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Historian to speak at Ewing Lecture Series

Medieval historian William Chester Jordan, of Princeton University, will speak at this year’s annual Ewing Lecture Series. His talk, entitled “The Harvest Indeed is Great, but the Labourers are Few: Strangers in the Medieval Countryside” will be at 7:30 p.m. March 18 in the Trogner Presentation Room of the Krapf Gateway Center. This event is free and open to the public.

The lecture centers on how medieval Europe dealt with the influx of migrant laborers throughout the continent. According to Jordan, migrant laborers were often recruited by work gang bosses and travelled through the medieval countryside, typically under the authority of these bosses, who acted in the name of rural monasteries, village councils, estate managers and lords. Jordan says the authority of the work gang bosses implied responsibilities of a considerable weight, which evoked the very nature of the migrants’ precarious status. It was incumbent on them to help police the strangers who constituted their work forces and to accompany them from place to place until they finished their employment.

“Even if some of the same laborers appeared year after year and became somewhat familiar to the inhabitants of any number of local villages, they remained largely outsiders to the communities they served,” said Jordan. “An attempt to recover the social consequences of the presence of these strangers in medieval rural society is at the heart of the lecture.”

Jordan is the Dayton-Stockton professor of history at Princeton University. He was previously the director of the medieval studies program at Princeton and, from 1994 to 1999, served as the director of the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies. Jordan served as chair of the history department from 2008 to 2017.

The focus of Jordan’s studies ranges from the sixth to 14th centuries in medieval Europe. He has authored multiple books, including “The Apple of His Eye: Converts from Islam in the Reign of Louis IX,” “From England to France: Felony and Exile in the High Middle Ages,” and “Men at the Center: Redemptive Governance under Louis IX.”

Jordan is a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was recently awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University. Jordan’s current research focuses on migrant labor in the 13th and early 14th century.

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