Bradford B. Blaine

by Nancie Carollo '92

The class of 1992 boasted an impressive quantity of history majors: 23 in all. Our senior seminar was crowded but intimate since almost all of us had begun our journey four years prior with “History of Western Civilization,” taught by Professor Blaine, a man so excited about the Middle Ages one could not help but catch his enthusiasm. Who among us thought she would actually enjoy reading Beowulf? Who didn’t wonder if the expensive and heavy Jansen’s History of Art was really a necessary text, only to be grateful the first time she stepped into a cathedral and knew how to identify every part by its proper name? (That is, if the cathedral was built between 900-1200. Round versus pointed arches…the flying buttress…the crenellated battlement…fenestrations… clerestories…the language of architecture as history. Only at Scripps.) The writings of St. Augustine, the water-powered mill, the early beer-mash of European monks, and the invention of a horse harness suddenly became relevant to my modern life.

Professor Bradford B. Blaine convened the Class of ’92 History Senior Seminar four years after giving us writer’s cramp in Western Civ (before the common era of laptop computers). Shortly before graduation, he handed me $200 and a medieval cookbook and sent me out with two friends to purchase the ingredients we would need to prepare a medieval supper for the history majors. Brad and Mary Anne Blaine hosted all of us in their living room that evening. They ordered catered Cornish hens for the entrée, in case the three novice chefs botched the rest of the meal.

We were sent to the grocery store armed with the $200 and a cookbook printed in Old English. We returned with our best guess at the ingredients for what we thought might be hearty onion soup. The Blaines’ kitchen was at our disposal, and I remember my eyes swelling shut after cutting 30 onions by hand. Fortunately, there was plenty of wine for those brave enough to try the soup. The hens were delicious, and we all had a merry time.

The event was a great change of pace from the stress of meeting thesis deadlines. Of the 23 history majors, I think only one of us wrote her thesis on a medieval theme, and it wasn’t me. But I never got over my first romance with the feudal system. Why, just last week I was with my Scripps suitemates at our semi-annual reunion, doing a crossword puzzle with a friend, when we discovered that we both knew the answer to a clue:”vassal.”

If you don’t know what a vassal is, then you didn’t take a class with Professor Blaine.