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I’ve held off noting these reports beginning to emerge, because I wanted to put them all together in one post, but it seems like they’re going to trickle in over a relatively longish period, and I’m impatient. Here, I therefore point you, dear reader, in the direction of the admirable Magistra et Mater, who has begun compiling reports on sessions from the 2012 Leeds IMC:

IMC 2012 report 1: rules, filth and gender

IMC 2012 report 2: an early medieval sandwich

IMC 2012 report 3: Hincmar and the rest

Further reports will be linked back to this post as they appear.

Bodington Hall is for sale. Some may not be sad, others will miss it with the kind of nostalgia that only comes from having adapted to crummy conditions and found it a bonding experience...

Bodington Hall is for sale. Some may not be sad, others will miss it with the kind of nostalgia that only comes from having adapted to crummy conditions and found it to be a bonding experience… Photo by Particulations.

And this segues nicely into a glimpse forward to the IMC this year, which will be the first at the much vaunted new ‘on-campus’ locale. (For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, the IMC previously took place at the University of Leeds’ residential halls, which are (or rather, were – they’re apparently being demolished, and some may say ‘good riddance’…) about 25 mins north of the city by bus, set among some charming sports grounds and not-quite-so-charming urban ring-road roundabouts. I will admit that the first time I went to the meeting I failed to note this and booked a ‘handy’ B&B directly opposite the campus proper, which meant I missed out on lots of the late evening shin-digs as I schlepped back to my digs on the last bus home…) I’m not sure yet how I feel about the move. No – actually I am sure: I feel ambivalent. The facilities may indeed be newer, nicer, shinier and better provided with air conditioning, but the fact that we will all be much closer to town, and therefore much closer to lots of alternative options for spending ‘non-conference’ time lurks as a significant potential drawback. Read the rest of this entry »

A while back I remember being horrified by a post at Vaulting and Vellum on the defacement of illuminated manuscripts. When you work on less visually elaborate and aesthetically pleasing sources, say administrative letters for the sake of argument, the chance of that kind of sin being perpetrated on your materials is much lower. What is much more common in this scenario is the source which has been damaged by the attempts of past scholars, editors and archivists to read it.

Like this:

Archive damage

Kew, TNA, SC 1/3/106. Apparently a letter from Thomas fitz Alan to Henry III, c. 1220. Luckily in this case the text was printed by both Prynne and Shirley, because good luck making anything of it now… Photo by Kathleen Neal

A significant number of thirteenth century letters in the SC 1 collection bear similar evidence of chemical agents having been applied at some time to increase the contrast of ink on parchment. Happily in most cases only small portions of the text are affected, typically at the edges, and often UV can help you see through the murk… if you happen to be in Kew with the original in front of you, that is. When you’re forced to rely on digital reproductions from several thousand miles away, it gets your goat to find that some element of dictaminal rhetoric vital for your argument has been obliterated, to all intents and purposes, by otherwise well-meaning predecessors, some of whom helpfully calendared the contents but failed to reproduce them in entirety. One of these days I will tabulate all the examples of this defacement in SC 1 and by correlating them with editions or scholarship of certain authors point a stern and censorious finger at likely culprits. For now I simply say, “Curse you, Oh archivists of the past!”

A post by Bavardess got me thinking that I ought to put these notes up somewhere where they can do most good. I prepared them at the request of some grad students in the USA a couple of years ago after I’d completed a three-month stint working on my thesis materials at The National Archives in Kew, UK. The staff there were extremely helpful, and the archive itself is reasonably conveniently located for emergency trips to buy batteries and tissues, and whatever else one may suddenly discover one needs, but it pays to learn from the mistakes advice of others.

Using The National Archives – A Survivor’s Tale

TNA’s website has comprehensive orientation notes which are very useful to consult before planning a visit.


The National Archives (TNA) is located near Kew Gardens Tube station, which is the second last stop on the Richmond arm of the District Line. It is about a 5 – 10 minute easy walk to the archives from the station. Exit the station to your left in the direction of travel if coming from the centre of London. (The station has both an underpass and an overpass if you find yourself on the wrong side.) Walk down W Park Rd and take the first left (Burlington Ave). At the end of Burlington Ave, cross Mortlake Rd (there is a controlled pedestrian crossing) and continue down Ruskin Ave. The main gate of TNA is at the end of Ruskin.

You can also reach TNA by bus from Richmond station, which is on the District Line as well as being a British Rail mainline station on the routes to Reading and Windsor (among others). The R68 bus from Hampton Court via Richmond terminates beside the strip mall adjacent to the car park entry for TNA on Bessant Dve. Board the R68 at Richmond by exiting the station, crossing the road and waiting at the bus stop immediately to the left of the pedestrian crossing. You must hail the bus or it will not stop. To return to Richmond, board the bus on Bessant Dve at the same stop where you disembarked.

I recommend obtaining an Oyster card (London public transport card) as soon as you arrive in the UK. Travelling on Oyster is considerably discounted compared with purchasing individual tickets. You can purchase an Oyster card at any station and some newsagents (which display signs to this effect in the window). The card costs a small amount to purchase, and then you charge it with any amount you choose. To use Oyster on trains, tap the card on the yellow disc by the entry point and walk through; do the same thing to exit the train station. On buses you only have to register your card upon boarding, as all bus trips are charged at a flat rate.

Comprehensive directions for coming to TNA by car, and alternate bus routes can be found at:

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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.

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Twitter: @KB_Neal

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