Sebastian Sobecki: Personable Pirates: Evidence from Fifteenth-Century English Texts?

Emily Sohmer Tai: Microhi/stories: Discovering Pirates in Fact and Fiction

Szijártó, Joyner, and others have seen a distinction between the methodologies of microhistory, the case study, and the historical narrative.  Unlike compilers of the case study or authors of more traditional historical narratives,  the author of the microhistory searches for “answers to large questions in small places.”[1]

In this talk, I will nonetheless argue that the study of maritime theft, or piracy, as practiced in seas of medieval Europe, braids together these three approaches, given the episodic manner in which maritime theft is often documented for this period, and the need for those damaged in pirate attacks to elicit sympathy for a claim to compensation or what I call restitution.  The subjective, narrative qualities that may be discerned in the medieval document record mirror presentations of maritime theft and pirate actors in medieval fictional works such as Boccaccio’s Decameron (1375) and Martorell and de Galba’s Tirant lo Blanc (1490), as well as hagiographical accounts of pirate attack in which maritime attackers are typed by categories of confession and political loyalty.  Microhistories of medieval piracy, shaped by the partisan perspectives of time and place, thus expose a wealth of evidence with which to consider the broader questions of how emerging concepts of identity shaped the operation of law and commerce in the maritime world of medieval Europe.

[1] Thomas Robisheaux, “Microhistory Today: A Roundtable Discussion,”  The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 47, no. 1 (2017): 9.

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― Preliminary Keynote Lecture Titles