Medieval and Historiographical Essays: In Honor of James Westfall Thompson

Medieval and Historiographical Essays: In Honor of James Westfall Thompson

Medieval and Historiographical Essays: In Honor of James Westfall Thompson

Medieval and Historiographical Essays: In Honor of James Westfall Thompson

Excerpt

The role of the academic historian is a dual if not a bifurcated one: he teaches and he writes. That his fame outside his own institution depends usually upon his publications alone is regrettable, for in an art so ephemeral as is the historian's the channels of influence radiating from his classroom may cut deeper and run longer than those emanating from his most scholarly book. Perhaps it is because it honors an oft-neglected phase of the historian's career, rather than from any virtue inherent in its literary form or any intrinsic utility, that the Festschrift enjoys so wide a vogue today. Within its covers as nowhere else can disciple publicly render homage to master for inspiration and training received.

For more than the two-score years conventionally allotted to the professor, James Westfall Thompson has, at Chicago and California, taught with effectiveness and distinction. Rigorously but sympathetically he has initiated the seminar student into the mysteries of medieval documents, and he has lectured to large classes with lucidity and with a dramatic touch which he would deprecate but which perennially draws the former graduate back once again to see Otto of Wittelsbach's sword flash at Besançon or to hear Louis the Debonnaire's wail of contrition at Attigny. It was an appreciation of these qualities of the teacher as well as of the ripe personality of the man which led a group of Professor Thompson's former students to plan this volume of historical studies in his honor. The initiative in the project was taken by Professor E. N. Anderson, who collected the seventeen essays which appear below; when he was called from Chicago to another university, the more prosaic task of seeing the book through the press fell by default to myself.

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