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Leeds International Medieval Congress

All network members and associates will be proud to present and discuss their findings from the last two years at Leeds International Medieval Congress on Tuesday 2nd July, when we are hosting four linked sessions, all under the banner of “Noblesse oblige?: Intermediate Élites and the Common Good in Medieval Afro-Eurasia”.

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Blog Western Europe

Was my lord a shepherd?

Patrick Hegarty-Morrish

The aptly named French shepherd Jean de Brie had much to say of the nobility of his profession in the shepherding manual he wrote for Charles V of France in 1379. All the best in the Bible had been shepherds: Abel, Laban, Jacob, Tamer, Judah, and Moses. A shepherd should conduct himself—and Jean assumed it would be a he—with gravity, avoiding “the tavern, bawdy house and all dishonest places”. The shepherd’s crook, as the bishop’s crozier and the knight’s lance, had its place in the world “the maintain the public good”.1

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Asia-Pacific Blog

Virtuous Governance: Popular Notions of Noblesse Oblige in Medieval Japan

Thomas Booth

The late thirteenth century was a period of acute vulnerability for the Kamakura shogunate. The preceding century was commonly known as ‘the century of disaster’, and for good reason. Three devastating famines – the Yowa famine (1180-1183), the Kangi famine (1229-1232) and the Shoga famine (1257-1260) – had wreaked havoc on the Japanese countryside, causing the deaths of tens of thousands.1 The archipelago was also beset by two separate invasions by the Mongol forces under Kublai Khan. The first in 1274 was relatively small scale, but the second in 1281 posed a more serious threat and was only repelled by the fortunate appearance of a typhoon off the west coast of Tsushima, celebrated as ‘divine winds’ (kamikaze 神風) by Japanese commentators, which destroyed the Mongol navy.2

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Blog Western Europe

The Danish Medieval Aristocracy, A Fictional Law from the Viking Age and the Good of the Realm

Lars Kjaer

In the second half of the twelfth century the kingdom of Denmark, and the role of the secular elite, was utterly transformed. In this blog post I would like to look at a strange pseudo-legal text from the 1180s, Lex castrensis – ‘the law of the retainers’ – purporting to be a translation of a law code issued by the great viking ruler Cnut the Great (r. 1016-35), and what it reveals about the ways in which the aristocracy sought to adapt, and adapt to, the changing political circumstances, and how they imagined their role in ensuring the future welfare of the realm.

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Blog Western Europe

Urban politics and baronial power in fourteenth-century Sicily

Susannah Bain

Traditionally, the landed families that dominated the political landscape of fourteenth-century Sicily have been cast in the mould of the feuding, disruptive baron. At a weak point in the fortunes of the Sicilian monarchy, families such as the Palizzi and Rossi established their own bases of power distinct from the authority of the monarchy and fought with one another, worsening the predicaments of the already war-torn and plague-ridden island. To many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars, the disruption caused by the barons was one aspect of a much longer chain of unfortunate events which disrupted Sicily’s vitality, and paved the way for the economic and political difficulties that continue to define the island in the present day.  More recent studies of this period have taken a more nuanced approach to these barons, considering their influence within pan-Mediterranean political networks and how they established and exercised their political authority [i]. A key aspect of the political operation of these middling elites was their engagement with Sicily’s urban centres. Not only did cities provide revenue, but the nobles used them as a stage for displaying their political power, embedding themselves in existing political structures, and to present themselves (with mixed success) as upstanding and worthy leaders.

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Blog Western Europe

The barons of Ireland: the role of magnates in the governance of thirteenth-century Ireland

John Marshall, Trinity College Dublin/Institute of Historical Research, London

And the barons of Ireland,

Who were in this brawl,

All passed over to Normandy

And told the news to the king,

How the Flemings were slain

And the king of Scotland taken.

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News

New Research Group Affiliated to the Noblesse Oblige? Project

Conflicto, rebelión y revuelta social en la Baja Edad Media. Las Coronas de Aragón y Castilla (siglos XIII-XV) (CORE) is a joint research group now affiliated to the Noblesse Oblige? project.

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Leeds Round Table Report

At the Leeds International Medieval Congress 2023, we were delighted to have Maximilian Lau (Co-Investigator) and network participants Adam Simmons, Angus Russell, and Amira Bennison in conversation about the progress and aims of the research network, moderated by Gregory Lippiatt (Principal Investigator).

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Oxford Conference Report

The first and third Noblesse Oblige? conference was held at St Cross/Pusey House, University of Oxford, between the 25th and 27th May 2023. This event brought together fifteen scholars from around the world to discuss the role of non-royal élites in Japan, China, India, Russia, Syria, the Eastern Roman empire, the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa, England, and France. In addition to this incredible subject breadth, these scholars came from as far afield as Vancouver and Tokyo, and it was heartening to see a broad range of attendees from around the UK as well. We had a good number of associate members, our supervisory board members, and much interest from wider histories faculties. More than one senior professor told us they would merely put their head around the door for a paper and then ended up staying all day, which we take as a massive vote of confidence in the project, and in the calibre of our speakers!

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Conference Programme – Register for Attendance

The Noblesse Oblige? conference programme is now finalised, and there are limited spaces for other attendees to join us in Oxford between the 25th and 27th May.