Religion and Conflict in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

Religion and Conflict in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods ran between the 11th and 13th of July 2017 at Nottingham Trent University. Martin Roberts, PhD student at the University of Nottingham, offers his thoughts here.


With conference season in full swing it seemed a very short time between my presenting to the Leeds International Medieval Congress and this three-day conference at Nottingham Trent University organised by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Conflict. Newly-established, the Centre aims to increase understanding of the origins, ideology, implementation, impact and historiography of religion and conflict in the medieval and early modern periods. If the quality of their inaugural event is anything to go by, it looks to have a very health future.

Examining the programme I was struck immediately, not only by the wide-ranging papers, but also that speakers had travelled from Barcelona and Mainz, even Sydney, to attend. Held, for the most part, in NTU’s Newton Building, the prevailing atmosphere was certainly friendly and the conference, both overall and throughout the individual sessions, extremely well-organised and thoroughly stimulating.

Due to commitments elsewhere I was unable to attend Day One, but Day Two began with a fascinating Keynote by Professor Liz Tingle (De Montfort) on ‘Sacred Travel: Long Distance Pilgrimage and the (Re)building of Catholic Identity in an Era of Religious War’ and continued into five separate sessions each split thematically. Session One (Conflict in the Parish) contained three excellent papers by Alfred Johnson (Sydney), Dr Dave Postles (Hertfordshire) and Dr Fiona McCall (Portsmouth). In the afternoon, I was fortunate enough to attend the session on ‘Conflict in Church and State’ with papers from Toby Bromidge (Royal Holloway) on ‘The Armenian disintegration of secular and ecclesiastical leadership in the late eleventh century’, Samuel Lane (Oxford) on the conflicts between church and city in late medieval Salisbury, and Ping Liao (also Oxford) on religious persecution and the use of the army Restoration England and Scotland, 1660-1688. In the afternoon, in the session on Marital Conflict, it was my turn. Presenting my paper ‘Consent, Clandestinity and Conflict: Old Stories, New Understanding – Matrimonial litigation in the early sixteenth-century diocese of Lincoln’, I was “on the same bill” as the highly-engaging Dr Jonathan Healey (Oxford), who entertained and enthused everyone with his ‘Curious Case of the Cross-Dressing Catholic: Religion, Revelry and Resistance in Jacobean Lancashire’ and the equally fascinating paper given by Carolin Katzer (Mainz) on Mixed Marriages in Early Modern Worms. I hope I contributed at least something to the session’s success! During the final part of the afternoon Delfi Nieto (Barcelona) and Dr Claire Taylor (Nottingham) both gave excellent papers on heretical themes. Day Two concluded at the Malt Cross (and later at 4550 Miles from Delhi) permitting everyone who attended further opportunity to socialise and continue earlier debates and, I understand, to enjoy an exceptional conference dinner.

Day Three was also filled from beginning to end. A particular early highlight was Dr Katherine Lewis’ keynote lecture, ‘“You will realise you are fighting with men”: Crusaders, Turks and Masculinity in the Late Middle Ages’, but there were also enthralling sessions too on ‘Gender and Conflict’, ‘Text, Representation and Identity’ and ‘Holy War’. There is, sadly, too little space to comment on them all.

In conclusion, a very welcome addition to the conference calendar and one I hope to attend in future.


2014.09.02 MOR ID PICMartin Roberts is a PhD Student at the University of Nottingham. His thesis is entitled, ‘Ecclesiastical Justice at the Cusp of the Reformation: The Study and Interpretation of its written legacy with particular reference to some records of the Audience Court of John Longland, bishop of Lincoln’.

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Leeds IMC 2017: Reflections and Comments from Midlands PGRs

The Leeds International Medieval Congress (IMC) has just passed, and has been enjoyed by many PGR researchers in the Midlands. Here are a few reflections and comments from some of those who attended.


Alexandra Marchbank: The Historical is Political

‘This was my first year at the Leeds IMC and in less than a day I went from nervous first timer to extoling its virtues to almost everyone I met. There was an excellent breadth of papers, tea and coffee galore, stimulating conversation, and of course the famous (or infamous?) dance. One of the elements which I hadn’t quite expected was the extent to which a conference centred on people, places and events happening at least 500 years ago could be political. And not just in the sense that the people researching those events lead political lives, but in the sense that the historical space itself is a political arena.

