being held within a 20 minute tram ride of some pretty-darn fine urban beaches, where it will (probably)[2] be hot and sunny by day, and cool and breezy by night…

2) ARC Centre for Excellence in the History of Emotions (Europe, 1100–1800) Early Career Researchers’ Visitor Program

Actually, to be fair, this program welcomes proposed visits to any of the ‘nodes’ of this major inter-varsity project; the gang at UWA, for example, are rather lovely, and I really like the university campus in Adelaide. I’m not saying you can’t go somewhere else if you want… Melbourne is just my personal fave! The program provides funding for early career researchers to spend two months at their chosen ‘node’ for collaboration with the Centre’s staff and participation in activities there. An early career researcher is defined on their site as someone who gained their doctoral qualification in a relevant field of study in the period 2004–12. The current call for applications is for visits to be taken during the period 1 January 2013 – 31 December 2014, so if you get in quick, you can even combine it with ANZAMEMS, and sample the real breadth of Medieval & Renaissance studies ‘down under’. Applications close on 20 August. More details, direct from the horse’s mouth, are here.

So what are you all waiting for?

Brighton Beach, Melbourne. Wikimedia Commons


[1] You can, if you so desire, visit said location, but just don’t admit it to a local. Unless you’re British, in which case, expect an amused-yet-mildly-patronizing species of counter-colonial derision in return. Come to think of it, I’m not sure if anyone other than Brits tend to be interested anyway…
[2] This doesn’t constitute a guarantee. No responsibility for the climatic conditions is accepted by management. It is Melbourne, after all, where the local weather maxim is “four seasons in one day”. Pack for something in the range 18°–45° C and be prepared for abrupt fluctuations…

Some readers will know that I am a self-confessed conference junkie. I thrive on the academic and social interactions that conferences facilitate. To me, a conference is like a giant party of all my old friends (and many friends I haven’t yet made), all of whom are interested in the same stuff as me, and have deliberately gathered together to talk about it over several days and a few drinks (or, let’s be honest, many…). It gives me ideas and it gives me energy, even though it is also completely exhausting. Add in the opportunity to go crazy at the bookstalls and to galavant about the countryside in good company ogling the local medieval remains, and it’s simply so much fun and so stimulating, there’s probably a law against it somewhere.

And so – as strange as it may sound to the uninitiated – it’s especially heartbreaking not to be in Leeds this week, where the annual International Medieval Congress is taking place. I suspect it’s true that taking part in these extravaganzas matters much more when one is normally separated from the majority of one’s colleagues by several thousand kilometres of ocean, but it certainly matters to me. This is the first time I’ve missed it in four years and, as I have discovered, having a Really Good Reason doesn’t make it any more bearable.

Did I mention they also have a *really cool* poster? Click through for the 2012 program…

So by way of a rather poor substitute for being present, this is a small shout out to those of you lucky enough to be there and an injunction to dance your little hearts out on my behalf. Don’t forget, also, that next year’s call for papers is already out, and you can put it in your diaries for 1-4 July, 2013. The theme will be Pleasure, which could hardly be more apt.[1] Be there or be very, very sad.

For now, I look forward to the conference reports that will presumably begin to appear online sometime soon(ish) from various special correspondents… I’ll point at them when that happens.


[1] And apparently I am not the only person who thinks so! I refer you to this amusing site: medievalhistorianryangosling.tumblr.com [Edit: link now pinned to the relevant picture]

Becket’s martyrdom. The Carrow Psalter, Walters Art Museum, MS W.34, f.15v. (image courtesy of Walters Art Museum, under Creative Commons licence)

Today is the feast of the translation of Thomas Becket. It commemorates the translation of the martyr’s relics on 7 July, 1220, from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to their shiny new shrine at the East end of the cathedral proper (from whence they were removed and subsequently destroyed by everyone’s favourite art lover, Henry VIII and cronies).[1] Becket, for those who don’t know or need reminding, was murdered in the cathedral on 29 December 1170 (the morrow of Holy Innocents) by three knights who may or may not have been acting on the orders – or at least wishes – of Henry II. Among much else, this act produced one of the most recognizable motifs of later medieval religious art.

