Posts Tagged 'Lezlie Knox'

A Medievalist in the Italian Archives

By Lezlie Knox

For the past three years I have been hunting for a manuscript. “Giaccherino, Codice GH” is one of three copies of the so-called Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, a collection of biographies of pious Franciscan friars compiled by Fra Mariano of Florence during the first quarter of the sixteenth century.  The reasons I needed to see this particular manuscript and the ways I tracked it down reflect some of the differences in how historians work.  Last July, this blog shared Cory Haala’s reflections on what he means when he says “he is going to the archives” to conduct his research on recent Midwestern politics.  I want to follow up on his remarks to discuss how a medievalist proceeds.  Following his example, I will start with access and then address my own research and search for Codice GH.

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In planning a trip to a public or private archive, you are expected to contact them in advance to seek access and present your specific research project (although confirmations are infrequent). You also need proof of your credentials to gain access once you are there in order to secure a reader’s card.  At this stage of my career, I bring a letter of introduction from our college’s dean.  When I first started working in Italy, though, I also had a letter from my dissertation adviser that went into more details about my specific training as a medievalist, as well as a document confirming my status as a Fulbright scholar, i.e. the holder of a prestigious research grant that allowed me to spend a year in Italy researching my project.  One of the things that has changed over the years I have worked in Italy is that I am treated with more respect when I come to the archives—it is partly due to experience, but it is also a product of time and, frankly, age.  As one friend has commented, it is easier to do research in Italy when you transition from being a dottoressa (a younger woman with a university degree) to being a signora (a mature woman).

You earn respect, of course, by demonstrating your skills. For medievalists, a fundamental task is learning how to evaluate manuscripts—both how to read these hands, as well as to assess the physical status of the material on which they were written. Medievalists refer to these skills broadly under the heading of paleography.  This term literally means old handwriting.  It thus refers to our training in how to identify and read different scripts, skills which can help us date and locate a manuscript, as well as assess who wrote it.  But when I first call out a manuscript (more on how I do that in a moment), I begin with a physical assessment of the entire volume.  I will examine the binding (contemporary or a modern), its physical material (vellum or paper), quiring (how the manuscript is physically collated or put together), indications of previous ownership, the state of preservation, assess its various hands, look at its abbreviations, review its decoration, and look for marginalia.  I also survey the contents before I start reading it.  I do this even if the manuscript has been catalogued, both because I may be interested in other details and since it helps orient me to the volume.

Knox 1#1For example, I called out this manuscript both because it had a text in which I was interested (Giaccherino’s constitutions) as well as a marginal note indicating that it was once owned by the friary at Monte Alverno, which Mariano of Florence had visited (noted in the hand on the bottom right). When I opened it, though, I was delighted to discover both the pastedown (a fifteenth or sixteenth century liturgical book that was cut up to help strengthen the binding) as well as this beautifully decorated vernacular translation of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (BNCF ms Palatino 45).  Other texts included other Franciscan rules, an interesting combination.

My basic archival tools are a laptop, pencils, and some note taking materials, usually the only items you can bring into the manuscript room. A new law (August 2017) now also allows you to use a cell phone or camera to take photographs of most materials for personal study in public archives (as this notice from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence—BNCF—describes).  This policy is a major game changer!  Previously, I had to order microfilm or more recently a digital copy, but both were prohibitively expensive (about $2/page for the latter).  Private archives will have different rules about access.  Generally, I have found them more willing to allow personal photographs but with more limited hours.  Part of planning a trip to Italian archives always requires plotting out the days and hours different collections are open, as well as the hours when you can request materials.