I went to lots of sessions over the four days that I was at Leeds – too many, perhaps, to really take them all in, but two in particular stood out for me. Those were sessions 1035 and 1117 on Wednesday morning. The first included a paper by Victoria Cooper about her experiences as the author of a paper on identity politics in medieval-inspired video games which was subsequently adapted and published online. She talked about the bullying, harassment and threats that were directed at her for exploring the ways in which medieval imagery has been used and abused by far-right and nationalist groups to legitimise present attitudes. This has stuck with me, and had resonance in session 1117 with a paper by Caron Newman. Her research looks at the archaeology of the English/Scottish border, and I was particularly struck by the notion – again easily found online – that border raids between the two nations were incessant, and that there was little else happening in the ‘desolate landscape’, an idea which Caron argues still prevails and which she works to refute.

Sometimes I wonder about the relevance of medieval research and the impact that it has for individuals, communities and places that are occupied and politicised today. These two papers in particular helped me to realise that our work is important because our understandings of the places and spaces and people in the past are vital for informing our beliefs and values about those places, spaces and people today. So thank you, Leeds, for the late nights, the friendly delegates, and for reminding me that medieval research is a lot more political than I sometimes think.’


Hannah Ingram: Leeds IMC. Gender and Harassment in Academic Spaces: Round Table Discussion.

I attended the ‘Gender and Harassment in Academic Spaces’ round table on the Wednesday evening of the Leeds IMC, which had been organised jointly by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship and the Gender and Medieval Studies Group. It was a thoroughly thought-provoking session, but I did leave feeling both enlightened and extremely angry in equal measure.

Upon entering the conference room, I was disappointed, but also unsurprised, to see a majority female attendance. I could probably count the male academics present on one hand, a striking statistic, considering the session was packed and it was standing room only towards the back. The speaking panel was an eclectic mix of female medievalists, who all brought something interesting and important to the table.

The session focused on the need for an independent process to enable victims of sexual harassment within academia, both male and female, to report such misconduct. Indeed there have been increasing calls for conferences and institutions to facilitate the reporting process, rather than hiding behind liability disclaimers. After a demonstration by Dorothy Kim of how online feedback forms for reporting sexual harassment have been employed at recent international conferences, the floor was opened up for the attendees to air their own experiences.

This was the part of the session I found the hardest to listen to, particularly as some of the individuals present shared, quite frankly, shocking memories of how they have been treated because of their gender in the academic sphere. I will not go into too much detail here, out of respect for the women involved, but what was clear was just how far there is still to go. In fact complaints ranged from the lack of facilities for female academics with young children, right up to cases of ongoing sexual harassment. Some of this anecdotal evidence particularly revealed the underlying problems, such as the experience of one woman, who, having rebuffed an unwelcome advance from a male colleague at a conference, was told by him that ‘what happens at conferences stays at conferences’. Indeed the unspoken conclusion seemed to be that sexual discrimination, whether consciously or unconsciously, is still perpetuated in academia, with universities reluctant to recognise it, as doing so would mean acknowledging there is a problem.

A particularly pertinent point was raised towards the end of the session, which concerned the mentor-mentee relationship between senior and junior academics (or PhD students) which, as a central facet of accepted academic training, could unfortunately allow, or even encourage, sexual harassment or misconduct. Indeed it was agreed that this relationship, whilst hugely beneficial from a career perspective, could potentially shield would-be harassers.

The session closed with the understanding that meaningful changes could only realistically be achieved if academic institutions and universities take responsibility and actively address these issues. Otherwise sexual discrimination and harassment will continue to be swept under the proverbial rug.


Geogrie Fitzgibbon: Presenting to Cistercian Speacilists at the IMC

Though my fourth IMC (I started attending as a curious MA student and you can read about that here: buff.ly/2tsOSj7), this year was my first year presenting. My paper, on Cistercian engagement with the cult of saints in the twelfth century, was part of a three-session strand sponsored by the journal Cîteaux: Commentarii Cistercienses. The series included papers closely-focused on texts; Bernard of Clairvaux’s letters and Third Crusade sermons, as well as less well-known manuscripts such as Master Hildebrand’s Libellus de Contemplatione. Our panel was the last of the Cistercian series, and oriented around material culture. My co-panellists, Caroline den Hartog and Stephen Anthony Moorhouse, are archaeologists, and presented on the sites of St Servaes in Utrecht and Rievaulx Abbey’s grange at East Bolton, respectively.

