• Hincmar and the 'Dark Ages'

    I've written nothing on this blog for months because I've been busy with several different projects. One is a long paper on 'canon law' which I gave at the Cambridge Late Antiquity Network Seminar in February and which I hope to put online soon. The second is an ongoing project to edit a book on Hincmar based on the Leeds IMC sessions given in 2012. I'm also off to the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo for the first time in May (talking about the Charlemagne charter project) and the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women (talking about Hincmar's problems with a dodgy nun), so blogging will remain light for the foreseeable future. But here are a few impressions from spending months reading and thinking about the world Hincmar lived and worked in.

    The vision we get of Hincmar's society is one particularly far from the 'Dark Ages' view of early medieval Europe. For a start, we have lots of documentation by him, and we know that we've lost far more of it. Heinrich SchrŲrs did a register of Hincmar's letters and tracts that runs to 572 items and some of those are book length, like De divortio. A large amount of Hincmar's time and effort was taken up with administrating his archdiocese and Martina Stratmann, Hinkmar von Reims als Verwalter von Bistum und Kirchenprovinz, Quellen und Forschungen zum Recht im Mittelalter, 6 (Thorbecke, 1991) shows the relative sophistication of this, with a lot of written reports being created, even if almost none of them survive.

    Meanwhile, the Annals of St-Bertin, which Hincmar took over writing after Prudentius of Troyes died (allowing him to make scathing comments about Prudentius, who was one of his enemies) also shows us a world far from heroic barbarian fantasies. There are reports about thuggish Viking bands, but they're led by politicised leaders with whom you can negotiate and whom you may be able to turn against your enemies. And there's also a vast amount of political and religious conflict being carried on by non-violent means, with a constant stream of envoys, negotiations and arguments as differing Carolingian rulers try to get an advantage over their relatives while not losing their own throne.

    We also get hints about just how rich and well-organised West Francia is in the ninth century (unlike the 'wild east' of Germany). For example, in 877, Hincmar reports the details of how the Vikings in the Loire were bought off:

    He [Charles the Bald] also made arrangements for how the tribute should be levied from thatpart of the realm of Francia which he held before Lotharís death, and also from Burgundy: from every manse in demesne one solidus; from every free manse 4 denarii from the lordís rent and 4 denarii from the tenantís assets; from every unfree manse 2 denarii from the lordís rent and 2 denarii from the tenantís assets; and every bishop to receive from
    each priest in his diocese, according to what each could afford, between 5 solidi maximum and 4 denarii minimum, and to hand this over to special missi dominici. Amounts were also taken from the treasuries of the churches in proportion to the quantity held in each place, to pay off this tribute. The total amount of tribute raised was 5,000 lb according to weight.

    Translation by Janet L. Nelson, the Annals of St-Bertin (MUP, 1991)

    That's the kind of administration at a kingdom-wide level that gets Anglo-Saxonists rapturous about the late Anglo-Saxon state, and it's actually happening: Charles gets the money (and presumably so do the Vikings). It also suggests a fairly thoroughly monetised society (and incidentally implies a wide variation in the wealth of parish priests or possibly the rapacity of local bishops).

    Hincmar can also seem relatively 'modern' because he doesn't spend a lot of time discussing the supernatural (except in the Vita Remigii). Or at least he combines a belief in God's providence with a lot of pragmatism about how politics is actually done. Hincmar moralises, of course, as all Carolingian authors do, but it's less overwhelming than in an author like Alcuin. This may be partly because Hincmar doesn't do pastoral care: he largely writes to magnates about the state of Rheims' property, not their immortal souls. That is unless the magnates are illegally trying to hold onto Rheims' property, which obviously endangers their immortal souls.