To request manuscripts or other documents, you will need a “call number,” generally referred to as a shelf mark. To some extent, medievalists still reply on published finding lists or catalogues of the archives, although recent digital projects have made the process of identifying manuscripts and their shelf marks much easier (see for example MANUS which focuses on digitalized manuscripts, CASVI for vernacular codices, and CODEX for Tuscan manuscripts, as well as Mirabile, which catalogues digital projects focused on medieval culture more broadly).  These databases can make searching for other characteristics easier, too—for example, CODEX helped me identify a manuscript that was once owned by Mariano of FlorencKnox 3ae and its helping me identity books that were in the communities where he lived.  But you should not think of this as a catalogue on par with a university one like Marqcat or that of the Library of Congress.  Like other European institutions that have grown over the centuries, Italian collections can be quirky and the cataloguing reflects that.  For example, shelf numbers may indicate previous ownership or where it was created.  I once called out a folio of charters and other economic records from the convent of Corpus Domini in the Archivio di Stato in Bologna.  I received a stack of records roughly organized by date—but the range was from the late fourteenth century to 1798.  While I might have thought this was the entirety of the archive’s holdings related to this community, an exhibit on notarial hands in the townhall showed me such an assumption would be incorrect.  Other Corpus Domini documents came to the archive through the notary who created them and were kept together with his other records.  Finally, while some manuscripts in a collection might be appear in these databases, others will not.  And that is the situation I was facing with Codice GH.

My recent research trips to Italy have focused on the manuscripts connected with Mariano of Florence (d. 1523), who is the subject of my current book project. He was a prolific author, leaving us with fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These range from a short devotional prayer (2 folios, or 4 manuscript pages) to lengthy accounts of his religious order (300+ folios).  One of the things I find so striking about Mariano is that despite his prolixity (because of?), he was relatively unread by his contemporaries.  Several of his works exist in only one copy and another friar who consulted Mariano’s chronicles in the 1580s lamented that many of his works were already lost.  None of his writings were printed during his lifetime (although some passages were taken by later authors and incorporated into their works).  Some of his texts subsequently have been edited by modern scholars, although four treatises remain only in manuscript. This list includes the Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, which preserves stories about contemporary communities and brothers, many of whom otherwise would be forgotten.  I am arguing that we should pay more attention to his historical writings as they offer an important insight into the most successful religious movement in medieval Europe on the threshold of the Reformation.

Mariano’s Vite survives in t2 knoxhree copies.  Florence, BNC, ms. Landau Finaly 243 is the oldest copy and includes some sections in Mariano’s own hand (its shelf mark indicates that it came into the library through the collection of Baron Horace Landau, a wealthy nineteenth-century bibliophile).  Due to its date, multiple vitae, and Mariano’s own notations, it is the most interesting of the three to me.  My own favorite page includes this marginal note that tells us he was still working on the text. Questa legenda non est bene ordinata et pertanto non sia lecta in publico: this life is not well organized and therefore should not be read in public!   (NB—to respect copyright on these manuscripts and their reproduction, I have cropped all pages and left them in lower resolutions.)

Rome, BNC ms. Sessoriano 412 dates from 1541 and was copied by sisters at Sant’Orsola in Florence at the direction of Fra Dionisio Pulinari who drew on many of Mariano’s biographies for his own chronicle of the Franciscan Order in Tuscany.  The order of the lives differs from the BNCF text.  It does have a table of contents, which tells us that some biographies are missing.  These are the biographies of Pier Pettinaio, a fourteenth-century lay Franciscan, and John of Capistrano, the fifteenth-century leader of the Franciscan Observance, as well as (in)famous inquisitor and leader of a crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Belgrade.  Pulinari was also probably responsible for Codice GH, which also dates from the mid-sixteenth century.  This copy contained the only surviving copies of these two vitae missing in the Florence and Rome libraries.  Reading them is an obvious reason for wanting to see it, but I also hoped I could photograph it in its entirety since the mid-sixteenth-century hands tend to be more legible, especially when the copyists were nuns.  Compare below Mariano’s autograph with the opening of his Life of Saint Francis prepared by a nuns at the convent of San Lino in Volterra.  Mariano’s hand is described as a bastarda, that is a combination of a Gothic textura (book hand) with cursive writing.  The image on the left (Tractatus de origine, nobilitate, et de excellentia Tusciae, Biblioteca Provinciale di Frati Minori di Toscana ms. 334) shows that this unique treatise was very much a work in progress compared to the polished book hand represented in volume on the right (Vita di San Francesco, Volterra, Bib. Guarnacchi ms. 5966).

