Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past in the Early Middle Ages

Thursday 21 February – Friday 22 February 2013

Conference: Cultural Memory and the Resources of the Past in the Early Middle Ages

This conference at the British School at Rome represents the culmination of a three-year HERA project by the Universities of Cambridge, Leeds, Utrecht and Vienna 2010-2013, generously funded by the ESF. The project has explored the eclectic uses of the resources of the past in the post-Roman successor states of western Europe in the early middle ages. It had two principal aims:  1. to determine the role played by the resources of the past in forming the identities of the communities of early medieval western Europe; 2. to identify the process by which the new discourses, ethnic identities and social models of early medieval Europe have come to form an essential part of modern European national and transnational identities. Our work has increasingly exposed the importance of Rome, Roman history, and the integration of Christian and imperial Rome into the cultural memory of early medieval Europe. The extant manuscript material from the early middle ages has constituted a major resource to shed new light on the process of codification and modification of the cultural heritage, and for the study of cultural dynamics in general. The project has thus combined two elements: on the one hand, the careful analysis of the transmission of texts and of the manuscript evidence; on the other, the problem of identity formation, including perceptions of difference on the part of specific social, political and religious communities. The transmitted texts do not only reflect ethnic, social and cultural identities; they also contribute to their creation, give meaning to social practice, and are often intended to inspire, guide, change or prevent action, directly or indirectly. The written texts that have been transmitted to us are therefore traces of social practice and of its changes, not only in a merely descriptive way, but also as part of a cultural effort to shape the present by means of restructuring the past.  The papers of this conference will address the themes of learning empire, the biblical past, changing senses of the ‘other’, and the migration of cultural traditions in early medieval Europe. Speakers will include Mayke de Jong (Utrecht), Clemens Gantner (Vienna), Rosamond McKitterick (Cambridge), Sven Meeder (Nijmegen), Walter Pohl (Vienna), Helmut Reimitz (Princeton) and Ian Wood (Leeds).

For full details of the programme please click here.