Category Archives: Team day-to-day stories…

September Update

The launch and conference in December will soon be upon us, and the Estoria team has been hard at work on both the edition and our Impact activities.

The HRI in Sheffield has begun to produce our exhibition and teaching materials. A mockup of the opening page currently (but not for long) looks like this:


Enrique has completed the exhibition materials, and although Lauren has now left us to take on her Final Year, she managed the herculean task of translating most of it into English – so a big thank you from all at the Estoria project.

Enrique is in Spain to continue work on the teaching materials and liaise with schools and archives. Aengus is in the US to make arrangements with the University of Minnesota over their part in the exhibition. He also gave a lecture at the Center for Medieval Studies and had the opportunity to examine the Minnesota manuscript at the James Ford Bell library:


The full manuscript is digitised here. A big thank you to Michelle Hamilton and Marguerite Ragnow and all in Minneapolis for the warm welcome and all of the help offered.

Fiona continues at breakneck pace with the tagging of all the prosopographical data in the Estoria, and we hope to have the first prototypes of the maps and ancillary tools available by mid-September.

Meanwhile, Polly, Christian and Ricardo have been completing the regularised versión primitiva, and the irrepressible Polly and Christian have also been correcting part of the edited text  and the collated text with Aengus. And Zeth is working away on the front end and in particular the presentation of the transcriptions (very preliminary sneak preview below) and collated text.

Edition preview

Back to work…!

Impact impact impact

If you will excuse the slightly garish title, it is very much a reflection of how things are moving here at Estoria HQ. Alongside the final stages of our electronic edition of the Estoria, we are also heading an exciting initiative to bring the historiography of Alfonso X to the public.

The first arm of our impact project will be a series of exhibitions across Spain. This will be the display of the Estoria de Espanna manuscripts across libraries in Madrid, Santander, Salamanca. Visitors to these exhibits will be able to appreciate the rich manuscript tradition that developed from Alfonso’s history-writing exploits.

In addition to physical exhibitions, we will also be producing a virtual exhibition. In doing so, the public will be able to enjoy the exhibits from the comfort of their own swivel chairs. The virtual exhibit will include a transcription desk, allowing visitors to have go at palaeography and transcription.

Finally, Alfonso X is heading back to school. We will be providing Spanish secondary schools with structured sessions and resource packs, helping young people explore the cultural heritage of the Wise King. Learners will be able to investigate such themes as history of language, social history, gender issues in Medieval Spain, and much more.

We feel that by bringing Alfonso’s work to the public, we will be keeping true to the scholar-king’s project of advancement and education. Who would have guessed that over seven hundred years later, his writings would take the giant leap from vellum to virtual…

Mesa Redonda: 11/11/15

The Estoria de Espanna Digital project will hold a round table next week, details as follows:

Enrique Jerez Cabrero, “La sabiduría de Alfonso el Sabio: aspectos sapienciales de la Estoria de España”
Christian Kusi Obodum, “‘Aquella mala secta’: el profeta Mahoma en la Estoria de Espanna”
Javier Sebastián “La “tiranía” económica de la ciudad de Burgos en el siglo XV.”
Ricardo Pichel Gotérrez, “Corpus y bibliotecas textuales hispánicos en la red. Nuevas posibilidades, proyectos en curso”

Wednesday 11th November 2016
Ashley 121a, University of Birmingham


Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Calligraphy: Christian Kusi-Obodum

Folks, it’s that time of year again: those glasses of sherry/brandy by the fire, just a few too many mince pies, the occasional chocolate wrapper still lurking on the floor… Yuletide festivities may be over and the Christmas hangover (in the financial sense, of course) might be setting in, but it’s the start of a new year. But won’t those blues take hold at the end of January when we’ve given up on each and every one of our New Year’s resolutions, with the bank balance still looking painfully anaemic? Bear with me as I try to see the glass as half full.

All cynicism aside, at the Estoria Project there is plenty to take stock of at the end of 2014 and the start of 2015. Our initiatives to bring in new transcribers continue to bear fruit, and we are progressing well with manuscripts T, Q and Ss. Our vision for the digital edition is growing ever-stronger, as we begin to adopt king Alfonso X’s more global vision of learning and its dissemination. Last November’s colloquium brought together many Hispanists from diverse backgrounds and countries, and all are eagerly awaiting the next annual conference later this year. As we continue the transcription of Alfonso’s chronicle, the manuscripts throw up something new and interesting to discuss and encode.

