About Me

Training as a geographer and urban planner made me keenly aware of the relationship of people to the places they inhabit, their social surroundings, and their immersion in life circumstances. I grew up in the Catholic Church and have reason to love and hate the course of its progress. I have long had an interest in the symbols, leadership logics, and institutional tools used by large organizations. I try to work in ways that incorporate methods and concepts emerging from a variety of academic disciplines.

A range of experiences shaped my understanding of the world by the time I earned a PhD in history at the age of 46. Before becoming a historian, I worked as a clothing salesman, a groundskeeper, and a house painter, so I know the meaning of hard work at the lower ends of the pay scale. I’ve been a mapmaker, a printmaker and ceramicist, and was even paid a few times for artistic endeavors, which is to say that in the classroom I give as much attention to visual as to written artifacts. I have also managed large cultural enterprises (General Manager of Los Angeles International Festival; Administrative Director, Long Beach Opera, etc.), in which roles I learned a bit about the potentials of team creative energies, as well as the pursuit of power and the good and bad uses of money and patronage.

Employed at SUNY New Paltz since 2006, I advanced to Professor rank in 2019.

Teaching Interests

I am a historian of the European Middle Ages, covering the period from the decline of Rome to the Protestant Reformation – a thousand years of important continuities and dramatic changes.

I teach courses on medieval Spain, jihad and crusades, kings and kingdoms, inquisitions, medieval towns, and pilgrimage and travel. All of these courses focus on important institutions of governance and social construction, including the framing of loyalty and obligation, law and custom. I also teach a course called Deep History, which applies methods from anthropology, psychology, and elsewhere to consider what human experience, broadly speaking, can tell us about the study of the past.

I recently taught a course called Past in the Present. It was an experiment, like this blog. It was not appreciated by all of the enrolled students in part because the course traversed some terrain about identities and social construction that students find unsettling and in part because the action of the past in the present, being extraordinarily complex, taxes the patience of even the brightest undergraduates.

Awards, Honors & Recognition

Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant, 2013-14.

La Corónica International Book Prize, 2013. Awarded for Taming a Brood of Vipers.

Best First Book Prize “Honorable Mention”, Association of Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, 2013. Awarded for Taming a Brood of Vipers.

Undergraduate Research Mentor Award, SUNY New Paltz RSCA, 2013.

Master Teacher, NEH Summer Institute. Iberian History and Culture for the Humanities, Valencia College, FL, June 2013.

New York State/United University Professions, Dr. Nuala McGann Drescher Leave Program Grant, 2010.

Albert J. Loomie Essay Prize, Fordham University, 1999, for the paper: “Settling a dispute in foro penitentie in thirteenth-century Catalonia: Raymond of Penyafort’s experiment in the rhetoric of peacemaking.”