What were the acceptance criteria in universities of medieval Europe?

What were the acceptance criteria in universities of medieval Europe?

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Did they have entrance tests? Were certain groups officially banned from entering? How much did one have to pay? Did they have scholarships for talented studends? How these criteria differed between countries and over time?

More details can be found in the related Wikipedia article.

University students typically had one of three sponsors:

  1. their own (wealthy) families
  2. the church
  3. the crown

The admissions criteria and payments were set by the respective sponsors.

That is the church and crown had their own "feeder" schools, and chose the best students of these to take university degrees, and generally paid for the students' education. These choices were made on the basis of public policy.

Wealthy families might "home school" their children, perhaps hiring tutors affiliated with universities, then sending those children to whichever universities would accept them, with the family paying the way.


The America Press, June 1933

The history of medieval education is a rich field for research, but one which is still largely unexplored. This neglect of a great age is unfortunate for many reasons. One consequence, among others, is that popular textbooks in educational history continue to repeat traditional errors and mistatements whenever they venture to refer to the status of education during medieval times. To safeguard immature students against such sources of misinformation there is urgent need of a generous supply of scientific studies covering various phases of medieval culture. It is especially necessary to warn against an uncritical acceptance of distorted views inspired by those twin enemies of medievalism: the enthusiasm of the devotees of the classical Renaissance, and the bias of the protagonists of the Protestant Revolt.

Perhaps no phase of the remarkable educational development which may be traced during the millenium which preceded the fifteenth century has received such scant courtesy as that which has to do with the efforts of the medieval Church to extend the benefits of education to the various ranks of European society, even to those who were lowest in the social scale. In this connection it is worth noting that as recently as 1914 the late Arthur F. Leach complained that there was no adequate history of English education.[1] It may be added that the reputation of Mr. Leach as a scholar rests mainly on the fact that for more than thirty years he labored successfully to lay the foundations for such a history. He disposed forever "of the current and common view that English schools and any education in England worthy of the name dated from the Reformation."[2] Experience shows, however, that the uprooting of historical errors is a slow process. For instance, a recent book[3] intended for American college students contains a selection from Green, the English historian, which gives the impression that education in England received a great impetus from the Protestant Reformation, and more especially from the Puritan element which, it is claimed, popularized the reading of the Bible in the English tongue. No hint is given that the writings of all noteworthy English authors from the days of Caedmon to those of Chaucer show familiarity with the Bible, nor that the Bible in the vernacular was in the hands of orthodox Catholics prior to the great religious and political revolt of the sixteenth century.[4]

Perhaps no book has done more to mislead American readers than Payne's translation of a work by Compayre in which the reader will find the following rather startling statement:[5]

With La Salle and the foundation of the Institute of the Brethren of the Christian schools, the historian recognizes the Catholic origin of primary instruction in the decrees of the French Revolution, its lay and philosophical origin: but it is to the Reformers—to Luther in the sixteenth and to Comenius in the seventeenth—that must be ascribed the honor of having first organized schools for the people. In its origin the primary school is the child of Protestantism, and its cradle is the Reformation. [6]

The statement just quoted has misled many readers who have had no opportunity to consult source material. Several writers have accepted the unsupported testimony of Compayre, regardless of the fact that modern scholarship has shown that the claims made for Luther and Comenius are simply preposterous. Indeed, it can be shown that both before and after the Reformation many forces contributed to the development and extension of popular education, and that the Reformation played a minor, if not a negative, role. A study of Luther's writings reveals no high ideal of the function of the elementary school. He says:[7]

My idea is not to create schools like those we have had. . . . A boy should pass one or two hours a day at school and let him have the rest of his time for learning a trade in his father's house. . . . So also girls should have an hour a day at school.

As a matter of fact Luther was concerned mainly about secondary education.[8] Equally baseless is the claim, so often advanced, that Luther was a pioneer advocate of compulsory attendance. In this regard he was anticipated by King Alfred the Great about 893 A.D.[9] Moreover, it is a matter of record that as early as 1496 a compulsory-attendance law was actually passed by the Scottish Parliament at a time when Scotland was still an integral part of Catholic Christendom. This, the first compulsory-attendance law enacted by any European government, required barons and freeholders to send their sons and heirs to school from the age of eight or nine years until they should be "competently founded and have perfect Latin."[10] The law assumes the existence of schools which, as Grant bears witness, were planted in every considerable town in Scotland at this time.[11]

As for the educational services of Comenius, to which Compayre and others have attached so much importance, there is clearly a large element of exaggeration. A modern non-Catholic scholar, while admitting the Comenius was one of several propagandists of new educational ideas, says:[12]

Unfortunately his Great Didactic in which he set forth his general principles, attracted little attention and won less adherence, although his school books in which he attempted with very little success to apply his principles were widely used in schools. But they were little more than bald summaries of real or supposed facts, stated in Latin and the vernacular in parallel columns. In content they differed from such medieval summaries of knowledge as the well-known works of Bartolomew Angelicus, which had been widely used since the thirteenth century, chiefly in greater baldness and aridity of treatment.

Even the idea of the popular Janua linguarum reserrata of Comenius was borrowed from a work with a similar title by the Irish Jesuit, William Bathe, whose work preceded by twenty years that of Comenius. From the account that the latter gives of the "elegans inventio Linguarum Januae Hibernica," as he describes Bathe's work, we learn that translations of the learned Jesuit's book had already been made into English, French, and German from the original Latin-Spanish edition.[13]

Recent investigations of the educational history of England, Germany, and other countries have effectively disposed of the myth as to the Protestant origin of the elementary school,[14] as well as of the introduction of vernacular Bible by the Reformers.[15] Many scholars of liberal views, however, hesitate to claim a pre-Reformation origin for the elementary school, now regarded as the people's school par excellence, as its variant titles, the "common school," and Volksschule, suggest. The issue to some extent rests on a definition of terms. There is a tendency to limit the term elementary school to one which was concerned with "pre-adolescent, native vernacular education"[16] "attended by common folk who did not aspire to a professional career,"[17] and aimed at supplying "a type of education which was relatively complete."[18]

This conception of elementary education is decidedly arbitrary. It fails to include those present-day educational systems which make provision for bilingualism on the elementary-school level and it neglects to take account of recent developments which are breaking down the artificial divisions between primary and secondary education but, above all, it does violence to the facts of history which clearly indicate marked educational development due to religious, political, economic, and social factors. It intentionally excludes any school in which even the rudiments of Latin were taught and it fails to account for the fact that vernacular education was not uncommon, a fact which is especially emphasized by the demand for printed books in the vernacular from the middle of the fifteenth century onwards in various countries, notably Germany, England, and France.[19]

The rise of the vernaculars, however, did not displace Latin in the schools for the simple reason that for the laity as well as for the clergy it was the most valuable of subjects.[20] Hence, prior to the sixteenth century, and much later, no school worthy of the name would have thought of excluding the study of Latin from the curriculum. For instance, in the vernacular schools which were established in the commercial cities of Germany from the thirteenth century onwards, Latin as well as Deutsch was considered necessary.[21]

From the preceding discussion two important conclusions emerge: first, that the origin of popular education cannot be attributed to the Reformation and second, that a conception of the people's school that would restrict it virtually to vernacular and secular education in the three R's is lacking in historical perspective. Such an ideal of education was utterly foreign to the medieval mind which regarded another R, religion, as the very heart of the curriculum.

