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Medieval historian William Chester Jordan, Ph.D., 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 delivered on Thursday, March 10, 7:30 p.m., in the Academic Center, D-001. Jordan was previously slated to speak at Lycoming in March of 2020, but the event was postponed due to Covid-19 concerns.
Jordan’s lecture will center on how medieval Europe dealt with the influx of migrant laborers throughout the continent. According to Jordan, Northwestern Europe developed what would be a long-lasting practice and a relatively stable geographical pattern of rural labor migrancy by the late twelfth century. Although the system was essential for economic prosperity and growth, it was also fraught with social conflict, involving as it did the penetration of small conservative communities by groups of workers, who were essentially strangers. The lecture addresses the issue of the policing of these workers.
“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. He served as chair of the history department from 2008 to 2017.
The focus of Jordan’s studies ranges from the 6th 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 thirteenth and early fourteenth century.
The Ewing Lecture Series was established in 1973 to honor Robert H. Ewing for his 27 years of teaching and service at Lycoming College. A revered teacher and friend of the College, his life was characterized by a deep religious faith, a passion for history, and a strong devotion to liberal arts education. These qualities touched the lives of all who encountered him and led his many friends to establish this annual Lecture Series to bring distinguished historians to campus to share their work with the Lycoming community. Past lecturers include Jane Dailey, Ph.D., Peter John Brobst, Ph.D., and Diane Sommerville, Ph.D., amongst others.