International conference: The Mongol Invasion of Hungary and Its Eurasian Context

The Mongol Invasion of Hungary and Its Eurasian Context project cordially invites you to the international workshop

The Mongols in Central Europe: The Profile and Impact of their Thirteenth-Century Invasions

the conference will be broadcast on Zoom
26 November…
Meeting ID: 898 2170 0042
Passcode: 18KY1P
27 November: Meeting ID: 896 9867 7998 Passcode: gR1m9B

26 November 2020

12:30–12:45 Balázs Nagy: Welcome

12:45–13:50 Moderator: István Vásáry
Greetings of Batbayar Zeneemyadar, Ambassador of Mongolia to Hungary
Balázs Nagy: The Mongol Invasion of Hungary and its Central European Context
Attila Bárány: The Response of the West to the Mongol Invasion: 1241-1270

13:50–14:00 Coffee break

14:00–15:15 Moderator: Christopher P. Atwood
Stephen Pow: The Historicity of Ivo of Narbonne’s Account of a Mongol Attack on “Neustat”
Konstantin Golev: Crime and Punishment: The Mongol Invasion, the Cuman-Qïpchaq Refugees and the Second Bulgarian Empire
Dorottya Uhrin: Beheading Among Nomads

13:50–14:00 Coffee break

15:30–16:45 Moderator: Konstantin Golev
Adam Lubocki: Mongol Invasion of Hungary
in the Light of Polish Medieval Sources
Tomaš Somer: Sources on the Mongol Invasion of the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1241
Matthew Coulter: Patterns of Communication during the 1241 Mongol Invasion: Insights from the Ottobeuren Letter Collection

16:45–17:00 Coffee break

17:00–18:00 Moderator: István Vásáry

Keynote lecture: Christopher P. Atwood: Mongolian Sources on the Great Western Expedition: Some Analytical Comments

27 November 2020

12:30–13:45 Moderator: Alexander Nikolov
Mirko Sardelić: “Quasi per aerem volans”:
The Mongols on the Adriatic Coast (AD 1242)
Aleksandar Uzelac: The Kingdom of Hungary and Ulus of Nogai: The Contest for Regional Supremacy at the End of the Thirteenth Century
Ágnes Birtalan: Hungarian Oral Narratives (Hung. népmonda) about the Mongolian Campaign

13:45–14:00 Coffee break

14:00–15:15 Moderator: Beatrix Romhányi
Zsuzsanna Papp Reed: Inscribing the Mongol Invasion into History: The Chronica Majora and Beyond
Alexander Nikolov: From the Pontic Steppes to Anatolia: The Cuman Refugees from the “Mongol Storm” between 1237 and 1242Ning Ya: Should the Papal Envoys Bring Gifts for the Mongols? The Role of Polish and Russian Intelligence Information in the Mission of John of Plano Carpini Compared to that of Ascelin of Lombardy

15:15–15:30 Coffee break

15:30–16:45 Moderator: Mirko Sardelić
Zsolt Pinke: Long-Term Eco-historical Studies for the Wetlands of the Great Hungarian Plain in the Context of the Mongol Invasion
József Laszlovszky: New Archaeological Finds and their Interpretation in the Context of the Mongol Invasion of Hungary
Michal Holeščák: Mongol Invasion of 1241-1242 North of the Danube: Orda Khan´s Trail to Esztergom

16:45–17:00 Coffee break

17:00–18:10 Moderator: József Laszlovszky
Beatrix Romhányi: Traces of the Mongol Invasion in the Settlement Network of the Kingdom of Hungary: Questions, Answers and Doubts
Béla Zsolt Szakács: The Mongol Invasion and the Early Church Architecture in the Szepes/Spiš/Zips Region
Jack Wilson: The Mongols and the Internet: Online Outreach on the Chinggisid Empire, 2018-2020

18:10–18:25 Conclusions and farewell

Call for Papers, Before the Anthropocene: Medieval concepts of interdependent human-nature-relations

