Richard E. Barton

My research program investigates the structures and nature of power in the aristocratic society of western France between c.900 and c.1200. For medieval aristocrats, power may have seemed a relatively uncomplicated concept: it was literally the ability to dominate lesser men and women. Yet my work broadens the concepts of power, domination, and lordship to include interpersonal dynamics, gender constraints, emotional display and convention, collectively held beliefs and identities, and affective notions of right. What this means, of course, is that I combine in my conception of medieval aristocratic power two notions: a practical understanding of power as the ability to constrain and a more theoretical understanding of power as the confluence of intangible qualities of affect, honor, and/or "charisma." My research is focused on Western France - including Maine, Anjou, the Touraine, the Vend-mois, western Brittany, and Southern Normandy - between c.900-1200 (I have also done some work on the early history of Norman England, but this is not a true research specialty). I make use of chronicles, letters, saints' lives, and early chansons de geste, but most of my work involves the analysis of charters (or diplomas, "acta," or "notices"). These brief quasi-legal documents were normally drawn up by the monastic recipient of an aristocratic gift of property as a means of keeping straight the monastery's land-holdings; they exist in the thousands in archives all over the west of France.