Ten years and counting...

I have spent the last ten years writing The Chronicles of Lecarpentier Familia. The relevant question is this. Did this work of medieval history warrant spending ten years writing it? In my defense, I caught the history bug early from my grandfather, Oliver Clinton Carpenter. Secondly, I have always felt cheated that I did not get to study medieval history at Oxford.  More relevant still, I have had a grand time writing it.

My limitations in writing this medieval history are obvious. I cannot read Greek, Latin or medieval French. If I had to read middle English in handwritten form, the project would never have gotten underway. On a trip to England, I was able to visit all the key Carpentier sites discovering much local Carpenter history; but I do not have the patience to sit forever in obscure libraries. Luckily, over the last fifty years, a set of scholars of English history have delved deeply into the social and business history of late medieval England. This meant my education was at hand.

More important is the research provided by Bruce Edwin Carpenter and John R. Carpenter. For the late middle ages, these two Carpenter historians have undertaken to read through electronic versions of Patent Rolls, Close Rolls, Fine Rolls, Lay Subsidy Rolls, Rolls Gascon, Calendar of Letter-Books, Calendar of Welsh Rolls, Calendar of Wills, Calendar of Pleas and Memoranda Rolls, and many other such sources. It would be hard to imagine that they missed a relevant citation. More importantly, they published their findings.  

In writing The Chronicles of Lecarpentier Familia, I have come to understand this medieval family as individuals, familiar to me in every aspect. I came to understand that the intellectual firmament of their world mirrored mine. In the end, I recognized Lecarpentiers as kin and, quite pleasantly, they are.

What then do I bring to the study?

I was a philosophy major at Kenyon College and briefly in a doctoral program in philosophy at the University of Chicago. I earned an MALS degree in English from Wesleyan University and an MBA degree from Harvard University. My Harvard education provided an invaluable understanding of how businesses function.  It also led to an understanding of how financial markets develop over time and how to recognize the portents of change. This education led to forty years spent in the financial markets of Wall Street, Toronto and London and to a career of successfully developing and marketing new and innovative financial products.

Most studies of medieval history are based on copious material available through primary sources. For Lecarpentiers, unfortunately, there is only a relatively a small sampling of historical material. Fortunately, my business education taught me how to make decisions on imperfect information. Utilizing this reasoning process, I tested the relevant historical premise(s) against a detailed study of medieval economies, especially the economics of the wool and wine trade. Key dates were strictly attended to and the relevant regional places and economies were carefully researched. Many a pleasant surprise came from this care.

Writing the chapters then became an intellectual adventure. As I went along, some chapters followed quite nicely my initial line(s) of thought. The most fun chapters were those in which I constantly had to rethink and revise my original historical premise(s). To my delight, some chapters were turned upside down due to unimagined insights learned through the writing process itself.

This intellectual process led me down a long and winding road of discovery. All the business principles and financial practices that I thought were products of the modern era, proved upon reflection to be alive and well in medieval Europe. In the end, the medieval wool and wine trade proved to be a microcosm of the modern business world.

Final Thoughts

First, I need to thank Quentin Ryan. All through these ten years, he has read and given good council on each and every chapter. Without his kindness and deep insights, this work of history would be a shadow of itself. It is with great pleasure then that I dedicate The Chronicles of Lecarpentier Familia to him.

Finally, the dreaded question: Have I been successful in this enterprise? It will be for you, the reader, to judge.

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