Publication Date

November 1, 2003

Perspectives Section


Anders Winroth, medieval historian and associate professor at Yale University is one of the two historians who received one of the 24 MacArthur Fellowships announced in late September. A scholar of medieval canon law, Winroth is the author of a pathbreaking study, The Making of Gratian's Decretum (Cambridge University Press, 2000). In this work, for which he received Yale University’s Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize, Winroth painstakingly and meticulously explored the genealogy of a seminal canon law text to recast the chronology of medieval European legal history. Using both the most traditional and old-fashioned methods of research as well as electronic databases, Winroth was able to demonstrate that what had been seen as mere abridgements of Gratian’s work were actually earlier versions. As an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (August 11, 2000) reported, he resourcefully used technology to good effect, searching through digitized manuscripts and bibliographies. Not surprisingly, Winroth launched a web site “Domus Gratiani,” to provide a forum for studies about Gratian.

Making the announcement of the award, the John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation stated, “This painstaking analysis would have been impossible absent his mastery of canon law, command of medieval Latin, and aptitude for paleographic reconstruction of materials that exist primarily in the form of unedited medieval manuscripts. . . . Beyond its obvious implications for understanding the roots of contemporary canon and constitutional law, his work reemphasizes the frequently underestimated importance of the Middle Ages in the intellectual development of Western European civilization.”

Winroth received his PhD from Columbia University in 1996 and held the Sir James Knott Research Fellowship at the University of New Castle-upon­Tyne for two years before joining the history department at Yale University in 1998. He became an associate professor in 2003.

A book that Winroth coedited (with Adam J. Kosto), Charters, Cartularies, and Archives: The Preservation and Transmission of Documents in the Medieval West, was published in 2002 by the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, Toronto.

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