Margarida de Portu in Kalamazoo

From the wilds of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where UTP is now two days into the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS), we have chosen to provide readers with a more "creative" summary of our conference experience thus far... all through the eyes of Margarida de Portu, the main character of our newest book, A Poisoned Past: The Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner by Steven Bednarski. The following is a letter, in blog format, from Margarida to her evil brother-in-law, Raymon, who attempted to have her tortured and executed for poisoning his brother (her husband).

Margarida de PortuHa ha ha, Raymon! You didn’t put me away in the fourteenth century, and now, in the twenty-first century, I have been resurrected. And not just resurrected, Raymon, I am now famous! Some professor from Waterloo, Ontario named Steven Bednarski even wrote a book about me.

ME, Raymon. Margarida. The poor little girl you accused of black magic, of poisoning your brother. I did no such thing. I had an illness you know… these moderns call it “epilepsy” and it is totally controllable by something called “pharmaceuticals.” How cool is that?

Anyhow…. these nice women named Natalie, Suzanne, and Anna took me on a road-trip this weekend to something called the International Congress on Medieval Studies in this city known as Kalamazoo.

Yeah, I know… it sounds like some sort of delicious stew… Kalamazoo stew… my mouth waters just thinking about it. I was a damn fine cook back in the day, Raymon…. really good. Today, they would have put me on Iron Chef and I’d have my own book deal and cute male assistants who would do my bidding and I could hire the best lawyers to deal with scumbags like you!!

At this conference, Natalie, Suzanne, and Anna started off with stacks and stacks of my book, and two days later they’re almost all gone! And it gets better, Raymon, much better. These professors who are buying my book want to introduce ME to their students!! See, these people in the twenty-first century like to study us people from the fourteenth century! Isn’t that crazy? But I’m going to be reborn! Every single one of these medievalists knows ME. There is even a comic about ME. And t-shirts. And Steven Bednarski is here, too, talking about me 24/7, and explaining the concept of a "pedagogical microhistory."

How awesome is that?

When Natalie, Suzanne, and Anna aren’t talking about ME, they are talking about their other books. I’ve looked at a few. A Short History of the Middle Ages is flying off the shelves. Apparently, professors use it to give students contextual background when they want to study ME. Reading the Middle Ages contains primary sources written by other medieval people who are interesting but not as interesting as ME. Do you remember the Crusades, Raymon? Do you remember all those people going to Jerusalem in the name of Jesus? Well, Natalie has a book about them too. Apparently, the Crusades are very important...  I mean, they have sold lots of those books… but not as many copies as they have sold of my book.

It’s all about ME in the twenty-first century. margarida-standV

It’s all Margarida, all the time.

And now, Raymon, while you lie buried under some condo development in Manosque, I am being taken out for Indian food with my publishers. And tonight, as you rest in the mud of the ages, I will lay my head down on the fluffy but slightly insubstantial pillows at the Radisson Hotel in Kalamazoo.

Au revoir, you dark-aged dimwit.

I remain, forever, Margarida de Portu.

To find out more about Margarida’s fourteenth-century trial for poisoning her husband, read A Poisoned Past: The Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner.

To request an exam copy, email