Christopher Newport University sent our first ever undergraduates to the 11th Annual “Meeting in the Middle” at Longwood University on April 7th & 8th of 2017. Dyllan Cecil (History & Classics, Class of 2017) and Summer Thrasher (History, Class of 2017) presented their research to a diverse group of undergraduates and faculty from universities across the US including Longwood, Washington & Lee, Radford, Davidson, Belmont Abbey College, Winthrop, East Tennessee State and UCLA.
Summer Thrasher was part of a session on changing military dynamics. She presented a paper titled “From Rome to Francia: Changes to Create Continuity” in which she persuasively argued that during the 5th and 6th centuries in Europe the so-called “barbarian” leaders Childeric and Clovis used and adapted Roman institutions in order to create their own distinct version of kingship. Their use of religious rituals such as baptism, mixed with the use of Roman military titles, and their minting of coinage in the Roman style combined to set the basis for medieval kingship. During the Q&A she was lauded for emphasizing the important role that Clovis’ particular choices of which Roman powers to keep and adapt to his needs played in shaping the office of kingship.
Dyllan Cecil was part of a session on the female religious experience in Medieval Europe. Her paper was titled “The Administration of a Medieval Nunnery: The Analysis of the Cartulary of Saint Amand Abbey, Rouen.” She introduced the audience to the administrative records of the nuns of Saint Amand, showing how the nuns collected and managed their lands and the renders of cash and goods that were owed to the house. She also explained the difficulty of working with handwritten records, which are often abbreviated, sometimes sloppily written, and challenging to read. During the Q&A her work was praised as part of an important digital humanities project, and one which should help to bring these administrative records and our understanding of the functioning of medieval nunneries to a wider audience.
In addition to the student sessions, there were two distinguished keynote speakers. Dr. Edward Muir (Northwestern) spoke Friday evening on the topic medieval Italy. His talk was titled “‘To Trust is Good, but Not to Trust is Better’: Medieval Italy on the Cusp of Modernity.” Dr. Muir discussed networks of trust in the medieval Italian city-states. He connected the need to create social ties and networks of trust outside of the family to the lending of money and the early banking systems. He showed that moneylending was done for social reasons rather than for profit as we typically assume.
The second keynote was delivered on Saturday afternoon by Dr. Michael Bennett (Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst); his talk was titled “Myths of Medieval Warfare in History and Literature.” Dr. Bennett began with a historiography of the idea of chivalry, and discussed the ways that the understanding of chivalry has developed in connection with a “romantic” view of medieval warfare. In the second part of his talk he used the life of William the Marshal to illustrate some of his points, quite literally, as he made excellent use of a French graphic novel of the Life of William the Marshal to show William both training and at war.
The final day wrapped up with the presentation of the Abels-Johnson Award for Excellence, given to the best student paper submitted in advance of the conference. This year Dr. Bennett and Dr. Muir gave the prize to Michael Campion (Longwood University) for his paper titled “Trial by Ordeal Interpreted by Classical Deterrence Theory.”
The Christopher Newport University Medieval & Renaissance Studies faculty offer their congratulations to our student participants. We look forward to continuing to showcase the research of our undergraduate students at this conference, and would particularly like to thank the Department of History for their generous financial support of our delegation. For information on the 2018 conference and other opportunities to present research at CNU, please contact Dr. Cartwright during the fall semester.