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Cotts cv

John David Cotts

Research fields

Cultural and intellectual history of the High Middle Ages; clerical culture in twelfth-century France and England; intellectual history of the Crusades; learning, spirituality and practical theology; medieval epistolography

Teaching fields

Medieval and early modern Europe; cultural and intellectual history; history of religion; the Crusades; Western Civilization; France and England



Ph.D. (History) University of California, Berkeley, 2000

M.A. (History) University of California, Berkeley, 1995

B.A. (Classics and History) Oberlin College, 1993


Academic appointments

  • Professor of History, Whitman College,  2017-
  • Associate Professor of History, Whitman College, 2009- (and Paul Garrett Fellow, 2014-)
  • Assistant Professor of History, Whitman College, 2004-2009
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of History, Grinnell College, 2002-2004
  • Lecturer in History, University of California, Berkeley, 2001-2002
  • Visiting Assistant Professor of History, The Colorado College, 2000-2001




* Europe’s Long Twelfth Century: Order, Anxiety and Adaptation, 1095-1229 (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013). Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2013. Translated, in abridged form, as Zwischen Frömmigkeit und Fanatismus: Das turbulente Zeitalter der Kreuzzüge, an issue of Spektrum der Wissenschaft Spezial: Archäologie-Kultur-Geschichte 2015/3 (September, 2015).

*The Clerical Dilemma: Peter of Blois and Literate Culture in the Twelfth Century (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2009)


* "The Exegesis of Violence in the Crusade Writings of Ralph Niger and Peter of Blois," in The Uses of the Bible in Crusader Sources, ed. Elizabeth Lapina and Nicholas Morton (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2015)

*“Was Bernard of Clairvaux a Republican?  The Middle Ages and the Liberal Liberal Arts College,” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 15 (2008): 67-77.

*“Monks and Clerks in Search of the Beata Schola: Peter of Celle’s Warning to John of Salisbury Reconsidered,” in Teaching and Learning in Northern France Before the University, ed. Sally Vaughn and Jay Rubenstein (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), 255-77.

*“Peter of Blois and the Problem of the ‘Court’ in the Late Twelfth Century,” Anglo-Norman Studies 27 (2005): 68-84

* “Monks and Mediocrities in the Shadow of Thomas Becket: Peter of Blois on Episcopal Duty,” Haskins Society Journal 10 (2001): 143-61

*“The Critique of the Secular Clergy in Peter of Blois and Nigellus de Longchamps,” Haskins Society Journal 13 (2004 for 1999): 137-50



*Stephen D. Church, King John and the Road to Magna Carta (New York: Basic Books, 2015), The Medieval Review 16.02.34

*Alice Chapman, Sacred Authority and Temporal Power in the Writings of St Bernard of Clairvaux, Medieval Church Studies 25 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013), The American Historical Review 120 (2015): 1091-92

*E. Ann Matter and Lesley Smith, eds., From Knowledge to Beatitude: St. Victor, Twelfth-Century Scholars, and Beyond. Essays in Honor of Grover A. Zinn, Jr. (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013), forthcoming in The Catholic Historical Review

*Peter D. Clarke and Anne J. Duggan, eds., Pope Alexander III (1159-81): The Art of Survival, Faith Church and Culture in the Medieval West (Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2012), The Medieval Review 14.10.15

*Peter Frankopan, The First Crusade: The Call from the East (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 2012), Church History 83.3 (2014), 736-38

* Clare Monagle, Orthodoxy and Controversy in Twelfth-Century Religious Discourse: Peter Lombard's Sentences and the Development of Theology, Europa Sacra 8, (Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2013), Sehepunkte: Rezensionsjournal für die Geschichtswissenschaften 14.6 (2014) (http://www.sehepunkte.de/2014/06/24133.html)

*Michael Burger, Bishops, Clerks, and Diocesan Governance in Thirteenth-Century England: Reward and Punishment (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012), History: Reviews of New Books 42 (2014): 26

* Martina Hartmann, Studien zu den Briefen Abt Wibalds von Stablo und Corvey sowie zur Briefliteratur in der frühen Stauferzeit, Monumenta Germaniae Historica -- Studien und Texte, 52 (Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung, 2011), The Medieval Review 12.11.18