But to read it, I had to locate it. The manuscript’s shelf mark indicates that it had been housed at the library of the important Franciscan friary at Giaccherino, located near Pistoia (now available for wedding rentals and other festive occasions). In 2005, what was left of the Giaccherino library was donated to the Biblioteca Comunale Forteguerriana in Pistoia (which already had other Giaccherino volumes due to the Napoleonic suppressions, although a 1907 article apparently indicates that the Vite manuscript had remained in Giaccherino—I say apparently as I have not been able to obtain a copy of that article through ILL or in Italy, and know its details only from a summary in a later article).  I emailed the archivist in Pistoia to arrange a visit, but she replied that they did not have that manuscript.  She suggested perhaps it was with the Franciscans in Florence?  I then emailed them, hoping they had it as I had already done research there and had a good relationship with the librarian.  But alas, she too replied they did not have Codice GH from Giaccherino.  When I did research there in June, we found no references.  Back to the hunt.

Searching the manuscript databases listed above remained fruitless, as did searches for the shelf mark in research databases, Google Scholar, and Academia.edu (the latter is particularly useful for medievalists as European scholars regularly post articles, information about smaller conferences, etc.). An article on the 2005 Giaccherino donation had been published in 2007, but ILL also could not access the journal Storia Locale (Local History).  I had continued to scour footnotes on John of Capistrano’s biographical tradition hoping to find a reference to the manuscript’s current location, but was having no luck.  Pier Pettinaio—Peter the Combmaker—is considerably less well known and previous searches had also turned up nothing on his hagiographic record.  But in August I looked again and I found it.

In 2016, Lucy Donkin published an article on Pier Pettinaio’s visions that referred to the Giaccherino manuscript, including the information that it had a new shelf mark: Biblioteca dei Frati Minori, Fondo Giaccherino, MS I.G.2. It was in Florence at the provincial archive, but it had been renumbered (without an easy reference to its old numbering). An email confirmed they had it and I made an appointment to see in early October.

As expected, the Giaccherino manuscript was both less and more than I hoped. First, it is not really a third copy of Mariano’s Vite dei Santi Frati Minori (which is really interesting!).  While a biography of Bonaventure overlaps with the other two manuscripts and it does have John of Capistrano and Pier Pettinaio, the other lives instead overlap with a different treatise by Mariano focused on the Franciscan Third Order.  This is where the physical layout of the manuscript raises important questions.  The binding is modern—when was the volume compiled?  There is no contemporary table of contents, so what was the principle of organization?  And most interestingly, why does the manuscript begin rather abruptly with the vita of John of Capistrano with the first folio numbered 134r (see below).   Does that mean there were another 133 folios that were once considered a part of this work?  If so, were there other lives by Mariano now bound in a different volume or were they something else (this manuscript has two texts that are not his work)?  I do not have an answer yet to any of these questions.  The other manuscripts ‘adjacent’ to this codex in the numbering do not seem to be connected to it and we have not otherwise located this putative volume.

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This situation—more questions than answers—is typical of my experience working with medieval manuscripts and in Italian archives. Medievalists generally tend to have significantly fewer materials with which to work compared to our modernist colleagues, so each manuscript carries more weight as evidence (even as we must address the vagaries of survival).  These volumes also may not appear interesting at the start—I admit that reading a collection of pious lives or sermons and jet lag can be a bad combination.  However, once you start assessing the physical object and considering its relationship to the text, it often raises new questions and suggests new manuscripts to explore.  Now that I have seen all the manuscripts of Mariano’s texts known to me, I want to learn more about the books—both manuscripts and early printed volumes—that were in the communities in which he lived, as well as to keep looking for evidence of how Mariano’s contemporaries may have read his work.

A possible way of thinking about this problem came from the unique autograph copy of Mariano’s Compendium Chronicarum (Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana ms. 97).  This text is basically an abridgement of his longer Franciscan chronicle, the Fasiculus Chronicarum (a work which has been missing since the end of the eighteenth century 7 knoxwhen it was sent to Rome for use in a canonization process) and it ends on a poignant note.  After writing his last entry concerning the 1521 General Chapter, Mariano switched to red ink and wrote: Omnia in hoc volumine conscripta sunt per me Fratrem M[arianum] edita que fratribus meis corrigenda relinquo—everything in this volume was written by me, Brother Mariano, and I leave it to my brothers for correcting.   Did they?

Lezlie Knox is associate professor of history at Marquette University.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008) and co-editor of the just published Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovannie Colonna and Stefania (Notre Dame Press, 2017).

