Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

Women, Family, and Society in Medieval Europe: Historical Essays, 1978-1991

Synopsis

Until his untimely death in 1991, David Herlihy, Professor of History at Brown University, was one of the most prolific and best-known American historians of the European Middle Ages. Author of books on the history of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy, Herlihy published, in 1978, his best-known work in collaboration with Christine Klapisch-Zuber, Les Toscans et leurs familles (Translated into English in 1985, and Italian in 1988). For the last dozen or so years of his life, Herlihy launched a series of ambitious projects, on the history ofwomen and the family, and on the collective behavior of social groups in medieval Europe. While he completed two important books - on the family (1985) and on women's work (1991) - he did not find the time to bring these other major projects to a conclusion. This volume contains essays he wrote after 1978. They convey a sense of the enormous intellectual energy and great erudition that characterized David Herlihy's scholarly career. They also chart a remarkable historian's intellectual trajectory, as he searched for new and better ways of asking a set of simple and basic questions about the history of the family, the institution within which the vast majority of Europeans spent so much of their lives. Because of his qualities as a scholar and a teacher, during his relatively brief career Herlihy was honored with Presidencies of the four major scholarly associations with which he was affiliated: the Catholic Historical Association, the Medieval Academy of America, the Renaissance Society of America,and the American Historical Association.

Excerpt

Early in October 1990, just a few months before his much too premature death in February 1991 when he had barely passed his sixtieth birthday, David Herlihy traveled from his home in Providence, Rhode Island to Pisa, there to receive the Premio Internazionale Galileo Galilei. Annually awarded by the Italian Rotary Clubs to a non-Italian scholar who made a distinguished contribution to an understanding of the Italian past, the Premio Galileo Galilei was one of a series of prestigious awards--among which perhaps the most notable was the Presidency of the American Historical Association--bestowed by the scholarly community upon Herlihy in recognition of his extraordinary scholarly career. At the time of his trip to Pisa, Herlihy was aware of the gravity of the illness which doctors had diagnosed only a few weeks earlier. It is perhaps this knowledge which explains the decidedly autobiographical tone of his comments during the solemn ceremony in the Aula Magna of the University of Pisa. His speech on that occasion was unusual and not quite true to his style. A prodigiously productive scholar, Herlihy had never tried to draw attention to himself. His personal trait which most often struck his colleagues and students was his bemused, understated, even diffident style. Whether in his classes, or in his writings, he had always focused readers' and students' attention onto sources and analytical problems. And always, especially when boldly presenting the hypotheses which became the trademark of his article- or book-length studies, he had pointed his interlocutors' attention to the fragility and provisional nature of his findings. Uncharacteristically, if only momentarily, in Pisa, Herlihy changed the subject matter and adopted a different tone. The subject matter . . .

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