Leeds (UK), International Medieval Congress 2021: Climates

Date 5-8 July 2021

Deadline: 20 September 2020

Contact: Martin Bauch

In recent decades, climate history and historical climatology have focused on the economic and social impacts of long-term climatic changes like those which occurred during the Medieval Climate Anomaly or the Little Ice Age. Contemporary worries about global climate patterns have posed new, urgent questions to historians of climate: How did past societies perceive periods of rapid climate change? To what extent were they affected—not only economically, but also in their thinking about the relationship between humans and nature? Traditionally, climate history has focused on reconstruction and impact studies, which implies all too often a one-way relationship: Nature influencing human societies, with humanity merely reacting.

With the emergence of the concept of the Anthropocene, humanity has been recognized as a geological force responsible for fundamental and lasting changes of nature, not least concerning weather conditions via anthropogenic climate change. This raises questions about the degree of reciprocity and interdependence in the relationship between humans and nature. The human ability to reflect about its own agency regarding the course of nature, or the idea that humanity and nature share a common history, have been acknowledged as a postmodern disruption of established explanations of socio-natural relationships (D. Chakrabarty).

However, the distinction between the course of nature and the course of history has been established only since the eighteenth century and recent research made it clear that past societies were already able to think reflexively on their impact on the global environment. Indeed, premodern societies in general and medieval contemporaries in particular, had a very different view: they often assumed that human behavior influenced natural conditions, particularly weather. These assumptions were mediated in religious concepts that crossed into the spheres of politics and economy. Both European and non-European societies accepted the notion that “bad” human actions would backlash in inclement weather while “good” behavior would lead to benevolent conditions. Not only in a Christian context has this relationship often been interpreted by historians rather simplistically as a “retributive theology”. Nevertheless, this cosmological background held much greater social implications, as medieval populations assumed they had a causal influence on weather conditions, and vice versa. A recent example of such an approach has been a new study by Jean-Pierre Devroey on the “righteousness” (droiture) of the Carolingian emperors as a major feature of rulership at that time. Devroey convincingly demonstrates that eighth- and ninth-century thinkers shared a common theory of the “cosmic” dimension of the king that clearly connected good government with the fortune of weather and, consequently, harvests. In the end, he proposes that Carolingian legal-administrative reforms were chronologically connected to bad harvests caused by climate stress and hence constituted a direct political implication of this theoretical background.

The medieval interdependency of humans and nature plays out on at least two different levels: On the one hand, scholars’ written discourses—e.g. treatises, chronicles, letters, and homilies, etc.—give insight into the underlying theories, at least from the point of view of the elites, of the relationship between humanity and nature from Late Antiquity to the end of the Middle Ages in Europe and other parts of the world. On the other hand, sources on economic, infrastructural, and social/institutional history provide information, albeit indirectly, on periods of short-term climate change, as these periods eventually called for specific social adaptation processes. This documentation not only sheds light on the practical reactions of past societies facing abrupt phases of climate change but also enables us to identify underlying theoretical assumptions. Subsequently, this would allow to reconstruct societal adaptions and to examine, at the same time, how specific perceptions of nature shaped these reactions.

To address these issues, we welcome papers dealing with all areas of the globe and from scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. The following questions might serve as possible starting points for paper proposals:

  • To what extent was the interaction between humans and nature—for example, in phases of rapid climate change in the medieval period—truly seen as reciprocal?
  • If the courses of history and nature are not separated in medieval mentalities, to what degree do contemporary witnesses credit natural events with influencing the course of human history?
  • To what extent were natural extreme events used to argue for specific social, economic, religious, and political goals?
  • Was this influence of humans on nature always limited to the context of simple retributive theology, or are other established cultural patterns decisive?
  • Were pragmatic, seemingly modern, i.e. “technocratic” reactions (like institutional reform and infrastructural responses) to natural extreme events in accordance or at odds with religious and cultural discourses?