    The question becomes then, what separates this world from that of later in the Middle Ages or even the early modern period? What makes even late ninth-century Rheims a less sophisticated world than that of the twelfth century? There's an obvious difference in the size of the economy in the High Middle Ages, which allows more specialisation and larger pools of people (towns, craftspeople, enough scholars to set up universities etc) but there also seem to me changes in administration and infrastructure that make a difference to what a man like Hincmar could do in the ninth century as opposed to a hypothetical time-travelled twelfth-century or fifteenth-century Hincmar. (Let's not go into what he could do with modern technology).

    One key factor is just how difficult communications were: in particular the lack of reliable communications with Italy. At one point (reported in the Annals of St-Bertin for 867) Hincmar resorts to sending letters via messengers disguised as pilgrims, because they can't get through otherwise. And false rumours seem a particular problem: you wonder sometimes if anyone had any clear current idea of what was happening to other Carolingian rulers. Regular courier services (even with only horse or foot travel) make a lot of difference to effective communications.

    A second problem is finding authentic texts. Simon Corcoran, in the forthcoming Hincmar book, will discuss how limited a selection of Roman law Hincmar had access to. I'd also argue that the ninth century's deserved reputation as a great age of forgery was possible precisely because of a lack of multiple copies of standard texts. In the twelfth century, I think it would have been trickier to produce a large cache of early papal decretals and get them somewhat accepted. But I'd be interested to hear from later medievalists about any really spectacularly large forgeries from the period.

    Thirdly, this is an age without legal systems. The numerous disputes that Hincmar has are settled with by a variety of ad hoc methods, without there being much in the way of standardised legal procedure or a court system. I think this explains some of the interminable nature of Hincmar's disputes: it was almost never possible to exhaust appeals. In particular, the willingness of popes to reopen cases that their predecessors had settled meant that any loser could always wait till the next pope came along in a decade's time and try their luck again. Hincmar would doubtless have made a good lawyer, but he also doesn't argue with texts in the same way that a lawyer does.

    Finally, it's interesting to realise just how little coercive force it was possible to exert on the Frankish elite, whether it was kings, popes or bishops attempting to exert it. The popes, of course, had the twin problems of no divisions and acting at a distance across the Alps. But bishops didn't have much luck controlling their clerics and controlling magnates was probably harder than in later periods. One of the key difficulties for enforcing order in the second half of the ninth century was the existence of multiple Frankish kingdoms. If you were out of favour with one king (or excommunicated by one bishop) you could move elsewhere. The mobility of elites before the existence of territorial lordships is striking.

    All this adds up to both a weaker state and a weaker church than in the twelfth century. Hincmar, in that sense, was born too soon, endeavouring to impose order and fight politically in a world that lacked some important tools that would have helped him. What was lacking in the Carolingian world in contrast to later, it seem to me, isn't so much major conceptual leaps, apart from the development of legal systems. Instead it's minor practical changes that cumulatively gave later elites more control over the world they were endeavouring to order to their own satisfaction.

  • Boiling lard and topless nuns: on (not) making the Middle Ages interesting

    This week a couple of different spheres of my life once again collided in a very peculiar way. I've been an intermittent writer of fanfic for several years and to try and get back into the mood, I joined a writing community that encouraged you to post snippets from your work regularly. However, for the last couple of weeks what I've actually been writing is the introduction to a collection of essays on Archbishop Hincmar of Rheims. More as a joke than anything, I posted the first paragraph from this introduction and got a non-historian friend saying very nicely that it didn't really encourage her to read more. To which I replied that I obviously should have started with the topless nun and the barrel of burning lard.

    Rue Hincmar
    A street sign in Rheims prove that someone, somewhere still cares about Hincmar

    The topless nun (Duda) probably isn't actually going to be in this book, even though I discussed her briefly in a paper I gave on Hincmar last year. But a chapter by one of our contributors does mention the theologian Gottschalk's proposal that he should be dowsed in boiling water, oil, lard and pitch and then set alight in order to prove the truth of twin predestination. We've also got the case of a homicidal priest possibly using the work of the most prolific forgers in the Middle Ages to protect himself from punishment by Hincmar. And then there's the other book on Hincmar I'm co-writing, which includes an extensive discussion by Hincmar on what counts as sodomy.

