What is new in medieval studies? Here are ten articles published in December, which tell us about topics including the First Crusade and animating small objects.
This series on Medievalists.net highlights what has been published in journals over the last month that deal with the Middle Ages. All ten articles are Open-Access, meaning you can read them for free. We now also have a special tier on our Patreon where you can see the full list of open-access articles we found.
Robin Hood: medieval rogue or Enlightenment gentleman?
By Stephanie Barczewski
La Révolution française
Abstract: This essay addresses and attempts to offer a new interpretation of the classic debate over Robin Hood’s social and ideological origins. On the one side are those authors who support a radical version of Robin Hood who challenges social hierarchies; on the other are those who see Robin Hood as a gentleman playing at being an outlaw and therefore as a supporter rather than a challenger of legitimate authority. Here, I argue that the two sides of Robin Hood, who is a specifically English (as opposed to British) national hero, represent the two sides of English political development, in which the superficially orderly evolution that has occurred in recent centuries conceals a more tumultuous undercurrent. The contradictions of the Robin Hood legend are thus no accident. Instead, they reflect the complexities of England’s political evolution from the late Middle Ages to the present day.
The Mongol Invasion of Hungary in Its Eurasian Context
By József Laszlovszky, Balázs Nagy, János B. Szabó, and Dorottya Uhrin
Historical Studies on Central Europe
Abstract: This report gives an account of the historiography of the Mongol invasion of Hungary in 1241–1242, and the ongoing research of the project “The Mongol Invasion of Hungary in its Eurasian Context.” The research has been carried out by an interdisciplinary team comprising representatives of diverse academic institutions and fields. The primary objective of the project was to reassess existing scholarship by comparing it with the findings of the project team members, ultimately generating new scholarly insights. The team members concentrated on various aspects, including archaeology, military history, and the short- and long-term impacts of the Mongol military invasions in the mid-thirteenth century.
The Christianisation of the Baltic Seen from Medieval France
By Loïc Chollet
Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Abstract: The way the Baltic region was viewed in Christian Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages was strongly characterised by the fact that it was the land of the last pagans. Beginning with the crusade against the Wends (Polabian Slavs) in 1147, attempts to convert them in the region took the form of the Northern Crusades, authorised by the Pope. The Teutonic Order became the driving force behind these crusades from the 13th to the 15th centuries, and secured support in Christian Europe, including France. The representation of the east Baltic region, on which this article focuses, was mainly related to these crusades. The author’s aim is to provide an overview of the attitude of the French-related nobility and intellectual elite towards the Christianisation of the Baltic from the tenth to the 15th centuries, with a special focus on Lithuania. In the first half of the 14th century, many crusaders from France and neighbouring countries backed the Teutonic Order’s struggle against Lithuania. These expeditions, mostly a derivative of the crusades in the Holy Land, were seen as the epitome of the chivalric lifestyle. This view changed slowly after Grand Duke Jogaila acceded to the Polish throne in 1386 and a year later baptised the grand duchy. With the evangelisation of Žemaitija (Samogitia) in 1417, Lithuania was definitely considered a part of Christendom.
Social security in late medieval England: corrodies in the hospitals and almshouses of Durham Priory
By AT Brown
Abstract: Historians have debated the extent of poor relief and social security provision in late medieval England, yet our knowledge about the inmates of hospitals and almshouses remains limited. Corrodies – grants of food, clothes and shelter – have been seen as a way of alleviating poverty in old age. Utilizing the evidence of 260 corrodies, this article explores the gender, marital status and length of time recipients held their positions in two hospitals and two almshouses in Durham. Far from catering just to ageing male retainers, as is often thought, corrodies provided security for men and women of all ages
‘How to make a ring jump in the manner of a locust’: recipes to animate small objects in late medieval European manuscripts
By Vanessa da Silva Baptista
Abstract: In his late thirteenth-century collection of playful and amusing recipes, which this article calls magic tricks, Richard de Grimhill, a low-ranking Worcester noble, collected a trick ‘to make a ring jump in the manner of a locust’, alongside other instructions to animate domestic objects such as eggs, loaves of bread and spit-roasting chickens. Using a source base of 100 late medieval manuscripts, this article demonstrates that rings and other domestic objects were animated in various ways: through sleight of hand, by exploiting the chemical properties of mercury, or with a mixture of mercury, sulphur, and saltpetre. Placing these three methods in their manuscript and cultural contexts, I underscore that late medieval European people experienced magic tricks as a form of both cognitive play and playful experimentation with chemical knowledge. They thus have broader implications for late medieval European approaches to the possibilities and limitations of the human mind and physical matter.