Thanks to a generous support by our Leipzig-based home institution, the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), we will be able to provide limited funds to reimburse the conference fees and other costs for early career researchers from Eastern and Eastern Central Europe.

A publication of the conference papers is planned. We encourage interested colleagues to submit 300 words abstracts for 20-minute papers by 20 September 2020.

Please submit them by e-mail to:

János M. Bak research fellowship: Call for applications

The Board of the János M. Bak Fellowship on Medieval Central Europe invites applications for its 2021 Fellowship.  With sadness, we also mark in this way, the passing of Professor Bak and wish to remember and take forward his legacy.

The Fellowship will be awarded to an early- or mid-career researcher (upper limit 15 years from the award of the PhD, excluding periods of maternity/paternity leave) who has already shown significant contribution to the research of medieval Central Europe in any field of study in the period between 800 and 1600 CE. The fellowship is open to scholars of any nationality, irrespective of employment status. While hosted by the Department of Medieval Studies at Central European University, Budapest, Janos Bak Fellows will be accommodated in the Raoul Wallenberg Guesthouse. It is required to be resident in Budapest for the duration of the fellowship and to take an active part in the research culture of the Department of Medieval Studies. We particularly encourage projects that make an explicit use of academic, archival, library or museum resources in Budapest. The fellows will also have the possibility to associate themselves with one of the workgroups of the CEU Democracy Institute, and make a medievalist contribution to their themes (such as “the rule of law”, “media and digital technologies”, “inequalities” and, especially, “the history of ideas and practices of democracy”).

Applicants to the fellowship have to submit a CV, a list of publications and a research plan (c. 500 words) and to propose an output such as an article, book chapter, exhibition, film, or other form of publication. Fellows will be asked to hold a public lecture at CEU and be available for consultation to CEU students. As a part of the selection process the shortlisted applicants will be invited for an interview (via video-conferencing), in which they will be expected to elaborate on their research plans during the fellowship and the engagement with the host department at the CEU.

The duration of the fellowship in 2021 will be three months, from April to June 2021. Fellows will receive a monthly stipend in the value of EUR 2000 (with a possibility of reimbursement of visa costs, if applicable). Please send your application package to by 30 November 2020. If you have further questions please contact Professor Emilia Jamroziak, the Chair of the Board of the Fellowship at .

MECERN mourns the passing of Professor M. János Bak (1929-2020)

MECERN mourns the passing of Professor János Bak (1929-2020), co-founder and intellectual inspirer of our Network. We commemorate him with Professor Gábor Klaniczay’s obituary published on the website of the Department of Medieval Studies at CEU.


János M. Bak



János M. Bak, founding member and Professor Emeritus of CEU Department of Medieval Studies has passed away on 18 June, at the age of 91. Until the last moment of his life, he was an engaged scholar, an authoritative and caring professor, an indefatigable worker for an international cooperation for the advancement of learning and the broadening of the ‘Republic of Letters’. When mourning and remembering him, let us recall a few things of his rich, adventurous, life – the Festschrift he received from us when he was 70, was entitled The Man of Many Devices, Who Wandered Full Many Ways The adventures started towards the end of World War II, when he had to survive as a teenager the Holocaust, with tricks and hiding in Arrow-Cross dominated Budapest. Subsequently, after a brief period of enthusiastic conversion to Marxism, he quickly got disillusioned from the unfolding Stalinist regime, and he became an active participant in the 1956 revolution. At its defeat he left Hungary and earned a medieval studies doctorate in Göttingen, as a pupil of Percy Ernst Schramm. As a postgraduate, he spent two years in Oxford, then worked at the University of Marburg, and published a much-cited monograph on ‘Kingdom and estates in late medieval Hungary’. In 1966 he moved to the US and subsequently to Canada, he became professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. As a member of the world-wide community of 1956 émigré intellectuals, he was very active in supporting Hungarian colleagues with books, invitations, scholarships, publication opportunities. At the same time, he became a major organizer in international medieval studies. After some years of investment into the history of ‘East-Central Europe’, and ‘peasant studies’, in the 1980s he organized Majestas, a scholarly association for the study of rulership, which functioned for two decades, organized many successful conferences and published a review with the same name.

