CALL FOR PAPERS: Administrative accountability in the later Middle Ages: Records, procedures, and their societal impact

Bucharest, 16-17 November 2018

The emergence of new types of financial records, the creation of institutional procedures, and the birth of a bureaucratic corps in a society in which accountability had been largely social and moral represent key developments in the history of the later Middle Ages. The colloquium will explore the multifaceted reality of administrative accountability in Western Europe, c. 1200-1450. Because the renewed interest in the subject makes methodological exchanges all the more timely, the colloquium will provide a venue for testing new approaches to the sources. Special attention will be given to underexplored archival documents, such as the castellany accounts (computi) of late-medieval Savoy, and to topics that have hitherto received less attention, such as the social impact of institutional consolidation. Comparisons with better-known texts, such as the English pipe rolls, are also encouraged.

The colloquium is organised in the frame of the European Research Council Starting Grant no. 638436, ‘Record-keeping, fiscal reform, and the rise of institutional accountability in late-medieval Savoy: a source-oriented approach’ (University of Bucharest)

Proposals for 30-minute papers are invited on topics including:
  • the institutional dialogue between the central and local administration
  • the impact of administrative and fiscal reform on local communities
  • accounting practices and the auditing of financial records
  • the cultural underpinnings of medieval accountability
  • prosopography: background and career of administrators, from auditing clerks to castellans
  • methodological advances, from manuscript studies to sociological frameworks
  • the transfer of administrative models across medieval Europe

The colloquium papers, which will collected in an edited volume published with an international academic press, should reflect original, unpublished research. The authors will be given the opportunity to revise their contributions for publication.

Papers can be presented in English or French; if delivered in French, it is the author’s responsibility to have the paper translated into English for publication.

For inquiries, contact Ionut Epurescu-Pascovici or Roberto Biolzi

Proposals of circa 300 words, outlining the source material, methodology, and anticipated findings, should be emailed to Ionut Epurescu-Pascovici by 30 March 2018.

The organisers will provide three nights hotel accommodation and help defray travel expenses.

Project Description:

This project focuses on an unjustly neglected corpus of sources, the fiscal accounts (computi) of the castellanies, or basic administrative units, of late-medieval Savoy. It deploys a holistic model of analysis that can fully capitalize on the unusually detailed computi in order to illuminate some of the key developments in late-medieval history, from administrative and fiscal reforms and the progress of institutional accountability to the socioeconomic decline and recovery from the late-thirteenth to the late-fourteenth century. More broadly, research into these topics aims to contribute to our understanding of the late-medieval origins of European modernity.

The advances of pragmatic literacy, record-keeping, and auditing practices are analysed with the aid of social scientific theories of practice. By comparing the Savoyard computi with their sources of inspiration, notably the Anglo-Norman pipe rolls, the project aims to highlight the creative adaptation of imported administrative models, thereby contributing to our knowledge of institutional transfers in European history. The project proposes an inclusive frame of analysis in which the computi are read against the evidence from enfeoffment charters, castellany surveys (extente), and the records of direct taxation (subsidia).

The project focuses on a sample of castellanies from the heartland of the Savoyard principality, analysed by the Principal Investigator. Two postdoctoral researchers will study the records of a few other castellanies from outside the bailiwick of Savoy as test cases for the Principal Investigator’s analysis.