While I have presented at a range of conferences, this was my first experience presenting in front of Cistercian specialists. In some ways it was lucky we were scheduled to speak on Wednesday, following the Cistercian scholars’ dinner the night before; it’s easier to speak to friendly faces! The paper was drawn from the second chapter of my thesis, and it was really helpful to have such engaging questions from the audience (apparently everyone can be interested in ancient body parts). I now have ideas to follow up that will improve the chapter, as well as a lead on a useful book, and the opportunity to present next year.

Overall I would thoroughly recommend presenting at the IMC. The range of papers and audiences makes for fascinating conversations. If you’re planning to contact a journal or research centre to join a strand, the deadline is looming! You can also submit a standalone abstract to the programme committee, or form a panel of your own. You can only present one paper per year at the IMC, but you can chair panels in addition, as I did for some friends on the Monday. Paper proposals are due by 31 August, sessions by 30 September, so get planning!


AlexAlexandra Marchbank is a first year PhD student at the University of Nottingham and co-supervised at the University of Birmingham. She is funded by the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership for her thesis entitled, ‘Testamentary Piety: The Evidence of the Norfolk and Kent Wills, c. 1400-1535″.

 

hannahHannah Ingram is a second year PhD student at the University of Nottingham. She is funded by the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership for her thesis entitled, ” Archetypes and Individuals: Reconstructing the Users of the Westminster Staple Court.”

 

georgieGeogrie Fitzgibbon is a third year PhD student at the University Birmingham. She is funded by the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership for her thesis entitled, “Comparisons, Connections and Contexts: Cistercian Monasticism and the Cult of Saints’ Relics, c.1100-c.1250″.

 

 

Identity in the Middle Ages: Medieval Midlands 2017

 

During an all too brief excursus from writing up my thesis, I attended the second Medieval Midlands Postgraduate Conference at the end of last week. The event spanned two days and was devoted to the theme of ‘Identity in the Middle Ages.’ The first thing that struck me upon reading the conference programme was the diversity of papers, which covered the fifth to the sixteenth centuries, ranging from Coventry to the Kitan Liao. By contrast to last year’s event, which was located at the University of Nottingham’s newly built Humanities Building, this year’s conference was held at De Montfort University’s Trinity House Chapel, whose origins trace back to the fourteenth century. This is certainly the most evocative setting in which I’ve attended a conference and provided an intimate and friendly setting, while still recalling the character of the medieval period.

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Trinity House Chapel

With a theme as broad as identity, it was unsurprising to hear diverse perspectives. While Hannah Ingram and Alex Marchbank traced identities through commercial and familial networks, in the process addressing how documents provide only a snapshot of an individual’s life, Steve Walker and Graham Aldred critiqued conventional views of early Medieval Britain, with specific emphasis on the difficulties of reading identities from place names and the archaeological record. In a similar vein, although Alice Byrne, Jack Beaman and Mark McCabe all focused loosely on the theme of chivalry, Alice found this in the popularity of the cult of St George in the Midlands, Jack discussed the pitfalls of French and Latin terminology, while Mark focused on Richard I as an exemplar of hegemonic masculinity. To round off the first day, Anna Cruse and James Wright both found something individual in very different topics: firstly, Isabella D’Este’s commissions from Andrea Mantegna and secondly, Ralph, Lord Cromwell’s ostentatious display of wealth at Tattershall Castle.

The second day was rather more eclectic. While Paul Srodecki traced the development of frontier identities in the representations of the monarchs and aristocracies of late medieval Poland and Hungary, Chen Xue mapped the cosmological identity of the Kitan Liao, contrasting this with Tang conceptions of identity. In doing so, both portrayed identities in dialogue and conflict, as we also heard on the first day. This theme continued with Sian Webb’s paper on portrayals of Muslims and Christians in French and English hagiographies, in which she described a child born of a union between Christian and Muslim parents that was merely an amorphous lump of flesh. This topos of deriving something complex and indefinable from seemingly simple origins was emblematic of the portrayal of identity which arose from the conference as a whole. Meanwhile, Tom Sayers portrayed the idiosyncratic career of Andronikos Komnenos and what his flight from the wrath of Manuel I can tell us about Latin and Byzantine identities. In the final session, Mariele Valci discussed the implications of the denaro provisino for a Rome caught between commune and Papacy, though she also ranged across the pilgrimage route through Champagne to Canterbury. Finally, Mark Webb traced the evolving urban landscapes of Leicester and Coventry and what these can tell us about their respective governance and social composition.

