HomeBook-keeping and book-keepers: a new approach to court culture in medieval and modern times

HomeBook-keeping and book-keepers: a new approach to court culture in medieval and modern times

Book-keeping and book-keepers: a new approach to court culture in medieval and modern times

Comptes et comptables : une nouvelle approche de la culture de cour aux époques médiévale et moderne

Project for a special thematic issue of the online journal Comptabilités

Projet de numéro thématique pour la revue en ligne Comptabilités

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Published on Friday, May 29, 2015


This call for papers invites historians of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period to consider the role played by accounts and other types of pragmatic literacy, from the way they are produced to the way they are used, in the functionning of the court in all its aspects, as a place for governing, socialising and representing oneself.



The aim of this call for papers is to gather court historians who consider the documents they use not simply as sources, but also as scientific objects to be explored for their own sake. In fact, influenced by anthropology, the analysis of all kinds of written records has become an important research field for medieval and early modern historians.

From lists and inventories to accountancy and book-keeping, these documents have opened up new access to princely ruling and administrative organisation. From the 13th century onwards, aulic institutions became more sophisticated in order to manage growing courts, and started to produce more and more written records they intended to keep. What is at stake in these documentary practices and archive production is crucial: the establishment of court society as one of the main tools in the system of princely representation. Moreover, these documents gave the court greater legitimacy amongst the other political institutions. In this regard, they are part of the long-term « modern » state making process – on which we have chosen to focus for the period extending from the 13th century “documentary turn” until the establishment of civil lists.

We would like to draw attention to three main topics to be considered so as to understand how pragmatic literacy was produced and, at the same time, how this production affected a social and political environment where the spoken word remained essential.

First, the uses these documents were intended for. Originally, inventories and accounting books were not management tools, but conceived as judicial evidence. It would be very interesting to explore how, through the process of accountability, they started being used for management purposes – e.g. to keep track of money, objects, etc. – and how they were transformed to meet these new usages. However, their function as long-term memorials of the personal and ritual foundations provided by aulic institutions to princely power remains essential throughout the period.

Secondly, it would be crucial to consider how and by whom the accounts where produced. Was the account keeping considered as a court function and dignity? How did the book-keeper relate to the other household officers? How integrated was the book-keeper in court, and how did he participate in the culture elaborated in court?

Finally, even if these administrative documents are often considered as unbiased sources, they convey a peculiar representation of the court and of the prince’s body. On the one hand, we would like to understand how the material, graphical and cognitive structure of the documents built up this representation. On the other, we would like to examine how these documents constructed and reflected the relationships inside and around court. Taking this point of view, we would like to study how the accounts stage the materiality and the value of the « things/objects » that linked people within the court network.

Submission guidelines

Publication languages: English and French

Deadline for abstract submission: 15 June 2015 (2500 signs)

Deadline for article submission: 15 December 2015

Contacts and scientific coordination

  • Florence Berland (UCP/AGORA) – berland.florence@gmail.com
  • Pauline Lemaigre-Gaffier (UVSQ/DYPAC) – plemaigregaffier@gmail.com


  • Monday, June 15, 2015


  • cour, État, comptabilité, écriture pragmatique


  • Pauline Lemaigre-Gaffier
    courriel : pauline [dot] lemaigre-gaffier [at] uvsq [dot] fr
  • Florence Berland
    courriel : berland [dot] florence [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Florence Berland
    courriel : berland [dot] florence [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Book-keeping and book-keepers: a new approach to court culture in medieval and modern times », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, May 29, 2015, https://doi.org/10.58079/spm

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