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Guest Blog: A Virtual Journey into Digital Humanities

With the help of a Mellon Grant for the 2015-2016 academic year from the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, a band of MU historians set out to explore the brave new world of digital humanities.  More accurately, they sought to find out about a world more or less new to them. In Jim Marten’s “The Civil War Era,” Tim McMahon’s “Modern Ireland,” and Bryan Rindfleisch’s course on Native American history, students produced maps, explored texts, and used social media to get at historical issues and questions in ways a regular research paper cannot.

Lezlie Knox’s “Black Death” course partnered with the Raynor Memorial Library’s Digital Scholarship Lab to produce original projects on pandemics through history.  The lab’s dmlDigital Scholarship Librarian, Elizabeth Gibes, was embedded into the class, and helped Lezlie and the students engage multiple applications and approaches to come to a better understanding of how pandemics–from tuberculosis to yellow fever to polio–have affected people around the world.

Two of the projects have already been featured on the Digital Scholarship Lab’s blog (click here and here to read about Katherine Stein’s and Cara Caputo’s projects, respectively).

But the lab’s most recent blog post covers the class in its entirety, and includes an interview with Lezlie.  Please read it here.

Where in the World Are MU Historians?

Years ago PBS aired a popular children’s show called “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?” With the clever live-action sketches, animation, and an acapella group, viewers learned geography—not just where a country was on a map, but how the people of those countries lived.

One of the primary objectives of Historians@Work is to present the many “journeys” taken by MU historians and students.  Some are figurative, but many are literal.  The latter is certainly the case in this installment, as we learn about the upcoming summer research adventures of a half dozen of our associate professors.  Each was recently awarded funding from Marquette’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which grants Summer Faculty Fellowships (stipends) and Regular Research Grants (for travel expenses) to two or three dozen Marquette faculty each year.

This summer our band of historians will outdo the fictional Carmen San Diego, as they conduct research in Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, and Italy, as well as Virginia, California, and Chicago.

This year’s awards, worth over $50,000, made history for our department—we have never received so many awards in a single year. This obviously reflects the interesting subjects these historians are exploring, as well as the success of their previous research.  Below, in their own words, you can read about their projects and their travel plans.

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964  I plan to travel to Cuba and Virginia this upcoming summer to investigate the local records of U.S. Military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Havana and Guantánamo City, Cuba and at the Marine Historical Division in Quantico.  3The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964 – and how these interactions contributed to the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.  I hope that this project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that contributed to many revolutionary processes.  Michael is author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (2014).

Alison Clark Efford, Suicide and Immigrant Emotions, 1882-1924  I received funding for two research trips, one to San Diego to investigate suicides among Japanese immigrants in the early twentieth century and the other to Chicago to research suicide, immigrant Catholicism, and the influential “Chicago School” of sociology. My larger book project explores the negative emotions that sometimes accompanied immigration by addressing the extensively documented act of suicide. I probe the inner lives of a variety of immigrants and shows how suicides drew wider attention to immigrant emotions. As early as 1861, the New York Times noted that the foreig1n-born accounted for about a third of the city’s population but three-quarters of its recorded suicides. By the turn of the century, the suicidality of immigrants was accepted as common wisdom. Whether commentators thought it reflected ethnic characteristics or the trauma of relocation, immigrant suicide became entangled with fears about alienation in modern society and rapid demographic change.  Alison is author of German Immigrants, Race, and Citizenship in the Civil War Era (2013)

Lezlie Knox, Mariano of Florence and Religious Life in Cinquecento Italy.    Mariano was a prolific author—in less than 25 years, he wrote fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These works range from shorter works on devotional themes to lengthy—really lengthy–histories of his religious order (male, female, and lay branches of the Franciscan Order) and his native Tuscany.  Many of these works remain in manuscript, due in no small part to Mariano’s cramped handwriting!  This grant will fund my completion of archival work in Italy, as well as time to do work at the Antonianum, the Franciscan Order’s pontifical university in Rome, which has one of the best libraries for my subject.  However, I am not just interested in Mariano as a Franciscan historian, but also in the ways his works describes religious culture in the towns and ecclesiastical centers of late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Italy.  My study of his life and writings contributes to a broader 2understanding of society and culture during the later Middle Ages, particularly one which approaches that era as vital in its own right rather than symptomatic of later medieval decay or, conversely, a threshold to the humanistic attractions of the Renaissance.  Lezlie is author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (2008) and co-editor of the forthcoming Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome:  The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania.  She has also received a $3000 Franklin Research Grant from the American Philosophical Society to help fund this research.

