Call for Papers

Legal Diffusion in the Late Medieval Church :
Local Ecclesiastical Legislation, 1215-1500

Metz (France), June 13-14, 2019

     This conference will mark the conclusion to a two-year Franco-American collaborative research project led by Rowan Dorin (Stanford University) and Christine Barralis (Université de Lorraine) from 2017-2019. This collaboration has been supported by the FACE Foundation (Thomas Jefferson Fund), by the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and by the Université de Lorraine.

Scope and Aims
     The aim of this conference is to study the diffusion,exchange, creation, transformation, and resilience of ecclesiastical norms in medieval France and its neighbors from 1215-1500, in particular across diocesan and provincial jurisdictional boundaries. The underlying research project focuses on medieval France and nearby territories (modern France, Flanders, Switzerland, northern Italy), but the concluding gathering offers an opportunity to open up the geographical field to all of Catholic Europe, in a comparative perspective.
     Over the last half-century, much scholarly attention has been devoted to the dissemination of the church’s general law (as issued by popes and general councils) through synodal statutes and provincial canons. The topic of legal transfer and innovation across episcopal jurisdictions, however, as well as the modes and limits of such exchanges, has been explored mainly through the analysis of a handful of thirteenth-century Libri synodales. The importance of this topic remains accordingly unexplored for much of western Europe (in particular the southern and eastern parts of the kingdom of France) in the later Middle Ages. To what extent, however, did such ‘horizontal’ borrowings shape the creation and possible standardization of local legislation?
     This research project and its concluding conference aim to question the limits of normative centralization, the survival of local specificities, and the willingness of local authorities to embrace, resist, imitate, or innovate in the face of large-scale legislative activity. In a field that has long been dominated by a focus on the papally-driven general law of the church, our project draws attention to the dynamism of local lawgiving. Moreover, since local legislation was heavily shaped by local concerns, the closer study of its development and diffusion promises to shed new light on the evolution of religious and social practices,and on the persistence or emergence of specific regional identities during the later Middle Ages.

Advisory Committee:
Maureen Miller, University of California-Berkeley
Sara McDougall, CUNY-John Jay College
Jeffrey Wayno, Columbia University
Vincent Tabbagh, Université de Bourgogne
Thierry Pécout, Université de Saint-Étienne
Brigitte Basdevant-Gaudemet, Université Paris-Sud

Organizing Committee:
Christine Barralis, Université de Lorraine, CRULH (
Rowan Dorin, Stanford University, History Dept. (

Proposals (with a title and a short abstract) should be submitted to the two members of the Organizing Committee by January 4, 2019.

The Advisory Committee will respond to submissions by 20 January 2019.

Conference Languages: English, French, German, Italian.



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