Tag Archives: magistra et mater

Cool Stuff on Other Blogs IV

You know how it is; you post something and immediately afterward a bunch of stuff comes out which makes you wish you’d waited a couple of days (I’ve had the same thing happen with publishing articles). This weekend appears to have been a profitable one for some of my favorite blogs.

Before I get to that I want to mention that I’ve updated my Kalamazoo page to include my posts from 2011. I’m not sure I’m thrilled with how it looks so I may tweak that a bit but the content is all there. I’ve been planning to do this for months and kept putting it off so I think this is more to brag about a relatively insignificant accomplishment than because it will matter to anyone right now. I must be in search of validation or something at the moment.

Also, I’ve put up the labels I’ve used for posts in the lower left of the blog. It looks messy and confusing to me – but it may be helpful to people trying to find stuff and by being stuck down there, they’re not overly visible. So I’ve also put a poll up, towards the upper right. If you feel the urge, please vote and let me know whether I should leave the labels in.

I’ve also added a button so you can follow this blog by e-mail, rather than having to log on to follow posts. I should have done this a while ago though it is a fairly recent add-in for Blogger. I believe once you go in it gives you options on when you receive the e-mails and I’m pretty sure it comes in digest form – if I post more than once in a day you’ll receive a single message. I’ve been told this is easier to read on mobile devices.

On to the blogs, in chronological posting order.

Michelle Ziegler has a really cool post on Heavenfield summarizing some National Geographic documentaries, as well as offering her own thoughts on the Staffordshire Gold Hoard.

Magistra et Mater has a great post recounting a seminar on the characteristics of Viking slavery. She also comments on how these characteristics compare with slavery in other societies as well as warning us all against over-generalization, a message I have increasingly come to appreciate (and to date have not grown tired of) over the past few years.

Moving a bit out of my period but something I’m increasingly troubled by, over at Modern Medieval, Scott Jenkins has put up a post which covers some broad turf; the current University funding situation in the UK, 60’s protests and a medieval institution – the “student university.” I enjoyed this post tremendously — extremely insightful.

This last is more contemporary than I usually post about but I’m having some real problems dealing with the images coming out of Cal-Davis over the past few days and I’m battling a strong urge to break my “this blog is for medieval stuff only” vow. I think I’ll get past it. There are far smarter people than I talking about it.

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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Other Blogs


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What is Late Antiquity Anyway?

I need a tidier definition. I was eating lunch with some friends a couple of days ago and in the process of resolving all of the world’s problems my hobby came up, as it does from time to time, mainly because I look for ways to interject it whenever possible. I made the mistake of mentioning Late Antiquity rather than saying I tend to focus on Early Medieval. 1

The obvious followup was, Friend: “What’s Late Antiquity?”

Me: “The period from around 250 to around 700.”

Friend: “That’s when it is – what is it?”

Uh-oh. I like it when people are perceptive, except for those times when I don’t. I gave him some sort of explanation which included a period which contained elements from classical and medieval society, monotheistic state-sponsored religion, changing patterns of land tenure, etc., etc. I quit before I threw in retaining classical literature, government administrative systems, etc., from Rome. I think I was close to discovering a new method of hypnosis.

OK, so that didn’t work and I’ll never do it again. For now I’m going to remember not to use Late Antiquity in this sort of conversation. That doesn’t mean I want to throw the term in the dustbin, only to be trotted out when I go to a conference, happen to run into folks with some knowledge, or post to this blog. I think it has some utility and it should, even when talking to people who know even less about history than me.

I’m pretty comfortable with about 250-700 as the period (of course there’s overlap with other periods). I have the “whenness” piece of this down fairly well and have no problem justifying it for Western Europe. For details you can see this discussion on Magistra et Mater.

What I need is a better description/explanation. I’ve got a bunch of Peter Brown’s stuff and ran through it to see what he has but he’s short on shallow definitional terminology – he seems to want to actually explain things. I thought maybe the Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity would have something. Websites tend to be pretty useful for mining short summary phrases from – people tend to spend less time on them. Though maybe not when you’re an Oxford student. Oxford briefly describes some of what happened, not a definition. 2

Maybe the best I can do is a combination of period/characteristics. One statement I try to stay away from is, “Late Antiquity was a period of change.” Every time in history was a period of change. LA may have had a bit more than some periods but it’s pretty hard to find any 500-year chunk of time where things were pretty much the same at the end of it as at the beginning. And I definitely won’t say that Late Antiquity was, “The period where the Roman World transformed into the Medieval World,” since this tells my lunch-listeners nothing.