Laura Matthew: Circulations: Death and Opportunity on Mesoamerica’s Costa del Sur, 1500-1630  I will devote the summer to research for a book-length project examining migration, networks, and trade along Mesoamerica’s southern Pacific6 Coast in the century after European invasion. The SFF and RRG will fund a deep foray into the Guatemalan national archives, a first exploration of the regional archives of Chiapas, and travel along the routes described in the documents to achieve a more grounded sense of the places and spaces she is writing about.  Laura is author of Memories of Conquest: Becoming Mexicano in Colonial Guatemala (2012), recipient of the 2013 Howard F. Cline Memorial Prize from the Conference on Latin American History and the 2013 Murdo MacLeod Prize from the Southern Historical Association. 

Timothy G. McMahon, Beyond the Boundary Commission: Partitioned Identities in Modern Ireland   The United Kingdom government partitioned the island of Ireland through legislation in 1920, creating two states that claimed distinct identities (Northern Ireland as British, the Irish Free State as Irish). Partition had, however, been proposed and rejected on two prior occasions by many of the people who seemingly embraced it in the 1920s. A the new states sought to reinforce the distinctiveness of their populations, people living on either side of the new border continued to interact in spite of the new reality. The present project builds on the work of Rogers Brubaker to propose a new way of thinking about how the reality of a novel state boundary shaped identities, examining the 4interdependence of daily lived experience with movement politics and parliamentary legislation. Given the recent Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the possible shake-up of the United Kingdom—which has already seen calls from some in Scotland to secede and from some in Ireland and Northern Ireland to examine the relevance of the existing border—a detailed study of identity formation on this frontier has both historical and contemporary relevance. My proposal will enable me to undertake three weeks of archival research in Dublin and Belfast before spending approximately six weeks drafting an article to address the changed attitudes of the early 1920s.  Tim is author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (2008) and editor of the memoir Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s War of Independence: Recollections of a Galway Gaelic Leaguer (2000).

Peter Staudenmaier, The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi GermanyMy project aims toward a book manuscript examining controversial historical questions about the role of environmental protection efforts and ecological sustainability within the Nazi regime. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the prominence of “blood and soil” ideology in the Third Reich – the belief in an essential link between natural regeneration and racial renewal – there is no consensus on its historical significance or practical relevance. My research represents the first comprehensive analysis of the topic, based on extensive archival research5 over the past five years. It is structured around three main case studies: the emergence of early alternative agricultural movements during the Weimar era and their reception under Nazi rule; the role of Nazi “advocates for the landscape” in environmental planning during the Third Reich; and the ecological components of Nazi policy in conquered territories in Eastern Europe during World War II. I plan to use the Summer Faculty Fellowship to complete the final stages of research and begin writing the book.   Peter is author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (2014).

Politics and the Humanities: A Sometimes Dubious Relationship

Lezlie Knox points us to historians’ reactions to presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s recent statement comparing the Crusades and the current events in Syria.

Last spring I wrote a brief post sharing some links of medievalists responding to problematic comparisons of the Crusades to the current situation in Syria. Given Carly Fiorina’s recent boast at a New Hampshire townhall that her undergraduate training in medieval philosophy and history at Stanford prepared her to challenge the Islamic State/ISIS, it’s worth reading these wonderful ripostes.

David Perry, historian of the Crusades and an active blogger, wrote an op-ed in The Guardian. Just yesterday, Bruce Holsinger, medieval literary scholar and historical novelist, published a piece in the New York Times. Both essays are worth reading for their analysis of ahistorical invocations of the Middle Ages and its implications. Moreover, I particularly want to draw attention to the closing of Holsinger’s piece. He points out the Fiorina’s remarks are particularly distressing because she crusaders&moslemshas been a defender of the value of the Humanities.

The most valuable course she took at Stanford, she told the graduates, wasn’t economics or politics, but a seminar called “Christian, Islamic and Jewish Political Philosophies of the Middle Ages.”