    In other words, it would be possible to write books or articles on Hincmar that were a lot more thrilling to the general public than the ones I'm currently planning. But they'd do so mainly by focusing on the sensational and the exotic, and that goes to the heart of the problem in talking about the Middle Ages to non-academic audiences.

    One of the most acclaimed TV shows at the moment is Game of Thrones. I haven't watched it because I don't have a subscription to Sky or vast amounts of free time, but I'm still conscious of it as a phenomenon. Beneath the trappings of "fantasy", it's predominantly a version of the Middle Ages, and of the Middle Ages that twenty-first century people enjoy hearing about: a place of brutal violence, terrible suffering and sexual depravity, but with really impressive clothes and weapons.

    What most modern people now want from the Middle Ages, it seems to me, is for it to be either a terrible warning (violence and attitudes we disapprove of are "medieval") or a glorious theme park in which we can vicariously enjoy the same violence and attitudes, as well as the material splendour that the elite possessed. And the difficulty for (professional) medievalists is how we respond to those wishes without just becoming zoo-keepers for the exotic. Roll up, roll up and see the funny medievals: aren't they almost human?

    If you're teaching the Middle Ages, the exoticism is often deployed partly to sugar the pill: a bawdy fabliau or two to get you into thinking about gender roles; an account of a Viking massacre to introduce you to source criticism. But Hincmar doesn't lend himself easily to that kind of approach, and nor does the ninth century as a whole. For much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the "Carolingian Renaissance" could be gently patted on the head approvingly as an early attempt at civilizing the hairy barbarians. But our understanding of it now sees it far less as about an enlightened love of culture for its own sake and far more as about religious reform and political manoeuvring, neither of which has a good press in modern Britain.

    So the fundamental problem with trying to write Carolingian history for a popular audience in the twenty-first century is that what we're mostly seeing in the Frankish sources is the point of view of men (and very occasionally women) who are trying to reduce the amount of sex, violence and disorder in their society. Carolingian intellectuals are hypocrites, on this matter of course: they want an ordered society in which they're still at the top and the lower orders are firmly ordered about. They want internal peace so Frankish armies can concentrate on conquering the peoples around them. And they can't really get beyond a sexual double-standard, even though some of them try to. But in terms of "exciting" medieval practices, they've now basically become the spoilsports. Bureaucracy and order aren't sexy and our negative reactions to organised religion and government tend to affect the values we respond to in the past.

    Medieval heretics, for example, tend to be seen sympathetically now, victims of a controlling and persecuting orthodoxy that was obviously evil. If you look at the beliefs of "heretics", however (with all allowances for the distortions of the sources), what you often see is views that are even more inimical to modern day liberal values than the mainstream medieval church. Catharism was more hostile to sex than Catholicism. Gottschalk taught a view of Christianity in which some people were not just damned, but predamned: whatever they did or believed they were still going to hell. Many of Augustine's opponents were more hostile to marriage and sexual activity than he was.

    It's also interesting how often the repressive sexual puritans of the late antique and early medieval period (such as John Chrysostom, Caesarius of Arles and Jonas of Orlťans) are also the men most concerned about the proper treatment of the poor. It is powerful men at the heart of society that they mostly have in their targets, unlike the tendency of some modern Christians to concentrate on the sins of the marginalised.

    But most Carolingian religious figures aren't going to come across as heroes or heroines: it's not an age of the kind of fascinating/appalling saints you find in Anglo-Saxon England or the twelfth century. Hincmar himself is not saintly, but nor he is the kind of depraved cleric who might answer other modern cravings for the medieval. He's not killing people; he's not consorting with prostitutes. Hincmar isn't a larger than life figure, and if I try and write something that makes him out to be that, I'm distorting the evidence.

