Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 January 2021
I want to thank Erin T. Dailey for pushing me enthusiastically to write this piece back when it was a slightly odd thought at Leeds 2015, and Simon Forde, Ruth Kennedy, and Shannon Cunningham for curating its arrival to the press, and progress through publication. Angela Weisl considerably sharpened the focus, especially of the second and third chapters, and I am grateful for her perspicacious eye and gracious review. Some of the material here first saw the light of critical engagement at the October 2015 conference in Pittsburgh of the ISSM (International Society for Studies in Medievalism), and I am also grateful for encouragement offered there.
University governance has been a special field of study for me, mostly as a practicum, for over thirty years. I’m going to skip past all the details, because they’re more than a bit depressing, but, yes, I’m a university governance junkie. I have discussed university governance issues with uncounted numbers of colleagues both at Western and at many other universities, at conferences and at coffeehouses, on buses and on trains, and I’m a real menace at dinner parties and formal hall meals. I am very grateful to all those who have talked with me, argued with me, debated with me, and shouted at me in various institutional locations—I will leave you all blessedly anonymous. I will take full credit for all the errors and misconceptions, as well as the occasional serendipitous thought, in the following.
Given the parameters of this series, and in order to make my argument as clear as possible, I have used the terminology of the medieval university only where it is genuinely necessary, and I have either translated myself or made use of available translations for statutes, regulations, and scholarship not in English. This has been handy in many ways, as the principal texts about how the medieval university worked were written in an age in which footnotes could be very brief, and quite aggravating, and in fact the best stories have no references at all. I’ve had to give up on some good anecdotes that I could not verify (the supposed medieval endowment to give Merton College a continental chef comes briefly to mind), but I hope I’ve kept enough detail to help with the argument.