Each week, she explained, students had to distill what they’d read into a mere two pages: “The rigor of the distillation process, the exercise of refinement, that’s where the real learning happened. It was an incredible, heady skill to master. Through the years, I’ve used it again and again — the mental exercise of synthesis and distillation and getting to the very heart of things.”

Rarely has the value of humanistic education been defended so eloquently. Whatever your politics, I tell my students, take heart. When your annoying Uncle Fred asks why you’re majoring in philosophy instead of commerce, tell him you know of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who majored in medieval studies — not only majored in it, but also credits it with shaping her into the successful public figure she became.

We also can look forward to scholars of Ancient Greece taking on Marco Rubio’s assertion that studying Greek Philosophy is useless….

Lezlie Knox is associate professor of history, Director of Graduate Studies, and the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

The Crusades are in the News Again

Lezlie Knox introduces some of the issues raised whenever a political leader confronts history–especially when that history is fraught with meaning to the present (of course, that could be said for most historical events!).  In this case, the history is the Crusades and the issue is the use of religion to justify violence.

The Crusades are in the news again. Last Thursday President Obama spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast, with one passage from his remarks drawing particular attention:

We see sectarian war in Syria, the murder of Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, religious war in the Central African Republic, a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes in Europe, so often perpetrated in the name of religion.

 So how do we, as people of faith, reconcile these realities — the profound good, the strength, the tenacity, the compassion and love that can flow from all of our faiths, operating alongside those who seek to hijack religious for their own murderous ends?

Humanity has been grappling with these questions throughout human history.  And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

Unsurprisingly, especially in this era of extreme political partisanship, the president’s critics were quick to criticize his remarks as anti-Christian and even anti-American, while other voices have defended the context and emphasized that acknowledging religious motivations or justifications is hardly the same as asserting causality. To some degree the dispute breaks down along liberal and conservative lines (with the exception of David Brooks, who spoke in defense of a gospel of humility).

Nonetheless, as a medievalist who sometimes hears that her field lacks relevance, this story and its expanding commentary represent clear evidence that events that happened over nine centuries ago on a separate continent still matter. Indeed, this heated response is especially pertinent for the twenty-one undergraduates and three Marquette alumni who are studying the Crusades with me this semester.

bnf-fr-22495f154v  Guillaume de Tyr, Histoire d'Outremer,  XIVe siècle, France (Paris)

William of Tyre, Histoire d’Outremer, Paris, Bibliotheque Nationale MS 22495, f. 154v

The source of the illustration to the left indicates that the Crusades sparked complicated meanings and attitudes within European society almost as soon as they were over.  This vernacular translation of an earlier text called History of the Deeds Done beyond the Sea, dates to about 1337 and shows how medieval authors and illustrators already were representing the Crusades as a racialized a clash between Christianity and Islam.  Here the well-armed European knights attack a group of darker-skinned Muslim warriors who lack armor. Interestingly, the knights are not cruciferos–bearing a cross, a sign of having vowed to crusade, but are instead identified by their heraldry. This manuscript image may be “medieval” in the sense that it dates from the fourteenth century, but it has nothing to tell us directly about events that occurred during the First Crusade (1095-1099) much less life in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (1099-1291).  Rather, it speaks to the memory of such events and their contemporary uses (a subject for another blog).

The discussion on the internet engages directly with the assumptions that this class seeks to complicate. Were the Crusades a clash of civilizations? Should they be understood as a defensive response to an Islamic threat to Europe? To what degree(s) did religious faith underscored the decision to crusade? I’m not going to weigh in here on these specific issues—not the least because my students have a midterm coming up in which they will have to assess such questions in light of the evidence drawn from the medieval sources they have been reading.

The following articles and blogs are particularly recommended for those who want to learn more about how historians of the Crusades understand these events as well as how they respond to appropriations of these events for modern political debates.

Lezlie Knox is Associate Professor of History and Director of Graduate Studies.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

History Faculty Win Funding for Research on Fascists, Friars, and Foreign Relations.

