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Hands-On Research of Hand-Written Experiences

  • Undergraduate research in Spain
    Undergraduate research in Spain
    Three William & Mary undergraduates examine a manuscript from the very early medieval period in the Diocesan Archive in Pamplona, Spain.
    Photo courtesy of Lu Ann Homza

When the Spanish archivist Peio Monteano produced a 13th-century ceremonial on the coronation of English kings, Kimberly Bassett knew that this was an opportunity few other researchers - let alone undergraduates - ever get.

"He just pulled it out and slapped it down on the table like it was no big deal, and I was trying my hardest not to breathe too hard on the ornately decorated pages of Latin," she said. "The realization that even most of the scholars studying these works wouldn't get to see them in person was pretty incredible."

Bassett was one of three William & Mary undergraduates who joined History Professor Lu Ann Homza on a research trip to Pamplona, Spain to peruse two sets of archives and get a better understanding of Spanish history through the hand-written accounts of the people who lived it.

To prepare for the trip, which was funded by the Mellon Foundation, the students took a once-a-week paleography seminar with Homza to learn how to read the handwriting.

During the trip, the students visited the Archivo Diocesano de Pamplona and the Archivo Real y General de Navarra. They were each required to read texts and "then work to contextualize them," said Homza.

Bassett, majoring in both history and Chinese, focused on the role of young children during witch trials. Eric Schmalz, a history major, also investigated the trial documents in the archives. Amanda Scott, majoring in both history and Hispanic Studies, researched clerical misbehavior during the trip.

Bassett said that she felt honored to be included in Homza's research and benefit from her international connections.

"I think it's a perfect example of William and Mary's ideal professor-student relationship, where the professor not only teaches factual information, but also becomes a close mentor," she said.