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Chen Xue (University of Birmingham): ‘Under the North Pole is the Central Kingdom – Constructions of the Kitan Liao Identity in Cosmology’

But a conference is much more than the sum of its papers. The two day format meant that there was ample to time to discuss ideas and interests with other delegates within Trinity House and its accompanying gardens. It was especially pleasing to engage with the thriving culture of medieval research in the Midlands. This is in a large part is due to the success of the AHRC Midlands 3 Cities Consortium, but it was pleasing to attract delegates from much further afield, such as Naples, Kiel and Strasbourg. Aside from admiring our surroundings, the lunch breaks also offered an opportunity to observe the poster presentations arranged in the windows of the chapel. Lastly, each day concluded with a discussion which contrasted and compared the various papers in ways that I have only been able to sketch briefly here. In the process, we ranged across the topics mentioned above – and were even exposed to the occasional non-academic perspective.

From a personal perspective, the blend of archaeological and textual approaches was a particular highlight. Although I am a textual historian, I’ve recently begun to incorporate archaeological material into my thesis and found the opportunity to explore the nuances of this field outside the confines of my own work particularly stimulating. This was encapsulated in Helena Hamerow’s keynote address, which addressed the origins of the Gewisse in post-Roman Britain and how they differ from ancient Britons in the archaeological record. I never expected to find parallels between this context and my research, the Paulicians of ninth-century Asia Minor, but it quickly became apparent that the mechanisms of identity formation she proposed had parallels at the other side of the continent. It is realisations like this which make wide-ranging conferences like this extremely valuable and why I chose to attend in the first place. In concluding, I can only thank this year’s organising committee for their efforts in making the event such a success and hope for an equally fascinating conference next year.


Carl DixonCarl Dixon is a 3rd year PhD student at the University of Nottingham, funded by the Midlands3Cities consortium. His research focuses on the Greek sources of the Paulician heresy.

 

MEDIUM ÆVUM Annual Lecture and General Meeting – New Date

REARRANGED – 6th May 2017

2017_04_07_11_20-1This years MEDIUM ÆVUM Annual Lecture and General Meeting will be held at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 18th March 2017. All are warmly invited to attend with no registration required. The lecture will be followed by a wine reception!

To read the Professor Kathryn Kerby-Fulton’s abstract for this lecture,  click here.

A map of University Park is available here. The Clive Grainger building is number 16 on the map, next to the main visitors car park.

 

Keynote Speaker Confirmed!

We are pleased to announce that the Keynote speaker for this year’s Medieval Midlands conference will be Helena Hamerow, Professor of Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Professor Hamerow has written extensively on Anglo-Saxon communities, with a focus on England and Northwest Europe. We are excited to hear her speak about identity in Wessex in the post-Roman world, which has particular relevance for our conference theme.

For postgraduates wishing to speak at the conference, the call for papers remains open until 10th February, with abstracts of 300 words to be sent to esther.lewis@nottingham.ac.uk. Delegate registration will open during the spring.

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Call for Papers: Medieval Midlands Postgraduate Conference 2017

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Medieval Midlands Postgraduate Conference : ‘Identity in the Middle Ages’

Trinity House Chapel, De Montfort University

Thursday 27th and Friday 28th April 2017

Medieval Midlands (supported by the AHRC’s Midlands 3 Cities consortium) are pleased to invite proposals for papers, posters, workshops and round-tables for the second Medieval Midlands Postgraduate Conference, to be held at De Montfort University, 27th-28th April, 2017. The theme of the conference is ‘Identity in the Middle Ages’.

The conference welcomes papers that focus on any geographical location between 400-1500 CE from any relevant academic discipline. Speakers are encouraged to interpret the theme of ‘Identity’ as is relevant to their own postgraduate research.

The conference will celebrate dynamic and innovative research that is currently taking place in the UK Midlands, and submissions are therefore welcomed on this basis.

Papers will be 20 minutes in length. Abstracts of around 300 words are invited from postgraduate researchers. Proposals are also welcomed for other formats of presentation and should also be put into a 300 word abstract. All of these should be sent to Esther Lewis at Esther.Lewis@nottingham.ac.uk by Friday 10th February 2016. Please title your email “Medieval Midlands Conference Submission”.

There will be a limited number of bursaries available to support travel expenses for speakers.

