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Jamie Kreiner and the quiet forces of history

Michael Terrazas

War. Politics. Changing technology. Plagues and famine and migration and outsized personalities. These are major forces that shape the world we live in, and many historians spend their careers studying them.

Jamie Kreiner takes a different approach. A professor of history in the Franklin College of Arts & Sciences who specializes in the early Middle Ages, Kreiner looks for the quieter agents at work.

“I like getting beneath those obvious forces,” Kreiner said. “What else changes people’s minds that we’re not necessarily thinking of—either because it’s literally silent or just because it’s been underexamined? That’s the weird thread that runs through all the projects I’ve done.”

Take pigs—which, if not silent, rarely speak in perfect syntax. Ever since she was in graduate school, Kreiner knew she would write about this intelligent and enterprising species that’s been linked to humans for 9,000 years.

“I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation [on early medieval politics],” Kreiner said, “and pigs kept coming up in documents where I wasn’t looking for them, like in major royal decrees.”

Eventually this curiosity became a research project, and that project became Kreiner’s second book, Legions of Pigs in the Early Medieval West (Yale University Press, 2020), which won her a UGA Creative Research Medal in 2022. The book explored the cultural role pigs played in medieval societies across Europe and northwest Africa in the waning days of the Roman empire and beyond.

Continue reading this feature from UGA Research Communications...

Photography Jason Thrasher.

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