*Franklin T. Harkins, Reading and the Work of Restoration: History and Scripture in the Theology of Hugh of St. Victor (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 2009), Church History 80 (2011): 857-59

*Thomas N. Bisson, The Crisis of the Twelfth Century: Lordship, Power and the Origins of European Government (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), History: Reviews of New Books 38 (2009):24-25

*Michael Reeve, ed., and Neil Wright, trans., Geoffrey of Monmouth: The History of the Kings of Britain (Woodbridge, UK, and Rochester, NY: The Boydell Press, 2007), The Journal of British Studies 77 (2009):514-16

*Martin Aurell, The Plantagenêt Empire 1154-1224, trans. David Crouch (Pearson       Longman: Harlow, London and New York, 2007), H-Albion reviews, April 2008

*David Gary Shaw, Necessary Conjunctions: The Social Self in Medieval England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), Speculum 82 (2007): 482-83

* R. W. Southern, Scholastic Humanism and the Unification of Europe. Volume 2: The Heroic Age (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), Religion and the Arts 6 (2003): 414-16

* Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation, 3rd edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), H-Net reviews, October 2003


Recent and Forthcoming Presentations

*”The Exegesis of Violence and the Third Crusade,” to be presented at the Leeds International Medieval Congress on July 8, 2013.

* “Exegesis and the Third Crusade: From Biblical Violence to Moral Reform in the Writings of the English Clergy,” presented at the annual meeting of the Medieval Association of the Pacific in San Diego, CA, March 23, 2013.

*Comment on “Medieval Culture in the Context of the Crusades, Part 1: Political Fictions,” a panel at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New Orleans, LA, January 2013.

*Comment on “The ‘Renaissance of the Twelfth Century’: New Perspectives,” a panel at the Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Boston, MA, January 2011.

*“Clerical Culture and Anti-Semitism: Peter of Blois’ Contra perfidiam Iudaeorum Reconsidered,” presented at the 44th International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May, 2009

* “Curiales and Crusaders: Intellectuals in England and the Third Crusade,” presented at the Early Middle Ages Seminar of the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, February 25, 2009

*“The Practical Theology of Holy War: The English Clergy and the Third Crusade,” presented at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association in New York, NY, January 3, 2009

*Presider, concluding roundtable, at the Twenty-Seventh International Congress of the Charles Homer Haskins Society, Washington, DC, November 9, 2008

*“Anxiety, Remorse, and the Twelfth-Century ‘Renaissance,’” presented at the 43rd International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May, 2008



*Vice-President for North America and Conference Program Director, The Charles Homer Haskins Society, 2006-2011.

*Referee, Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching

*Referee, The Haskins Society Journal

*Manuscript reviews for Longman Publishers and Oxford University Press

*Book proposal review for Ashgate Publishing

*Outside tenure reviewer



*Paul Garrett Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship, Whitman College, 2014-present

*2013 Choice Outstanding Academic Title, for Europe’s Long Twelfth Century, American Library Association

*The Robert Y. Fluno Award for Distinguished Teaching in the Social Sciences, Whitman College, 2012

* The Bethell Prize, for the outstanding paper given by a graduate student or junior professor at the International Conference of the Charles Homer Haskins Society, 1999

* Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, University of California at Berkeley, 1997


Institutional Service at Whitman College

* Library Advisory Committee, 2013-2016

* Chair, Encounters Curricular Subcommittee, Spring 2013

* Chair, Department of History, 2012-2015

* Encounters Curricular Subcommittee, fall 2010

* Assessment Committee, 2010-2013

* Core Curricular Committee, 2008

* General Studies Committee, 2007-2008 (chair, fall 2008)

* British Fellowships Committee, 2007-2008

* Copyright Policy Task Force, 2007-10

* Library Advisory Committee, 2005-2008

*Aid to Scholarship and Instructional Development Committee, Whitman College, fall 2005

Memberships in Professional Organizations

*American Historical Association

*Medieval Academy of America

*The Charles Homer Haskins Society

*The American Society for Church History

*The Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East






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