 

 

 

Viking World: Diversity and Change Conference, July 2016.

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The Conference T-shirt + some brooches made by Adam.

It’s been more than two weeks since the ‘Viking World: Diversity and Change’ conference ended and it’s still not all out of my system. That’s how wonderful a job Professor Judith Jesch and Associate Professor Christina Lee did. This was the first ever (almost) week-long conference I ever attended and I must say, it was quite the experience. As soon as I heard about it, back in February or March, I asked Dr. Lee if there was any possibility of helping out in exchange for attending the conference. As a Viking & Anglo-Saxon Studies MA-student, I realised that this was huge opportunity for me, as it would hopefully help me make connections and learn new elements about my field of studies. As it turned out, I got way more than I expected, with new friends made and new areas of research to explore.

 

Our week started off with preparing the venue for the 110+ people that would be flooding in from Sunday onwards. We had to set up tables for different people selling their products. Adam Parsons from Blueaxe Reproductions would be there selling all kinds of Viking and Anglo-Saxon jewellery replicas, drinking horns, wooden swords and shields, and he was available for all kinds of practical questions. Dr. Dayanna Knight, former student of the University of Nottingham and designer of the logo for the conference would be selling original paintings and prints of her work, as well as promoting her new project, a historically accurate Viking themed colouring book. Then there was a table with books sold by our own CSVA, sold by me, and a table with books provided by the VSNR which could be ordered. Blackwell’s also made an appearance with books by a couple of writers who would visit the conference, and the Institute for Place-Name Studies had their own sales-table as well.
The conference officially started on Monday and guest started to trickle in from about half eight onwards. Coffee and tea were ready and at 9 the first papers of the day started. The programme was very varied and wide-ranging. Topics ranged from in-depth discussion of a singular word found in a poem to the purpose of sitting and standing in sagas, and from slaves found in Viking graves to the manufacturing of tar. The speakers were possibly even more diverse than the topics, with visitors from all continents. After each session coffee and tea was ready and questions were asked in abundance. At the end of the day there was a Writer’s Round Table, with James Aitcheson, Justin Hill, Helen Hollick and Victoria Whitworth ready to answer all the questions we had about writing and researching historical (Viking) novels. During dinner the match between Iceland and England was projected on a big screen, and many of the delegates cheered their respective teams on.

 

Tuesday was fairly similar to Monday, with lovely and interesting papers, and a broad spectrum of topics. In the evening, shortly after dinner (an excellent carvery), Sarah Weldon told us all about her Oceans Project and the ‘Great British Viking Quest’. It involved the explanation of new technology and how it could be used to make lessons at school more interesting and interactive.


Wednesday was a short day for most of the volunteers and part of the delegates. The day started off with new papers, but around lunch a big group of delegates left the conference for a trip to Lincoln. Even though it was a very rainy day, the trip was highly successful, ending with a dinner at Lincoln Cathedral.
Thursday included papers on evidence of the Vikings traveling even further than formerly assumed and made us realise that we need to broaden our horizons. The day ended with a splendid BBQ in Lancaster Hall, and the many different conversations being held proved that everyone was enjoying themselves immensely. And of course the match between Portugal and Poland had to be watched.
Friday deserves some special attention, because it ended with a bang. After a long day of yet another stream of very interesting papers, it was time for the conference dinner. The Senate Chamber was decked out with round tables, the table cloths covered in sparkly stars, and flags representing all the countries of the delegates, as well as mini flags on the tables, decorated the room. Dinner was absolutely fantastic, the catering did such a wonderful job (not only that evening, the whole week was amazing). Laughter filled the room as people were obviously enjoying themselves, and some tears were shed when the appropriate people were called to the front for a thank-you. After the lovely food we were directed upstairs, to the Great Hall, where a Ceilidh band was ready to provide us with live music all evening. All the guest were led into dance and instructed on how to properly swing or promenade.

 

Saturday, the last day of the conference, was attended by fewer people than the rest of the week, because many delegates had already had to leave. This did not, however, make the day less interesting or informative. The last delegates to read their papers did so with as much energy as the first ones on Monday, and the day ended with many people being thanked for their hard work, their interesting research, and their ability to make the last day as successful as the first.

