IMC 2018: Sessions

Session 527: Memories of Nation, Medieval and Modern, I: Methods and Medieval Studies

Tuesday 3 July 2018, 09.00-10.30

Sponsor:Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Organiser:Daniel Franke, Department of History, Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Moderator/Chair:Daniel Franke, Department of History, Richard Bland College of William & Mary, Virginia
Paper 527-aHuizinga, Haskins, Pirenne: Contested Medievalisms on the Belgian Frontier
(Language: English)
Carol Symes, Department of History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Index terms: Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Medievalism and Antiquarianism
Paper 527-bBeyond 'Nationalism': Historical Terms, Analytical Categories, and Problems of Terminology
(Language: English)
Andrea Ruddick, Exeter College, University of Oxford
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Political Thought, Teaching the Middle Ages
Paper 527-cRemembering the Battle of Legnano, 1176: Historiographical Traditions, Popular Perceptions, and National Identity
(Language: English)
Edward Coleman, Department of History,
Index terms: Art History - General, Historiography - Medieval, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Politics and Diplomacy

How people collectively remember their past creates or reshapes the political realities of the present, and nowhere perhaps is this better displayed than in the contentious question of ‘the nation’ and its origins. This thread gathers leading and emerging scholars, from across disciplines and geographic areas, to interrogate, in a focused way, the connections and divergences between medieval nationalisms and national medievalisms. The panels are arranged from the modern to the medieval, to foreground the ways in which current realities influence our study of the past, and particularly how searching for pre-modern nationalisms is particularly susceptible to teleology.

This first session examines key methodological issues that need to be borne in mind when discussing ‘medieval nationalism’, and that have impacted medieval studies since the Enlightenment, the First World War, and earlier.

Paper -a: Johan Huizinga conceptualized and composed his masterpiece, Herfsttij der middeleeuwen, during a Great War that was being fought on medieval battlegrounds and on the very soil of the French and Burgundian borderlands whose decadent culture he had devoted himself to excavating. In it, as I argue, he exposed the deadly logic of his contemporaries’ passionate and divisive embrace of medievalism, which had played no small part in the Flemish Movement for independence and the bellicose nationalist ideologies undergirding the war. In so doing, he offered a perceptive critique of contemporary attempts to create and defend a cohesive Belgian ‘national’ identity, notably those of his older and then more influential contemporaries, Henri Pirenne and Charles Homer Haskins. This critique became even sharper in the decades leading up to World War II.

Paper -b: Concepts, categories, and terminology are essential tools for historical analysis, but choosing the right words can be challenging, especially in the historiography of nations and nationalism. Historians walk a tightrope between over-extension of terms at the expense of precision and overly prescriptive definitions that prevent meaningful comparison. Scholars also risk reification, attributing explanatory power to categories constructed in the past or by historians, and medievalists frequently face charges of anachronism. Taking late medieval England as a case-study, this paper will explore historians’ use of both primary sources and modern scholars’ concepts such as ‘identity’, ‘ethnicity’, and ‘nationalism’, and will consider the implications for our academic writing, public engagement, and pedagogy.