    What I think Hincmar does show is Carolingian society at work, and I use the phrase "at work" deliberately. There isn't much sign in Hincmar of the clever games you get in many near-contemporary authors: Alcuin's nicknames, Hrabanus' figurative poems, Hucbald's poem on baldness. And if you look through Hincmar's letters, as I'm starting to do, what you see is the relentless busyness of it all. Hincmar has to deal with Viking attacks and Carolingian invasions of West Francia and theological arguments about heaven and hell. But he spends a lot of energy too, on the smaller matters of life: the constant struggle to protect Rheims' extensive property and relatively minor matters of local church discipline. Flodoard's summary of Hincmar's letters has repeated references to him writing to other bishops about whether an excommunication was justified or who should be appointed to which see.

    This is precisely not the Dark Ages, romantically simple or depressingly barbaric as your tastes may fancy. This is a society in which learning and organisation are always coming up against the brute practicalities of everyday life in a corrupt pre-industrial world. Lupus of FerriŤres tells Hincmar he can't send him a copy of Bede's Collectaneum on the Pauline Epistles yet, because the book's so large it can't easily be concealed on one's person, and so might be vulnerable to theft. I don't know if Hincmar ever did receive Lupus' codex, but if so he probably wouldn't have used it simply for devotion, but also as ammunition in one of his interminable disputes.

    Hincmar wasn't a saint, but if he was he would be the patron saint of those who had to multi-task and of middle managers. I can't make a glamorous or exotic world out of his life, but I nevertheless want somehow to try and use it to display something of the genuine texture of ninth-century Francia. I'm still not convinced, however, that that will interest my fanfic loving friends.

  • International Men's Day, gender and charity

    Tomorrow (November 19th) is International Men's Day and Ally Fogg, a journalist who blogs at Hetronormative Patriarchy for Men is doing a sponsored internet silence for Survivors Manchester, a charity which supports male victims of sexual abuse and rape. I've donated to this and I'd encourage readers who are interested to do the same (or at least to go and read more about what Survivors Manchester is doing).

    I've been reading Ally Fogg for a while and though I don't always agree with him, I think he's one of the few enlightening writers on men's rights around. Mainly because he treats men's rights as though they're not in a zero-sum game with women's rights and he's conscious of the effects of class. Things don't have to be made worse for women to be made better for men, and not all men benefit equally from patriarchal systems. Some subsets of men are less privileged than some subsets of women in today's world, as has almost always been in the case in patriarchal systems.

    And if women as a group share problems that need targeted help, sometimes so do men as a group. In particular, even when men and women are facing the same problems (sexual abuse, suicidal urges, unemployment, parenting difficulties), in a sexist society their reactions to it (and those of their family and friends) may be different and they therefore may need different kinds of support. Suffering sexual violence is a human problem, but the needs of male victims are probably not going to be met adequately by services which focus primarily on women (and vice-versa).

    Ally's recent post also connects with a couple of other issues I've been thinking about recently. One is intersectionality. There are a vast number of worthy causes, and none of us has the time or money to support all of them. I think the feminist movement should concentrate on issues of women's rights rather than men's rights, but as an individual feminist, I'm happy to do a brief bit of signal-boosting here for an organisation that's doing positive work in a different field. (Similarly, the Manchester Survivors site concentrates on providing help to men, but it also includes front-page links to services for women and young people).

    The second issue is a theme that dr ngo is currently discussing, about charities and sponsorship. Why are people more prepared to give as the result of a sponsored activity when they don't get any actual benefit from the activity being sponsored? There are some interesting comments in response, especially talking about publicity and also social reciprocity. I haven't donated to Survivors Manchester before and I'm probably not going to be donating to them regularly (our family has other charities that we regularly support), but Ally's act does mean that I've been made aware of the charity's existence. And his publicity for this also challenges me to justify my ideological position. If I believe that patriarchy overall harms men as well as women, and that feminism overall should have positive outcomes for men as well as women, then I ought to support some of the male victims of patriarchal practices as well. I'm doing so now. If you call yourself a feminist or a feminist ally, then this is one possible way to make that point.

