The ‘Birth’ of Medieval Studies

Over the last forty years, medieval scholars have exponentially increased our knowledge of the reception of medieval culture in postmedieval times. Cultural studies, feminism(s), medievalism studies, postmodernism(s), Rezeptionsgeschichte, Rezeptionsästhetik, and various sociological studies of intellectual and academic culture have added to our self-awareness of the constructed nature of medievalist practices and rites. La naissance de la médiévistique offers twenty-five essays that focus on the genesis and development of the discipline of medieval history at the modern university during the nineteenth- and early twentieth century, i.e., a period of intensifying nationalism. As a consequence, many of the contributions describe scholars, research projects, policies, organizations, methodologies, universities, museums, and libraries that navigate the conflicting priorities of universal scholarly paradigms and specific national contexts.

Consider, for example, the different national paths and methodologies through which historians around Europe answered the need for reliably archived and (subsequently) edited historical sources: While continental (especially German) developments focused more on exteriorizing non-academic work on medieval history when creating their Monumenta Germaniae Historica (Gerhard Schmitz, “Les Monumenta Germaniae Historica“) or Chroniken der deutschen Städte (Dominique Adrian, “Les Chroniken der deutschen Städte“), the professionalization of history in Britain did not immediately extinguish the well-established antiquarian tradition in gentlemen’s clubs and societies (Roxburghe Club; Camden Society; Early English Text Society). In fact, antiquaries continue to play an essential role in creating and sustaining, throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, archives such as the Public Record Office or libraries like the British Museum (Jean-Philippe Genet, “De l’antiquary au médiéviste: revolution ou transition?”). In Belgium, the creation of a national library and the royal archives can be linked directly to the birth of the nation itself (Éric Bousmar, “Inventorier, publier, étudier. Naissance de la médiévistique en Belgique, du Romantisme à Henri Pirenne”); in France, the dramatic interruption of archival activities for medieval texts in the wake of the Revolution had to be overcome and a new generation of archivists trained before historical texts could be edited and published (Julie Lavernier, “Archiver vs. éditer”).

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: La naissance de la médiévistique: Les historiens et leurs sources en Europe au Moyen Age (XIXe – début du XXe siècle). Actes du colloque de Nancy, 8-10 novembre 2012, ed. by I. Guyot-Bachy, and J.-M. Moeglin, The Medieval Review (2016).

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