Welcome to IMC 2021

We are excited today to be launching our programme for IMC 2021. In the programme this year you will find the details on all papers and sessions for this summer’s International Medieval Congress. For the second year, the IMC is a virtual event due to the ongoing pandemic. This year, we have had a bit more time to plan and we are delighted that so many of you have chosen to take part. This year is the 28th annual Congress, featuring over 500 academic sessions, fringe events, performances, and workshops. In total, this means we will welcome 1,676 delegates from 57 different countries who will actively be involved.

This year’s Special Thematic Strand on ‘Climates’ has brought a wealth of proposals in a variety of innovative and interdisciplinary ways. This special thematic strand has been expertly co-ordinated by Amanda Power (Faculty of History / St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford). Within ‘Climates’ we are pleased to welcome a range of keynote speakers. The IMC will open with a double lecture by Jean-Pierre Devroey (Département d’enseignement d’Histoire, Arts et Archéologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Innocent Pikirayi (Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria). Jean-Pierre Devroey will speak on ‘How to Write and Think about Political, Social, and Economic History in Dialogue with Climatic and Environmental Data: A Case Study in the Age of Charlemagne, 740-820’ while Innocent Pikirayi’s lecture is entitled ‘Towards New Climate and Environment Change Understanding in Africa: Re-Engaging the Medieval Climate Optimum / Anomaly and the Little Ice Age’. On Tuesday lunchtime, Ling Zhang (Department of History, Boston College, Massachusetts / College of History & Culture, Shanxi University) will continue the series with her lecture ‘Geoengineering an Empire: The Consumptive Mode of Analysis and China’s Medieval Economic Revolution’. Our Wednesday lunchtime keynote will be by Johannes Preiser-Kapeller (Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien), who will speak on ‘Crusaders of Climate Change?: The Debate on Global Warming between the Medieval and the Present Age’. On Wednesday evening, the series continues with a lecture by Heide Estes (Department of English, Monmouth University, New Jersey) entitled ‘Climate Then, Crisis Now: Medieval Ecocriticisms and Environmental Activism’.

As usual for the IMC, there will also be a large number of papers and sessions dealing with many other areas of Medieval Studies. We are also delighted that the Early Medieval Europe Lecture this year will be delivered by Mischa Meier (Institut für Alte Geschichte, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen) and Claudia Rapp (Institut für Byzantinistik & Neogräzistik, Universität Wien / Institut für Mittelalterforschung, Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien). Their double lecture will focus on ‘Studying Medieval Mobilities: Problems and Perspectives’.

To replicate the in-person IMC, we have decided to build the programme assuming that all papers will be delivered ‘as live’. However, we recognise that presenting live may not be practical or possible for a small number of sessions or papers. It also created some time zone issues, which we dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

We looked at ways to increase access to sessions at the Congress through recording all sessions for viewing later. This has multiple benefits, not only for those with accessibility requirements, but also for those in different time zones who may find it impractical to join sessions as they happen. All recordings will be hosted securely and only be available to registered IMC 2021 delegates until the end of August. We believe this will offer added value to all delegates, who will be able to view all session recordings as they become available during Congress week and for a short period after the Congress closes.

This year’s registration and programming fees are £120 (standard rate) or £75 (concessionary rate for students, retired, unwaged, and low-waged delegates). Registration will provide access to the full online Congress for the entire week and a short period before and after the event to access all resources and recordings. Unfortunately, due to technical limitations, it will not be possible to offer day tickets for the online Congress. This charge is necessary as the IMC is run on a not-for-profit basis. For more information about how registration fees are used and set, please see www.imc.leeds.ac.uk/2021-climates/imc-2021-frequently-asked-questions. Our FAQs also provide a range of information about what to expect from IMC 2021.

Following the success of our ‘fringe events’ programme at last summer’s vIMC 2020, delegates will once again be invited to organise and host online fringe events. These can be an opportunity to meet, network, and socialise with other delegates or to bring together colleagues interested in a particular area or field. Further details of how to propose a fringe event will be available at the end of February 2021.

After in-depth market research, we opted to use a single virtual-events platform, Pathable, which enables the display of the programme, access to sessions, automatic recording and storage, and a wide range of interactive functions. Pathable also has the facility to allow delegates to network together in private, and we hope many of you will take advantage of this facility to recreate some of the chance meetings and catch-ups with old (and new) friends which we are hallmarks of the in-person experience. All of these features – we hope – will enrich your experience and enjoyment of this year’s IMC.

As every year, the IMC team aims to provide a high level of customer service. Please do not hesitate if you have any questions and queries, or feedback on how things work. As usual, we will ask for feedback from all delegates after the IMC, and encourage all of you to take the time to complete these questionnaires.

Virtual conferences are not (yet?) a replacement for in-person events. There are so many different facets to conferences: the chances of meeting people you had forgotten or never knew existed, starting and developing ideas and projects – I’ve lost count of how many of you have been in contact in recent years to say that if you had not met x at the IMC you would never have embarked on a certain project. For 2022, we are planning for an in-person event in Leeds, but are fully aware that some of you may have travel or other accessibility issues which may prevent you from attending in person. We are looking into all available options, but until we get some more clarity on the progress of the pandemic response, we are not able to make definite decisions on what may be possible in 2022. Next year, will once again feature ‘Borders’ as the special thematic focus, but as usual all other areas of research into the Middle Ages are welcome. The Call for Papers can be found at the end of this programme.

For this year, we encourage you to make the most of the IMC and to use the systems at your disposal. None of us could have imagined that the issues emerging in early 2020 would continue to affect all our lives in 2021, and for the sake of Medieval Studies and research exchange I urge you to make the best out of this difficult situation. We fully realise the hardship – whether it is financial, health-related, or emotional – that many of you have endured as a result of COVID-19. And that there may still be difficult times ahead. But I believe that we can take solace from the fact that so many activities will still continue to happen, and, as this event proves, Medieval Studies is one of them. Making the IMC happen – and you are all a part of it – is exciting, stimulating, challenging, and even controversial at times, but it is also a way of bringing so many people together.

We hope you stay safe and well, and we very much look forward to welcoming you to the IMC in the summer,

Axel E. W. Müller, Director, International Medieval Congress, and the IMC Team.