Dwight W. Morrow Professor Emeritus of History
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Lester K. Little is Dwight W. Morrow professor emeritus and a senior fellow of the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute at Smith College. He is a former director of the American Academy in Rome, a past president of the Medieval Academy of America, and also a past president of the International Union of Institutes of Archaeology, Art History and History in Rome. From 2000 to 2005 he served on the board of directors of the Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange between Italy and the United States.
A specialist in the social history of religion and religious movements in the European Middle Ages, Professor Little's principal publications include: Nature, Man, and Society: New Theological Perspectives in the Latin West (a translation of M.–D. Chenu, La theologie au 12e siecle) (1968); Religious Poverty and the Profit Economy in Medieval Europe (1978); Liberty, Charity, Fraternity: Lay Religious Confraternities at Bergamo in the Age of the Commune (1988); Benedictine Maledictions: Liturgical Cursing in Romanesque France (1993); and, with Barbara H. Rosenwein, Debating the Middle Ages: Issues and Readings (1998).
His most recent publication is Plague and the End of Antiquity: the Pandemic of 541–750 (Cambridge University Press, December 2006). It is a collection he edited of essays by twelve scholars on the history, archaeology, and epidemiology of the so–called Plague of Justinian, the first historically–documented pandemic of bubonic plague in history. While the second pandemic, the famous one of early modern times widely known as the Black Death, has been studied extensively, this earlier pandemic has received astonishingly little attention. The book is a result of a collaborative effort involving archaeologists, molecular biologists, and historians whose combined talents include expertise in all of the region's major sources, which are written in Arabic, Greek, Latin, and Syriac.
He is also preparing a study, based entirely on archival research, of wine–carriers in northern Italian cities. These people did crushingly heavy work for very little remuneration. They were regarded as little better than beasts of burden and they have almost disappeared from historical memory. However, they created their own patron saint and thereby gained some social respect and standing. The challenge has been to recover them and the kind of work they did from oblivion.