The Saint and the Count: A Case Study for Reading like a Historian

By Leah Shopkow

© 2021

While historians know that history is about interpreting primary sources, students tend to think of history as a set of facts.

In The Saint and the Count, Leah Shopkow opens up the interpretive world of the historian using the biography of St. Vitalis of Savigny (d. 1122) as a case study. This biography was written around 1174 by Stephen of Fougères and provides a rich stage to demonstrate the kinds of questions historians ask about primary sources and the interpretive and conceptual frameworks they use. What is the nature of medieval sources and what are the interpretive problems they present? How does the positionality of Stephen of Fougères shape his biography of St. Vitalis? How did medieval people respond to stories of miracles? And finally, how does this biography illuminate the problem of violence in medieval society? A translation of the biography is included, so that readers can explore the text on their own.

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Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 216 pages
  • Illustrations: 4
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
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    ISBN 9781487508432
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In this pedagogical microhistory, Leah Shopkow demonstrates the skills used to present history through the biography of St. Vitalis of Savigny.

The Saint and the Count: A Case Study for Reading like a Historian

By Leah Shopkow

© 2021

While historians know that history is about interpreting primary sources, students tend to think of history as a set of facts.

In The Saint and the Count, Leah Shopkow opens up the interpretive world of the historian using the biography of St. Vitalis of Savigny (d. 1122) as a case study. This biography was written around 1174 by Stephen of Fougères and provides a rich stage to demonstrate the kinds of questions historians ask about primary sources and the interpretive and conceptual frameworks they use. What is the nature of medieval sources and what are the interpretive problems they present? How does the positionality of Stephen of Fougères shape his biography of St. Vitalis? How did medieval people respond to stories of miracles? And finally, how does this biography illuminate the problem of violence in medieval society? A translation of the biography is included, so that readers can explore the text on their own.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 216 pages
  • Illustrations: 4
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    The Saint and the Count is a book to place in the hands of untrained readers who regard historical primary sources as either transparent accounts of a factual past or dismiss them as biased and unusable fabrications. In other words, undergraduate history students, both beginners and advanced, will benefit from this gem of a book. In a deft and lucid fashion, and with great wit and verve, Leah Shopkow demonstrates how key questions and processes of historical reading can distil knowledge even from unreliable and opaque texts. Caution: side effects when reading this book may include feelings of curiosity and pleasure and the desire to become a medievalist.”
    Lendol G. Calder, Augustana College

    “Leah Shopkow’s The Saint and the Count is a tour de force in exploring and clarifying the complexities of medieval sources. This book is an excellent introduction to both medieval history and the medieval historian’s craft. Written to be accessible to all audiences and with newly translated sources for readers to examine, The Saint and the Count would be a welcome text for any class on the European Middle Ages or for a course in historical methodology.”
    Amy Livingstone, Ball State University
  • Author Information

    Leah Shopkow is a professor of history at Indiana University-Bloomington.
  • Table of contents

    Preface
    Abbreviations

    Introduction: “We Should Not Pass Over in Silence”

    1. “In the Province of Bayeux”: St. Vitalis in the Historical and Hagiographic Record
    2. “Strive to rise swiftly from the dust”: The Author Stephen of Fougères
    3. “Men who built the Holy Church”: Hagiography and Genre
    4. “These are not our inventions”: Miracles and Doubt
    5. “They tried to kill him”: Hagiography and the Problem of Violence

    Afterword: “So that my words may not bore the reader”

    Appendix 1: The Life of St. Vitalis
    Appendix 2: The Life of St. Firmat

    Glossary of Terms and Concepts
    Notes
    Bibliography
    Index

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