Kalamazoo 2



Perhaps I ought to start with a word about Western Michigan
University. It is an up and down sort of place. The dorms
contain the registration center, the book exhibit, a number
of meeting rooms, and rooms for a fair number of participants.
These dorms are on a hillside. One walks *down* to a roadway,
across a small lagoon complete with fountains and, occasionally,
ducks and swans, and then *up* a rather steep hill to several
of the buildings containing meeting rooms.

And then there are other buildings a bit further along, also
used as venues.

Thursday morning found me on the way to the furthest building
(Bernhard) for the first meeting of De Re Militari[1]. The
first paper was by Florin Curta (University of Florida) who
has, almost single-handedly, rescued the history of south-
eastern medieval history from its neglect in the US.[2]
His talk was titled "The Stirrup Controversy Revisited:
The Earliest Avar Stirrups". Because of the stirrup controversy[3]
the talk was very well attended. The gist of Curta's paper
was that recent archaeology has moved the date of the earliest
stirrups found in Europe back 50 to 100 years and makes the
first users of stirrups in Europe the Avars.

This is seemingly a rather boring point, but it does tend to
reawaken the notion that "shock combat", in which a lancer can
brace himself in his seat on horseback far better with stirrups
than with any other device. I suspect that more will be heard
about this in the future.

There were other papers in this session. The only other one
of major interest to me was Brian Price's (University of North
Texas) work titled "Medieval Fechtbucher, Judicial Duels, and
the Laws of War: Morphology of Trial by Combat and the
Production of German Fighting Treatises". The title provides
a far better abstract of the paper than anything I could write.


I had lunch in the Bernhard cafeteria with Rich Ring, known
to many here as the Master of Ceremonies at the Pseudo-Society
session on Saturday night. In real life Rich is the "list
owner" of mediev-l, the medieval mailing list whereas I am
only the list manager. We discussed various problems involving
the list. List members can expect announcements shortly.

After lunch I headed back down the hill to the Dorms where
there was a fairly unusual session featuring, as far as I
know, the first father-son back-to-back papers ever at K'zoo.

The session was titled "The Medieval German Empires: Carolingian
and Ottonian Continuity I." The speakers were Charlie Bowlus
(University of Arkansas, Emeritus), Bernie Bachrach (University
of Minnesota), and David Bachrach (University of New Hampshire).

Bowlus's paper was titled "The Carlolingians and the Origins
of Medieval Germany". The paper really dealt with Charlemagne's
invasion of Italy in 773 AD. To do this he had to cross the
Alps. But the passes were controlled by others, mainly smallish
principalities allied with Desiderius, the Lombard King.

How Charlemagne managed to get through the Alpine passes against
what should have been serious opposition has never been fully
understood. Bowlus's contribution was a serious discussion
about how Charlemagne's diplomacy coupled with his well-organized
"special forces" units managed to take and hold the passes.

The rest, as they say, is history. Desiderius was deposed, and
the Lombards never really regained their former power.


[1] De Re Militari is, to quote its web pages:

De Re Militari is an international scholarly association
established to foster and develop interest in the study of
military affairs and warfare in the Middle Ages and the
Early Modern Period. Our society publishes the Journal of
Medieval Military History and organizes academic conferences
focusing on medieval warfare.

It is of course open to all. The web pages at
<http://www.deremilitari.org/> are excellent and recommended
to anybody interested in medieval military history.

[2] See <http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/fcurta/>

[3] See <http://scholar.chem.nyu.edu/tekpages/texts/strpcont.html>

--
--- Paul J. Gans

.