  • Leeds 2013 report 4: What's it all about then?

    Since we're now into November, my memories of the summer are fading fast and my notes from Leeds are looking more and more indecipherable, I'm going to whizz rather more quickly through my activities at the International Medieval Congress on Wednesday and Thursday. My Wednesday sessions were as follows:

    1010 Texts and Identities, I: Governing the Body - Governing the Soul: Christianity and Society in the Carolingian Period

    Meg Leja, Dissecting the Inner Man: Carolingian Advisory Literature and Medicine

    Carine van Rhijn, Prepare for Pastoral Care: The Education of Local Priests - Some Manuscript Evidence

    Ingrid Rembold, The Stellinga and Popular Christianity in Post-Conquest Saxony

    Back to all-Carolingian stuff for a change, and probably my favourite session of the conference, with discussions of two important pieces of research on medical manuscripts (Meg Leja) and manuscripts used by local priests (Carine ven Rhijn). But what I enjoyed most was Ingrid Rembold's beautifully-argued paper demonstrating just how little evidence there is about paganism among the Saxons after Charlemagne's conquests: she gave a single sheet handout, that as she pointed out, included all the references in the sources to this. It was a very neat demolition of what people think "must" have been happening in the area, and I'm not sure anyone came up with a convincing counter-argument.

    1116 The Pleasures of Vice and Virtue

    Barbara H. Rosenwein, Taking Pleasure in Virtues and Vices: Alcuin's Manual for Count Wido

    Richard G. Newhauser, Sin, the Business of Pleasure, and the Pleasure of Reading: Exemplary Narratives and Other Forms of Sinful Pleasure in William Peraldus' Summa de vitiis

    NoŽlle-Laetitia Perret, The Role of Pleasure in the Acquisition of Good Virtues: Giles of Rome's Idea of Education in his De regimine principum, c. 1279

    A session from which I remember oddly little, given it should have been right up my street. From my hazy notes, Barbara Rosenwein was mainly talking about the many emotions discussed by Alcuin in De Virtutibus et Vitiis and how Wido might have taken pleasure in reading it. I did like her description of treatises on the vices and virtues as "palaeo-psychology", however. Richard Newhauser was demonstrating that medieval scholars were not wholly opposed to physical pleasures (partly in opposition to heretics who taught that there was only evil in matter). The paper I found most interesting (perhaps more as Mater than Magistra) was NoŽlle-Laetitia Perret discussing Giles of Rome on child-rearing, and how pleasure should be used to train them: mainly in teaching them to like and dislike the proper things. Giles actually sounded relatively enlightened about this: the idea was to tame the animal-like child into a reasonable adult, but he seems to have started from a sensible idea of what children are like naturally, and how they might learn through play.

    I had people to meet in the afternoon, but did manage to fit in one more session then:

    1304 Re-Reading Carolingian Hagiographical Texts

    Amy Bosworth Danger Around Every Corner?: Travel in the Carolingian World

    Sukanya Rai-Sharma, Guntram of Ermanrich's Vita Sualonis

    Satoshi Tada, Hagiographic Traditions about St Maximinus (Mesmin) in the Early Middle Ages

    This session suffered from being scheduled against one in which Mayke de Jong and Jinty Nelson were speaking, so had a very small audience, but I'd promised to go and hear Anya (who was giving her first conference paper), and was pleased I did: she was coming up with some interesting ideas about the motivations for Ermanrich of Ellwangen's writing of the Vita Sualonis. This is a text which I admit I'm not at all familiar with, but whose style has been accused by previous scholars of resembling "the late-night ravings of a deranged mind". Anya was pointing out how the relationship of Sualo to Boniface in the text paralleled that of Guntram (who requested the text) to his uncle Hrabanus Maurus. It's another reminder that Carolingian hagiographical texts can be a lot more complicated (and varied) than we often imagine. And Amy Bosworth had some useful statistics on peasants travelling in Carolingian miracle stories (including the fact that they included a relatively large percentage of women (the ratio was 57:43 in the texts she examined). Maybe when we've finished Carolingian charter databases, we need to do some kind of prosopographical/quantitative database of Carolingian hagiography and see what else might fall out?

