Dr. Andrew Lewis, a long-time member of the Missouri State History Department, died on October 24th. Dr. Lewis specialized in medieval France and taught medieval, Roman, European and world history for over thirty years. At the time of his death, Dr. Lewis was Professor Emeritus.
Dr. Lewis’s colleagues recognized him as a meticulous and path-breaking scholar. His quintessential work, Royal Succession in Capetian France: Studies on Familial Order and the State (Harvard University Press, 1981), reshaped our current understanding of the Capetian monarchy by demonstrating that the Capetian royal family must be studied as a powerful noble family. Previous studies had treated Capetian history as purely political history, with an eye toward the growth of French royal power and creation of a centralized territorial state. By reinterpreting Capetian policies within the context of family, noble lineage, and dynastic possessions, his work showed that the primary political goal of the Capetians, from the 10th into the 14th century, had been to enhance familial power and resources, using the same strategies as other contemporary noble families; the creation of a cohesive French kingdom was due more to accident or chance than to policies aimed at national unification.
For this work, Dr. Lewis was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the John Nicholas Brown Prize for the best first book in any area of medieval studies. Historian Thomas Bisson noted in his review that Royal Succession in Capetian France was one of “the ablest studies of French kingship every published.” The influence of Dr. Lewis’s work led to a special session at the Annual Symposium of the International Medieval Society in Paris in 2008.
Throughout his career, Dr. Lewis published articles on the Capetian royal family and English and French royal possessions in France in journals such as the American Historical Review, the English Historical Review, Traditio, Mediaeval Studies, and the Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes. These articles were frequently accompanied by editions of previously unpublished charters (some had been unknown to editors of the inventories and collections of French and English royal acts published in the early to mid-20th century; others had been previously published but lacked a critical edition). More recently, Dr. Lewis published a full edition and translation of the chronicle and historical notes written by the French monk Bernard Itier (Oxford University Press, 2012).
Dr. Lewis found great pleasure in the success of his students. He was known for his meticulous standards and uncompromising commitment to intellectual achievement and critical engagement. An “old school” scholar/teacher, Dr. Lewis valued and fostered intellectual curiosity shaped by a rigorous commitment to the standards of evidence and professionalism. He genuinely enjoyed his students and brought to the classroom a sly sense humor. He put off retirement because, as he told the Department Head, he still loved teaching. In his final conversation with a close colleague, he spoke joyously of a student they had in common who had just published his book with a prestigious publisher.
The History Department sends its condolences to Dr. Lewis’s family, friends and students. His love of history and learning made us more curious and more exacting. His sly sense of humor left many of us shaking our heads, smiling and thinking, “oh my.”
Dr. Jessica Elliott
Dr. Kathleen Kennedy