Anyway, if someone has a useful phrase defining Late Antiquity in 20 words or less, I’d appreciate it. Lacking that, I think I need to go back to explaining my interest as, “the early part of the Medieval Period and the later years of the Roman Empire.” That hasn’t caused me much trouble.

1 I should note that long before I started thinking about things like Late Antiquity I considered the Middle Ages to be from 312-1517. I thought (and still think) that the existence of Christianity as the single largest social institution in Western Europe was a pretty important defining characteristic and figured the period between Constantine at the Milvian Bridge and Luther worked pretty well (at the time 1517 made sense – I have no trouble with anyone saying it should be 1519, 1520, 1530, etc. – or anyone who wants to use 1492, 1453, etc.). Once I figured out what piece of Medieval History was most interesting to me, I decided that Late Antiquity did a pretty nice job of covering that same time (at least based on the years used by some). My About this Blog page gives a bit more detail on how my thinking progressed.

2 Since humor doesn’t always translate on the internet I figure I should note that this is a good thing. We get enough shallow “pithy” phrases imposed on us by society – it would be troubling if historians and universities ever start promoting them. And while I enjoy talking about the artificiality of modern periodizations, I usually don’t take lunch conversations there.


Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Historiography


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Random and Not-so-Random Thoughts

I had a brief moment of delusion a month or so ago that my usually torrid (from a “real job” perspective) summer was easing up. A second wave of “business” started a couple of weeks ago and looks to continue at least through the next two weeks. Without time to really research and develop a content-driven post, I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite blogs and throw in a couple of introspective notes.

Of course you can look at my Blog List on the left side of my web page. I like all of these and will at least scan them whenever a new post comes up, though David Beard’s Archaeology in Europe Blog sometimes overwhelms me with the amount of information. However right now I want to mention a few blogs which are largely focused on the Early Medieval/Late Antiquity periods.

Burgundians in the Mist is a blog devoted to the 5th and 6th century Burgundian Kingdom. The Burgundians were one of the Roman successor states, first settled as foederati and then carving out their own kingdom. In 534 they were defeated and their kingdom absorbed into that of the Merovingians. This website helps remove them from obscurity. One of the items which makes the Burgundians so interesting to me is that through the writings of Avitus of Vienne we’re provided a window into the struggle between Arian and Orthodox Christianity for Western supremacy. Outside of the Franks, all of the barbarian groupings that entered the former Roman territories were Arian and, one by one, they converted – or were destroyed by Justinian.

Grateful to the Dead is authored by Dr. Chris Armstrong, Professor of Church History at Bethel Seminary. The blog is not exclusively about the early Church, which is my main interest, but it has a lot of information about it, as well as the development of doctrine. I’ve only been following it for a short time but have found it very interesting.

Magistra et Mater has a blog which is a combination of her work on Early Medieval Europe and her current job as a Librarian (somehow “librarian” doesn’t seem to capture the essence of this – Library Scientist? academic librarian?). I’ve found her posts on the Carolingians very interesting and look forward to more of her work being published. I’m very interested in the role(s) of women during the Medieval period and her work on masculinity includes a tremendous amount of information on this. See her recent post on methods of study regarding the level of freedom women hold in societies for an example.

I’ve only recently been introduced to The Lost Fort through the recent Carnivalesque hosted by Jonathan Jarrett at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe. Gabriele Campbell is a writer of historical fiction and fantasy who has done extensive research on the Ancient and Medieval periods. I haven’t had the time to go through her blog in depth – yet – but from what I can see, there’s a wealth of information.

You may wonder why I’ve left A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe so late. Alphabetically, Jonathan Jarrett’s blog is the first on my Blog List and anyone who’s read my blog knows how much I appreciate what he’s put together. That’s because I’m going to use his blog as a segue to another topic. Jonathan’s blog is remarkable for a couple of things. First, and most obvious, is the content. Absolutely loaded with information, not just about the 10th century and his most recent research interest, Catalonia, but about the Carolingians in particular, and Medieval History in general. Also, I’m a huge footnote-chaser and Jonathan includes these liberally. One of the things which characterizes all Medievalist blogs that I’ve come across is the love they have for the period and their work in it. I think this comes across particularly strongly in Jonathan’s blog. I’m certain there are Medievalists out there a bit discontented with their work, or wishing they were doing something else. But you don’t find them blogging.

