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Medieval Association of the Pacific Constitution

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Editors of Chronica

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Our illustration depicts the initial words of the Vulgate version of the Gospel of Luke, "Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem quae in nobis completae sunt rerum" ("Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us"). 

(Initial by Kathryn Finter)

Although the things accomplished among us in the Medieval Association of the Pacific are not so momentous as those recounted in the gospels and although not many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the history of the MAP, nevertheless, an overview of MAP's goals and accomplishments reveals a parallel, even if less significant, record of collective efforts and shifting emphases contributing to an ongoing consistent enterprise: providing a western locus for interdisciplinary conversations about the Middle Ages. For the past 32 years, although most conferences met in California, a growing number of medievalists have traveled to MAP meetings as far north as Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia, as far west and south as Hawaii, and as far east as Tucson, Arizona.

MAP came into being in 1966 at the University of California at Davis as an outgrowth of an interdisciplinary conference called "Artistic and Intellectual Relationships in the Middle Ages." At the Annual Conference in 1981, James J. Murphy described MAP's origins in "Remarks on the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Founding of the Medieval Association of the Pacific":

A motley Davis group of medievalists calling itself the Medieval Studies Colloquium came up with what proved to be an ingenious financial plan for a conference. Each of 12 departmental chairmen was asked to contribute only $50.00 each--who could resist so paltry a sum? Then the Dean, faced with the unheard-of challenge of 12 departmental chairs agreeing on anything, consented to match that $600. The Chancellor's Office did the same. So the 1966 "Medieval Studies Conference," as it was called, started out with the princely sum of $1800.00.

That first meeting had six speakers (Jerome Taylor, Lynn White, Jr., Robert W. Ackerman, Father Lawrence K. Shook, David Wright, and Brother S. Edmund), a bibliographical meeting facilitated by Jerry Murphy and Richard Schoeck, and a planning session called the "Organizational Meeting for the Medieval Association of Northern California."   Instead of the 40 medievalists the planning committee anticipated for the conference, 120 attended, and 82 signed a sheet passed around at the organizational meeting, where Stanley B. Greenfield and Sigmund Eisner convinced everyone that they should form an association drawing membership not just from Northern California but from the west more generally.

The first issue of Chronica, published fall 1967, articulated MAP's purpose: "to facilitate studies in medieval culture and history," and Jerry Murphy reported that the original plan to name the new organization "Medieval Symposium" had been abandoned in favor of our present title to avoid confusion with other medieval conferences then coming into existence. Loy Bilderback's article "The Computer as an Aid to Control of Medieval Bibliography" provided the main substance of that first issue, marking early recognition of the oncoming "Information Age."  In February 1968, the University of San Francisco hosted MAP's first Annual Conference. By 1969, when Chronica printed MAP's membership roster for the second time, members' home institutions were in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York, as well as British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. Since then the MAP officers and Advisory Council have made sure that the annual meeting moved north, south, east, and central so that no one geographic locale dominates the organization.

Over the years, MAP has been kept alive through the dedicated service of its elected officers: a President, a Vice President, and a Secretary/Treasurer, and twelve councillors, who serve three-year terms staggered so that each year four new councillors replace four outgoing ones. Each president serves two years and then is succeeded by the Vice President. Until 1971, the President was also de facto editor of Chronica; in 1972 the position of editor was added to the list of officers. Over the years, James J. Murphy, Dennis Dutschke, Patrick Gallagher, Phillip C. Boardman, Bradford B. Blaine, Thomas F. Head, Scott L. Waugh, and Kevin Padraic Roddy have supervised Chronica's spring and fall issues, informing the membership about the annual meetings and other business of the Association.

Chronica 5 (fall 1969) announced on facing pages the schedule for the third Annual Conference and its editorial policy, which specified not only that Chronica would include "'Studia Generalia,' reports from campuses as submitted by a number of campus correspondents," and a membership roster but also that each issue would print "one or more articles dealing with general medieval concerns." These early issues feature articles by L.K. Shook, Jerome Taylor, Lynn White, Jr., Larry D. Benson, and John Leyerle and a series of reports on various medieval studies programs before modulating to the current policy of printing the program for the annual meeting in lieu of an article.