 

As for me, I had one of the best weeks I have had since moving to Nottingham. I quite possibly learned more in this week than I could have ever learned on my own in a year and I would like to thank everyone helping out to make this week so perfect. And of course my special thanks go out to Judith and Christina, who did a wonderful, amazing job of organising the conference, with the help of Rebecca Peck and Tracy-Ann Stead. Lastly, I want to thank my fellow volunteers, Grace Fairbairn, Lexie O’Neill, Jake McGrath, Cal Holderness and Briony Newbold, who stood by me through all this. I don’t think anyone could have predicted the massive success of this amazing conference.

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Knut and Emma, made by our author

13820393_1089217084500494_1477698840_nDieuwke la Roi is a Masters student studying MA Vikings and Anglo-Saxon Studies at the University of Nottingham.

Images: Image of confrenece presentation,©by Sarah Weldon  all others  Dieuwke la Roi ©

Midlands Viking Symposium 2016

This year’s symposium was held at the University of Nottingham on Saturday 23rd April 2016. Its theme was “Interpreting the Viking Age”, and as such it offered a varied and tantalising programme, so it was with eager anticipation that I arrived at the venue.

The introduction was given by Judith Jesch, and then we moved straight into the first paper of the day: Ryder Patzuk-Russell, from the University of Birmingham. Ryder presented the Icelandic Breta sögur documents, which describe the mythic origins of the peoples of Western Europe through translations and interpretations of texts including Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain. He discussed the changes apparent in the translation, which shift its focus more closely onto the Scandinavian lands, as well as indicating the sympathies of the translator through subtle changes in

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The Oseberg Ship

language and tone from Geoffrey’s original. Next up was Stephen Harding from the University of Nottingham who outlined the terrible deterioration which has occurred to the wooden objects found with the Oseberg Viking ship burial, through the interaction of their iron fixtures, moisture in the air, and the alum used to preserve them when they were first excavated in 1904. Stephen is involved in a project to try and find a remedy for this damage and ensure the survival of the artefacts for future generation – and the substance which makes up crab shells may hold the key! The final paper of the morning session was given by Jane Evans of the British Geological Survey. She outlined the programme of isotope analysis which she has undertaken on the teeth of a group of late 10th-early 11th century skeletons found in an execution burial pit near Weymouth. By leading us through the various analyses, and mapping which geographical areas they excluded as origins for the people in the grave, Jane built up a convincing case to suggest that most of the beheaded men grew up in the coastal areas of Poland.

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Adam and Emma from Bernicia Crafts display their hand-made replica artefacts

 

Lunch was next on the schedule, with the opportunity to chat to other delegates and digest both the tasty catering and the fascinating papers we’d heard in the morning. There was also the chance to meet the knowledgeable and talented living history enthusiasts from Bernicia Crafts, and to browse the book stall and the stall selling t-shirts produced by the Viking Minds company. I succumbed to temptation and bought a t-shirt; this was pretty much a foregone conclusion since some of the shirts showed one of my favourite coins – a raven penny of Anlaf Guthfrithson of the Viking Kingdom of York. As an Early Medieval numismatist there was no way I could resist!

The afternoon session kicked off with two papers looking at place names. Rebecca Gregory from the University of Nottingham was first, highlighting Scandinavian elements in the minor place-names of Nottinghamshire (those being the names of fields, streams and small settlements, rather than large towns). She suggested that some of these may be indicative of Scandinavian settlement patterns in the area. Rebecca was followed by Lesley Abrams of the University of Oxford who presented a very revealing paper looking at the differing scholarly attitudes towards the potential of place name studies in different parts of the Scandinavian diaspora. She particularly focused on the contrasting situation in England and Normandy, and traced the history of place name research in those two regions in order to make suggestions for the reasons behind this difference of regard for the discipline. Following on from this, Richard Jones of the University of Leicester presented a research project which included elements of place name study in Normandy: Richard has been involved in sampling the DNA of residents of the Cotentin peninsula to search for markers of ancestry which may relate to migration into the area in the Early Medieval period, be it Norse, Danish, Irish, or Germanic. He has compared the results of this analysis to other elements, including place names, to draw some tentative conclusions about the movement of peoples into the area in the Viking period.