The ‘Year According to the Arabs’: The Rise of the ‘Hijra’-Era in the Context of the Administrative Structures in the Early Islamic Empire
By Eugenio Garosi
Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations
Abstract: This article offers a survey of the spread and function of what is currently known as the hijrī calendar among different socio-linguistic milieus of the early Islamic empire. In particular, it analyses insider and outsider descriptions of the new imperial calendar as a window into the cultural profile of mediators between the Arabic and Graeco-Egyptian milieus in early Islamic Egypt. I argue that the ways the hijrī calendar was referred to in Greek and Coptic documentary texts diverged depending on the level of the issuing authority in the provincial administration: while documents issued by district officials label the era as the ‘year of the Saracens’ or use it without specifications, documents produced by the gubernatorial office use the designation ‘the year according to the Arabs’ (kata Arabas) instead. The main argument is that the kata Arabas label – as well as other formulaic peculiarities of documents produced in the provincial capital – can be linked to the employment of Hellenized Syro-Aramaean experts among the entourage of Arab governors appointed by Damascus. To flesh out the links between the gubernatorial chancery and a Syro-Aramean milieu, Egyptian evidence will be contrasted with Greek and Syriac texts from Syria-Palestine and Northern Mesopotamia.
From Centre to Periphery and Back: The Codex Speciálník and Fluid Music History around 1500
By Lenka Hlávková
Journal of the Alamire Foundation
Abstract: Research on European musical culture in the late Middle Ages has been significantly influenced by politics in the twentieth century. Modern ideological concepts and political borders were projected on to historical material and interpreted in terms of a Europe divided by the Iron Curtain. Although musicological research over the past three decades has frequently been confronted with questions of the identity of central Europe and its reintegration into international musicological discourse, recent synthetic studies (e.g., the Cambridge History of Music series) still largely conserve pre-1989 views of music history. Using the Bohemian Codex Speciálník (CZ-HKm 7), this study shows that the construction of a new historical narrative requires a re-evaluation of primary sources. Basic information concerning them, such as dating, must be revised according to current codicological methods, and their historical contexts must be reassessed. Today the Codex Speciálník is recognized as an internationally important source for studying the transmission of polyphony in Europe before 1500. The repertory in its earliest gatherings, dating from c. 1480 or shortly before, has close ties to the court of Emperor Frederick III and the ducal court in Milan. New findings point to central Europe – and Bohemia in particular – as an important area for the cultivation of polyphony, and demonstrate that old clichés framing the region as marginal and behind-the-times must be reconsidered.
“Celebrating 700 anni di Dante” : a new branding
By Dario Galassini
Abstract: This article aims to read the advertising campaign Magnum x Dante by Algida, launched in the occasion of the seventh centenary of Dante’s death, and to inscribe it within the panorama of ads which appropriate and mediate Dante as an icon (either his image or his works). The analysis of the campaign focuses on : packaging ; re-writing of verses of the Comedy ; TV ads ; other related initiatives.
Heroic Deeds and Heroic Failure: Robert of Normandy and the Portrayal of the First Crusade in 12th and 13th Century England
By Carol Sweetenham
Abstract: The First Crusade was evoked by Anglo-Norman English historians throughout the 12th and into the 13th Century. In the first third of the 12th Century it was recounted in detail by three leading historians: Orderic Vitalis, William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntington. By the middle of the 12th Century, however, it was already being depicted less as an enterprise in its own right and more as a backdrop for the participation of Robert, Duke of Normandy. Robert himself was depicted as a flawed hero, whose bravery on crusade was celebrated, but who failed in his ultimate duty by refusing the crown of Jerusalem. This paper traces the evolution of the portrayal both of the crusade and of Robert’s part in it in 12th and 13th Century England, exploring how perceptions both of the crusade and Robert changed in line with political priorities and attitudes to crusade.
The origins of saddles and riding technology in East Asia: discoveries from the Mongolian Altai
By Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan et al.
Innovations in horse equipment during the early Middle Ages provided advantages to societies from the steppes, reshaping the social landscape of Eurasia. Comparatively little is known about the precise origin of these crucial advances, although the available evidence points to early adoption in East Asia. The authors present new archaeological discoveries from western and northern Mongolia, dating to the fourth and fifth centuries AD, including a wooden frame saddle with horse hide components from Urd Ulaan Uneet and an iron stirrup from Khukh Nuur. Together, these finds suggest that Mongolian groups were early adopters of stirrups and saddles, facilitating the expansion of nomadic hegemony across Eurasia and shaping the conduct of medieval mounted warfare.
We found 45 open-access articles from December – you can get the full list by joining our Patreon.