    Finally for the day, I went off to the round-table on editing medieval texts (session 1428), where I suffered from my intermittent inferiority complex about not having done any editing and very little working with manuscripts and thus not being a proper medievalist. As usual, the format (only 1 hour and a lot of panellists) meant it was hard to get much of a discussion going, but there was an interesting suggestion (by Charley Insley, I think) about the possibility of using MOOCs for training in editing, since it's getting harder to get training during one's PhD.

    The IMC now gradually seems to be expanding into a four-day conference, rather than a three and a half day on, so I ended up going to three sessions on Thursday. First of all there was session 1528 on the ChartEx project, about which I've already blogged.Then I went to the second of two sessions on Louis the Pious:

    1603 The Reign of Louis the Pious and the Productivity of an Empire, II: The Return of the King

    Courtney Booker, Theatres of Memory: Drama, Performativity, and Character in the Carolingian Era

    Cornelia Scherer, Postcards from the Edge: The (Frankish) Letters of Gregory IV and the Productivity of a Crisis

    Philippe Depreux, Thegan on Louis: On the Road to Rulership

    Yet more Carolingian goodies, with Courtney Booker pointing out that even if we don't have evidence of Carolingian developments in drama, we can talk about the effects of the artefacts of ancient drama on early medieval culture, and developing ideas he's previously expressed on the role of dramatic conventions in Carolingian texts, especially Paschasius Radbertus. Then Cornelia Scherer was endeavouring to work out which of Gregory IV's letters were genuine Ė she has a book about him due out soon, which should be very useful. Finally, we had Philippe Depreux arguing that the first part of Thegan's biography (especially chapters 8-20) are a "FŁrstenspiegel", showing Louis developing as a perfect king. (Phillipe argued that Thegan, as a chorbishop, had less authority to give political advice than others, so he had to "smuggle it in" in this way).

    I must admit this was one of those sessions that made me nostalgic for the days when I had time to read more research that wasn't directly relevant to my own work. There's been so much work on Louis' reign since I completed my PhD thesis in 2005, and I haven't kept up with a lot of it properly. Maybe once the Hincmar books are finished...

    It's at this point that my notes for IMC 2013 finish, although my session attending did not. My final session of the conference was chosen relatively late. Victoria Whitworth had left a comment (I think on Jon Jarrett's blog) that she would be talking in a session on sex and churches. So how could I not go and hear that and meet her? I treated this as my annual Leeds opportunity for some art history, during which I would look at pretty pictures and not attempt to take notes, because I find it extremely hard to do so usefully during such talks. So thus it was that I went off to the (rather re-arranged) Session 1721:

    Holy Bodies/Hellish Bodies?: Nudity and Sexual Figures in Religious Sculpture

    Milagros Torrado-Cespůn, Sex and Churches: Lust, Sin, and Protection in Romanesque Corbels

    Victoria Thompson Whitworth, Nude Humility and Salvific Clothing: Christ, Adam, and Eve on Viking Age Sculpture at Barwick-in-Elmet, West Yorkshire

    Victoria was giving a convincing re-interpretation of a piece of sculpture on a church cross, as not simply an image of God expelling Adam and Eve, but a more complex mix of that story and Christ's salvation of humanity.

    Large Stone Face 1

    Face of Pre-Norman cross at Barwick

    Milagros, meanwhile, was showing us pictures of indecent stonework from Galician churches. There was probably a serious academic point as well, but I was rather distracted by "yes, that does indeed look rather like an image of a penis" thoughts. It was quite a change for those like me who spend their time reading medieval sources rather than looking at them.

