Medieval scholarship is at a remarkable moment of challenge and opportunity. The field is undergoing a transformation as scholars turn away from a narrow focus on Western Europe, recognizing that European developments cannot be understood in isolation from the wider world. Currents of mutual influence and exchange—as well as conflict—ranged far beyond the Mediterranean to include Islamic scholars in Timbuktu or debates over religion at the courts of the Mongol khans. The result is not only a richer understanding of our past but of the complex medieval origins of aspects of the contemporary world, not only sectarian differences but shared developments like institutions of higher learning and diplomacy. Further, critical comparative studies are now essential to our understandings of commonalities and distinctive developments, from studying the disintegration of empires through comparison of the Mayan and Carolingian civilizations, to the uses of writing practices like public inscriptions on stone, or comparative scribal cultures. This is important: contemporary events have underscored the pressing need for scholars to communicate to students and the broader public deeper understandings of the links and tensions among world cultures, understandings grounded in their long histories of interaction, influence and conflict. These understandings can no longer be Eurocentric. Yet ironically we are also experiencing a crisis in the humanities, a turning away from exactly the research and teaching needed to develop and convey those deeper understandings. This project addresses these concerns. It is shaped by our recognition of University of California’s responsibility to public education: we seek both to foster research with wide-reaching implications and to develop ways to make those new understandings accessible to educators as well as researchers.
The Middle Ages in the Wider World project opens with a kickoff conference on Saturday March 4, 2017 at the Townsend Center for the Humanities at UC Berkeley featuring presentations modeling the kind of innovative connective and comparative research we seek to fund. Our plenary speaker is Carol Symes, Professor of Medieval and Global Studies at the University of Illinois and founding editor of The Medieval Globe. Travel subsidies to attend the conference are available to UC faculty and graduate students — apply now on the Registration section of this site! Graduate students are particularly encouraged to attend to learn about funding opportunities through the project.
A first round of summer research grants will be disbursed in May 2017; applications are due March 31, 2017. We invite proposals for research exploring connections or comparisons between Europe, Eurasia, Africa, or the Americas from 500 to 1500 CE and expect typical awards to be in the 5K-10K-range. A flexible range of research activities will be supported to engage the creativity and expertise of both students and faculty. They include:
– individual or group projects on connections and/or shared experiences from 500 to 1500 CE linking Europe to Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
– collaborative brief source translations illuminating connections and/or shared experiences from 500 to 1500 CE linking Europe to Asia, Africa, and the Americas and accompanied by introductions, annotations, and curricular apparatus (discussion questions, learning activities).
– training in new scientific tools (such as DNA analysis, digital humanities) and critical analysis of their application to issues in global medieval studies.
– development of syllabi and learning outcomes on the undergraduate level and bibliographies for graduate qualifying exams.
Funded researchers will be required to present draft results at either the fall 2017 workshop at UC Santa Barbara or the spring 2018 workshop at UC Davis.
A second round of summer research grants will be disbursed in May 2018 with research results presented a fall 2018 workshop at UC Berkeley.