Jonathan recently posted about his trip to the New Chaucer Conference in Siena a month or so ago. The post was interesting enough, but he was kind enough to include a link to his paper on blogging. I’ve read it 3 times.

Jonathan’s paper tells a story of how and why he began blogging, and how his blog has evolved. It’s good reading, but it speaks to me because I’m still trying to figure out what my blog is “about.” I know it’s about Late Antiquity and the Early Medieval period and I know it’s very much an amateur effort. But why does it exist? I started it because I enjoy conversations about medieval history and have engaged in multiple online forums related to this, and wasn’t happy with the level/content/something indefinable on any of them at the time. Mixed in with this is my enjoyment of teaching and my hope that I could provide some sort of amateur-professional “link” which other amateurs might find helpful. I’m certainly not a Medieval Historian, but when I get in a room full of them I can generally understand what they’re saying – something which wasn’t true at, say, my first International Congress on Medieval Studies ten years ago where I pretty much sat meekly in the back of the room during sessions.

That takes care of the why. How about the content, the what? As some have noted, I read a lot. I thought most of what I’d do would involve posting book reviews. It didn’t take very long to realize this wouldn’t happen. For one thing, while I read a lot, I don’t whip through a 500-page book every week and I feel it’s important to post regularly, at least weekly. However I don’t want this blog to be about my real job, my real life, or anything but medieval history.

So reading Jonathan’s paper has me thinking, again, about the purpose of this blog, the message I’d like to communicate. I’m not sure I have one beyond “the Middle Ages fascinate me.” No overarching theme or concept. This will likely result in a continued mixture of posts with a fair level of content, interspersed with those such as this one which include resources and introspective thoughts (nobody should interpret this post as even hinting that I don’t enjoy blogging or am thinking of stopping). And while I don’t want to “post just to post” I find this happening – where, when I’m busy, I throw something like this out (which I can put together in an hour without digging through references) so I can have a post up at least weekly, even when I have nothing to say.

Not to worry though. I’ve just started Allen Jones’ Social Mobility in Late Antique Gaul: Strategies and Opportunities for the Non-Elite. I think I’m going to enjoy this, and I expect I’ll have something to say about it when I finish.


Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Blogology, Resources


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Cool Stuff on Other Blogs

This is a quick “Kalamazoo Session Report Break.” I’ve written reports on exactly half the sessions I’ve attended and yes, I will finish – have started a draft of the 6th session I attended already. Session Reports won’t suffer the fate of my promised but unfulfilled Peter Heather Book Report.

But for whatever reason, I’ve recently had a major uptick in my site traffic and on the off chance that people have been to my blog but missed some others, I want to post links to three extremely interesting topics from three of my favorite blogs.

Working chronologically, oldest to newest, check out Jonathan Jarrett’s post on the Pictish language. I’m a detail person (translation – sometimes an anal-retentive, obsessive-compulsive personality) and Jonathan always includes a lot of that in his posts – detail, not personality neuroses. This is one I need to really study – LOTS of info.

Steve Muhlberger has the start of what looks to be a very interesting discussion of Medieval Maritime military transport – complete with what looks like the precursor to amphibious assault ships? Stay tuned on this one. I have several sources sitting here and plan on checking them out just in case I have something to contribute. Looked at William of Malmesbury and William of Tyre last night and struck out but I’m not done yet. 1

Last but not least, Magistra, who runs a blog I really enjoy, has a report on some of the first papers discussing the Staffordshire Hoard. I won’t have the chance to look into this one in any depth until tonight but she always puts up high quality posts and this sure looks like it meets that standard.

Thanks to everyone who’s checked out my blog – if you haven’t already I strongly suggest you take a look at this information from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

1 Someone more familiar with these two should still look them over – I based my search on the indexes and when you’re looking at 19th century editions, well, maybe indexing hadn’t reached its height yet.


Posted by on May 27, 2010 in Other Blogs


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