    So that was my IMC 2013: fewer papers heard than some years, but more discussions outside sessions. The move to a single site really helped this, though there are still problems with some of the session rooms and I need to make sure I choose better accommodation for next year (the room I was in made Bodington Hall seem luxurious). I'll be back next year, talking about clerical fathers and probably helping demonstrate the latest version of the Charlemagne project database, so I may see of my readers again there.

  • Leeds 2013 report 3: charters and non-charters

    My time at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds this year was a slightly strange one, alternating between thinking about the work I do in the day job (as research associate on the Making of Charlemagne's Europe charters project) and going to papers about all the other things in which I'm still interested (gender and religion and culture and shiny stuff). And also a lot of meeting friends and making new ones. I forgot to mention in my first report on the IMC that I finished Monday evening with the bloggers' meet-up, in which, according to Leeds tradition, some old-hand Leeds bloggers turned up (myself, Jonathan Jarrett and L'historien errant), others didn't (Gesta, Another Damned mMdievalist and Kathleen Neal) and we met some new bloggers: Karen Schousboe of Medieval Histories magazine and the Victorian Librarian (going medieval with a dash of pre-Raphaelite). I had to be reasonably restrained during the evening, however, since I was speaking on Tuesday.

    On Tuesday, I started with one of my regular forays into what I am prone to call "Not My Millennium", i.e. anything happening after the Year 1000. Technically, part of the session was my millennium, since Session 506 on "Law, Violence, and Social Bonds, I: Power, Conflict and Dispute Settlement had one Carolingian paper. The speakers were:

    Matthew McHaffie, Lordship and Authority in Anjou, c. 1000 - c. 1150

    Kim Esmark, Power and Pressure: The Micropolitics of 11th-Century Aristocratic Networks

    Warren C. Brown, Conflict and the Laity in Carolingian Europe

    The first two papers were "things to do with charters" ones, but taking very different approaches. Matthew's was a trawl through nearly 3000 charters from Anjou to find around 120 that dealt with warranty, and he was then focusing on what those could tell us about legal practice. Paul Hyams has argued that warranty provides protection against outside challenge to a donation and also compensation if this protection failed. Looking at the charters, Matthew found very variable diplomatic (probably relating to the oral context in which such warranties were originally given) and evidence that suggested that it wasn't just legal protection that could be provided. It could be handier just to have someone show up at the court with an intimidating posse. But warrantors weren't always useful for churches (we don't have grants to laymen before 1150): some were ineffective, and they might even backfire. For example, Hubert de Tabal gave land to Marmoutier, which was then taken by St Urban. Since Hubert was unable to warrant his gift, he ended up seizing the land back himself.

    From a more general point of view, Matthew's paper was interesting in suggesting something about the frequency of events required to make a large-scale charter trawl worthwhile. In a PhD (lasting presumably 3 years), he's found 120 warranty clauses out of nearly 3000 charters, a hit-rate of around 4%. He also said he's found 3 out of 120 in which women act as warrantors and around 10% of the warranty clauses are for exchanges. When you're getting down to that level of rarity of an event/type (less than 1% of your sources), it's really not feasible to trawl just for them; it has to be done as an offshoot of other research. One of the questions in using charters is how we can more effectively find such rare but not unique events.

    In contrast to this wide-range focus on a particular type of charter, Kim Esmark's paper was using charters to look narrowly but deeply, carrying out a prosopographical study of Odo of Blaison, a lord in Anjou. He appears in around 70 charters, both as part of the entourage of the counts of Anjou and with his own entourage, settling disputes or consenting to their alienation of property. Kim was mapping Odo's social networks and arguing that a lay lord like Odo couldn't easily dominate an area even during the notoriously weak reign of Fulk IV of Anjou. Odo had to provide for his own dependants and this was sometimes tricky: Kim quoted a placitum from the mid 1080s settling a long dispute with the church of St Lezin in Angers. In this, Odo had to give up some revenues from land held by his own men to the canons of St Lezin; Rotaldus, one of his vavassors , refused to consent to the charter and was excommunicated. It took a year before he agreed to the charter. Kim thought we needed to pay more attention to charter witnesses and to look at constraints to lordly power from below as well as above.

