Monday, December 17, 2012

Reward, Punishment, and Accountability in 13th-century Diocesan Administration—and What the Modern University Can Tell Us

Michael Burger

Every once in a while, the familiar seems strange.  Take academic tenure.  All those professors slaving away, and why?  It's not as though their pay will be cut if they just sleepwalk through classes--and raises are not in the offing.  Certainly no one is about to take away their tenure for such a thing.  Yet there they are: preparing new classes, refurbishing old ones, publishing away, and sitting diligently on endless committees until they die.

Looking at the actual functioning of academic tenure, as someone outside the academy might, fills me with wonder.  It also made me more aware of the soft tissue of the academy, its culture of expectations that make tenure work.  And that awareness  helped me better understand the thirteenth-century bishops and their clerks who obsess me; it made the thirteenth century seem less strange.  How?  You can find out more in an essay in my essay in the most recent issue of Historically Speaking . . . .

Michael Burger is professor of history and dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Auburn University at Montgomery. His most recent publication is Bishops, Clerks, and Diocesan Governance in Thirteenth-Century England: Reward and Punishment (Cambridge University Press, 2012). He is also the author of The Shaping of the West: From Antiquity to the Enlightenment (University of Toronto Press, 2008), with a second volume taking the story to the present in preparation, and editor of Sources for the History of Western Civilization (University of Toronto Press, 2004).

1 comment:

Lisa Clark Diller said...

This is one of the best examples I have seen of the ways in which historians can bridge the past and the present. The past shapes us and our location in the present shapes our understanding of the past. Lovely.

And I say that as someone who teaches at an institution which does NOT utilize tenure. So the education went both ways for me.