On Coming Back to England – Twenty Months in Review

Hey guys. Sorry it’s a bit austere in here – I leave Tübingen tomorrow, and I had to send all my stuff back the UK yesterday, so there’s not much other than me and the laptop left. (And actually once I’ve posted this I need to send my router back to my Internet provider so the laptop won’t be terribly useful at that point…)

Is it fair to say I don’t really want to leave? I guess so. Living here has a few downsides, like the fact that I don’t really have hobbies anymore – I’ve been meaning to learn to dance for a couple of years, but there aren’t any English-language classes I can find and based on the last time I tried, I need as few handicaps as possible to even fail successfully. On the other hand, I like the town, I like the work, my colleagues are great, and after a relatively lonely year in Brussels I have something of a social life. Plus, of course, there’s never been a better time not to be working in UK academia…

Still, despite the air of melancholy, you can’t say the last two years haven’t been good ones, career-wise. When I was awarded a Fondation Wiener-Anspach fellowship two years ago almost precisely, I was about three months away from finishing my thesis, earning a bit of side money through freelance invigilating, and generally being at a bit of a loose end. Since then, I’ve had two jobs, won a prize and got the proxime for two others, got another two articles in print, and am about to start on a three-year contract which should hopefully be a little more stable. So that’s very pleasing, and I’m a lot happier about the short-term future than I was two years ago, or even at the start of 2017.

More importantly, here in Tübingen I think that I made a enough progress on my research to be able to start hacking away at the thickets standing between me and the book after I arrive in Leeds. More on that over the course of the years to come, but it does mean that I should probably clear the decks with my other publications. Which brings us to the actual point of the post: what’s coming, what needs work, and what’s sitting around in my ‘drafts’ folder waiting for something to happen with it?

Coming soon

OK, these are the ones where the revisions are all done, I’ve seen the proofs, and (albeit painfully slowly in one case) all that’s left to do is wait. There are two of these. The first is my ‘Flemish Succession Crisis’ article, where I finally try and resolve the Arnulf problem once and for all (and also shed some incidental light on royal power in the 960s in the process) – I got an e-mail from the editors yesterday asking for my postal address for the offprints, so hopefully I’ll be able to put up a Name In Print III fairly soon. The second is ‘Voice of Dissent’, on the Historia Francorum Senonensis, which is both a really, really close read and comes with an English translation of the text, so keep an eye out for that if early eleventh-century historiography is your jam.

Probably Coming Soon

Whilst these ones have been submitted and I’ve heard positive things back from their respective editors, they don’t yet have a date attached to them, and may require one or more rounds of revisions. Still, based on what I’ve seen thus far, those revisions shouldn’t be “re-write the whole thing” level… Another two in this category, ‘Kingship and Consent’, what I (sort-of) won that prize for; and ‘Nixi rex’, a written-up version of the paper I gave at that conference in Ghent I started blogging about and then stopped a couple of years or so ago. This one is about the regalian trend in talking about disputed episcopal elections c. 900 – what it is and what it means.

In Progress

This is the lowest level I still put on my CV – it means they’ve been submitted somewhere, but I don’t know how much work is left to do with them. Another two here – ‘Social and Political Selection’, about a disputed episcopal election in the 1010s and my attempt to analyse why the loser lost; and ‘Girly Man’, about which you have heard plenty. Nothing to do here but wait.

In Beta

These three are completely written, but they haven’t really been trialled yet. Before I submit them to a journal, I want to run them by people on the conference circuit. The first, ‘Martinian Advocacy’, in addition to being the first actual article I’ve written which began life as a blog post, is probably the closest to being submitted. I’m presenting it at the Ecclesiastical History Society, and then it needs a bit more historiographical grounding – there’s a point about Carolingian reform which it could speak to more loudly than it does. Then it’ll need test-running again, but I reckon if I keep a weather eye out for speaking opportunities it could be submitted somewhere by year-end 2018… The second, ‘Lehnwesen’, is part of someone else’s bigger project and I don’t know how much I can say about it so I’ll leave it there. At minimum, though, I need to read a couple of extra bibliography items and do another draft. The third and last, ‘Archchancellors’, is about an odd aspect of royal diplomas under Louis IV, to wit that he goes through archchancellors like Trump goes through press secretaries. This was sent in as a competition entry (where it received some of the most incompetent feedback I’ve ever had, all the more noticeable because Reader 1 was really helpful – and when I say incompetent, I mean “Reader 2 could not manage coherent paragraph organisation”) and one of the points was that I was avoiding the debate about the Carolingian chancery too hard. That was largely deliberate; but it does mean I need to run a version of it past real diplomatists at some point, and therefore this one’ll take a while longer.

