MAP came into being in 1966 at the University of California at Davis as an outgrowth of an interdisciplinary conference called “Artistic and Intellectual Relationships in the Middle Ages.” At the Annual Conference in 1981, James J. Murphy described MAP’s origins in “Remarks on the Fifteenth Anniversary of the Founding of the Medieval Association of the Pacific”:
A motley Davis group of medievalists calling itself the Medieval Studies Colloquium came up with what proved to be an ingenious financial plan for a conference. Each of 12 departmental chairmen was asked to contribute only $50.00 each—who could resist so paltry a sum? Then the Dean, faced with the unheard-of challenge of 12 departmental chairs agreeing on anything, consented to match that $600. The Chancellor's Office did the same. So the 1966 "Medieval Studies Conference," as it was called, started out with the princely sum of $1800.00.
That first meeting had six speakers (Jerome Taylor, Lynn White, Jr., Robert W. Ackerman, Father Lawrence K. Shook, David Wright, and Brother S. Edmund), a bibliographical meeting facilitated by Jerry Murphy and Richard Schoeck, and a planning session called the “Organizational Meeting for the Medieval Association of Northern California.” Instead of the 40 medievalists the planning committee anticipated for the conference, 120 attended, and 82 signed a sheet passed around at the organizational meeting, where Stanley B. Greenfield and Sigmund Eisner convinced everyone that they should form an association drawing membership not just from Northern California but from the west more generally.
The first issue of Chronica, published fall 1967, articulated MAP’s purpose: “to facilitate studies in medieval culture and history,” and Jerry Murphy reported that the original plan to name the new organization “Medieval Symposium” had been abandoned in favor of our present title to avoid confusion with other medieval conferences then coming into existence. Loy Bilderback’s article “The Computer as an Aid to Control of Medieval Bibliography” provided the main substance of that first issue, marking early recognition of the oncoming “Information Age.” In February 1968, the University of San Francisco hosted MAP’s first Annual Conference. By 1969, when Chronica printed MAP’s membership roster for the second time, members’ home institutions were in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York, as well as British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. Since then the MAP officers and Advisory Council have made sure that the annual meeting moved north, south, east, and central, so that no one geographic locale dominates the organization.
Over the years, MAP has been kept alive through the dedicated service of its elected officers: a President, a Vice President, a Secretary, a Treasurer,and twelve councilors, who serve three-year terms staggered so that each year four new councilors replace four outgoing ones. Each president serves two years and then is succeeded by the Vice President. In 1999 the MAP Constitution was revised to specify five-year terms for the Secretary and Treasurer of the organization and that the Secretary would also be Editor of Chronica, which had been the actual case for a number of years. In 2006 the position of Webmaster was added and held by Scott Kleinman. Since Kleinman was elected to a term as Secretary beginning in 2008, the Officers and Council will determine whether the roles of Secretary and Webmaster should be split again in the future. In 2010 the MAP Constitution was amended. In 2016 a Social Media Committee was initiated to handle MAP's website and to build its digital presence, including on Facebook and Academia.edu.
Until 1971, the President was also de facto editor of Chronica; in 1972 the position of editor was added to the list of officers. Between 1972 and 1998, James J. Murphy, Dennis Dutschke, Patrick Gallagher, Phillip C. Boardman, Bradford B. Blaine, Thomas F. Head, Scott L. Waugh, and Kevin Padraic Roddy edited Chronica’s spring and fall issues, informing the membership about the annual meetings and other business of the Association. Chronica 5 (Fall 1969) announced on facing pages the schedule for the third Annual Conference and articulated its editorial policy, not only that Chronica would include “‘Studia Generalia,’ reports from campuses as submitted by a number of campus correspondents,” and a membership roster but also that each issue would print “one or more articles dealing with general medieval concerns.” These early issues feature articles by L.K. Shook, Jerome Taylor, Lynn White, Jr., Larry D. Benson, and John Leyerle and a series of reports on various medieval studies programs before modulating to the policy of printing the program for the annual meeting and abstracts in lieu of articles. Since 2000, students who are awarded the Founders’ Prize have the opportunity to publish their essay in Chronica. Asa Mittman’s “‘Light Words,’ Weighty Pictures” was published in the 2002 issue, Glenn Keyser’s “One-Way Streets: Urban Geography and Anti-Semitism in Chaucer’s ‘Prioress’s Tale’” in the 2003 issue, and Lisa Kaborycha’s “Transvestites, Anchorites, Wives and Martyrs: Legends of Female Saints and How They were Read by Fifteenth-Century Florentine Women” in the 2006 issue.
