Why The History Of Medieval Studies Haunts How We Study The Past

There’s been no formal response to these claims as yet by the ICMS.

The issues at play here have been long-simmering, but most immediately link back to events from the Summer of 2017. Some medievalists responded to the Far Right’s use of medieval imagery (crusader crosses, Viking-style runes, etc.) at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA by pointing out the place of contemporary academia within that appropriation. Others became deeply offended by that idea, showing themselves unwilling to accept that the field and the people who study it might be complicit in that hate.

The argument, it seems, is continuing.
But the thing is, it’s not really an “argument.”

One side is pointing to the way the the Middle Ages have traditionally been studied, how those traditional areas of focus have tended to blind scholars to the richness and variety of that slice of the past. The other side is saying, effectively, that they don’t belong here for asking those questions. In other words, those who wrote the letter are trying to do what scholarship does – ask new questions, look for new answers – while the other are being gatekeepers, concerned about change because it threatens their own status.

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