To Mainz and Augsburg: FLAG Workshop II meets in Germany

Mainz: The Old Cathedral (foreground) and St Martin’s Cathedral

Late medieval urban government was under discussion through the main project themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’.

On 6 and 7 October FLAG hosted its second international workshop, a gathering in person at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz. The main purpose of the workshop was for the project team to share working drafts of publications, and to hear insights and input from a panel of commentators and round-table participants. Following the event a group of FLAG team members visited Augsburg – long overdue as we had originally hoped a team meeting there would have been a first gathering back in 2020!

Workshop underway in Mainz

The papers presented in advance for discussion addressed FLAG’s examination of urbanitas as a focus for comparison between Augsburg and Aberdeen, and explored the digital methods we are using. The discussions around the papers highlighted the importance of bringing Scottish and German historiography into new dialogue, which is also one of the goals of FLAG.

On the morning of the 6th we were treated to a guided tour by excavation director Dr. Guido Faccani of Mainz’s ‘Old Cathedral’ (today’s Lutheran Johanniskirche). This is the only cathedral building originating in the early middle ages in Germany, and it is the predecessor building of the Romanesque cathedral of St Martin.

Dr. Faccani leads the tour

On 6 October the programme included the following sessions:

Welcome and introduction – Professor Jörg Rogge and Dr. Jackson Armstrong

Dr. Regina Schäfer: On administrative structures and terminology in Augsburg (1368 to 1466). Commentators: Dr. Mathias Kluge, Augsburg; Dr. Dominique Adrian, Nancy.

Dr. William Hepburn: Compt, rekning and payment: The Economic Ideal of Urban Government in Late Medieval Aberdeen. Commentators: Dr. Eliza Hartrich, University of East Anglia; Professor Graeme Small, Durham.

Dr. Wim Peters & Dr. William Hepburn: Evaluation of digitised sources – digital hermeneutics. Commentators: Professor Jessica Nowak, Leipzig/Mainz; Dr. Benjamin Hitz, Basel.

Above: Images of Augsburg Cathedral (L), effigy of Abbot Heinrich Friess (d.1482), in the Basilica of SS. Ulrich and Afra (C), and the Perlachturm (R)

On 7 October the programme included the following sessions:

Professor Jörg Rogge & Dr. Jackson Armstrong: Urbanitas – Augsburg and Aberdeen in Comparison. Commentators: Prof. Gabriel Zeilinger, Erlangen-Nürnberg; Dr. Alan MacDonald, Dundee.

Roundtable: Professor Michael Brown, St. Andrews; Professor Edda Frankot, Universität Nord; Professor Jelle Haemers, Leuven; Professor Steffen Krieb, Akademie der Wissenschaften in Mainz.

On 8 and 9 October members of the FLAG team visited Augsburg, and included a visit to the Maximilian Museum which holds the fifteenth-century archive chest, and early modern wooden models of the medieval town house.

Jörg Rogge, Regina Schäfer, and William Hepburn with the archive chest of 1470 from the Augsburg town house, in the Maximilian Museum.

Above: detailed images of the model of the medieval town house of Augsburg, in the Maximilian Museum.

New perspectives on 15th-century towns: FLAG Workshop I meets in Aberdeen

‘Order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’ were among the themes explored in the first FLAG workshop on the topic of New perspectives on civic administration in fifteenth-century towns.

In-person workshop participants meet together and online

On 5 and 6 November FLAG hosted its first international workshop, a ‘hybrid’ in-person and online gathering in Aberdeen. This brought the project team together, alongside participants invited to share perspectives from their own work.

Some early arrivals in Scotland visit Dunottar Castle

The FLAG team presented the project’s challenge to identify shared aspects of ‘urbanitas’ in towns as different as Augsburg and Aberdeen. The themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’, and the digital tools and methods deployed in FLAG, were explored in the first two papers given by the project researchers.