A major problem which invites our attention involves a consideration of the different medieval institutions which were mainly responsible for the popularization of education. It is hardly necessary to say that Christianity was not heir to any ready-made system of schools. The Church was not concerned with culture for its own sake, but as a means to advancing her own sublime mission among men irrespective of race or station in life. Although she has had at all times illustrious scholars within her ranks her ultimate objective was not the creation of an aristocracy of learning. She made her first appeal to the common people. As Christianity spread to all classes throughout the Roman Empire, Christian schools gradually displaced and superseded pagan institutions of learning. It is worth remembering, however, that the grammar or secondary schools retained their pagan character longest and that Christian elementary and higher schools developed much earlier.[22] With rise in the West of episcopal and monastic schools, Christians no longer had occasion to resort to the schools of the pagan grammarians and rhetoricians. Indeed, much of the educational history of Western Europe prior to the rise of the universities in the twelfth century might be written on the contributions of these two major educational agencies of the Medieval Church.[23]

Volumes might be written about the monastic schools alone. From the fifth century onward they spread all over western Europe.

The mere number of the monasteries—in 1500 there were no less than 37,000 monasteries belonging to the Benedictines and to branches of their Order—is sufficient evidence of the important public function of the religious orders and if we grant that only one twentieth of these 37,000 monasteries had regular schools, they would still constitute no small part of the school system of the time.[24]

The estimate is conservative so far as the existence of schools is concerned for it may be safely assumed that every monastery which admitted novices made provision for their education. Such was the function of the "inner school." For our purpose, however, it is important to emphasize the fact that the laity were not excluded from the educational facilities which the monasteries afforded. The "outer school" was expressly for those who did not aspire to take monastic vows. Many instances might be cited to establish the fact that boys were often admitted to monasteries, and girls to convents in order that members of both sexes might be given an opportunity to acquire religious and profane learning during their tender years. Afterwards they were free to take their places in the world according to their social station.[25]

Every cathedral town had a grammar school which was open to lay pupils as well as to candidates for the priesthood. It was presided over by a learned priest, styled the scholasticus. As representative of the bishop he was titular head of all teaching in the diocese and was in charge of the licensing of teachers.

In its internal organization the cathedral school paralleled the contemporary monastic school. It had its lower and higher divisions, the schola minor and the schola maior. In the former, sometimes called the song school, reading, writing, singing of hymns and Psalms, and the comput were taught. In the higher division, the preparatory disciplines—the trivium and the quadrivium—were taught as well as theology and other studies necessary for the priesthood. With the rise of the universities the more advanced studies were transferred to the latter. Side by side with the cathedral schools there arose other grammar schools which were associated with collegiate churches administered by a college of canons.[26] Both Riboulet[27] and Krieg[28] have pointed out the significance of these schools as a means of promoting popular education and Leach's study gives substantial grounds for believing that both the cathedral and collegiate churches had grammar schools and song schools as an integral part of their foundations. In England before the Dissolution in 1548 there were more than 200 such establishments scattered about the county.[29]

providing secondary education in the grammar schools, as well as elementary education in the song schools for all and sundry and not merely for choristers . . . to an extent far greater than was provided in post-Reformation England until the end of the seventeenth century.

The educational facilities of the Middle Ages were not limited to any one social class. They were available to the children of the peasant as well as to the children of the king, but not in the same proportion. The palace schools of the Merovingian and Carolingian periods had their counterparts in the court schools established by Alfred the Great and other monarchs.[30] In the castles of the feudal nobility the education of chivalry required a long and careful training which provided for the needs of a small but important social class. It represented a type of training that was especially necessary for the man of action, the ruler, the soldier, and the courtier.[31] In the later Middle Ages many English youths were prepared for important official positions in the king's palace, in the households of the bishops, and in the Inns of Court.[32]

A school of quite a different type was the chanty school which catered to the needs of those at the other end of the social scale. Such schools existed at least from the third century when the Church confided to deacons and deaconesses the care of orphans. During the following centuries the hospital, the almonry, and the hospice were established not solely for the care of travelers, the sick, the incurable, and the old, but also for the refuge and asylum of deserted infants. The Rules and Constitutions of several Religious Orders imposed the obligation of rearing poor and abandoned children and dispensing to them both spiritual and material food.[33]

The schools mentioned served the needs of special classes, but the school which did most to provide for the children of the masses was the parish school. Its origin is obscure. Presbyteral schools were in existence in Syria in the second century, but we are unable to assign a definite date to the rise of the parish school in the West. It probably existed from the earliest times when parishes were organized. The first definite indication we have of its establishment in the West would appear to be that which is contained in an ordinance of an ecclesiastical council held in Italy in 443 A.D. which required priests to instruct the youth of the neighborhood in their presbyteries.[34] In the following century the Council of Vaison (in the south of Gaul) commended this custom already practised in Italy, and ordered priests to establish schools in which young scholars might learn to read the Psalms and pursue the study of the Holy Scriptures, become familiar with the law of God and be worthy successors in the ministry of the Gospel.[35] During the same year (529) the Synods of Orange and Valence, also in southern Gaul, decreed that similar schools were to be erected in all villages and towns.[36]

A study of ecclesiastical legislation from the sixth century onwards reveals a clearly defined policy which was decidedly favorable to the expansion of popular education. The stamp of the official approval was placed on what in many instances was becoming a widespread practice. Both particular and general councils of the Church, imperial capitularies, and episcopal and Papal decrees show that while bishops and Popes were primarily concerned with making provision for instructing the future members of the clerical body in the sacred sciences they were also at pains to encourage and promote the education of the laity.[37] The following are specific instances of educational legislation which had a far-reaching influence on the development and extension of popular education during the Middle Ages: the councils of Tours (567), Toledo (624) Constantinople (681) Bavarian pastoral instructions (774) council of Cloveshoe, England (749) the capitularies of Charlemagne (787,789) the synods of Aachen (789, 817) councils of Chalons (813), Paris (829), Rome (853) the edict of Emperor Lothair (825) the canons of King Edgar (960) Lanfranc's constitutions (1075) synod of Westminster (1133) Lateran councils (1179, 1215). The list[38] is not exhaustive but is significant of the extent and persistency of the official policy of the Church in diffusing the benefits of education throughout the length and breadth of Christendom. M. Allain, who has surveyed the greater part of the studies of medieval schools, declares that anyone who would form an adequate idea of the intellectual status of our ancestors in past ages must have recourse to these ecclesiastical documents, the collections of the Church councils.[39]

At least three inferences of major import may be made from an examination of these decrees. The first is that education was definitely brought under the canon law. The second is that the Church displayed commendable zeal in bringing the means of education within reach of all classes irrespective of geographical location. The third is that the decrees and ordinances were no mere empty gestures, but were intended to be put into effect.

