President: Laura Wertheimer, Cleveland
While in Florence stolidly plowing my way through quaint and curious documents of forgotten lore, I stumbled across the entry "miscellaneous" in the finding aids for the Archivio di Stato Firenze Carte Strozziane. Feeling lucky, I placed my request. The next day bright and early-actually about 10:30 AM after the usual sustaining cappuccino, ciambelle, and bomboloni-I went into the depositorio with my request card and lo and behold a beaten up, dessicated, water stained, worm eaten leather-bound volume was presented to me-nothing on the outside to distinguish it. I returned to my seat and adjusted the 10 watt bulb. And turned the cover to the first page. There listed were the words, "Libro di debitori e creditori e ricordanze di Mezzo Ouest Conferenza di Storia di Mediavele MCMLXIII a MMVI". Oh, wonders of wonders, a libro segreto of an organization: perhaps a secret account book from some famous tower association; perhaps a family clan record of some infamous consorzeria; perhaps the accountings of a guild; perhaps details of all sorts of political machinations under the Medici. But anyhow, a ricordanze, that is remembrances-one of those uniquely Florentine diary-like account books which have provided us with so much of the political, business, and social history of the past. And this of the Midwest Medieval History Conference-their secret records and archive before my very eyes. Who or what was this group? I quivered with anticipation and turned the page. I would be looking at history face-to-face, fulfilling that noble dream of von Ranke.
Like most ricordanze this one began with a religious invocation, "al nome dell' onipotnete Idio e della Vergine madre maddona sancta Maria e della Clio." It then listed-again as usual-a litany of saintly patrons, powerful protectors of this organization as you could tell from the title given to them as Plenary: Paul Alexander, Gray C. Boyce, James Lea Cate, Robert S. Hoyt, Richard Sullvan, Gaines Post, Joshua Prawer, Joseph Strayer, Robert Lopez, Philippe Wolffe, Bernard Guenee, Giles Constable, John H. Mundy, Charles Davis, Bryce Lyon, Joseph Strayer-again-Peter Brown, Paul Meyvaert, Hans Eberhard Mayer, Richard Sullivan-again-David Herlihy, George Cuttino, Karl Morrison, John Baldwin, Robert Brentano, Sylvia Thrupp, C. Warren Hollister, Thomas Bisson, Robert Benson, John Baldwin-again-Donald Queller, Diane Owen Hughes, R. Dean War, Charles Bowlus, Richard Sullivan-again now thrice; all I can conclude is that he must have offered much long-time aid and comfort to this organization-Jerry Bentley, Elizabeth A. R. Brown, Walter Prevenier, Jo Ann McNamara, Paul Freedman, William Chester Jordan, Robert I Burns, James Powell, Andreas Winroth. A veritable library bookshelf of entries.
The entry continued, "questo libro ed di Saltato segretario"-which I liberally translate "as this book belongs to Skip-the secretary." Ahhhh, Saltato-a famous and renowned notary. This should be good. But no, as I turned the next page, the letters swarmed before my eyes moved and danced and combined and elided. My paleographical skills were of no avail-forgive me Frank Pegues, Jim Kittleson, and Don Queller; you tried I failed you-I pulled out the magnifying glass but no; I pulled out my little vade mecum, The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography by Adriano Cappelli, translated by David Heimann and Richard Kay. I stared real, real hard. But no-no luck; none of the paleographer's tools availed me. These reports were mysterious and cryptic-perhaps only for insiders. The notary/secretary's wit was beyond my comprehension. I tried but tired. Page after page after page.
Until at the end, for the last entry; the hand was different-an anonymous and obviously inferior hand; but my meager skills could read it. "Due mille e sei" 2006. So it began, "Richordanza e memoria che" that this conference was to have its next secret meeting in Evansville, Indiana, hosted by the University of Evansville, having been invited there by Professor Annette Parks, of that august institution. Evansville, a town I knew well, having been born and reared there. I got the sense though from these records that this conference must be very furtive and even feared as it seemed to move from place to place every year, unable to alight anywhere. Peripatetic-maybe even in exile perhaps the effects of some Guelph versus Ghibelline, neri o bianchi, factional struggle?
