Interview with Ryan Wicklund

MEMSA’s next seminar will be taken by Ryan Wicklund, who will be presenting on the topic of ‘Mentalités and Response: Agriculture after the Black Death’. As usual seminar will begin at 18:00 with tea and coffee from 17:40. 

Below we talked to Ryan about Texas, the Black Death and County Durham. 

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I’m originally from Houston, Texas. I’ve lived all over, though. I did my undergrad degree back in Texas and came to Durham for my Master’s. I moved back to Texas and taught for a bit until I decided I missed research and the academic life.

What brought you to Durham?

A professor I had in undergrad had done his PhD here and highly recommended it. I was already thinking about doing grad school in the UK, did a bit of research, and decided this is where I wanted to be. Funny thing is, I know a good ten people here at Durham who chose it based on that prof’s recommendation.

What is your favourite thing about the medieval/early modern period?

Not to be a pain, but I really don’t have a particular favorite thing about the medieval period; I find it all fascinating. If I was forced to choose, I’d have to say the societal and cultural history of the period after the Black Death. With everything in such a flux, so many things changed very quickly.

250px-CloistersxWhat does your research focus on?

I look mainly at the period after the Black Death in County Durham. A lot of the work on the period after the Black Death focuses on southern England, so it’s a bit neglected. I look at the management practices and economic mindsets of the individuals managing the estates of the Durham Cathedral Priory and how those practices and mindsets might explain peasant economics and larger trends.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

I’ll be focusing on how individuals adapted their economic practices in the period of economic and societal change following the Black Death in County Durham. While the data comes from the estates of the Durham Cathedral Priory, I hope to use it to explain how ordinary individuals interacted with market forces and the larger world around them.

Pieter Brueghel the Younger—The Village Lawyer

If you were not in academia, what would you be doing?

Well, I thought I’d might like teaching grade school, but experience quickly taught me otherwise. So I’m really not too sure. May be a lawyer? We always need more of those!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

To be honest, I don’t work overmuch with pieces of literature, and no one wants to hear me drone on about my love for manorial accounts. I’d probably go with the Canterbury Tales. It’s one of the first medieval texts I read and I like the way it gives a bit of insight into medieval individuals.


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