Researches conducted in different dioceses of France leave no doubt as to the wide diffusion of elementary education in that country, at least during the later Middle Ages.[40] The same is true of the various regions of Germany which have been studied in detail. Especially noteworthy is the development of municipal and burgher schools which were established to meet the needs of a new social class between the peasants and nobles.[41] In like manner the economic prosperity of the towns of the Low Countries provided conditions favorable to the great educational renaissance which drew its stimulation and support from the Brethren of the Common Life during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.[42]

When we turn from the Continent to Britain we find that popular education was making steady progress. The author of "Piers Plowman," writing in the last decade of the fourteenth century, rather illiberally complains that the children of the poor made their way to high estate through the school doors.[43] Again about a hundred years later the rapidity with which printed books were bought is good evidence of the existence of a reading public. In England the printer confined himself almost exclusively to the vernacular,[44] while the first book ever printed in Scotland was one which contained poems of Dunbar and Chaucer, tales of romance and old ballads.[45] The famous Paston Letters (1422-1509) supply additional objective evidence that literacy, so far from being the monopoly of the clergy or of the privileged classes, was widespread among men and women of various social ranks.[46] The question as to the means whereby this literacy was acquired turns our attention to the schools which were existing in England towards the end of the medieval period. Leach enumerates seven classes of schools—schools connected (1) with cathedrals, (2) with monasteries, (3) with collegiate churches and colleges, (4) with hospitals, (5) with guilds, (6) and with chantries, as well as (7) independent schools, existing ostensibly and actually by themselves as independent entities.[47] Leach thinks that 300 is a moderate estimate of such schools in the year 1535 "when the floodgates of the great revolution which is called the Reformation, were let loose, most of them were swept away either by Henry VIII or his son or if not swept away, plundered and damaged."[48]

Other writers have also noted that the onslaught which the Reformers made on the Catholic case of the chantries just cited. Speaking of the effect of the Reformation in Germany Paulsen says:[49] "The first effect of these events on educational institutions was destructive the old schools and universities were so bound up with the Church in all respects—socially, legally, economically—that they could not but be involved in its downfall."

No one will deny that in modern times considerable progress has been made in the popularization of education, but we must not overlook the fact that the medieval Church almost without any assistance from the State did much to provide for the educational needs of the masses. We should also remember that the Middle Ages did not confuse education with mere schooling and that many phases of medieval life were decidedly educational in character. It is true that the Middle Ages had their dark shadows but they had also lights of varying degrees of brilliancy.

With slight modifications we might say of the medieval times in general what a modern scholar has said about the Middle Ages in England:[50]

They have been painted as ignorant, brutal and picturesque. We may have doubts as to the truth of the picture we may well believe that the eighteenth century in the mass was more brutal, more picturesque, and less religious, and we may even believe that it was far more ignorant and far less moral. The Middle Ages left to the Reformation educational possibilities that were recklessly squandered.

1 A. F. Leach, Some Aspects of Research in the History of Education in England. (London, 1914), p. 2.

3 Cubberley, E. P., Readings in the History of Education (Boston, 1920), p. 261.

4 See F. A. Gasquet, The Eve of the Reformation (New York, 1900), Ch. VIII.

5 Gabriel Compayre, The History of Pedagogy (tr. by Payne, Boston, 1897), p. 112.

6 The italics are the writer's.

7 Martin Luther, Schrift an die Rathsherren, 1524.

8 Albert Stoeckl, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Paedagogik, p. 211.

9 See Preface to King Alfred's translation of the Pastoral Care of Pope Gregory the Great.

10 See J. E.G. De Montemorency, State Intervention in English Education (Cambridge, 1902), p. 112, for text of this law.

11 James Grant, The History of the Burgh and Parish Schools of Scotland, p. 25.

12 Cloudsley Brereton, article "Education" in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

13 T. Corcoran, S. J„ Studies in the History of Classical Teaching, p. 76. Corcoran devotes 130 pages to an illuminating discussion of Bathe and his method of teaching.

14 A. F. Leach, op. cit„ and English Schools at the Reformation, (London, 1897) E. Allain, L'Instruction primaire en France avant la Revolution, (Paris, 1881) J. Janssen, History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, Vol. I, 15th ed. (London, 1905) H. Graham, "Education in Medieval Scotland" Catholic Educational Review, May, 1929.

15 F. A. Gasquet, op. cit. J. Janssen, op. cit„ Vol. I, Bk. I, Ch. H.

16 S. C. Parker, The History of Modern Elementary Education (1912), p. 3.

17 E. H. Reisner, The Evolution of the Common School (1930), p. 3.

18 J. W. Adamson, A Short History of Education (Cambridge, 1922), p. 73.

19 See J. W. Adamson, op. cit., Ch. V J. Janssen, op. cit„ Vol. I, Book I, Ch. 1 Brother Azarias, "The Primary School in the Middle Ages" in Essays Educational, (New York, 1896) Willmann-Kirsch, The Science of Education, Vol. I, Ch. XVIII.

20 See A. F. Leach, Some Results of Research in the History of Education in England, p. 31-32.

21 Elbert Vaughan Wills, "Elementary Education in the German Cities up to the Sixteenth Century," Education, Vol. I, No. 4 (December, 1929).

22 Theodore Haarhoff, The Schools of Gaul (Oxford, 1920), p. 175 Willmann-Kirsch, The Science of Education, Vol. I, p. 191.

23 Cf. L. Maitre, Les ecoles episcopales et monastiques en occident (Paris, 1924) H. Graham The Early Irish Monastic Schools (Dublin, 1923).

24 Willmann-Kirsch, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 199-200.

25 Bede, Hist. Eccl. Gentis Anglorum, Plummer's ed„ Vol. I, p. 192 L. Maitre, op. cit., Ch. V and VI H. Graham, op. cit., p. 192.

26 C. Krieg, Lehrbuch der Paedagogie (Paderborn, 1900), p. 95.

27 L. Riboulet, Histoire de la pedagagie (Paris, 1925), p. 126.

29 A. F. Leach, Some Results of Research in the History of Education in England, p. 20.

30 Cf. J. B. Mullinger, The Schools of Charles the Great C. Plummer, Life and Times of Alfred the Great (Oxford, 1902), pp. 135-160.

31 J. W. Adamaon, op. cit., Ch. III.

32 T.F. Tout, An Advanced History of Great Britain (London, 1910), p. 242.

33 L. Riboulet, op. cit., pp. 125-126.

34 L. Riboulet, op. cit„ p. 123.

35 F. Ozanam, La civilization chretienne chez les Francs (Paris, 1893), pp. 473-474.

36 Krieg, op. cit., p. 97 Willmann-Kirsch, op. cit., Vol. I, pp. 191-192.

37 W. Turner, Art. "Schools," Catholic Encylopedia.

38 Cf. Mansi, Concilia Monumenta Germaniae Paedagogica Leach, Educational Charters Ozanam, op. cit„ Ch. IX.

39 L'instruction primaire en France avant la Revolution, Ch. II.

40 Cf. Brother Azarias, op. Cit., Pp. 172-180.

41 E. V. Wills, loc. Cit., Pp. 197-211.

42 Albert Hyma, The Christian Renaissance (New York, 1924), pp. 122-135, pp. 339-349.

43 J. W. Adamson, op. cit., p. 76 Piers Plowman, C. VI, II. 70ff. (Skeat's Ed.)

45 H. Graham, "Education in Medieval Scotland," Catholic Educational Review, May, 1929, p. 273.

Good universities for Medieval History/Studies Masters?

I wrote this very late but reading the older post has helped me.

First a little bit about me: I am from Latin America (Mexico) and loved Medieval Studies since childhood. Unfortunately this kind of studies is not sufficiently encouraged in my country (save few specialists in Spanish language), so I enrolled in Classics, which seemed to mean appropriate background for my real goal.