Historians at Marquette, like their colleagues everywhere, require two kinds of resources to conduct their research: the funding to travel to archives and the time to write. Marquette University expects its scholars to seek funding from such agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, to name just two of the larger funders of humanities and social science research, as well as from smaller, more specialized organizations and from archives. But faculty can also apply for summer research funding—that’s when much of the serious research and writing takes place–through a competitive process administered by the Committee on Research (chaired this year by our own Tim McMahon!). Summer Faculty Fellowships offer a stipend (read time), while Regular Research Grants pay for travel to collections. Dozens of MU faculty apply each year; less than half are approved. (You can find out more about the COR and the funding programs its members administer at http://www.marquette.edu/orsp/COR.shtml.)

The Committee on Research made three awards to historians this year, which will take their recipients to Germany, Italy, and Cuba to research, respectively, “the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics,” the life of an “the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil,” and the “intersections of race, identity, and gender” in the relationship between the American military and Cubans living near and working on the US based at Guantánamo. Brief descriptions of these fascinating projects follow.

Peter Staudenmaier: The Politics of Blood and Soil: Environmental Ideals in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy 

The controversial history of early environmentalism in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy is not well understood. Though scholars in a variety of fields recognize the role of “blood and soil” beliefs in the two regimes – that is, the attempt to link natural regeneration with racial renewal – there is no consensus on their historical significance or practical relevance. Detailed staudenmaier  empirical studies remain rare. My project represents the first comparative analysis of the topic based on archival research. It is structured around a series of case studies, including the history of organic farming under the Nazi regime and the Fascist campaign for ruralization in 1930s Italy. But the project as a whole goes well beyond these specifics. I aim to present a comprehensive historical analysis of the unlikely entanglement between environmental ideals and fascist politics. This is a classic “second book” project, with a full-length monograph as the eventual outcome. It represents an important new phase in my scholarship, and I expect the book to make a provocative contribution not just to historical debates but also to ongoing public discussion of vital and timely questions about environmental sustainability and its political contexts.  Staudenmaier is assistant professor and author of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era (Brill, 2014).

Lezlie Knox: Mariano of Florence: An Ordinary Friar in an Extraordinary Time

This biographical study of Fra Mariano of Florence (d. 1523) explores the lived experiences of a fairly ordinary Franciscan friar and his contemporaries during a period of religious turmoil both within his own religious order and in the Roman Church more generally in the decades prior to the Reformation.  Mariano performed ordinary clerical duties throughout his life, but also found the time to research aclarend write fifteen treatises on his order’s history and noted members.  My research project uses these writings (some of which exist only in manuscript copy) to explore daily life in the friaries and convents of central Italy at the end of the Middle Ages.  It also assesses how important debates over what it meant to be a Franciscan played out at a local level, a subject that is frequently overlooked in favor of conflict at the level of the Order’s leadership. This proposal specifically seeks funding to travel to Florence, Italy in June-July 2015 in order to read Mariano’s autograph manuscripts and research archival documents related to the communities in which he lived.  Lezlie Knox is associate professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008).

Michael Donoghue: Race, Identity, and Gender in U.S. Military-Cuban Relations 1941-1964

I plan to travel to Cuba next summer to investigate the local records of U.S. military-Cuban relations from 1941-1964 in Santiago, Guantánamo City, and Caimanera.  The focus of my research is on the intersections of race, identity, and gender that occurred between U.S. military personnel and the Cuban people from World War II until the closing of the U.S. Guantánamo naval base from Cuban contact in 1964.  The main focus of my research is how these interactions contributed donoghueto the anti-American atmosphere of the Cuban Revolution.   The U.S presence resulted in numerous binational encounters.  Some were negative that included brawls, crimes, the growth of a sex industry, and narcotics sales.  Other had more positive impacts such as cultural and economic exchanges, service jobs, intermarriages, and joint interests in sports, religion, and spectacle.  This study will examine the impact of these encounters in transforming what was once regarded as Washington’s closest alliance in the Caribbean into one of intense hostility by 1960.   My third trip to Cuba will be concentrate on finishing up my research in the archives of Santiago and Guantánamo City and also conducting more interviews with retired Cuban workers from the base and local service industries that catered to Americans. This project will make a significant contribution toward our understanding of the many strands and forces that helped shape the Cuban Revolution beyond, high status actors, larger events, and economic indices, as it focuses on the personal and social relations that drove so many revolutionary processes.  Michael Donoghue is associate professor and author of Borderland on the Isthmus: Race, Culture, and the Struggle for the Canal Zone (Duke, 2014).

 


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