On the 13th December, we headed down to the British Museum for an afternoon of talks and networking based around the theme of “International Perspectives”. While this was the smallest of the Project workshops so far, it was vital in enabling our participants to widen their outlooks and discussions to consider the broader European contexts of the 11th and 12th centuries.
In British scholarship, an insular viewpoint has often (over)emphasised the significance of 1066 as a watershed moment, which has rarely been considered in conjunction with European affairs. It was fascinating to hear about the awareness (or not) of the so-called “Norman Conquest” in non-English scholarship and schools, and to brainstorm ideas of how to best combat the limitations posed by national boundaries.
The workshop consisted of a series of informal presentations, followed by discussions, both around the subject matter of the presentations, but also the potential or feasibility of research student exchanges and international research projects.
During the afternoon, we heard from Aleks McClain, as the projects Principal Investigator, Michael Lewis from the British Museum who spoke about the challenges and opportunities in exhibiting the Bayeux Tapestry, Alban Gautier (Université de Caen Normandie) who spoke on Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman eating and drinking habits, Pieterjan Deckers (Vreij Universiteit Brussel) who considered the need for a supranational perspective on high medieval material culture, and Cecilia Ljung (Stockholm University) who spoke about her research on the early Christian grave monuments and ecclesiastical developments in eleventh-century Sweden. Aleks provided an overview of the Project so far (you can see the programmes for these meetings here), and updated participants on the publications currently in the works (watch this space for more details coming soon!). The aims of the Project were reiterated: to bring together historians and archaeologists (both academic and professional) with those working in the heritage sector.
Repeatedly raised throughout the afternoon was the different research agendas, and even terminology used by archaeologists and historians across national boundaries. However, a key challenge in developing supranational research agendas and projects was identified as time and monetary costs of getting to places (such as international conferences) where international meetings can take place. The labelling and therefore location of sources can also affect the material on which archaeologists draw (for example, ivories in an Art History Museum sometimes overlooked as viewed as “art” rather than “archaeology”). National boundaries also limit the reception of scholarship, with English-speaking scholars preferring specific journals, and unpublished grey literature often proving difficult to find in some countries where little guidance is given to international scholars on how to access these important resources. As a result, research agendas can sometimes be dictated by the source material that can be accessed (whether this is restricted by language or monetary concern).
The educational aspect of this research formed a key part of the discussions at the workshop; and the international focus of the participants allowed us to raise (and address) questions such as “whose history?” and “why are those histories preferred?”.
Holding this workshop at the British Museum was a useful way to collate our UK researchers together in a connected city, easy to access from the continent – and the connected nature of London stands as a good metaphor for the (desired) connected nature of future research projects on these centuries.
Keep an eye on the Resources page for the recorded talks from this workshop, as well as publication information, mini-lecture inserts, and other educational resources about the 11th and 12th centuries. All coming soon!