Will medieval conferences be cancelled because of coronavirus?

This week the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America was cancelled because of concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Will other medieval conferences also be cancelled? Here is what we know.

For those studying the Middle Ages, there are two major annual conferences – the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which takes place in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the International Medieval Congress, in the English city of Leeds – both of which attract thousands of participants. At this stage, both of these conferences are still scheduled to go ahead, but events are rapidly changing.


International Congress on Medieval Studies

The first of these conferences is the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which is hosted by Western Michigan University and is set to take place from May 7 – 10. On March 10th the congress organizers issued this statement:

We know that many of you are concerned about whether the 55th Congress will take place because of the threat of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Your health and safety, as well as the safety of the Western Michigan University community, are our priorities. As of now, we do not plan to cancel the Congress. The situation is, however, rapidly evolving. WMU administrators are monitoring the situation, and if anything changes, we will be in touch immediately by email, twitter, and with an announcement on the Congress website.


However, on the following day more news emerged from Western Michigan University that they are suspending in-person instructions from March 16th to April 3rd. They are also cancelling all events on the campus that anticipate an attendance of more than 100 – this also begins on March 16th, but the statement does not set a period on when this might end.

It would seem that Western Michigan University will be waiting to see how the situation progresses before they make an announcement on whether the medieval congress can proceed or not. If the situation does not change over the next few weeks, it is likely that the International Congress on Medieval Studies will be cancelled. A decision would likely have to be made sometime in April, perhaps before the close of the pre-registration period on April 22nd.

International Medieval Congress

The other major medieval conference takes place at the University of Leeds from July 6th to 9th. We contacted officials at the International Medieval Congress who confirm that their conference is still set to proceed. Axel E. W. Müller, the Director of the International Medieval Congress, replied to our questions, stating:

A lot can change in the next four months, and there are many variables and possibilities to consider. We will need to react to any developments as and when they come. In particular, we will be looking at government advice and restrictions in effect at the time of IMC 2020. We will take into account local, national and international guidance, with a focus on the health and safety of our delegates.


He added that they will be continuing to monitor developments and will keep delegates updated. With this conference not taking place for four months, the officials will likely have enough time to see how the coronavirus outbreak is being handled before needing to make any decisions.

Other factors will undoubtedly also play a role in whether or not the congresses take place, such as how well health officials are able to contain the pandemic in the local areas.

We will provide updates as soon as we learn of them.

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