Publication Date

February 25, 2015

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, News, Perspectives Daily

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Today features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

Kaeuper_photoRichard W. Kaeuper is a professor of history at the University of Rochester. He lives in Brighton, New York, and has been a member since 1966.

Alma maters: BA, magna cum laude, Capital University (Columbus, Ohio), 1963; PhD, Princeton University, 1967

Fields of interest: medieval European state-building, law and public order, chivalry, popular religion

When did you first develop an interest in history?

I cannot remember a time when I was not interested in history, though for a time in college I almost became a chemist.

What projects are you working on currently?

As I write I am about to send to Cambridge University Press the general book on medieval chivalry that they commissioned me to write. While serving as the Bullough Fellow at the Medieval Institute, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, next term, I will begin a book on the Burgundian Louis de la Trémoille. My collected essays (edited by Christopher Guyol) are forthcoming at Brill. A multi-authored book on the societal impact of medieval warfare is in process (with the aid of Daniel Franke and Craig Nakashian). I am also serving (with the assistance of Samuel Claussen) as medieval European editor for the multi-volume World History of Violence in process at CUP. With Donald and Sara Maddox I am beginning some projects on medieval texts supplied with historical studies. I continue to teach.

Have your interests changed since graduation? If so, how?

Beginning with an interest in state-building and violence, I became convinced of the value of careful use of literary sources as an historian. These interests brought my work into study of chivalry, which I believe cannot be understood without close inquiry into lay religious ideals and practices.

What do you value most about the history profession?

I am continually amazed that in our profit-driven and materialist society entire adult lives can be invested in analyzing human behavior across centuries of time past. It is a truly splendid vocation.

Why did you join the AHA?

Because I wanted to be a part of the profession I love and to keep in touch with its practitioners.

Do you have a favorite AHA annual meeting anecdote you would like to share?

Trying to get an emergency cup of coffee before a job interview years ago at an AHA meeting in Washington, I inadvertently put my thumb into a small individual milk container, shooting a white stream directly across the glasses of the august gent sitting on the stool next to me at the counter. As the milk dripped onto his vest, I became certain he would soon head my job interview, staring at me through milk-stained glasses. Thankfully, I never saw him again.

Other than history, what are you passionate about?

I worship devotedly at the shrines of J.S. Bach (especially the contatas) and Beethoven (especially the incomparable “Fidelio” and the late string quartets). Even the sight of a medieval cathedral or castle structure just coming into view still speeds up my heart rate. Am I allowed to say that, above all, I love Margaret, my wife?

Any final thoughts?

Many departments of history drift chronologically toward heavy emphasis on the recent past. I hope we do not lose sight of the values of studying truly old history, which gets us out of our fish bowl.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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