Thomas Madden Talks Towers and Texts at Fordham

The Center for Medieval Studies had the privilege of hosting Professor Thomas Madden from Saint Louis University for two events. Dr. Madden is a renowned expert on medieval Venice and particularly its role in the Crusades, and he came to Fordham to share some of the insights from his current research. On Wednesday, April 11th Dr. Madden led a master class focusing on the resources of the Venetian state archives where he has performed the bulk of his research. After a brief introduction to the history and organization of the archive, Dr. Madden lead students on an in-depth exploration of one of a number of documents available on the archive’s website, paying particular attention to the conventions and methods of the notaries responsible for producing the documents. Students were surprised to learn that unlike other Italian city-states at the time, Venice’s notaries were all clerics in minor orders. Dr. Madden continued to outline the various parts of the document, a twelfth-century receipt indicating the payment of a debt, stopping only to relate tales of the difficulties of working in the Archives before the internet, and of the unwritten codes of behavior that he had to pick up as graduate student. The formal presentation was followed by a lively Q&A in which students picked Dr. Madden’s brain about the kinds of documents within the archives and the information they contained, including records of the often overlooked slave trade, and the prominence of women in the records. (Read on for more details of Prof. Madden’s presentation) Continue reading

Talking Through the Issues: A Podcast Series on the Crusader States

This post is cross-blogged from History at Fordham University

crusaderstA new conversation has started within the History Department at Fordham. Under the direction of Dr. Nicholas Paul, graduate students in his Crusader States class are developing podcasts as a means to initiate discussion. The course, “charts the social, political, and cultural history of the feudal principalities (sometimes called “Crusader States” “the Latin East” or the ‘Frankish Levant”) that were established by Latin Christians in the Eastern Mediterranean in the wake of the First Crusade.” The podcasts, in turn, each focus on a specific theme within the current scholarship, from the background to the First Crusade in the Eastern Mediterranean, to the relationships between Latin Europeans and eastern Christians and Muslims, through the cultural, social, and political development of the Crusader States themselves

What are the advantages of the podcast format? Tom Schellhammer, a student in the course, commented that, “Historical scholarship must also embrace the current trend towards technological interaction,” as “Technology allows us to reach a wide audience, and this idea is a fantastic intro to anyone interested in learning more about the Crusader States. A podcast can build interest by succinctly covering the important discussion points on any one topic, and highlighting the importance of the topic and asking intriguing questions that spark even more debate and scholarship.”

For Tom, and all of the students in The Crusader States, further and broader discussion about the aftermath of the First Crusade is the ultimate goal, and they believe that using podcasts promotes that within and beyond their seminar. Tom says, “I think that as a class we have come up with some thought provoking questions which might benefit a larger community studying the Crusader States.   I find the material challenging and want to hear outside comments upon the work that we are doing, so I appreciate the opportunity to be heard and receive feedback on our discussions. On a topic that has interest in such widespread and diverse communities,  the podcasts truly help reach outside thoughts and opinions and ignite those same thoughts to be shared here at Fordham.”

Check out all the podcasts and listen to Tom address issues faced by the Crusader military and debate whether the creation of new states was inevitable in the aftermath of the First Crusade. History is about so much more than the sources analyzed and papers written– it is about sharing what we learn with others in hopes of creating an atmosphere of inquiry, debate, and ultimately, understanding.