"Richordanze e memoria che" that Valerie Garver of Northern Illinois University ably prepared the program. On Friday October 13 under that typical ricordanze family heading "fanciulle di storici" children of the historians, three graduate student sessions were birthed-as listed under that quaint ricordanze phrase, "mi naqui." Changing Views of the Crusades chaired by Matt Phillips of Concordia University saw James Naus of Saint Louis University present "Group Identity in Twelfth-Century Crusade Narrative"; and Timothy Smit of the University of Minnesota presented "Egypt as a Destination for Crusades in Relief of the Holy Land." Reconsiderations of Medieval Sprituality chaired by June Mecham of the University of Nebraska-Omaha saw Greg Halfond of the University of Minnesota presented "Patrimoniolum ecclesiae nostrae: The Papal Estates in Merovingian Provence"; Daniel Patrick O'Dell of the University of Nebraska-Omaha presented "Christianizing Paganism or Paganizing Christianity? Anglo-Saxon Charms and Religious Conversion"; and Andrea Boffa of SUNY-Stony Brook present "'Sua socia specialissima er fideli amica': St. Benevenuta and Her Friends." And From Old to New: Continuity and Discontinuity in Medieval England chaired by Steve Stofferahn of Indiana State University saw Andrew Grubb of the University of Louisville present "The Holy Sepulchre Comes to England: Exploring the Peculiarly Medieval Legacy of an Early Christian Monument"; Andre Schmidt of Northwestern University presented "From Old Testament to New: The Harrowing of Hell in the English Mystery Play Cycles"; and Linsey McNellis of the University of Central Florida presented "Burden of Proof: Changing Views of Sexual Violence in Medieval England."
Richordanza e memoria che that this conferenza then adjourned to its pensione, il soggiorno di esecutivo, the Executive Inn, which doubly rack-rented me in a credit card mishap. So much for my returning home and welcome.
Richordanza e memoria che that after regrouping
the conferenza formed into packs and descended upon osterie, taverne,
ristorante, e trattorie. One group in particular headed on foot South
to Madeleine's But dio it is located in Goosetown, the old Haynie's
Corner-site of Evansville's notorious Red Light District during my childhood
(or so I remember being told). What dangers lurk; what thrills exist-what
sort of place is Madeleine's? The mind wonders and wanders. But no,
just a fine fusion restaurant. And the area is gentrified. Change-the
essence of history
Richordanza e memoria che that after a break the Plenary session, chaired by Annette Parks of the University of Evansville took place. Frederick Suppe of Ball State University presented "Anglo-Welsh Relations during the Twelfth Century: the Role of the Interpreter Families."
Richordanza e memoria che that after this
the conferenza adjourned to the Atrium of the Koch Center for Engineering
Science for lunch and for what the ricordanze describes as "la
cosa nostra," this thing of ours, which I loosely translate as
"business meeting." Ably presided over by President Laura
Wertheimer a transfer of power occurred with John Lomax becoming president.
Laura also ably aided this organization by compiling a "Golden
Book" of sorts-an administrative memory to be passed down from
president to president to president. To groans and yawns the Secretary
delivered the minutes of the 44th Annual Conference. Martin Arbagi,
Sacrae Largitatis Comes, loosely translated as "moneybags,"
delivered the treasurer's report, which included a report of substantial
material in the black.
Richordanza e memoria che that after a short break, which allowed for some pleasant perambulating, the afternoon session began. Continuities and Discontinuities for the Medieval Aristocracy, chaired by Amy Livingstone of Wittenberg University, had Jonathan Lyon of the University of Chicago presenting "The Retirement of Aged Noblemen into their Monastic Foundations: Interpreting the Sources from Twelfth-Century Germany": Ernst Jenkins of the University o0f Kansas presenting "The Angevin Empire, Northern Iberia, and the Pyrenean Connection": and Linda Mitchell of Alfred University presenting "English, Irish, and In-Between: Discontinuities among Aristocratic Settlement families in Ireland, 1218-1330." Developments in Institutions in Capetian France chaired by Michael Ryan of Purdue University had Michael Bardot of Lincoln University presenting "Changes in Capetian Grain Management: Strategies of the Twelfth Century"; and Adam Davis of Denison University presenting "Medieval Poor Hospitals and the Formation of a Charitable Society."
Richordanza e memoria che that the conferenza then adjourned for a pleasant banquet at the Executive Inn, which was illustrated, enlivened, and illuminated by a display of medieval manuscripts from the collection of John Lawrence, a local businessman and philanthropist. Yours truly failed his paleography again here, when put to the test by Professor Powell. Lastly, the conference enjoyed the traditional president's reception and its libations.