As I was finishing my undergraduate degree, Idecided to apply for Medieval Studies at University College London and Oxford (my ultimate goal is a D. Phil). A long shot (I thought), but worth to try. Two weeks ago I received the acceptance letter from UCL and two days ago from Oxford. That day I didn&rsquot care about it, yesterday I went very nervous and today. well, I realized the offer was there. I felt (and feel still) intimidated. I asked myself if I may be worth of it. But I guess there was something good about my application. I will accept Oxford's offer.

Anyway, I have two concerns: the first is about economic matters, and the second is about academy itself. I would not like to discuss here about the economy, which brings to the academy. My interests lie on the Twelfth Century and Medieval Latin historiography. I am especially fascinated with theinteractions between different parts of Europe and Latin historiography and hagiography as a subject of study (hence my preference for Medieval Studies vs. Medieval history). Did someone try enrolling in other languages (Old Engish, Old Norse, Celic etc)? Does someone know how difficult is to follow towards the D. Phil. after the M. St. is completed? Is there any advice for the Medieval Studies Master?

P.D. Sorry for any mistakes but I am new at the forum and my computer keeps changing me words and eliminating spaces!

Need more help on going postgrad?

Do postgrads get a social life?

Pros and cons of postgrad study

Postgrad: what students wish they'd known

How to choose the right Master's

How to apply for a Master's

(Original post by theopyrus)
Hi everyone,

I wrote this very late but reading the older post has helped me.

First a little bit about me: I am from Latin America (Mexico) and loved Medieval Studies since childhood. Unfortunately this kind of studies is not sufficiently encouraged in my country (save few specialists in Spanish language), so I enrolled in Classics, which seemed to mean appropriate background for my real goal.

As I was finishing my undergraduate degree, Idecided to apply for Medieval Studies at University College London and Oxford (my ultimate goal is a D. Phil). A long shot (I thought), but worth to try. Two weeks ago I received the acceptance letter from UCL and two days ago from Oxford. That day I didn&rsquot care about it, yesterday I went very nervous and today. well, I realized the offer was there. I felt (and feel still) intimidated. I asked myself if I may be worth of it. But I guess there was something good about my application. I will accept Oxford's offer.

Anyway, I have two concerns: the first is about economic matters, and the second is about academy itself. I would not like to discuss here about the economy, which brings to the academy. My interests lie on the Twelfth Century and Medieval Latin historiography. I am especially fascinated with theinteractions between different parts of Europe and Latin historiography and hagiography as a subject of study (hence my preference for Medieval Studies vs. Medieval history). Did someone try enrolling in other languages (Old Engish, Old Norse, Celic etc)? Does someone know how difficult is to follow towards the D. Phil. after the M. St. is completed? Is there any advice for the Medieval Studies Master?

P.D. Sorry for any mistakes but I am new at the forum and my computer keeps changing me words and eliminating spaces!

Wow, so many medievalists coming out of the woodwork. Welcome!

I know a few people on the Medieval Studies in Oxford. Twelfth century historiography and hagiography should be well covered, there's a lot of staff around with interests in those areas, as well as an optional course on the 12th century renaissance (don't know any details, other than it was on Friday afternoon this year, which caused lots of complaints!). Who did you get allocated as a supervisor?

In terms of other languages, I think it will depend on your pre-existing knowledge of Latin. If it's not great, or non-existent, lots of time will be needed for that, so I imagine a second medieval language would be very hard to fit in (not impossible though). One guy taking the studies course I know has excellent Latin coming into the course, and took Old English and Modern German without huge difficulty (I should say, without huge difficulty is relative he doesn't appear to be in more difficulty or more stressed than any of the rest of the master's students!). Best thing to do is probably drop your supervisor an e-mail with your interests, current language skills and what you'd like to work on, though you will have to fill out a training form before term starts anyway, essentially signing up for various classes.

Progress to the DPhil isn't hard if you're a hard worker (and you got in to Oxford so you must be). Knowing the department, having an internal reference(s) and being able to have your potential supervisor look over your DPhil application will be advantages when it comes to progressing (you're also exempted from the application fee!).

As for general of whether you are up for the course, you are! They don't accept people if they think they aren't worthy of a place. Masters are hard and there will be feelings of guilt, incompetence and despair at times, but you've got a place because a lot of very intelligent people have looked very closely at your application and concluded you have what it takes. Good luck!

2. The Main Ingredients of Medieval Philosophy

Here is a recipe for producing medieval philosophy: Combine classical pagan philosophy, mainly Greek but also in its Roman versions, with the new Christian religion. Season with a variety of flavorings from the Jewish and Islamic intellectual heritages. Stir and simmer for 1300 years or more, until done.

This recipe produces a potent and volatile brew. For in fact many features of Christianity do not fit well into classical philosophical views. The notion of the Incarnation and the doctrine of the Trinity are obvious cases in point. But even before those doctrines were fully formulated, there were difficulties, so that an educated Christian in the early centuries would be hard pressed to know how to accommodate religious views into the only philosophical tradition available. To take just one example, consider pagan philosophical theories of the soul. At first glance, it would appear that the Platonic [4] tradition would be most appealing to an early Christian. And in fact it was. In the first place, the Platonic tradition was very concerned with the moral development of the soul. Again, that tradition saw the highest goal of a human being as some kind of mystical gazing on or union with the Form of the Good or the One it would be easy to interpret this as the &ldquoface to face&rdquo encounter with God in the next life that St. Paul describes in 1 Cor. 13:12. Most important of all, Platonism held that the soul could exist apart from the body after death. This would obviously be appealing to Christians, who believed in an afterlife.

On the other hand, there was another crucial aspect of Christianity that simply made no sense to a Platonist. This was the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. Platonism allowed for reincarnation, so there was no special theoretical problem for a Platonist about the soul&rsquos reentering the body. But for a Christian this resurrection was something to look forward to it was a good thing. This would be incomprehensible from a Platonic viewpoint, for which &ldquothe body is the prison of the soul,&rdquo and for which the task of the philosopher is to &ldquolearn how to die&rdquo in order to be free from the distracting and corrupting influences of the body. No, for a Platonist it is best for the soul not to be in the body. [5]

A Christian would therefore have a hard time being a straightforward Platonist about the soul. But neither could a Christian be a straightforward Aristotelian. Aristotle&rsquos own views on the immortality of the soul are notoriously obscure, and he was often interpreted as denying it outright. All the harder, therefore, to make sense of the view that the resurrection of the dead at the end of the world is something to be joyfully expected. [6]

This problem illustrates the kind of difficulties that emerge from the above &ldquorecipe&rdquo for medieval philosophy. Educated early Christians, striving to reconcile their religion in terms of the only philosophical traditions they knew, would plainly have a lot of work to do. Such tensions may be regarded as the &ldquomotors&rdquo that drove much of philosophy throughout the period. In response to them, new concepts, new theories, and new distinctions were developed. Of course, once developed, these tools remained and indeed still remain available to be used in contexts that have nothing to do with Christian doctrine. Readers of medieval philosophy who go on to study John Locke, for instance, will find it hard to imagine how his famous discussion of &ldquopersonal identity&rdquo in the Essay Concerning Human Understanding could ever have been written if it were not for the medieval distinction between &ldquoperson&rdquo and &ldquonature,&rdquo worked out in dealing with the doctrines of the Incarnation and the Trinity.

