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RCCP Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 1 (February 2015)

Testament of Diego Gonzalez de Carvajal, a knight from the community of Plasencia, Spain. Circa 1455. Archivo de la Catedral de Plasencia, Legajo 14, Documento 25, Folio 8. More information. Can you find the word, taça, in this section of the manuscript?

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Love and Memory -- 500 years ago.

Dear Global Citizen Scholars,

With the arrival of Valentine's Day, I thought I might share with you a short story of love and memory from just over 500 years ago and that relates to this section of a manuscript referring to a taça (a rounded embellishment and guard on a knight's sword). 

In the early fifteenth century the knight, Diego Gonzalez de Carvajal, was the son of a well-established clan in Plasencia and the son-in-law of Diego Garcia de Ulloa, a Comendador (Knight Commander) in Aldeanueva. More importantly, Diego Gonzalez had enjoyed a prosperous life filled with many children by the time of his death in the late 1450s. Sadly, he had survived Juana and Catalina, his first two wives, and found love again later in life when he married Teresa Gonzalez.

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A comparative Spanish sword with a taça, a rounded embellishment and hand guard, from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte's Museo Arqueológico Nacional (Madrid, Spain). Inventario 51992. Early sixteenth century. Search MAN's collection here

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Prior to his death, his testament gives one the impression that he did not suffer for lack of monetary and property wealth as he bequeathed over 62,000 maravedis (a silver coin) in money to heirs; owned an extensive housing complex, with its own “palacio”, on the main plaza in the city of Plasencia; and held a varied portfolio of properties in the region, including twenty-three stables, several vineyards, an income-generating grain mill, and over two-dozen other houses and lands.  (To appreciate the value of 62,000 maravedis, consider that the average salary of a local church official, a canon, was just 185 maravedis a year.) His testament makes clear that Diego Gonzalez de Carvajal was very concerned about the distribution of his wealth to no less than twelve children by his three wives.

More importantly, he wished to preserve the special memory of a gift from his third wife, sure to survive him, Teresa.

When it came to distributing the resources that each of his spouses brought to each of his marriages, Diego tried to will those items back to the appropriate surviving spouse or children of that spouse.  In the case of Teresa, this meant returning to her a modest amount of silver that she had given to Diego when they were first married and that held special meaning to the couple. In the following passage from his will, Diego Gonzalez speaks to this gift and his wishes regarding her care after his death.  He stated:

"And because the said Teresa Rodriguez, my wife, brought and gave to me a small amount of silver that I had made into a rounded embellishment and guard (taça) with the figure of a pine tree for my sword, I will that it be for the said Teresa…because it was made with her silver. …[Also] at the time Teresa Rodriguez married me, she brought and gave to me some bed clothing and jewelry and household items, that I can value in fair estimation five thousand maravedis…that I will that she be given goods of mine that are worth five thousand maravedis, which should make her content.  And I ask that Teresa Rodriguez…who is in the same houses that I am living, that she be allowed to live there until a year and a half after my death…and that no person can remove her from the house during this time…and she is to be given nine bolts of the finest black Flemish wool that can be had and this is the most important to understand of all the things that I have willed.  And during this marriage of myself and Teresa…we purchased a house that we called El Palacio in Seradilla, with a little bit of land that was adjacent to the house and it had half a quarter of a stable connected to the houses of Juan de Alfonso de Arevalo, of which my half of this property I give to her so that she owns it free and clear forever and to pass on to her heirs."

Thankfully, from Teresa Rodriguez’s gift we can catch a rare glimpse of love and memory. Happy Valentine's Day!

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We are Launching Our Global Citizen Scholars Website -- DecipheringSecrets.Net

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I am very happy to report that we are launching the DecipheringSecrets.Net crowdsourcing website. Continuing from where we left off in September 2014, we have built a website where you can help us identify more stories like that of Diego Gonzalez de Carvajal and Teresa Gonzalez.

Deciphering Secrets is the crowdsourcing initiative of the Revealing Cooperation and Conflict ProjectRCCP is a scholarly initiative that re-examines historical cases of medieval and early modern Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interaction as well as an activist endeavor intent on buttressing humanistic reflection within academia as well as the general public.

Deciphering Secrets began as a summer 2014 Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) taught by Dr. Roger L. Martinez-Davila (University of Colorado, USA) on coursera.org. This course attracted 10,000+ students from 140 nations and over 2,500 students completed it. Almost 1,000 former students elected to continue work as "citizen scholars". This website extends the core curriculum of the course -- "Students will explore the history of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in late medieval, fifteenth century Spain. Serving as citizen-scholars, students will learn about the positive and negative elements of inter-religious co-existence in Plasencia, Spain, and more importantly, contribute to an international scholarly effort by helping transcribe manuscripts."

Please keep in mind that our approach to transcribing manuscripts is not a cynical one that uses humans as machines; rather, it is fundamentally about engaging the broader public in humanistic inquiry. Not ever member of the public has the privilege of pursuing scholarly work, however, every person has a right to be intellectually curious. Moreover, every human has the capability to recognize and interpret human symbolic language and they can channel this innate human skill to participate in the advancement of scholarship. Thus, your help as a Global Citizen Scholars is a valued contribution!

A special thanks to Sara Vandenberg (USA), Annette Brindle (UK), and Bill Bateman (Australia), as well as several other prior MOOC students, for their assistance in developing and testing the website.

Please keep in mind that this is our first foray into hosting and managing a transcription website. We intend to begin rolling out enhancements and improvements as we gather more information about how citizen scholars work best together. One of those improvements will be a proper discussion board where we can share ideas and thoughts about manuscripts, however, before we can do so we will need about five volunteer moderators to help us manage discussions. If you are interested in assisting as a moderator, please drop us a note at info@revealingcooperationandconflict.com. In the meantime, come chat and visit on Facebook!

Learn how you can participate now at http://decipheringsecrets.net/

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As always, thanks for your participation.

Dr. Roger L. Martínez-Dávila, Project Director, RCCP