Since its inception, MAP has always had a very close association with the Medieval Academy of America. Beginning in 1972 with the meeting at UCLA, every three or four years the Medieval Academy has held its annual meeting in the West conjointly with MAP, most recently at the University of Washington in 2004. In 2008, MAP met jointly with MAA at the University of British Columbia; ACMRS at Arizona State University in Tempe hosted another joint meeting in 2011. MAP members have also been actively involved in the Medieval Academy’s standing committee on regional associations, CARA. Thus, for instance, George Hardin Brown and Nancy van Deusen have both served as President of MAP and Chair of CARA.
Perhaps the most important contributors to MAP, though, are the medievalists who give papers at the annual conferences, attend the annual conferences, and host the annual conferences at their home institutions. James Murphy gave a sense of the intellectual excitement and fun that characterizes MAP meetings in his address to the Association in 1981, recounting that at the first Annual meeting at the University of San Francisco “R.W. Southern gave us the entire intellectual history of the middle ages from seven lines of notes scribbled on the back of half an envelope.” The following year, at UC Riverside, Murphy recounts, “the eager sponsors solicited so much free alcohol from donors that at the business meeting both beer and mead were served, and...the business meeting was followed by a cocktail hour, and...the distinguished after-dinner speaker Professor Joseph Strayer spoke to what was by then probably the most undistinguished and most incompetent audience ever assembled.” (Murphy then cited Proverbs 11:25, Guibert of Nogent, and Ecclesiastes 34:9 to contextualize the experience at Riverside.) Not willing to end his celebration of specific local meetings on such a note, Murphy concluded his account of memorable annual meetings by naming the 1973 conference at Stanford University, where Program Chair George Brown offered members a choice called Deus et machina: either a Latin Mass in the Gregorian style or a session on computers.
Standing out as especially memorable in my mind are the 1981 Conference in Victoria, the joint meetings with the Medieval Academy at the University of British Columbia (1990) and the University of Arizona (1993), and the 1997 meeting in Hawaii, where the Councilors were honored at the opening reception with leis. The 2007 meeting, hosted by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at UCLA, joins the list of most memorable. Not only was attendance larger than usual at MAP meetings, the quality of sessions was exceptionally high, and graduate students and faculty presented in sessions chaired by some of the most notable senior medievalists in our organization. Our two plenary speakers were former MAP President Caroline Walker Bynum, who spoke on “Visual Matter: Attitudes toward Images in the Later Middle Ages,” and Paul Dutton, who spoke on “Minima Mediaevalia: Micro Medieval Studies in Theory and Practice.”
Plenary lectures over the years have featured a variety of scholars, including David Herlihy from Brown University in 1987 at the University of Oregon; Aron Gurevich from the Moscow Academy of Sciences in 1989 at UCLA; Marie Borroff from Yale University in 1992 at UC Irvine; Robert Lerner from Northwestern University and John Boswell from Yale in 1994 at the University of Washington, Seattle; Derek Pearsall from Harvard University in 1996 at the University of San Diego; J.J.G. Alexander from New York University, R.R. Davies from Oxford University, and Roberta Frank from the University of Toronto in 1998 at Stanford University. The 2001 annual meeting at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, was, for the first time, not only conjoint with the Medieval Academy but also with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. In addition to the plenary address by outgoing Medieval Academy President Joan Ferrante, the conference featured a plenary address by Paul Brand, All Souls College, Oxford and a plenary session on Resources for Medieval Studies: Archaeology as a Metadiscipline sponsored by CARA, the Medieval Academy standing committee on Centers and Regional Associations.
MAP members celebrated the organization’s 40th anniversary at the 2006 meeting hosted by Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. Five past presidents—Andy Kelly, George Brown, Nancy van Deusen, Glenn Olsen, and Dhira Mahoney—and outgoing president Siân Echard led participants through memories of MAP. Plenary addresses were delivered by Martin Camargo, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Peter von Sivers, University of Utah. MAP's 50th anniversary was feted in style at the scene of the crime—the University of California, Davis.
At the 1999 MAP Business Meeting in Claremont, California, MAP members approved a motion that the MAP Officers and Council work out details for awarding an annual prize for the best student paper presented at a MAP annual conference. Since then numerous students have received the Founders' Prize, which offers awards of up to $500 for excellent papers delivered at the MAP conference. MAP also offers the John F. Benton Award, which defrays travel costs for MAP members without significant institutional support who are delivering papers at the MAP Annual Meeting or other relevant conferences. Anyone interested in contributing to these awards should donate on line, with a notation that it is for the Founders’ Prize or the John F. Benton Award endowment, or contact the MAP Treasurer, Edward Schoolman.
Thanks to George Brown and Phyllis Brown for writing the first sections of this history of MAP.
If you would like to contribute to this "History of MAP," please send your recollections or documents to the MAP Secretary Anne Laskaya.