Call for Papers: Networks – Cooperation – Rivalry

The Fourth Biennial Conference of the Medieval Central Europe Research Network

Online, organized by the University of Gdańsk, 7–9 April 2021

After successful conferences in Budapest (2014), Olomouc (2016) and Zagreb (2018), the Fourth Biennial Conference of MECERN (postponed from 2020 and moved to an online format) will examine the building of networks in Central Europe, as well as between Central Europe and other parts of Europe and the wider world. It will raise the question whether this process was based on cooperation or competition, on solidarity or rivalry, and will trace the short and long-term impacts, and eventual disintegration of these networks. In other words, the conference will explore medieval Central Europe as a conglomerate of structured and interrelated, but often changeable ties. By invoking new paradigms, this approach encourages historians from Central Europe or writing about Central Europe to reject the national perspective and national myths concerning this subject.


Due to the move to the online format, the Organizing Committee has decided to open the
possibility for new applicants to propose papers for a short additional period. We welcome
proposals from scholars at all stage of career, researching all aspects of medieval past, from political, social, cultural, economic, ecclesiastical, urban, artistic, material, literary, intellectual and legal history. Having Central Europe as their starting point, papers and session proposals may address the following issues:

  • rivalry and competition for power in Central Europe
  • building Central European alliances; dynastic connections, including contacts with
    Western Europe and wider Eurasia
  • temporary and permanent agreements or contracts of an economic, social or political
    nature
  • network building between families, kin-groups, social groups, economic organisations;
    trade contacts
  • Church connections and rivalry in Central Europe and beyond
  • religious organisations, brotherhoods, networks of monasteries and monks
  • medieval schools and universities as places of networking
  • the development of the idea of networks in the Middle Ages
  • networks of law; legal ties between cities
  • inclusion and exclusion: developments outside the network structure
  • artistic aspects of networks (the existence of artists’ networks)
  • material culture and of objects – what archaeology says about networks
  • modern historiography on networks; the concepts of rivalry and cooperation in the
    Middle Ages

Both individual and panel submissions are encouraged. Papers are twenty minutes long. In
addition, the call is open for poster presentations. A poster session will include five-minute
presentations from each accepted poster presented.

Deadline for submissions: 23 January 2021

Please submit a 250-word abstract and a one-page CV to  mecerngdansk21@gmail.com
Expected registration fee: 30 EUR, PhD students: reduced fee 20 EUR

Accepted participants will be notified by 15 February 2021

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   http://dantean.hypotheses.org

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: martin.bauch@leibniz-gwzo.de

Call for Papers, IMC 2020, Leeds: ‘Observants on the borders. Religious and Political challenges in Central and Eastern Europe in the Quattrocento’

The aim of these sessions is to promote the dialogue within Medieval Studies on the fifteenth century involving a focus on the Observant movements in Central and Eastern Europe in the fifteenth century. This area of research has been largely neglected by Anglophone scholarship in the past and we believe that the study of religious orders can foster the integration of different historiographical traditions. We would like to gather researchers interested on this area and welcome papers that discuss and highlight the contribution of religious orders on politics, culture, and society.

In the landscape of the consolidation of the papacy after the end of the Great Schism, Central and Eastern Europe represented a stage of intense diplomatic and missionary activity supported by the Roman Church to gain authority and control over the Christendom. The Observant movements, mostly the Franciscan one, but not only, played and essential role in strengthen relations between local powers and laypeople, Church and monarchs. Observants formed a forefront against the dissidence of heretics, Jews, and schismatics. As papal agents, Observants were also responsible to organize a unitary Anti-Ottoman front. The most emblematic example is the mission of the Observant friar John of Capistrano between 1451 and 1456 culminating in the battle of Belgrade.

Proposals may include but are certainly not limited to the following topics:

  • Hussite heresy controversy
  • Sermons, preaching, and social issues
  • Tensions, reforms and divisions within religious orders
  • Anti-Ottoman front
  • Observants and the Central and Eastern European dynasties
  • Missions, conversions, settlements, and the challenges of local contexts.
  • Adaptation and implementation of Observant ideas on the frontiers of Latin Christendom
  • Conflict/agreement with priests and bishops

Abstracts of approximatively 200 words should be sent to Andrea Mancini (hyam@leeds.ac.uk), or Pawel Cholewicki (P.Cholewicki@leeds.ac.uk) Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds, by 27 September 2019. For further information about the Leeds International Medieval Congress 2020, please visit this website: https://www.imc.leeds.ac.uk/imc2020/