Medieval Histories – On balancing along the precipice between Medieval Living History and the Medieval Studies of Academia

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Dressed Viking woman at weaving - photo by Peter van der Sluijs

Dressed Viking woman at weaving – photo by Peter van der Sluijs

Medieval Histories – On balancing along the precipice between Medieval Living History and the Medieval Studies of Academia

By Karen Schousboe

Published Online (2013)

Introduction: A curious matter among medieval re-enactors is how often they claim in interviews “not to be especially interested in history”. Digging into these assertions a further explication may run something like this: “History is all about correct dates and royal lineages; I am interested in experiencing a historical time. That is something quite different.”

Apart from the fact, that academic history is about so much more beside being able to navigate inside proper time-frames, it is easy to hear the echo of a desperate schoolchild without the capacity to remember details, but instead with a developed ability to remember bodily or structurally; and who accordingly yearns for “another” history. But it is also easy to detect something else, which is the beleaguered and policed frontier between academia and living history – or as it is often called between Medieval Studies and Medievalism. Something both parties are acutely aware of.




In this paper – which is no more than a tentative and preliminary overview building on the research of others – I wish to characterise this frontier by trying to shed some light on both “the others”, that is all the Living Historians peopling the many medieval markets and events, as well as the Academic Historians peopling the Universities and other institutions. Finally I am going to suggest a way to bridge what some might consider a chasm.

Click here to read this article from Academia.edu

See also Karen Schousboe’s website Medieval Histories

Sharan Newman