The invitees then presented work-in-progress papers on their own work, covering aspects of medieval urban record keeping, and the interlinked themes of ‘order’, ‘budget’ and ‘unity’. An important goal of FLAG is to bring Scottish and German historiography into closer dialogue, and this was evident in the rich discussions that followed each paper. We were also treated to a display of Aberdeen council register volume one, by Phil Astley (City Archivist). Our hybrid format was a success, with the kind assistance of PhD student Ebba Strutzenbladh as facilitator. All participants followed the current measures for covid-19 mitigation. The programme outline follows below.

A full report on the workshop will be made available at the FLAG project website.

The meeting also allowed for some excursions around the formal planned sessions, including to Dunottar Castle, and Huntly Castle.

The walls of Huntly Castle welcomed some of the group

On 5 November the programme included the following sessions:

Welcome and introduction – Jörg Rogge (Mainz) and Jackson Armstrong (Aberdeen)

Wim Peters (Mainz) and William Hepburn (Aberdeen), Digital hermeneutics: methodology and first results from the Aberdeen ARO corpus

Regina Schäfer (Mainz), Talking about Law and Order in Augsburg

Amy Blakeway (St Andrews), War and the burghs, 1528–1550

Julia Bruch (Köln), Accounting Practices in Monasteries, Towns and Courts. Methodological Reflections

Dunottar Castle ruins

Elizabeth Gemmill (Oxford), The language of things: descriptions of objects and consumables in the burgh court records of late medieval Aberdeen

Jessica Bruns (Halle), Knowledge between pages. Book usage as a new form of administrative practice in late medieval Soest

Eliza Hartrich (UEA, Norwich), For the Comene Wele? Languages of Unity and Division in English and Irish Municipal Records, c. 1450-1500

Phil Astley (Aberdeen City & Aberdeenshire Archives) – viewing of Aberdeen Council Register volume from City Archives

Some FLAG visitors outside Huntly Castle

On 6 November the programme included the following sessions:

Jens Klingner (ISGV, Dresden), Texts and transmission. City books and account books from late medieval Dresden

Andrew Simpson (Edinburgh), Brieves in the Burgh Records of Aberdeen, ca.1400-1500: Some Preliminary Thoughts

Christian Speer (Halle), Are town books reliable witnesses of the past? Critical considerations on the categories “note“, “transcript” and “fair copy” based on the Libri civitatis and Libri obligationum of Görlitz in the 14th and 15th century

The workshop was held in the Craig Suite at the Sir Duncan C. Rice Library, University of Aberdeen. The crisp November weather offered a sunny treat to participants, some of whom who also took up the kind offer of a visit to see the Kirk of St Nicholas.

One of the medieval effigies in the Kirk of St Nicholas

Following the end of the workshop the sun came out for a visit to King’s College Chapel, and St Machar’s Cathedral, while others went to see the Dons lose to the Steelmen, before carrying on to hear Public Service Broadcasting play at the Music Hall!

St Machar’s Cathedral under a rainbow

Who Killed David Dun? Home Version

Twine game

 

By William Hepburn

In 2017 I designed an event called ‘Who Killed David Dun?’ at the first Granite Noir festival. At the event I presented a fictional murder mystery narrative based on historical evidence from the Aberdeen Council Registers. The twist was that the narrative was a piece of fiction where audience choices, decided by majority vote, guided the story, a bit like the recent ‘Bandersnatch’ episode of Black Mirror on Netflix and sharing one of its sources of inspiration – the interactive adventure books of the 1980s and 1990s such as the Fighting Fantasy series.

The story was built using the interactive fiction tool Twine. However, the game was made in a bespoke fashion for a live setting and consisted of a framework of choices on Twine shown on a projector, a script of the all the narrative branches read by me as the audience progressed through the story and paper handouts for the audience containing extracts from the medieval Aberdeen Council Registers. I have now integrated these elements so that the story can be played on a computer or (hopefully!) mobile device. The only element of the original event not carried over is a series of transcription challenges the audience had to pass to progress the narrative.

The game can be played in your web browser here.