Since its inception, MAP has always had a very close association with the Medieval Academy of America. Beginning in 1980, every three or four years the Medieval Academy has held its annual meeting in the West conjointly with MAP, most recently at Stanford University in 1998. MAP members have also been actively involved in the Medieval Academy's standing committee on regional associations, CARA. Thus, for instance, George H. Brown has served as President of MAP and Chair of CARA, and Nancy van Deusen, who was President of MAP from 1996-97 has just been appointed the new Chair of CARA.

Perhaps the most important contributors to MAP, though, are the medievalists who give papers at the annual conferences, attend the annual conferences, and host the annual conferences at their home institutions. Murphy gave a sense of the intellectual excitement and fun that characterizes MAP meetings in his address to the Association in 1981, recounting that at the first Annual meeting at the University of San Francisco "R. W. Southern have us the entire intellectual history of the middle ages from seven lines of notes scribbled on the back of half an envelope." The following year, at UC Riverside, Murphy recounts, "the eager sponsors solicited so much free alcohol from donors that at the business meeting both beer and mead were served, and . . . the business meeting was followed by a cocktail hour, and. . . the distinguished after-dinner speaker Professor Joseph Strayer spoke to what was by then probably the most undistinguished and most incompetent audience ever assembled." (Murphy then cited Proverbs 11:25, Guibert of Nogent, and Ecclesiastes 34:9 to contextualize the experience at Riverside.)  Not willing to end his celebration of specific local meetings on such a note, Murphy concluded his account of memorable annual meetings by naming the 1973 Conference at Stanford University, where Program Chair George Brown offered members a choice called Deus et machina: either a Latin Mass in the Gregorian style or a session on computers.

Standing out as especially memorable in my mind are the 1981 Conference in Victoria, the joint meetings with the Medieval Academy at the University of British Columbia (1990) and the University of Arizona (1993), and the 1997 meeting in Hawaii, where the Councillors were honored at the opening reception with leis. Plenary lectures have featured a variety of scholars over the years, including David Herlihy from Brown University in 1987 at the University of Oregon; Aron Gurevich from the Mocow Academy of Sciences in 1989 at UCLA; Marie Borroff from Yale University in 1992 at UC Irvine; Robert Lerner from Nortwestern University and John Boswell from Yale in 1994 at the University of Washington, Seattle; Derek Pearsall from Harvard University in 1996 at the University of San Diego; and J. J. G. Alexander from New York University, R. R. Davies from Oxford University, and Roberta Frank from the University of Toronto in 1998 at Stanford University.

At the 1999 MAP Business Meeting in Claremont, California, MAP members approved a motion that the MAP Officers and Council work out details for awarding an annual prize for the best student paper presented at a MAP annual conference.  A motion from the floor that an endowment be established to support the prize also passed, and during the year the Treasurer received several contributions.  Anyone interested in contributing should send a check, with a notation that it is for the Founders' Prize endowment, to the MAP Treasurer:

Mary-Lyon Dolezal
Department of Art History
University of Oregon
Eugene, OR  97403-5229

The 2001 annual meeting at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, was, for the first time, not only conjoint with the Medieval Academy but also with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  In addition to the plenary address by outgoing Medieval Academy President Joan Ferrante, who spoke on "Licet longinquis regionibus corpore separati. . .: Letters as a Link in and to the Middle Ages," the conference featured a plenary address by Paul Brand, All Souls College, Oxford ("Cui in vita sua contradicere non potuit: Husbands, Wives, and Power within the Family in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century England") and a plenary session on Resources for Medieval Studies: Archaeology as a Metadiscipline sponsored by CARA, the Medieval Academy standing committee on Centers and Regional Associations.

If you would like to contribute to this "History of MAP," please send your recollections or documents to Phyllis R. Brown.


bullet Medieval Association of the Pacific Constitution
bullet Past Presidents
bullet Editors of Chronica
bullet Locales of Meetings