A Poisoned Past: The Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner (Thinking Historically)

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9781442607712: A Poisoned Past: The Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner (Thinking Historically)

This is the story of Margarida de Portu, a fourteenth-century French medieval woman accused of poisoning her husband to death. As Bednarski points out, the story is important not so much for what it tells us about Margarida but for how it illuminates a past world. Through the depositions and accusations made in court, the reader learns much about medieval women, female agency, kin networks, solidarity, sex, sickness, medicine, and law.



Unlike most histories, this book does not remove the author from the analysis. Rather, it lays bare the working methods of the historian. Throughout his tale, Bednarski skillfully weaves a second narrative about how historians "do" history, highlighting the rewards and pitfalls of working with primary sources.



The book opens with a chapter on microhistory as a genre and explains its strengths, weaknesses, and inherent risks. Next is a narrative of Margarida's criminal trial, followed by chapters on the civil suits and appeal and Margarida's eventual fate. The book features a rough copy of a court notary, a notorial act, and a sample of a criminal inquest record in the original Latin. A timeline of Margarida's life, list of characters, and two family trees provide useful information on key people in the story. A map of late medieval Manosque is also provided.

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About the Author:

Steven Bednarski is Associate Professor in the Department of History at St. Jerome's University in the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Curia: A Social History of a Provençal Criminal Court in the Fourteenth Century (2013).

Review:

Nothing better stirs the hearts and minds of modern students than a lively small story abrim with the strange stuff of life long gone. Steven Bednarski knows that well; he employs microhistory's wiles to catch his readers' imaginations and sharpen their scholarly wits. This is a charming way to teach good historical method. (Thomas V. Cohen, York University)

Steven Bednarski has crafted an exceptionally thoughtful volume. Blending vibrant storytelling with methodological rigor, he guides readers through the personal experience of historical analysis in all of its various demands, occasional frustrations, and exhilarating discoveries. He simultaneously brings to life the detailed and intricate world of a late-fourteenth-century woman, and prompts vital questions about the very nature and limit of the historical enterprise. (Jennifer Kolpacoff Deane, University of Minnesota, Morris)

Bednarski demonstrates through vivid prose a very human story of an ordinary medieval woman who finds herself caught up in murder accusations. A Poisoned Past is a fascinating introduction both to the lived realities of late medieval people and to the historian's craft. (Shannon McSheffrey, Concordia University)

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Steven Bednarski
Published by University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division (2014)
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Bednarski, Steven
Published by Univ of Toronto Pr Higher education (2014)
ISBN 10: 1442607718 ISBN 13: 9781442607712
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Book Description Univ of Toronto Pr Higher education, 2014. Hardcover. Book Condition: Brand New. 199 pages. 9.00x6.25x0.75 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1442607718

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