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Alumna receives prestigious Fulbright to study medieval history

Messiah College alumna“The Chronicles of Narnia” and the King Arthur series provide timeless stories of the medieval worlds, captivating readers with their enchanting tales. For Lucy Barnhouse ’08, these books mean much more than a magical closet and fearless nobles; these stories rooted her love for medieval history. Today, she has pursued in-depth studies of this field and recently won a Fulbright Research Fellowship, the most prestigious award for aspiring scholars, to study in Germany.

As a prospective student, Barnhouse sat underneath a poster of a Cologne, Germany Gothic cathedral in Distinguished Professor of European History Joseph Huffman’s office. This served as a confirmation for Barnhouse to create an individualized major in medieval and renaissance studies. Becoming fluent in Latin, German and French, Barnhouse deepened her knowledge and appreciation for European history.

“Lucy is a person of deep integrity, coupled with a deep joy for living and learning,” says Huffman. “She brought an energy and enthusiasm to everything she did, and thereby was a joy to work with.”

Barnhouse continued to cultivate her scholarly passion by obtaining a master’s degree in medieval history from Fordham University in New York City. Today, she is the midst of completing her doctoral studies in medieval history. Her Fulbright will help her develop the research to complete her dissertation in this field.

Applying for the Fulbright last September, Barnhouse proceeded to endure a long waiting process. She worked with a professor in Mainz, Germany, to assure the university there could host her, obtained certification of language proficiency and interviewed with a panel of Fordham faculty to explain her research goals. In January, she received news that she was in the finalist round and in March, the greatly anticipated news of acceptance finally came.

Her undergraduate mentor, Huffman, wasn’t surprised Barnhouse won this significant award.

“As I supervised her senior honors project it was clear that she also had developed a keen mind that was sensitive to historical thinking, the humanity of her subjects and study, and could integrate a wide range of evidence into a very coherent way of understanding,” says Huffman.

Barnhouse will begin her time in Germany in mid-July to reacquaint herself with the German language, visit friends and family and attend operas. She will begin her research in September, reading and transcribing the archives in Mainz, including donation charters, hospital statutes, rent agreements, court cases and papal and episcopal letters from the thirteenth century. Barnhouse also looks forward to enjoying the German culture while there and has plans to join a choir, take long walks and bicycle rides and eat good German bread.

From her research, Barnhouse hopes to focus her dissertation on hospitals and canon law, looking at how thirteenth century changes in the requirements linked to hospitals’ status as religious institutions affected those who lived and worked there.

Looking to the future, Barnhouse hopes the research will provide the basis for future projects as she continues her journey as a medieval historian. She may also apply for a second-year Fulbright, depending on her discoveries in the first year. Throughout this process, Barnhouse will continue to chase her dreams engrained in her since childhood: becoming a scholar and expert in the field of medieval history.

“The actual work in the archives is what thrills me most,” says Barnhouse. “This is, after all, the heart of research, and I’ve been preparing for this for some time. I cannot wait.”

Story by Emily Mohler `13.

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