When he retired as Professor Emeritus from Vancouver in 1993, it was not for having a rest, but for joining a new, ever-more demanding academic adventure: building a Department of Medieval Studies at the recently founded CEU in Budapest. He brought home his world-wide network and made the largest contribution in turning our department a thriving new center in this field. And this was not only thanks to his high-class German and American experience, but above all thanks to his passionate engagement with the wonderful, passionate, enthusiastic international group of our graduate students. Like probably all other departments in CEU, our seminars became fascinating scholarly workshops combining hidden treasures of local knowledge with high standards of cutting-edge international scholarship. And, in all this, János was a lively, critical, once funny and cheerful, other times nervous and grumpy participant, sometimes scaring students to death with angry explosions, but then giving them due respect, fatherly protection and friendly encouragement – multiple generations of students are weeping now over this departure. The efficient and warmly human impact on the formation of future scholars was paired by his tireless organizational drive: after Majestas he initiated research projects on the comparative history of medieval nobility, on the ‘uses and abuses’ of the Middle Ages, on source-repertory handbooks.  He started a bilingual source edition series entitled Central European Medieval Texts (11 volumes at CEU Press), he published in 5 volumes the ‘Laws of Medieval Hungary’. He retired form CEU as Professor Emeritus in 2007, but he kept being active: he played a key role in the foundation of MECERN, Medieval Central European Network in 2013 – he corrected the proofs of his chapter in a new OUP Handbook on Medieval Central Europe last week, a few days before his death. He had several injuries during the past years, he walked with a stick, but he took the effort, until this winter, to come to CEU for listening to the MA or PhD defenses of his students, or to hear the public lectures of his younger colleagues or his friends, colleagues from the world-wide company. We were exceptionally fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague for three decades, his departure is a great loss for us, for CEU and for medievalist scholarship around the world.

To conclude this obituary let me quote the words of our rector, Michael Ignatieff: “I knew Janos for 40 years, as a scholar, friend, bon vivant, intellectual provocateur. He embodied the spirit of CEU at its best: morally serious, intellectually irreverent, and fiercely loyal to ideals. We will all miss him.”

And another word by Patrick Geary: “May his memory be a blessing for us all”


Gábor Klaniczay


The Association of Historians of the Crown of Aragon (Societas Historicorum Coronae Aragonum): call to join

In the Middle Ages, the Mediterranean was the scenario for the development of a plural and diverse political entity, which became one of the European models of mixed monarchies. It had accessible institutions and a representativeness of the estates, and cultural traits converted into unifying factors, an economy involved in the great maritime routes and, with all this, a plurality under one crown, that of the kings of Aragon. The memory of this peculiarity of this structure has survived in a dense, widely varying, network of archives and diverse sources that need to be duly explored and analysed.

Indeed, the later articulation of society and historical research under the parameters of the nation-state, so deeply rooted over centuries, has even hindered our understanding of what entities like the Crown of Aragon were, to the point that its participative institutions or the membranous traits of its culture could be claimed to be immature from the conceptual rigidities imposed later.

It is undoubtedly necessary to facilitate the coming together, through debate and interdisciplinary relations, of everyone who, from history, art history, philology (literature and language) or any other perspective, studies different aspects and geographies of what was the Crown of Aragon. Accordingly, it is necessary to create an association, one that facilitates relations and exchanges between researchers, anywhere in the world, whose research is focused on the Crown of Aragon.  Together, we can improve the results of our work, increase the circulation of the interpretative paths and also defend adequately what the Crown of Aragon was and represented.