    Kim's paper was also interesting for my own work because in theory, charter projects such as Charlemagne's Europe should provide the possibility to locate and analyse multiple Odos quickly: important men below comital status who turn up in a number of different sources and whose dependents/connections we also want to trace. In particular, I think we need to make our database structures and schematics as openly available as possible, so that they can be reused by people working on charters for different periods. But how that could be done technically I don't yet know.

    After two papers on things to do with high medieval charters, we then had Warren Brown discuss things to do with early medieval formulae. Having found Warren's work very useful in the past, I found this a slightly disappointing paper: it was mainly a tour of the formularies, pointing out some of the interesting topics they dealt with (and his paper made surprisingly little mention of the work of Alice Rio, who's done ground-breaking work on these). But overall it was an enjoyable session, if in an over-crowded room.

    The rest of the day was mainly giving and preparing for my own sessions. I did, however, get to Session 702 on early medieval queenship. I've already discussed the paper by Val Garver on textile working by queens. The other two papers were by Grzegorz Pac and Hailey La Voy. Grzergorz was talking about the C10 and C11 iconography of queenship, focusing on images of the Virgin Mary being crowned or crowning others.

    His main point was that although the idea of Mary as a queen became a doctrine in the fifth-century and images of her being crowned or crowning others were common from the Ottonian period onwards, we need to be careful considering the gendered implications of this: as the images he used showed, Mary could also be used in scenes as an indication of male ecclesiastical authority (e.g. her role in Bernward of Hildesheim's Gospels) or depicted as crowning a king:

    Virgin crowning Otto

    Virgin Crowning Otto III (or I?), folio 160v, Cod. LXXXVI, Biblioteca Capitolare, Ivrea, c. 966-1002.

    (For more details on this sacramentary, see Evan Gatti's article in Peregrinations vol 3 (2010), from which this image was taken).

    Hailey, meanwhile, was focusing on letters from popes to queens and empresses, and in particular several letters from Popes Nicholas I and John VIII to queens at the Carolingian and Byzantine courts (many of which are available in translation via Epistolae. In particular, she was suggesting the importance of the model of Esther, as a royal wife being encouraged to give good advice to her husband, and warned of the evil consequences if she did not. In contrast, the Virgin Mary isn't mentioned as an intercessor in such letters; Hailey was arguing that the image of her as a queen intervening with her Son developed as a result of earthly models of queenship, rather than the other way round.

    I was involved in two sessions on Tuesday afternoon and evening: the first was session 808, organised by Johannes Preiser-Kapeller,who also gave us a typically erudite and high-speed trip through the possibilities of combining Bruno Latour's Actor-Network Theory, object biography, spatial analysis via the new mapping tools available on the web and social network analysis. Johannes' presentation, "Medieval entanglements: trans-border networks in Byzantium and China in comparison (300-900 CE)" is already available on the internet. My rather more low-key and downbeat paper, "Caught in Charlemagne's web", will also be available online shortly: its main point is that scaling up social network analysis of charters is going to be complicated, and will need a lot of careful thought about how we generate the networks.

    If I was being somewhat sceptical about the possibility of using the "Making of Charlemagne's Europe" database for social network analysis in this session, I was a lot more enthusiastic about its other possibilities in the final session of the day (910), when we were showing off our database alongside the Nomen et Gens database. This was definitely a session for early medieval charter nerds with a good sense of direction, since we were in one of the harder-to-find seminar rooms, but we got a surprisingly large audience and a positive reaction to our demonstration. Most of the presentation was pre-prepared Power Points (which again, will be up on the new project website soon), but we even managed a brief live link, quite impressive since the prototype user interface was still being built when the conference started. All in all, it was a good end to the first couple of days of the conference.


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