The Great Age of Books: The 14th and 15th Centuries

University of Notre Dame Associate Professor Daniel Hobbins is a historian of high and late medieval Europe, with a particular interest in the cultural and intellectual history of the period from 1300 to 1500. Under this broad heading, his research has focused on late medieval authorship, Joan of Arc, and backgrounds to print.

In this video, Hobbins discusses his research on the tremendous changes in book production in the late Middle Ages, before the advent of print.


“The 14th century is not typically thought of as a great time to be alive,” he says, noting that the people of that time faced plague, war, and famine. “It’s been treated as a time of crisis and decline. Despite that, there was greater hunger for books than ever before.”

Hobbins joined the University of Notre Dame faculty last fall. He specializes in the 14th and 15th centuries and has written books on Jean Gerson—a theologian and popular author of the early 15th century—and on Joan of Arc. In 2005, Harvard University Press published The Trial of Joan of Arc, his introduction to and translation of the original trial documents.


Hobbins’ next book, Authorship and Publicity Before Print: Jean Gerson and the Transformation of Late Medieval Learning (2009), looked at Gerson’s efforts to reach a wider public in an era before print. The volume won the American Philosophical Society’s 2010 Jacques Barzun Prize for the best book in cultural history.

“Monks writing in a scriptoria in a sleepy monastery—that’s the image most people have, if they have any image at all of the Middle Ages,” Hobbins says. “But it was a much more vibrant world, kind of like our own experience of going into an information society in the early 1990s with the Internet. For us and for them, the world was speeding up.”

After completing his post-doctoral fellowship at Notre Dame, Hobbins completed a Mellon fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. He was also assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Arlington before joining the faculty at Ohio State in 2006.

Click here to visit his faculty page