Although Becket’s martyrdom was by now 50 years in the past, this was but a short time in the memory of the English church and the wider English political community, for whom both the event and the anniversary were invested with high symbolism. The date of the translation had been fixed at least two years in advance by Archbishop Stephen Langton, not to fall fifty calendar years from the martyr’s death, but on the more ‘providential’ jubilee. It was calculated, in the words of Anne Duggan, “according to the details given in Leviticus … [to fall] on the tenth day … of the seventh month after seven-times-seven years from the event; and for good measure, the day was Tuesday, corresponding with the special Tuesdays in Becket’s life, the date was the anniversary of Henry II’s inhumation in 1189, and 1220 was a leap-year, a time of good fortune.”[2]

Thus, the martyr’s translation signified much more than a liturgical event and an opportunity for Canterbury to increase its already burgeoning pilgrim trade. It was also a political moment, and even a diplomatic one. Coming at the end of a period of civil strife and upheaval traceable at the least from Magna Carta and the death of King John through the turbulent early years of Henry’s minority,[3] it was attended by the young Henry III, who had been re-crowned only seven weeks earlier by Langton in a symbolic ceremony of royal and ecclesiastical reconciliation at Westminster. Also in attendance were the powerful chief justiciar, Hubert de Burgh, and the papal legate, Pandulf, two men who were among the main architect’s of Henry’s grip on power after the disastrous final months of King John’s reign.[4] Langton probably intended it as a seal on the preceding seven weeks of symbolic rapprochement, with the luminaries present both as participants and witnesses to authenticate the occasion. With the benefit of our historical perspective, we know how short-lived this period of calm turned out to be, but in 1220, perhaps those present truly felt that in celebrating the anniversary of the old king’s burial and the translation of his rival, they were also interring the remains of their conflict.

However, the ghost of Becket continued to cast a shadow over the Angevins, just as the spectre of conflict over the liberties and limitations of kingship also continued to hover. In 1231, Henry III is said to have exclaimed on the death of William Marshall the younger, “Woe is me! Is not the blood of the blessed martyr Thomas fully avenged yet?”[5] These words, attributed to the king by the monastic chronicler Matthew Paris, might represent true royal superstition that the curse of the martyred archbishop would continue to haunt the Angevin dynasty until his spirit was placated; equally, or also, it might represent Matthew’s idea of what a king of England ought to feel and say on such an occasion. In either case, it demonstrates Thomas’ continuing potency as a symbol of the wrongs of kings, the power of holy retribution to punish and constrain them, and the position of the church at the centre of the maelstrom that was the debate over the nature of kingship in high medieval England.

Thomas’ murder was a political and personal act embedded in an ecclesiastical context. His conflict with his old friend and king orbited the twin suns of Thomas’ resolve to uphold the independence and liberties of the English church in the face of Henry’s equally steely resolve to subject it to his law and will, and the king’s deep affront and sense of betrayal at what he perceived to be Thomas’ ungrateful intransigence. It ought to come as no surprise then, that, commemorated by a church still feeling the pressure of royal demands, the figure of Thomas remained a politicized one with provocative potential.

The feast of the Translation of St Thomas of Canterbury provides a handy opportunity to reflect on that.


[1] The most recent discussion of the translation (with special reference to its Office) known to me is Sherry L. Reames, ‘Reconstructing and Interpreting a Thirteenth-Century Office for the Translation of Thomas Becket’, Speculum, 80 (2005), 118-70.
[2] Anne J. Duggan, ‘The Cult of St Thomas Becket in the Thirteenth Century’, in St Thomas Cantilupe, Bishop of Hereford: Essays in His Honour, ed. by Meryl Jancey (Hereford, 1982), pp. 21-44 (pp. 38-9).
[3] Henry ascended the throne at the age of nine, and officially assumed his personal rule in 1226. For the minority, see D. A. Carpenter, The Minority of Henry III (London: Methuen London, 1990).
[4] Richard Eales, ‘The Political Setting of the Becket Translation of 1220’, in Martyrs and Martyrologies, ed. by Diana Wood (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 127-139.
[5] Matthaei Parisiensis, monachi Sancti Albani, chronica majora, ed. by H. R. Luard, Rolls Series, 7 vols. (London: Longman, 1876) III, p. 201, as translated in Louise J. Wilkinson, Eleanor de Montfort: A Rebel Countess in Medieval England (London: Continuum, 2012), p.37.

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

You can also find my academic profile on Academia.edu

Twitter: @KB_Neal

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