The study of folk music

The search for origins and processes of development that motivated much 19th- and early 20th-century intellectual activity was reflected in folk music scholarship. Some scholars believed folk music to be a repository of archaisms—a legacy from which the prehistory of music, language, literature, and other cultural traits could be adduced. Although later scholars concede that some traits of folk music may be centuries old, they are less inclined to speculate on the age of archaic elements of folk music or to offer historical reconstructions, other than tracing variants of individual songs or types of songs.

Musical notations of folk songs and descriptions of folk music culture are occasionally encountered in historical records, but these show not so much the history of folk music as the history of ideas held by the literate classes about folk music. National and social movements in the early 19th century stimulated the search for and collecting of folk songs. The variety of motivations is illustrated by Thomas Percy (who focused on the great age of certain ballads), Ludvik Rittersberk (who collected Czech folk songs as part of an effort by the Habsburg monarchy to unify the empire through recognizing the folklore of national minorities), and Ludolf Parisius (who collected German folk songs in order to preserve traditional village culture). In the second half of the 19th century, scholarship was motivated by the desire to find materials that could be used by composers of art music and by the ambition of producing comprehensive collections of the songs of a nation. This interest has continued into the 21st century, as attempts to circumscribe entire folk music repertoires in notation have been the intent of major projects, particularly in eastern Europe.

Since the last decade of the 19th century, folk music has been collected and preserved by mechanical recordings. The application of print and recording technology to folk music has promoted wide interest, making possible the revival of folk music where traditional folklife and folklore are moribund. Folk songs are frequently part of public school music curricula, and groups that focus in one way or another on folk music, often in conjunction with folk dance, have arisen festivals of folk music and dance are an annual event in many communities throughout the world.

The literature on folk music consists primarily of songs and their texts—collections of individual countries or regions, even of individual singers. Some works have endeavoured to integrate and compare the various styles of folk music in Western culture, and scholars have begun to produce theoretical works and studies of music in historical and contemporary cultural context. Many researchers have analyzed the use of folk music as material in art music. Major scholars in the history of folk music research include Bartók (who pioneered in making large collections of Hungarian, Romanian, and Slovak songs and in transcribing them accurately in musical notation), Cecil Sharp (who recognized the importance of collecting folk songs in diasporic cultures, e.g., Anglo-Americans), Walter Wiora (who showed that some tunes are found throughout Europe), and Samuel P. Bayard (who established the concept of tune family).

Scholars who specialize in folk music usually have training in ethnomusicology, a discipline concerned with elucidating music in a cross-cultural perspective and analyzing the role of music in society and culture. Studies of the words of folk songs are the province primarily of folklorists and students of language and literature. Musical studies concern folk genres and styles, as well as individual folk songs—how they originated, and whether, how, and why they changed when diffused. Theories of folk music have been beclouded by the difficulties in recognizing, isolating, and defining a phenomenon as elusive and complex as folk music. The forefront of folk music research in the 21st century entails the contemplation of 20th-century revivals of folk music the application of concepts from postmodern cultural studies, gender studies, and critical theory the use of folk music in political and national movements the nature of folk music in the present and its inseparability from other kinds of music.

Year 4

Compulsory Courses

History is not simply a dry, academic study of the past it shapes a host of contemporary political, economic and cultural attitudes and is a central underpinning to the tourist and heritage industries - now one of the largest sectors of employment among mature western economies. This course is designed to give a critical understanding of the theoretical and practical links (as well as clear distinctions) between the practice of 'academic' History and 'public' History. This is done by having students assess how heritage and tourist businesses project a particular version of the past.

The undergraduate dissertation is the final-year major research undertaking, based on primary and secondary material and providing a critical analysis of a specific subject chosen by the student. It is obligatory for Single Honours students, whereas Joint Honours students choose to write their dissertation in either of the two subjects. After initial sessions about the nature of the dissertation and research approaches, students develop a topic with the help of a member of staff, who will also supervise their project throughout.

Optional Courses

Select a Special Subject course (listed below), plus a further 30 credits from level 4 courses in History/approved courses.

This course examines the emergence and the variations of Enlightenment thinking in Scotland and Central Europe (with particular emphasis on the German and East Central European Enlightenment, to which the Scottish Enlightenment had strong historical links). It emphasises the varieties of the European Enlightenment, against the traditional assumption that the Enlightenment was exclusively 'located' in France.

This course will address a number of themes, including modern studies of marriage the western medieval church and marriage law, sexuality and gender in the middle ages attitudes to love, marriage and the family and sex roles and gender differences. We will examine the way in which gender and ideology influence the lives of both ordinary and not-so-ordinary people in the middle ages by examining a variety of primary and secondary sources.

This course explores British relations with Russia during the early years of the Soviet regime. It highlights a series of key developments in the relationship, especially major changes in British government policy that charted a course from military intervention to diplomatic recognition. Most of the seminars trace an aspect of the relationship within a fairly short time-frame, but some seminars investigate a particular issue through the whole period 1917&ndash24. Several sessions will be used specifically for analysing gobbets. Knowledge of the Russian language is not required.

On the eve of the First World War Europe was a continent of monarchies. A long 19th century of revolutions, wars, growing literacy, an expanding public sphere, changes in social, economic, intellectual and technological life and imperial expansion lay behind them, but the continent&rsquos monarchical systems had survived in surprisingly rude health. That monarchies had flourished throughout these profound transformations points to their suppleness and ingenuity. This course offers new perspectives on the political cultures of the states and societies of 19th-century Europe.

The course examines the origins of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict and its developments from multiple angles in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of the complex dynamic that constitutes &lsquothe conflict&rsquo. The course will investigate the causes of the Palestinian refugee crisis and of the Arab-Israeli wars. It will introduce students to the Arab-Israeli peace process and familiarise students with the polarised historiography surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict.

This course critically evaluates representations and functions of Old Norse myth and legend in both medieval and modern contexts. It will enable students to better understand the myths, beliefs and stories of Viking and medieval Scandinavia in their own historical contexts, and to analyse the political and cultural implications of their endurance, significance and popularity into the modern world.

What was the situation of the Church in medieval Scotland? What changes did the Reformation of 1560 bring? Who were the main players in the Scottish Reformation and beyond? Who were the covenanters and which policies and theologies did they represent? What changes did the 19th and 20th centuries have in store for the Kirk? This course introduces students to the landmarks of Scottish Church history with reference to relevant primary sources. Assessment is based on two essays.

The course will involve each student working individually on a historical project of his or her own choice, under the supervision of the course co-ordinator.

Students will be required to produce a research proposal and progress reports, to prepare an essay and make a presentation of their findings to the class. The aim of the option is to give students the opportunity to research and present, individually, in spoken and written forms, a history of medicine topic of their own choice, using both primary and secondary sources.

The nineteenth century was obsessed with the Middle Ages. All over Europe, artists sought to mine their national past as a source for a new aesthetic, evoking the Middle Ages in style and subject matter alike. But which longings and ideas motivated this revival - historically accurate, deeply religious, and romantically-subjective at the same time? Case studies include the Nazarenes in Germany, to the Pre-Raphaelites in Britain, and artists such as John Flaxman, and Caspar David Friedrich.

We will endeavour to make all course options available however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Within Subject Area

General Works

Comprehensive accounts of medieval childhood in western Europe are provided in English by Shahar 1990 and Alexandre-Bidon and Lett 1999. In French, Riché and Alexandre-Bidon 1994, is a well-illustrated book centered on France, while Alexandre-Bidon and Lorcin 1998 is specifically concerned with education. Anglo-Saxon England to 1066 is mostly covered by Crawford 1999, and England after 1066 by Orme 2001, with a brief summary in Orme 2010. More specialized studies include those of Orme 1984 on the nobility and gentry, Gardiner 1929 on the education of girls, Hanawalt 1993 on London, and Nicholas 1985 on Ghent.