Perhaps we can take the new year not as a clichéd “new start” but instead as a continuation of the previous year’s work, as a constant forward motion in learning and understanding. Much of this year will include reviewing manuscripts already transcribed, notably E1 and E2. This certainly stands to show how far the project has come in our methodology and problem-solving skills for XML tagging. So if I must return to the “glass half full” analogy, I’m trying to keep in mind that as we progress into another year, team Estoria progresses with each day, as each new transcription is saved, and each section of text collated. The idea of forward motion in time was the mainstay of the medieval historian and chronicler – it should be fitting to keep this as our vision at the Estoria project at the start of 2015.

Project goings-on

AcWriMo – Weekly Update  #2
After a short pause to allow for our annual colloquium and the necessary preparations (read: crazy couple of days sorting out last minute things) I have managed to Crack On with Academic Writing Month. Finding time for academic writing (I feel that should be capitalised but I will refrain) was more difficult last week than in the previous weeks, as following the colloquium, Christian and I had jetted off to Madrid to run a workshop for postgraduate students of medieval studies at the Universidad Autónoma. However, we still managed to squeeze in a couple of days of work (nudge, nudge, hint, hint, supervisor of ours). I spent time preparing for a book review for a postgraduate journal published here in Birmingham and rewarded myself by drinking my body-weight of Cola Cao. Christian stuck to tea. I proposed spending our entire wages for the workshop on 75 montaditos on everything’s-a-Euro day at 100 montaditos but this was not to be.

Online transcribing course
Prior to the colloquium project team-members worked like billy-o to get the course translated into Spanish. This was met with much praise at the colloquium, which was very flattering and made us feel that our hard work had all been worth it. We have already started to see some really successful usage of the course being put into practice by our merry band of crowdsourcers, and the high quality of many of their transcriptions, including all sorts of complex tagging, shows they have been paying close attention and applying their new knowledge to their work on Textual Communities. We are all really pleased at the reception with which the course has been met, and how it is being used by transcribers.

Colloquium 2.0
Our second annual colloquium took place just under a fortnight ago and was again, successful and enjoyable for all involved. This time we were able to hear papers and presentations by even more speakers than last time and we were finally able to meet and learn about the research of several of our Facebook ‘likers’. It wasn’t all work and no play though, and we made time for a lovely conference dinner and plenty of coffee breaks (read: serious networking opportunities) where everyone was able to mix and discuss anything and everything from Alfonsine punctuation, to apocope in the usage of ‘dizque’ – sorry Marine, I still don’t understand this – to the perils of marking GCSE exams. Or maybe this last one was just me and friend of the project, Dave. Once a teacher…

Below is the end of colloquium photo, and Bibliography Bingo opportunity:Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 09.23.53

Madrid Workshop
The workshop in Madrid was pretty successful, even if we do say so ourselves. A number of professors made the time to welcome us to the university and some even managed to attend part of our workshop where their timetables allowed. This was more than we had expected and we were pleased and flattered that they took the time out to do so. It also meant that Christian’s and my People-We-Have-Met-Off-Of-Our-Bibliographies count went through the roof, what with the colloquium and then the workshop the following week. We found the students who attended the workshop were polite and pleasant, asked the right questions and nodded in the right places – always a bonus. Many also stayed after the end of the session to voluntarily finish line-breaking their assigned folios, showing dedication on their part and betraying just how addictive transcribing can be.

Some of the UAM workshop students busy transcribing. Note the smiles, even three hours in!

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 09.27.30

After a day spent in the university library, we spent our final full day in Toledo, doing our best to feel medieval. Not sure if medievals ate tortilla española or drank Fanta Limón, though, to be honest, but to be fair I think the NHS frowns upon the drinking of mead when one is with child.

Christian and project-wannabe Alicia enjoying Toledo:

Screen Shot 2014-11-25 at 09.32.00

This week things should settle down and get back to normal at Estoria Towers. We are even hoping to sneak in a cheeky visit to the German Christmas Market in Birmingham to celebrate having held our second colloquium. We know how to live it up.