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Rebecca Gregory discusses ‘Ings, Wongs, Becks and Holmes’ in the minor place-names of Nottinghamshire

These three papers were followed by a teabreak, and then the final session of the day started with Wendy Scott of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). Wendy showed an intriguing, and gorgeous, selection of artefacts which have been found in the Midlands by members of the public and reported through the PAS. These are objects which have stylistic or cultural association with the Vikings, and as such included items of Scandinavian manufacture, pieces with Scandinavian styling but probable English manufacture, and items such as arabic coins and chopped up pieces of metalwork which offer evidence of raiding and pillaging. The resulting collation of these finds hints at the widespread influence of the Vikings in this area. Our final talk took us up to York; Gareth Dean of the University of Nottingham presented an archaeological and topographic study of Early Medieval activity in the area of the old Roman fortress. He took an interesting approach, considering the variety of functions, and the flexibility of meanings, of spaces within an urban setting, in particular in relation to the role of the church within those spaces. Gareth’s paper suggested that the fortress area was actually delineated within the city for far longer than has been traditionally assumed, and that this may have been related to its function as a sacred space and a site of ‘cultural memory’ of the power of Northumbria.

This was my first experience of the Midlands Viking Symposium, and I was hugely impressed! The topic isn’t directly related to my doctoral research, so I had the luxury of attending purely for my personal interest. The main thing which struck me was the great variety of disciplines represented by the speakers. I had previously had a vague notion that this would be a historians’ conference but the papers included literature, place names, science, archaeology, conservation and even marine biology too! Similarly the audience was diverse and varied, and it was an excellent chance to catch up with old friends as well as meet new and interesting people. It was a fun and stimulating day, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s event in Birmingham!


AnjaAnja Rohde is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Nottingham, funded by the Midlands3Cities consortium. Her doctoral research is entitled “The Coinages of William I (1066-1087) and William II (1087-1100) and their Implications for our Understanding and Public Representation of the Norman Conquest”.

Images:  ‘Oseberg vikingship’ © Eivind Lindseth, all other photographs © Judith Jesch

Programme: Medieval Midlands PG Conference 2016

Power and Society in the Medieval World

Medieval Midlands Postgraduate Conference

University of Nottingham, 13/04/2016

Provisional Programme 

9:30 Registration

9:50 Welcome and Opening Remarks 

10:00 Session 1: Power and Practice in Monastic Reform

  • Ian Styler (University of Birmingham) ‘The Power of the Three: How Aethelwold, Aelfric and Aethelthryth influenced the Benedictine Reforms of the late Tenth Century’
  • Georgie Fitzgibbon (University of Birmingham) ‘The Power of Ideas: Bernard of Clairvaux and Cistercian Devotional Practice’ 

11:00 Tea break 

11:30 Session 2: Disease in Medieval Society

  • Hannah Ingram (University of Nottingham) ‘Epidemiologial Empowerment: Women and disease management in late Medieval England’
  • Molly Beaverstock (University of Nottingham) ‘Power and the Leper in the Kingdom of Jerusalem (1174-1185): Why was there no opposition to Baldwin IV as king, depsite his leprosy?’

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Session 3: Art and Material Culture

  • Anja Rohde (University of Nottingham) ‘The Norman Conquest and the Moneyers of the English Coinage’
  • Susana Sendra Ramos (University of Nottingham, visiting from Universidad San Pablo CEU, Madrid) ‘The Value of the Icon in Castile in the Second Half of the Thirteenth Century: The case of the miniatures of the Cantigas de Santa Maria’

14:30 Tea break

15:00 Session 4: The Interplay between Religious and Temporal Power

  • Mark Robinson (Nottingham Trent University) ‘The Council of Avignon 1209: Pacification, Reform and the Albigensian Crusade’
  • Thomas Sayers (University of Nottingham) ‘The Patriarchy of Antioch and Byzantine: Crusader relations c.1170’

16:00 Keynote Address: Dr Conor Kostick ‘Medieval Postgraduate Research: directions and challenges’

17:00 Closing remarks

 

Register here. Registration closes on Wednesday 30th March.

Attendance at the conference is free, and includes lunch and refreshments, thanks to the generous support of the AHRC’s Midlands-3-Cities doctoral consortium.


Feature image: ‘Hurezi Monastery

Medieval Midlands Student Blogs for British Library

Rebecca Lawton, award-holder of the British Library AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership on the theme of ‘Understanding the Anglo-Saxons: the English and Continental Manuscript Evidence’, has written her first blog post for the British Library’s Medieval Manuscripts Blog. Read it here!

In her post, Becky, who is supervised by Professor Jo Story (University of Leicester) and Dr Claire Breay (British Library), comments on ‘The Letter Book of Archbishop Wulfstan’.

Well done Becky!