Alexandre-Bidon, Danièle, and Didier Lett. Children in the Middle Ages: Fifth–Fifteenth Centuries. Translated by Jody Gladding. Notre Dame,IN.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999.

A concise survey of all major aspects of childhood in the Middle Ages, first published as Les Enfants au Moyen Age: Ve-XVe siècles (Paris: Hachette, 1997), arranged in two chronological sections divided at the 12th century. The earlier section addresses parents and procreation, baptism, disease, family life, and education, while the later deals with family life, apprenticeship, street children, noble households, and schools.

Alexandre-Bidon, Danièle, and M.-T. Lorcin. Système éducatif et cultures dans l’Occident medieval (XIIe-XV siècle). Paris: Editions Ophrys, 1998.

An exploration of how education influenced culture in western Europe in the high and late Middle Ages. The authors trace the effects of literary education, religion, chivalry, and imagery on the culture of specific groups in society: nobility, clergy, townspeople, peasants, and Jews.

Crawford, Sally. Childhood in Anglo-Saxon England. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1999.

A discussion of secular aspects of childhood in England from the 5th to the 11th centuries, utilizing written and archaeological evidence, but not greatly exploring the religious dimension. Birth, family life, health, play, and education are all considered: of particular interest is the evidence from human remains in graves and from grave goods, casting light on attitudes to children, diseases, and childcare, the latter illustrated by the survival into adulthood of people born with deformities.

Gardiner, Dorothy. English Girlhood at School. London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

A work limited to the education of girls in England up to 1800, but a notable early attempt to reconstruct the childhood of women in the Middle Ages, to which the book gives six chapters.

Hanawalt, Barbara. Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

A review of the major aspects of childhood and adolescence in medieval London: birth, upbringing, accidents, orphans, apprenticeship, and work as a servant. An unusual feature is the insertion of imaginary reconstructions of lives and events of children and young people.

Nicholas, David. The Domestic Life of a Medieval City: Women, Children, and the Family in Fourteenth-Century Ghent. Lincoln and London: Nebraska University Press, 1985.

A comparable study of Ghent, now in Belgium, with particular attention to notions of childhood, the custody and support of children, and child labor.

Orme, Nicholas. From Childhood to Chivalry: The Education of the English Kings and Aristocracy, 1066–1530. London and New York: Methuen, 1984.

An analysis of upbringing and teaching in the upper ranks of English society, among both boys and girls. The work surveys family life, leaving home, literature prescribing how and why education should be given, and the three principal strands of education: language and literacy, artistic pursuits, and physical ones.

Orme, Nicholas. Medieval Children. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 2001.

A detailed survey of childhood in England, omitting the archaeological evidence but supplying the religious dimension in Crawford 1999. It encompasses birth, upbringing, illnesses and accidents, play, religion, literacy, reading, and adolescence.

Orme, Nicholas. “Childhood.” In The Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 1. Edited by Robert E. Bjork, 378–380. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

A brief review of the subject in its relation to medieval England.

Riché, Pierre, and Danièle Alexandre-Bidon. L’enfance au Moyen Age. Paris: Seuil, 1994.

A richly illustrated survey of childhood to accompany an exhibition, especially focused on medieval France and on attitudes to children, family life, education, and children’s involvement with the church.

Shahar, Shulamith. Childhood in the Middle Ages. London and New York: Routledge, 1990.

A survey of western Europe giving particular attention to birth and nursing sickness and accidents and education in the wide sense of upbringing and the acquisition of all kinds of skills. The author allocates separate chapters to education in relation to the church, the nobility, in towns, and among the peasantry.

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Why Europeans Must Reject Christianity: Part I

IF ALL WESTERN SCIENCE and technology were to disappear overnight, the church would not be affected in the slightest what matters is that the preaching of the gospel continues without pause, nothing else. Christianity and racialism are fundamentally incompatible ideologies.

The Christian religionist is at a crossroads he must choose between the gospel or the survival of Western civilization and the European race. He cannot choose both. A Christian religionist who is genuine can only side with the survival of Christian orthodoxy, otherwise he would be an apostate, forever denied eternal salvation.

Christianity is a perversion of the instinct for self-preservation. This makes it a destroyer of entire civilizations and peoples. Embracing Christianity is an act of suicide for those who allow themselves to be influenced by its doctrines. In a world where evolutionary survival is a zero-sum game, Christianity stands opposed to the interests of the European race and Western civilization.

A Gospel Based On Fables?

Jesus Christ is a mythological figure. The gospel narratives, his personal “biographies,” are not based on any underlying historical reality. What we know of Jesus comes not from eyewitness testimony, but largely contradictory hearsay written some forty or fifty years after his supposed death. Unlike the mythical Jesus with whom he is often compared, the philosopher Socrates is significantly more well-attested in the historical record. Contemporary eyewitnesses like Plato and Xenophon wrote detailed accounts of the life and death of Socrates.

The discovery that the first Christology was a “high” one provides additional evidence substantiating the mythological origin of Jesus. This is contrary to the position maintained by the older 19th century biblical scholarship, chiefly represented by Wilhelm Bousset’s “history-of-religion” school. This approach is best exemplified in the now forgotten Kyrios Christos. In this work, Bousset argued that cultic veneration of Jesus only became a reality when the original Palestinian faith community was exposed to Hellenistic and Oriental influence.

In contrast to Bousset’s “history-of-religion” approach, modern biblical scholars argue that the original Palestinian faith community began with a “high” Christology. Maranatha was an Aramaic prayer transferring the title lord (YHWH) to Jesus, asking him to establish his kingdom on earth in fulfillment of Old Testament eschatological hopes of a coming Messiah. The “high” Christology embraced by the first Palestinian believers paved the way for Gentile views of Christ as an object of religious devotion. Among the earliest Gentile believers, Jesus was worshipped, placed on an equal footing with God himself and designated Kyrios, the Greek form of the tetragrammaton in the Septuagint. He was even the object of prayer. This makes Jesus no different from any other mythological figure venerated in the ancient world, such as Dionysus or Hercules.

The inescapable conclusion is that Jesus is a figment of the imagination, like the gods of the ancient Greeks. To those who argue that Jewish monotheism was a barrier to the immediate divinization of some mortal, it must be pointed out that the Logos theology of Hellenistic Judaism first presented the word of god in semi-anthropomorphic terms, laying the groundwork for the explicit “binitarian” character of primitive Christianity.

The Quintessential Middle Eastern Religion

Christianity is, first and foremost, the invention of mostly illiterate 1st century Palestinian Jews, among whom Saul of Tarsus was the most influential. He later changed his name to Paul. He was often denigrated by his opponents as “weak” or “unimpressive” in person. A 2nd century extra-canonical source reinforces this impression, describing the apostle as “a man of small stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked…” Paul was the first to spread Christianity across the Mediterranean, imbuing the new missionary religion with a thoroughly expansionist character.

