Deciphering Secrets: Unlocking the Manuscripts of Medieval Spain
Our modern, global world is often
presented as an unprecedented era of exceptional religious, political, and
cultural enlightenment. Certainly we continue to experience tumultuous events
and problematic relations, but many of us believe our world exists along a trajectory of human progress. This
course is about doubt, questioning, and complications. It opens with the
proposition that our present-day world is neither exceptional nor special, but
rather is the beneficiary and the slave of history.
this Course: The Challenges of Co-Existence
Serving as citizen-scholars, students will
learn about the positive and negative elements of inter-religious co-existence
in Plasencia, Spain, and more importantly, contribute to an international
scholarly effort known as the Revealing
Cooperation and Conflict Project.
Together, we turn to a historical era that
stumbled through the challenges of cultural and religious intermixing and
co-existence. From the saved memories of Catholic churchmen, Jewish noble and
merchant families, as well as medieval lords and knight clans, students will
study and contribute to an effort to revive long lost interactive and
cooperative networks of people in Plasencia, Spain. And among the most textured, fascinating elements of our investigation is the history of Spain's Jewish community, or the Sepharad.
For example, students will evaluate the Spanish
anti-Jewish pogroms of 1391 that led
to the large scale conversion of Jews to Christianity (forced and voluntary). By
documenting such incidents and the interaction of noteworthy families,
religious organizations, political networks, and economic partnerships, we will
reconstruct the quintessential cultural dynamics that underlay the foundation
of the Castilian world and impacted the broader European continent.
Within the documents that students
transcribe, we will encounter historical persons such as Zanfines Capa, the Jewish
chainmail maker, who was a close associate of the Carvajal family of knights.
In this specific case, the Catholic Carvajal clan and their compatriots in the
cathedral, the Santa Maria clan (formerly the Jewish Ha-Levis), leased
church-owned properties to Jewish families (like the chainmail makers) at the expense of
their political competitors, the Catholic Estuñiga family (the Counts of
Plasencia and Bejar). In this event, competing and overlapping political and
religious jurisdictions are revealed as well as vibrant Catholic-Jewish
alliances that sought to expel interloping secular lords.
In sum, we will evaluate the lives of
Jews, Christians, and Muslims, in a vibrant fifteenth century Spanish community
on the edge of incredible events – the consolidation of Spain under Queen
Isabel and King Ferdinand, the encounter with the New World, and the defeat of
the Islamic Kingdom of Granada Spain and the expulsion of the Jews from Iberia.
this specific course, students will: (1) study the history of medieval Spain and the community of Plasencia,
(2) explore the world of medieval manuscripts and texts, (3) learn to read
historical documents, and (4) transcribe and evaluate these documents.
The primary source that students will be
transcribing in this course is Book Five (1499-1513) of the Capitulary Acts of
the Cathedral of Plasencia, which is
a census-like accounting document that details the activities and business
transactions of the cathedral. Most students will work with the 19th
century transcription of the original 15th century text. Students who wish to challenge themselves will be granted the opportunity to work with
the original late fourteenth/fifteenth century text.
View the high resolution promotional video -- with English and Spanish subtitles.