IMC 2008: Sessions

Session 126: Lunchtime Lecture: Putting the Middle Ages in their Place

Monday 7 July 2008, 13.15-14.00

Introduction:Richard Morris, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds / School of Music, Humanities & Media, University of Huddersfield
Speaker:Mark Brian Roberts, Institute of Archaeology, University College London

Twelve thousand years ago Britain was at the edge of a European peninsula. Where the North Sea now lies there was land stretching to Scandinavia, with lakes and rivers, a landscape where the Thames joined the Rhine, and people lived. The global sea level has been rising and falling for the last two and a half million years, rhythmically transforming Europe’s shape. Nature’s nature is change.

Mark Roberts leads the team that discovered Boxgrove Man – the oldest hominin remains yet found in north-west Europe. In this talk he locates the Middle Ages in time’s longer flow, where in the past 650,000 years there have been eight large glacial pulsations, within which at least eleven lesser and more smaller fluctuations were interspersed. In this long view, the present temperate episode which we share with the Middle Ages and later prehistory is fleeting. Many of history’s ‘givens’ are changing, too.

Humanity’s achievement is to be the one animal species out of one and a half million currently living on the planet to have discovered this story; its weakness, arguably, to suppose itself to be the story’s subject. In this enthralling talk, Mark Roberts charts the evolving relationship between humanity and its surroundings, and the emergence of the concept of a natural world.