Featured image:  Extract of a letter from Alcuin to King Æthelred of Northumbria, from the Letter Book of Archbishop Wulfstan, England, c. 1002-1023, Cotton MS Vespasian A XIV , f. 114r © British Library

 

An Exciting Time for Medievalists in the Midlands

It has been a great few years for Medieval Studies in the Midlands. First we had the discovery of the remains of Richard III by the University of Leicester, then the celebrated Birmingham Qu’ran manuscript at the University of Birmingham, as well as an Anglo-Saxon cure for MSRA at the University at Nottingham.

Aside from these headline grabbing events, one of the great things about being a postgraduate in the Midlands in the last few years is the increasing collaboration among universities in the region and the possibilities that have arisen from this.

As a Byzantinist, it’s fairly understandable that I’ve spent a good amount of my time over the past two years travelling to Birmingham, which is hallowed ground for Byzantine Studies – and indeed the study of the Eastern Mediterranean more generally. Although I’ve spent a good amount of my time consulting obscure texts at the university library, the main reason for spending so much time at Birmingham has been to attend the seminar series for the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies. I’ve been attending these since the first year of my PhD and have found it an excellent way to broaden my understanding of my subject area and to meet other people working in my field.

Centre for Byzantine...

Schedule for the CBOMG Studies Seminar Series

I knew from attending last year that the seminar series was popular, which isn’t surprising given that it’s been going for forty years! But this year’s seminars have been better attended than ever before. I’ve learned to get myself to the Whitting Room as early as I can, since of the five seminars I attended last term, there was a lack of chairs in at least four (and if my memory isn’t faulty, the fifth as well). This seems to be largely a consequence of the strength of the departmental community at Birmingham, as well as the quality of speakers the Centre attracts. The topics have ranged from the seventh century to the thirteenth, from textiles, numismatics, histories, literature and just about everything in between. Needless to say, a lot of this falls well outside my own area of expertise, but I find that it’s important to make an effort to expose myself to new ideas. As a historian who works overwhelmingly with textual sources, I certainly find it thought provoking to see an archaeologist or an art historian approach things from an entirely different perspective, or even tell me what I’m doing wrong from time to time!

To this end, I’ve often found seminars I know little about to be the most thought-provoking. My knowledge tends to get a little hazy when we get to the twelfth century, Coin Outlinebut I found Michael Angold’s paper on Nicholas Mesarites fascinating, largely because I was grappling with the same issues he spoke about, namely innovation and exceptionality, at exactly that time. Likewise the talks by Michael Jeffreys and Margaret Mullett both referred to works outside my own period, but their observations on genre, audience and form related to several works that I’m working on myself. This made me consider whether or not the categories that I (and others) have used are a little too rigid. Anthony Kaldellis’ paper on the 10th and 11th centuries was probably the one I picked out as having the most immediate importance to my research. In terms of scope, I certainly couldn’t complain: he demolished the conventional picture of landholding in eastern Asia Minor and demonstrated just what a watershed the Seljuk invasion of Asia Minor was, as well as rehabilitating the previously maligned emperor Constantine IX. Finally, Jonathan Shepard’s paper on the extent of trade networks between Byzantium, Britain and beyond proved especially provocative to me given how sceptical most intellectual historians seem to be about external influences nowadays.

Staff House, University of Birmingham

Staff House, University of Birmingham

After the seminar, a short trip across the centre of campus takes us to the Staff House for post-seminar drinks and chat. A consequence of having such a department with such a long-standing tradition is that the postgraduate community here is large, proficient and very welcoming. I’ve found that getting to know staff members and fellow PhD students has been one of the most rewarding products of attending the series. My only real regret so far is that I haven’t been able to keep abreast of their research as much as I’d like, given that I’m only in Birmingham every fortnight or so. All this comes down to the pressures on time that every PhD student is forced to contend with, but I would certainly encourage new PhD students to take any opportunity to attend events outside the confines of their own university or department. In the short term it can prove difficult to reconcile with your other commitments, especially if there is a lot of travelling involved, but I find that, in the long term, the effort is certainly worth it.


Carl DixonCarl Dixon is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Nottingham, funded by the Midlands3Cities consortium. His research focuses on the Greek sources of the Paulician heresy.

Images: ‘Richard III‘ © Wolf Gang; Birmingham Qu’ran; Ancient Biotics Project © University of Nottingham; ‘Staff House, University of Birmingham‘ © sw77.