Approaches to Medieval Bureaucracies: A Roundtable

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Special Session, 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, 9-12 May 2019

Close to 100 years ago, T. F. Tout was able to claim in his magisterial six-volume study of England’s letter-writing offices that the administrative history of thirteenth- and fourteenth-century England was "largely unwritten.” Within the last ten or twenty years, however, historians have undertaken socio-cultural studies of medieval bureaucracy and its personnel, moving from prosopographical and biographical sketches to nuanced examinations of the experience and challenges of bureaucratic employment throughout Europe. Bureaucratic procedures are better understood, and literary critics have explored the literature some bureaucratic figures produced, like John of Salisbury, Walter Map, Thomas Hoccleve, and Galbert of Bruges, questioning its relationship to scribal culture and function as a psychological, social, and financial coping mechanism. These studies allow us to, in A. L. Brown’s words, "add flesh to these bones and see these men as personalities.” 

Few extensive studies of bureaucratic culture exist for specific regions, and no monographs or essay collections have attempted to survey this topic. There exists as yet no broadly accepted definition for what “bureaucracy” was in the Middle Ages, no consensus on appropriate terminology, no theory for its place in medieval society. This roundtable welcomes participants from any discipline and geographical focus to contribute notes on current research, scholarly priorities, and the state of the field regarding any level of medieval institutional administration, including municipal or parochial. How might study of bureaucracies and bureaucratic culture contribute to other emerging scholarly interests, such as medieval identity politics, globalism, affect theory, medieval informatics, or masculinity studies? Discussions about bringing medieval bureaucracy and poltical theory into the college classroom are also welcome.

Please send abstracts or statements of interest of up to one page for 10-minute roundtable presentations, along with a Participant Information Form ( to Danielle Bradley ( by 15 September 2018.  Inquiries also welcome.