To this end, we present the new Association of Historians of the Crown of Aragon (Societas Historicorum Coronae Aragonum) and invite you to accompany us in this scientific and amiable adventure.

Aymat Catafau, Université de Perpignan Via Domitia

Pietro Corrao, Università degli Studi di Palermo

Charles Dalli, L-Università ta’ Malta

Fulvio  Delle Donne, Università degli Studi della Basilicata

Antoni Furió, Universitat de València

Luciano Gallinari, Istituto di Storia dell’Europa  Mediterranea- CNR Cagliari

Carlos Laliena, Universidad de  Zaragoza

Flocel  Sabaté, Universitat de Lleida

Eleni Sakellariou, University of Crete

Nada Zecevic, Royal Holloway University of London

More information and materials can be obtained at

Between Three Seas: Borders, Migrations, Connections

The Third Biennial Conference of the Medieval Central Europe Research Network (MECERN) on the theme Between Three Seas: Borders, Migrations, Connections took place at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb (Croatia), between 12 and 14 April 2018. Already an established scholarly forum, founded at a conference at CEU in 2014, MECERN’s third major international event attracted almost 100 participants from 15 countries in Europe and North America. The main organizers were Luka Spoljarić (MA ‘08, PhD ‘13), Trpimir Vedriš (MA ‘04, PhD ‘15) and Borislav Grgin (MA ‘94), all faculty members at the University of Zagreb.

The choice of the main theme was triggered by the fact that in the summer of 2015 the countries of Central and South-eastern Europe were faced with a massive wave of refugees caused by the collapse of the established political order in the Near East. In the longue durée, however, this was not a new phenomenon. Throughout the Middle Ages the region of Central Europe, closed off by the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas [MECERN logo], was on numerous times exposed to the large-scale movements of people. Yet during this entire period migrations were also taking place on a micro level, through the movement of individuals, objects, and ideas.

The conference focused on the impact of both mass and individual movements on the region, the permeability of borders, and the manifold connections that reached beyond purely local contexts. In other words, the conference explored medieval Central Europe in flux through papers on political, social, cultural, economic, ecclesiastical, intellectual, legal and urban history, as well as the history of art and literature. Two thought-provoking keynote lectures were given by Neven Budak, Professor at the University of Zagreb and recurrent visiting professor at CEU, and Paul W. Knoll, Professor Emeritus of the University of Southern California, a renowned expert of Late Medieval Poland and Central Europe. The abstracts of the conference are accessible from this link.

The closing reception was held in the Golden Hall of the Croatian Institute of History, hosted by the Institute’s vice director, Gordan Ravančić (MA ‘97). The participants visited the cathedral treasury and got an insider’s view of the history and topography of medieval Zagreb through a valuable tour guided by Zrinka Nikolić Jakus (MA ‘97, PhD ‘04) and Neven Budak. The next international conference of MECERN will take place at the University of Gdańsk in 2020.

Photos: Judit Majorossy (MA ’97, PhD ’06)

Workshop: In Between Worlds – Trans-Cultural Histories of Central and Eastern Europe, 1400—1800

Despite the recent upsurge in the study of pre-modern art and culture in central and eastern Europe, historical events and objects from this part of the world are still largely ignored outside the region. This one-day workshop seeks to redress the relative unfamiliarity with the cultural histories of these lands by proposing that their geographic
peripherality can act not only as a source of marginalisation, but also as a lens through which to introduce central and eastern Europe to the wider narratives of cultural history. Engaging with east-central Europe’s cultural heterogeneity and geographic liminality, participants will examine the region’s entanglement with the Ottoman Empire, Muscovy, western Europe, and beyond. But can positioning central and eastern Europe as a trans-cultural space secure for it a place in dominant historical narratives? Can historians of this region develop new methodological and theoretical approaches that might be of interest also to other scholars? And, above all, can central and eastern Europe ever become mainstream?

Thursday, May 17, 2018|Central European University, Budapest

You can find the program here