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History Professor Receives Newberry Library Fellowship

Chelsea Haddaway
Communications Manager
(410) 455-6380

Susan McDonough, assistant professor of history, has been awarded a Fellowship at the Newberry Library by the Audrey Lumsden Kouvel/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Fund. The fellowship provides funding for her to spend the 2010-2011 academic year at Chicago’s Newberry Library.

While at the Newberry, McDonough will continue work on her book, entitled Judging Your Neighbor: Making a Culture of Neighborliness in a Late Medieval Port Town. The book examines the fifteenth century civil court records from a small town in France.

“The witness testimony from Marseille’s court records offers a small window into the neighborhoods of Marseille, but more, the testimonies reveal how humble people, often women, used the role of witness to become the arbiters of their communities,” she said.

“The fellowship is a great recognition of her status as a promising young scholar,” said Kris Lindenmeyer, chair of the history department. McDonough has been teaching at UMBC since 2005, when she received her Ph.D. from Yale. Judging Your Neighbor is a continuation of her dissertation project.

McDonough is examining records of trials in which witnesses provided testimony.

“There's a magic to reading words spoken by a sailor's widow or a woman suing her cousin for control over a sizeable estate. Even if the words are translated [from the vernacular into Latin] by the notary, I think it's possible to get a sense of the person behind the words.”

In addition to giving McDonough time to focus on her research, the fellowship will provide McDonough with access to the Newberry’s extensive collection of medieval manuscripts. McDonough plans to use these sources to to contextualize the behavior that she has found in the witness testimony.

“It is also a place known for the generosity of the scholars in residence, so it will be a great place for me to work out my ideas in a community of folks who are able to focus on their research,” she said.

McDonough will head to Chicago in September, and be there until June. While in Chicago, McDonough will also be looking for a publisher for the book.

Posted: August 2, 2010, 12:00 PM