Hanging Around

Seven in this category, these being the ones that I found when I went to look through my ‘Drafts’ folder. One of these, ‘Earliest Cluny’, actually will graduate higher fairly shortly – it’s a nice little case study of how noble power in the regions actually worked, and all it needs is a bit of polishing and some expanded analysis. Equally, ‘Princely Churches’, which has also appeared here in the past, was actually submitted to a journal, which rejected it (on fairly spurious grounds – most journals, those reports would have been ‘revise and resubmit’). Problem is, it has now turned into a co-authored piece and both me and my co-author are now busy enough and doing-other-things enough that it’s slid well down our respective to-do lists. Basically: should do something here, probably won’t any time soon. The third in this more promising category is ‘Moot Point’, on Neustrian assemblies. I really want to do something with this – it’s the kind of study I was complaining recently we just don’t have – but I spent years worrying over methodological difficulties and now I’m satisfied that there’s a real response to those, I can’t remember the evidence and when I went to look it up it looked shakier than I remembered. Presumably that’ll go away if I really submerge myself in these charters again, but that’ll take a while.

The next two, ‘Dudo’s Time’ and ‘Provençal Pact’, just need time, the former more than the latter. The first started as a simple enough observation – broadly, the Historia Normannorum’s plot (one thing after another) is overruled by its metaplot (in heavenly time, everything has always already happened). It’s another close-reading paper, and that’s done; the problem is that a) finding the English vocabulary to talk about fiddling around with time is hard; and b) trying to find literature on it led me into literary criticism and thence to Lacan, which is enough to demoralise anyone. Again, it’s so far down the priority list it’ll take a while. More likely is the Provence paper. Once I finally decided that Liutprand of Cremona had no idea about Hugh of Arles’ relations with Transjurane Burgundy, and was stuck on a delayed train, I started sketching out an overview of Provençal politics after the death of Louis the Blind. This could go fairly quickly into the ‘In Beta’ category if I give it a week, but finding a week for something this out of the wheelhouse is tricky.

Finally, two articles, ‘Soteriological Superiority’ and ‘West Frankish Reichskirche’, which have shown up on here before, but which I will not do anything with. The former will end up in the book; the latter is just too skinny to do anything much with at all.

Need Writing

In addition to all this, there are a few things which I want to write at some point and need to get on with. The first, ‘Stephen of Clermont’, is going to be based on the many, many posts about him on this here blog – I promised my funding body a ‘flagship’ article and he’s going to be it. There’s also ‘Church of Sens’ – the Historia Francorum article mentioned above began as one gigantic piece including lots and lots of historical and political context about the archbishops of Sens, and it was a bit of a Siamese twin. The reviewers recommended ditching it from the ‘Voice of Dissent’ bit, so now I think it should be an article on its own, but it does need redoing with coins and perhaps manuscripts.

Finally, there are two other books which I’d like to do something with. One is a Translated Source Volume, which at this point may be Adhemar of Chabannes. I did start dealing with Folcuin of Lobbes, but then discovered that, commentary-wise, I had nothing much to say about him, so Adhemar might be a juicier proposition, as well as a useful one.

The other is The Last Carolingians, a narrative history of the West Frankish kingdom c. 875-1030. This one presents me with a problem – it’s an exciting story, and I’d like to do it with a commercial publisher for a non-specialist audience. However, my views on the narrative itself are sufficiently new, and in some cases controversial, that the book would also need to actually argue for my reconstruction rather than just recount the consensus view. I test-wrote a chapter on the succession of Louis IV, though, and doing it that way makes it very technical. Thus, although it’s a bit B.S.-Bachrach-ish to just cite yourself over and over again, I might postpone this and shunt the argumentation into a series of articles – in which case, ‘Burgundian Succession 936’ needs to go on the to-do list to begin with…

Cripes, that’s twenty things. Admittedly of those a little less than half are basically done, in one stage or another, and another two are explicitly never going to be dealt with; but I have just set myself a good five or six things to get into print in the next year or so. I arrive in Leeds on the 1st May – sounds like I’d better prepare myself to get on with it…


I R Winner (Sort Of) 2

Y’know, if I’d known this was going to happen more than once I’d have chosen a less dated reference…

Anyway, there won’t be another blog post until at least the weekend – I do have one half-written, but I’ve spent the entire day chasing medieval sites around northern Hesse, and I’m exhausted. But! That means that I can announce some good news!

