A New Blog for Relevant Medievalism

Welcome to the revamped, transformed Camedieval blog!

Since this blog came to be, it has served as an online form of our regular graduate student workshops in the Cambridge Faculty of History. We have hosted some fascinating writing and discussions on research topics from womanhood to memory to talking birds, interspersed with timely reflections on the academic practices of using manuscripts and editing texts during the Covid-19 pandemic. We would like to thank Katherine, Brigid, Lee, Roan, Katie, Calum, Joe, Suzette, Nicholas, Gregory, and all those who have participated in the comments sections for sharing their work and for helping our workshop communities to adapt to the closure of the university over Easter Term and the summer.

In the new academic year, we are thrilled that our workshops have been able to return to meeting in real time, by Zoom. All those medievalists who contributed to or read our blog are welcome to attend the returning workshops, and you can find out how to do so by navigating to our Facebook pages from the foot of this page.

But the return of our workshops leaves us with a flourishing blog which no longer needs to serve its purpose, to provide a space for graduate students to present their ongoing research and receive friendly feedback from their peers. So we, the workshop convenors, put our heads together and have decided to relaunch the blog as a new, needed platform.

We would like to introduce you to Camedieval: a blog for relevant medievalism.

Medieval history is the site of much of the myth-making on which the popular and political imaginations of modernity have been built. All in our field who have been paying attention will have noticed the enduring and yet ever-deepening connection between medieval history and white supremacy. It isn’t uncommon, to give just one of too many examples, to see crusader iconography publicly deployed by anti-Muslim hate groups. As medieval historians, we have an obligation to think, write, and reach out in ways that confront intentional manipulations and unintentional misunderstandings of our subject. This is always true, but especially so when these processes underpin modern injustices.

But we don’t only need to be dealing with “myths” to be compelled to write relevantly. The material and intellectual legacies of the medieval period still structure our lives in ways that we miss when we write or talk only about what happened in the past. Medieval methods of forming and shaping nations or the debt economy or the academy (and more) persist in altered forms today and continue to frame our individual and collective experiences. Our tasks as medievalists don’t end when we discover these medieval histories and so produce knowledge about the past. It is in sharing this knowledge, connecting it to other histories, and reflecting and acting on their modern legacies that we can be useful medievalists.

And even where we find discontinuities – legacies that break off and narratives that are not mythologised but forgotten – we still encounter potential for relevant work. The global medieval period is the site of an unending variety of ways of organising human life that are not those of twenty-first-century capital. That’s not to claim that medieval people necessarily lived better lives than we do, or that medieval societies were more fairly structured than ours are. But it is to say that the systems of exploitation and the opportunities for resisting them which existed in the medieval period were sometimes similar and often very different to those of modernity. Our modern political imagination will only be unhelpfully limited if medieval historians do not spend time thinking through and communicating the possible implications of these pasts. How might, for example, the organisation of British land ownership in the centuries before enclosure challenge us to envision solutions to land hoarding and housing crises, or to rethink our relationship with land both wild and cultivated?

Camedieval will be a space for medievalists to share their ideas about all these relevant dimensions of medieval history and more.

The new blog is a call for public, relevant, and useful medieval histories, for self-reflection on the part of the medievalist community, and for a type of academic practice in medieval history that is serious about its obligations, compassionate in its communicating and listening, and still joyful in its approach to a subject that has, for countless individual reasons, convinced us to study it.

There are already several excellent groups and projects doing similar, needed work, like Oxford’s New Critical Approaches to the Byzantine World or the global medievalistsofcolor.com. We encourage all our readers to find, share, read, and participate in projects like these wherever they can. And we also think that Camedieval might be a different, complementary sort of space: a generalist space, an informal space, a fully public and online space. We are excited to see where this collaborative project goes!

We invite all medievalists to share their thoughts and visions for relevant medievalism by responding to our call for submissions, wherever in the world you are based, at whatever stage of a medieval career you might be. We encourage you to be as angry, as funny, as personal, or as detailed as you would like to be. We ask only that you are also hopeful.

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