Muslim-Christian fraternising in the Estoria



Interracial relations are nothing new; the practice is fairly endemic throughout human history. As for Medieval Iberia, interracial relations occasionally traversed religious lines. Since the Quran permits Muslim men to marry Christian and Jewish women, numerous Muslim rulers took Christian wives and concubines, to meet their own political ends. However, the inverse is less common: comparatively rarely did A Christian male engage in relations with Muslim women, particularly during the height of Umayyad supremacy in the Peninsula.

This is precisely the period I am working within, when the military strongman al-Mansur dominated the Peninsula in the late tenth century. Interestingly, folio 87r of Escorial II points us to the fraternisation between the Castilian count don Gonçalo Gustioz and a Moorish female. Whilst Gonçalo is held prisoner in Cordova, al-Mansur entrusts the count’s keeping to an unnamed woman, identified only as a mora (Moorish woman). The count and his keeper really hit it off… so much so that they have a child together. This is an interesting instance of interracial relations, especially if in this section of the Estoria the term mora is taken to indicate a Muslim female. As for the outcome of Gonçalo’s escapades, the plot thickens, and I have yet to find out what becomes of this tale…

Dirty dealings in the Estoria

Whilst working on folios 85 to 89 in Escorial II, I came across a dark tale of treachery and deceit in the tenth century. According to the Estoria, King Blasquez was on rather bad terms with one of his Christian neighbours. So he had a letter written to al-Mansur, the military dictator of al-Andalus, persuading the Muslim commander to murder the said rival. In return, al-Mansur would be entitled to swathes of Christian territory. As for the letter itself, a friendly Moor was employed to draft the correspondence in Arabic. Only, after the poor scribe’s duty was fulfilled, King Blasquez had the Moor permanently silenced, severing his head clean from his body! All I can hope for is that I’ll still have my head at the end of this project…

A solar eclipse whilst transcribing…

Whilst transcribing Folio 55v of E2, I was hugely surprised when suddenly the sun became dark, for an hour or so. No, there wasn’t a solar eclipse here in Birmingham (although the weather’s so miserable and dull today it may as well be!). I was in fact lucky enough to read about one in the 10th century recorded within the Estoria!

[…] Et en aqeul dia assi como cuenta la Estoria escurescio el solEt duro le la escureza quanto podrie ser una ora. […]

Screen shot 2014-01-29 at 14.26.42

It would have been an astounding (and perhaps terrifying) thing to witness centuries ago…

Solar eclipse 07-03-1970 (NSO/AURA/NSF)

Solar eclipse 07-03-1970 (NSO/AURA/NSF)

French Sweets…


Among the (many) positive aspects of being an international team, are… sweets. When I go back to France, I usually take some sweets from England: jelly babies, jelly beans, chocolate from Cadbury World… (I wink to my colleagues from University of Rennes 2, who love chocolate and sweets and always have a small stock of them, hidden from students’ eyes, in the closet of their office). I could not but continue the tradition and bring some French sweets to start our little stock in the 224 Office of the European Research Institute: itchy carambars, Haribo crocodiles and dragibus. I hope they will be a support on long days of transcribing and tagging. Polly and I have already started to enjoy them and there will soon be none left. We expect Aengus and Zeth to visit the office to steal our carambars, we will try to keep a few for Fiona on Thursday… What a pity that Barbara is not here!

Transcribing diary

I feel like I have finally got into some kind of swing when it comes to transcribing E2 now, and I have been busy this week having a go at properly transcribing for the first time with no-one to hold my hand who I can constantly ask questions to. Instead of bugging my office-mates I am keeping a list of my doubts and queries and have already put several onto the bulletin board of Textual Communities in case other transcribers need to ask the same thing at a later date. I am probably making lots of mistakes at this stage, but I hope to keep improving with practice. I am now getting the hang of using xml tagging, which looked pretty confusing to me just a couple of weeks ago, and have actually found it to be not too bad at all! I have also found my palaeography to be getting better all the time, so my crash course from Fiona is paying off. I would even go as far as to say I am now enjoying transcribing. There. Now I’ve really gone and said it!