Natalie Zemon Davis Annual Lectures (2011) William Chester Jordan: Men at the Center: Three Biographical Studies of the Court Circle of Louis IX of France
In the fascinating Women on the Margins by Natalie Zemon Davis, scholars and students have learned how people lacking political, social and economic authority or resources in pre-modern Europe nevertheless lived fascinating lives and helped shape the wider world to a degree quite under-appreciated in previous historiography. This work has been tremendously influential on me in my research on issues like Jewish-Christian relations and women and credit. My hope is that it has also enhanced my approach to the study of the men who were at the very center of the political, social and economic world which I have also devoted so much effort to try to understand. Taking Professor Davis' biographical approach in Women on the Margins as an inspiration, I offer three portraits of men who were at the center of governance in thirteenth-century France, men who strove in the shadow of King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to impose a regime of holiness on the realm. I treat them as individuals, but in a sense they are also types: Robert of Sorbon, a churchman; Etienne Boileau, a bourgeois; and Simon de Nesle, an aristocrat. Robert was the founder of the Sorbonne. Etienne Boileau was the prévôt or royal administrator of Paris; and Simon de Nesle was twice co-regent of the kingdom.
William Chester Jordan is Dayton-Stockton Professor of History and Chairman of the History Department of Princeton University. He has been Director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies (1994 to 1999). He is the author of several books: Louis IX and the Challenge of the Crusade: A Study in Rulership (1979); From Servitude to Freedom: Manumission in the Sénonais in the Thirteenth Century (1986); The French Monarchy and the Jews from Philip Augustus to the Last Capetians (1989); Women and Credit in Pre-Industrial and Developing Societies (1993); The Great Famine: Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century (1996); Europe in the High Middle Ages (2001), and Unceasing Strife, Unending Fear: Jacques de Thérines and the Freedom of the Church in the Age of the Last Capetians (2005). His most recent book is A Tale of Two Monasteries: Westminster and Saint-Denis in the Thirteenth Century (2009). In 2009-10 Professor Jordan served as President of the American Catholic Historical Association. In April 2011 he was elected President of the Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America.