Christianity is the quintessential Middle Eastern religion. Just because the language of the New Testament is koine Greek does not make this religion any less of a Semitic invention. To claim otherwise would be like translating the Analects of Confucius into English and then claiming that Confucianism is a Western religion because the medium used for its transmission is the English language. Even the few pagan elements in the religion, such as the Johannine prologue’s use of the Stoic Logos, is filtered through the lens of Old Testament Judaism. The Gospel narratives are Jewish legends based on Jewish ideas of Messiah, resurrection, kingdom of god and so on. Not only is Christianity thoroughly Jewish in origin, but the major theological doctrines of the New Testament are derived from the Old Testament and the intertestamental Judaism of the Greek and Hasmonean periods. The spread of Christianity across the Mediterranean was the work of enterprising, itinerant Jews.

As Christianity developed an established institutional framework within the empire, theologians began to find themselves in dialogue with Jews and pagans who were hostile to the new religion. These discussions necessitated the borrowing of Greek and Latin philosophical terminology to better express orthodox teaching with greater precision and clarity. This was done not only for apologetical purposes, but to win over cultured pagans by applying a thin veneer of intellectual respectability to the doctrines of primitive Christianity. Despite these cultural borrowings, Christianity remains a fundamentally Semitic religion.

A Religion For Simple-Minded Folk

Scholars have long noted the great appeal Christianity has always had for the lowest dregs of humanity. Few intellectuals were ever attracted to the religion those who converted became anti-intellectual extremists who turned their back on Western culture and civilization. The 2nd-century Latin theologian Tertullian, one of the most bigoted Christian anti-intellectuals to have ever lived, famously asked: “What indeed has Athens got to do with Jerusalem? What concord is there between the Academy and the Church? … We want no curious disputation after possessing Christ Jesus, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel! With our faith, we desire no further belief.” Contemporary pagan philosophers frequently observed that the earliest converts were drawn from the ranks of simple folk. Celsus, an early pagan critic of the new religion, wrote that it was Christian policy to turn away the wise and the educated. “Their favorite expressions,” wrote Celsus, “are ‘Do not ask questions, just believe!’ and: ‘Your faith will save you!’ ‘The wisdom of this world,’ they say, ‘is evil to be simple is to be good.'”

The educated pagan was contemptuous of folk belief. They had to have some basis in science and philosophy. Anything else was “superstition.” In classical antiquity, superstition was defined as fear of “daemons” and belief in the supernatural causation of natural and physical phenomena, such as disease. To the pagan intellectual, Christianity embodied everything they hated about superstition. What made Christianity especially reprehensible was that it had inherited all the worst features of Judaism, namely intolerance and bigotry. The religion also spread like a contagious disease.

The triumph of Christianity led to a complete reversal of elite pagan values in late antiquity. The educated man now embraced wholeheartedly the beliefs of the semi-barbaric multitudes. St. Augustine, originally educated in the classical curriculum and trained in rhetoric, could state with confidence that all diseases were of supernatural origin, in open defiance of well-established Greek medical practice. Whereas before Constantine, there existed a significant gap between the beliefs of the educated pagan and the hoi polloi, after Constantine, there was no such gap. For the first time in classical antiquity, the elite and the masses were indistinguishable in terms of belief, with all naively subscribing to veneration of saints, their relics and miracles.

The triumph of Christianity in the West was the triumph of a profound ignorance that lasted centuries.

Christianity: Destroyer Of Empires

Christianity was a key factor in Rome’s decline. When the church became the dominant institution of late classical antiquity, it became a significant drain on the economic resources of the empire. This was not a simple wealth transfer funds for pagan temples and shrines were not simply diverted from secular coffers to finance ecclesiastical growth. Unlike the pagan cults, the Nicene state religion was administered by a vast centralized bureaucracy, whose reach was empire-wide and whose officials were more numerous and more highly paid than those of the state. Revenue that could have been used to improve infrastructure, such as the building of roads, bridges, aqueducts and theatres went towards the building of useless structures like churches and monasteries and the feeding of “idle mouths”: monks, priests and bishops, who contributed nothing of material or economic value to the state. This tremendous waste of resources becomes even more staggering when one considers the relatively low level of technological and scientific development in the empire. Actual labor-saving devices were rare, so productive labor was done by hand or with the help of oxen. The amount of manpower needed to feed, clothe and house the “idle mouths” of the Christian church was considerably more than what was needed for a typical official of the Roman civil service.

The enormous talents of men like Athanasius and John Chrysostom, who would have been better employed defending the empire as able generals and rulers, were instead wasted on expanding the power and influence of the church in daily life. Indeed, valuable manpower and material resources squandered in the service of “idle mouths” is a recurring theme in the history of Christianity. The Christian concern for “idle mouths” exerted a profoundly dysgenic effect on the European gene pool. Europe’s cognitive elite, instead of passing on their genes, were encouraged to withdraw from society and embrace the spiritual discipline of perpetual chastity. This negatively affected average population IQ, leaving the church with an abundance of easily controlled and docile serfs less able to maintain the civilization around them with each passing generation. Thomas Aquinas was the prime casualty of this destructive waste of human talent. His genius would have been more profitably employed in the field of medicine or experimental physics instead, it was foolishly squandered on angelology and other medieval superstitions.

Apologists typically deny Christianity’s role in imperial decline, retorting that Byzantium survived the fall of the Latin West. They fail to realize that the east was far richer and more populous. This allowed the Byzantine state to better absorb the tremendous internal damage caused by the depredations of the parasitical Nicene state religious cult. There are also geographical reasons for Byzantine survival. The eastern emperor had a much shorter frontier to defend. Constantinople, the imperial capital, was surrounded by a series of massive fortifications begun by Constantine and completed in the early 5th century. These were virtually impregnable to barbarian invaders. Unlike the east, the west had no second line of defense.

The Nicene state religious cult forced Rome to her knees, drawing the curtain over classical antiquity. The civilizational collapse that followed is known as the Dark Ages, when post-Roman Europe underwent a significant decline in living standards. When Christians were at their most powerful, the roads and highways that covered the empire fell into disrepair use of bridges and aqueducts virtually ceased knowledge of building in stone and mortar almost disappeared literacy, such as it was, disappeared, with the exception of the clergy personal standards of hygiene disappeared indoor plumbing disappeared large areas of the former empire were depopulated, and lastly use of coinage nearly ceased, signifying an end to the complex monied economy of Roman times. Christian hegemony in Byzantium led to centuries of scientific and technological stagnation. There was even a Byzantine Dark Age that lasted for hundreds of years. During this period, borders shrank, cities were reduced to fortified enclaves, money gave way to barter, and Byzantine literature consisted of reams of insipid hagiography.

This was the world of Christianity: a world of profound darkness, where brutal men, under the guise of religion, tyrannized over a weak and helpless populace. The Dark Ages were Christianity’s gift to Europe. They were ushered in by Christians, presided over by Christians and prolonged for centuries by Christians. Europe endured one of its darkest hours when Christians were at the apogee of their power and influence.

Christianity: Bringer Of Ignorance

Christianity is dangerous because it elevates ignorance over reason. In the gospel, Jesus encourages his followers to be like “sheep,” the most docile of animals. Here, the ideal Christian is a rustic character of little education. Jesus said that unless one becomes a child again one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. In response to doubting Thomas, Jesus said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” The apostle Paul echoed this point of view when he wrote “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of god.” Through a program of religious indoctrination from cradle to grave, the church forced Europeans to accept these beliefs as so many divinely revealed truths from heaven. Widespread acceptance of these beliefs helped retard scientific and technological progress in Europe for over a thousand years.

