Paleography and Pamplona — a project overview

paleography2.jpg Hi, I’m Lu Ann Homza from W & M’s Department of History.  I’m the “director” of this research project & should probably explain why Eric, Amanda, and Kim are blogging about Pamplona, the deciphering of old handwriting [called paleography] and the Inquisition. My current book project centers on the last great witch-hunt in Spain between 1609-14; for the last three years, I’ve been working in three archives in Pamplona which hold relevant sources for that project. On my last trip in May 2008, I suddenly thought how fabulous it would be to drag some undergraduates to Pamplona, too: the archives are mostly empty, the archival staff mostly appears to be under the age of 25, and crucially, the manuscripts therein are a goldmine for anyone interested in early modern Spanish history.

I then recalled Eric, Amanda, and Kim: all three had been in my Spanish Golden Age class in Spring ’08. Eric was working on a potential honors project involving a Spanish bishop from the sixteenth century. Kim and Amanda were interested in such matters as the Spanish navy, women, and religious culture (not all clustered together, though.) All three were exceptionally good readers and writers, and they all spoke and read Spanish. I consequently wrote and asked if they’d be interested in a trip over Spring Break ’09. They said they were, and so here we are, learning how to read handwriting from the period 1540-1650, and waiting to see whether the Mellon Foundation will fund this experiment. Once Amanda, Eric, and Kim know that they can read the sources, the next question is what sort of texts they will find to analyze: court cases from the viceroy’s judical system, court cases from the bishop’s judical system, censors’ reports about contraband books on British ships, testimony from suspected witches or their accusers, and so on. The aim is to find a source, describe its contents, contextualize it, and assess its methodological and theoretical implications. These students will be presenting their findings on campus on March 28, 2009, at the first Medieval and Renaissance Studies Symposium on Undergraduate Research.

Click here to see an example of what they’re reading.

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