A couple of times on this blog, I’ve mentioned my work about viking sex. Well, as it happened, I wrote that up, submitted it to Anglo-Norman Studies’ Chibnall Prize, and this year it won the proxime! I am told it was a close decision, which is certainly better than I expected when I included the bit from Hrotswitha of Gandersheim about the dude fucking the pots and pans; but as I’ve been entering for the last six years, it’s nice to have won something, even if just runner up!

Also, apparently the response to the paper was so good that they’ve asked me, and I’ve accepted, to present it at the 2019 Battle Conference. What this means is those of you who want to hear about William Longsword’s mighty weapon somewhere it can be cited, you should be able to expect it in around 2020…

I R Winner (Sort Of)

Although at the moment I am currently up to my elbows in packing, a bit of good news has come through the pipeline. I recently found out that my essay, ‘Kingship and Consent in the Reign of Charles the Simple: The Case of Sint-Servaas (919)’ was declared proxime accessit (i.e. runner-up) in the TMJ essay competition.


I was dead chuffed, not least because it’s nice to see that my well-known love for Charles the Simple is able to win over others with its evangelical zeal. In this case, about how the long-standing idea of Charles as a wannabe-autocrat is wrong, using an oddity in a pair of charters he issued for the Maastricht abbey of Sint-Servaas. So thanks to the journal, congratulations to the winner, and I’ll keep you all posted as to what happens about getting it into print!

Thanks to Belgian rail’s discounted rates to border towns, I even got to see Sint-Servaas itself this year, albeit on a day which was rather too hot to be wearing a leather jacket…

Career News

As it says on the ‘About’ page of this blog, I am currently a Fondation Wiener-Anspach postdoctoral fellow at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (please ignore the unfortunate hair). This is a fine place to be, but in just over two months, I will in fact cease to be here. Happily, I do now have other places to be, and this post is to communicate the news that I have a new job! Two, in fact, sequentially.

               From the end of August (after two months in Schwäbisch Hall to get my German up to scratch, or try to, anyway), I will be taking up a six-month Alexander von Humboldt Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Tübingen, to work with Steffen Patzold. I have been here once before, and of course Steffen knows a thing or two about Carolingian bishops, so I’m really looking forward to it on those grounds. I’m also looking forward to it because it will involve living in a town with a river going through it once more, but that’s a slightly lesser reason.

               After that, from May 2018, I will be, thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, moving to Leeds, where I’ll be an Early Career Fellow for the next three years, working with Jonathan Jarrett, he of late Carolingian kingship and charters and bishops fame (as well as being, in his spare time,  author of my single favourite blog post about tenth-century episcopal charters). The university has an entire annex in the library basement devoted to charter collections, so if this blog suddenly stops updating for a few weeks next summer, that’s where to send the rescue party.

               In both Leeds and Tübingen, I’ll be working on a project which is an extension and development of what I’m doing in Brussels: that is, tracing the evolution of the interrelationship between royal and episcopal authority in the late and post-Carolingian periods. Getting to keep doing my own research right through into the next decade is a tremendous privilege, and that I’m at this point is the result of the work of an awful lot of people who’ve given up their time and energy to write references, go over forms, and endure draft after draft of my research proposal. Some of them read this blog, so to you (and the rest) I say a very heartfelt thanks.

               Next week, there will be actual, real, yarr!content on the blog, I promise; but if in the meantime you want to read more of what I’ve written, I’ve set up in the sidebar a link to my publications, most of which are open-access, which I will keep updated as and when new things come out. Otherwise, I’ve actually had my first request for a blog post – which I will fulfil at some point, although I need to do a bit of reading around the subject first – so if there’s anything you want me to write about, please let me know!