The fathers of the church promoted “holy ignorance” as an ideal to be emulated. Tertullian is noted among patristic writers for his militant anti-intellectualism. Although one of the most prominent despisers of classical philosophy and science, he was by no means in the minority. His attitude is typical of ecclesiastical officials during the patristic and medieval periods. This long list of Christian anti-intellectuals includes Tatian, a noted apologist who regarded all pagan scientific and philosophical achievement as worthless, even harmful to the Christian faithful. Clement of Alexandria, another prominent ante-Nicene writer, argued that education was not necessary for salvation. Origen donated his extensive collection of pagan literature because of the fundamental incompatibility between secular learning and Bible study. The 4th century Apostolic Constitutions, an early work of canon law considered authoritative in the east, commands the Christian believer to shun all pagan learning as “strange” and “diabolical.”

Basil of Caesarea advised the faithful: “Let us Christians prefer the simplicity of our faith to the demonstrations of human reason … For to spend much time on research about the essence of things would not serve the edification of the Church.” Ironically, Basil is considered an example of moderation by apologists for Christianity. He believed that the usefulness of pagan literature should depend on level of scriptural agreement, making philosophy and science a kind of second- or third-rate handmaiden of theology. Writings least in accord with the Bible, almost all secular philosophy and science, were to be consigned to the trash bin.

Athanasius of Alexandria scorned all secular wisdom as blasphemy against the crucified god. In his famous hagiography of St. Antony, the illiterate monk is portrayed as a wise man. Despite his illiteracy, Antony’s hermit-like existence is considered the “perfect pattern of anchoretic life.” Antony even asks visiting pagan philosophers to become just like him in his “wisdom,” even though he is ignorant of all worldly learning.

The homilies of John Chrysostom, a noted anti-intellectual of the 4th century, are filled with vile denunciations of philosophy and science. He even periodically exhorted the Christian faithful to empty their minds of all secular wisdom. John routinely spewed vitriol against the classical heritage, advocating its systematic eradication, but only to magnify the power and influence of the gospel in daily life. Preaching before an elite audience in Constantinople, John’s vision was of a radically pure and ascetic Christianity, one stripped of all pagan influence. Given his oratorical ability and considerable powers of invective, as well as high standing in the patristic canon, there can be no doubt that John’s great hatred of secular knowledge played an influential role in the church’s decision to censor and suppress the writings of classical antiquity.

John Cassian, the great spiritual guide of Latin Christendom, advised the monk to seek out the company of uneducated peasants for his own personal edification. The abbot Arsenius, a former imperial tutor, regarded his education in classical Greek and Latin as inferior to the “wisdom” of illiterate Egyptian monks. The 4th century Christian ascetic and theologian Evagrius Ponticus declared: “Blessed is the man who has attained infinite ignorance.” The 5th century Statuta Ecclesia Antiqua banned the clergy from reading pagan books, unless their anti-Christian and heretical opinions needed to be refuted. This was incorporated into the 12th century Decretum Gratiani, a source of canon law for the Roman church until 1918.

Although considered a text-based religion, Christian teachings were orally transmitted until Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440. Patristic and medieval Christianity viewed literacy in a negative light. Church tradition had always maintained that the first apostles lived in a state of “blessed ignorance.” In imitation of these men, Christians refused to teach their congregations how to read and write, especially during the first three centuries of the church’s existence. The ante-Nicene church produced no translations of the Bible for the indigenous populations of the provinces and frontiers, even though these populations were in regular contact with itinerant missionaries since the earliest days of primitive Christianity. The few patristic exhortations to Bible reading were aimed at a small minority of educated Christians. Centuries of theological controversy contributed to a view of Bible reading as a subversive undertaking. It was actively discouraged by the clergy, who ensured that the common people under their pastoral care would remain illiterate for generations. During the Middle Ages, church councils were convened to forbid the laity from having in their possession the Bible in Latin or any of the Romance languages. The penalty was burning at the stake for anyone caught translating the Bible into the vernacular.

Paideia suffered under the new ecclesiastical and Christian imperial bureaucracy. Officials of church and state had more important things to do then educate little children in the rudiments of Latin grammar and arithmetic. Illiteracy deepened and became more widespread under Christian influence. The anti-educational priorities of the church, increasing in virulence with the passage of time, discouraged more and more people from getting an education. This continued until literacy vanished from entire regions of post-Roman Europe. The Christian church’s deep-seated hostility to learning and scholarship, besides its positive estimation of ignorance and illiteracy, maintained western Europe at a prehistoric level of development for centuries.

The 4th century, which saw the triumph of Christianity, was a period of significant intellectual decline. There were no great figures in science, architecture or medicine. The 4th century could boast of no philosophers of the same caliber as Plotinus there were no great writers or dramatists. Schools were closed, higher studies were abandoned, and the pagan libraries were sealed shut. The intellectual and artistic productions of the age were of little depth and substance. The all-pervasive Christian hostility to the life of the mind brought about this age of sterility.

Christianity: Bringer of Darkness

Section I: The Christian destruction of Europe’s artistic heritage

Theodosius was the first Christian emperor to systematically legislate paganism out of existence. He began by enacting a series of draconian measures, soon after his declaration that Nicene Christianity was the official state religion in 380 AD. Towards the end of his reign, legislation proscribing Hellenistic religion – the so-called Theodosian decrees – became increasingly harsh. This imperial program of cultural genocide descended into an orgy of violence and destruction in the final decades of the 4th century.

The coming storm was foreshadowed by the Christian fanatic Maternus Cynegius, appointed by Theodosius as praetorian prefect in 384. Under imperial orders to suppress pagan sacrifice and divination, he launched his own personal crusade against the Hellenistic religion. With the help of bishops, priests and an army of rampaging monks, Cynegius demolished some of the holiest sites in the Greek east. Many of these buildings housed antiquity’s greatest artistic treasures.

Archeological evidence, gathered from eastern Mediterranean sites, reveals significant temple destruction and desecration. This can be dated to the period of Cynegius’ activity in the east. Contemporary hagiographical sources, like the Vita Porphyrii, bear witness to the spectacular religious violence directed against the pagan shrines and temples of the Levant. In 386, the pagan orator Libanius, an outspoken critic of Christian iconoclasm, begged Theodosius to preserve the temples and shrines of the empire. He spoke of armies of “black-robed monks,” gluttons and drunkards, who would

hasten to attack the temples with sticks and stones and bars of iron, and in some cases, disdaining these, with hands and feet. Then utter desolation follows, with the stripping of roofs, demolition of walls, the tearing down of statues and the overthrow of altars, and the priests must either keep quiet or die. After demolishing one, they scurry to another, and to a third, and trophy is piled on trophy, in contravention of the law. Such outrages occur even in the cities, but they are most common in the countryside. Many are the foes who perpetrate the separate attacks, but after their countless crimes this scattered rabble congregates and they are in disgrace unless they have committed the foulest outrage…

Christians not only vandalized temples, they also mutilated pagan statuary and defaced inscriptions. Violent destruction of pagan religious artifacts is archeologically well-attested in the Levant and Africa, where Christian iconoclasts were at their most active. This pattern of destruction was empire-wide and can be seen in places as far away as North-western Gaul and Britain. Far more destructive than the temple destruction carried out by Christian zealots was the imperial anti-pagan legislation ending all subsidies to the once thriving polytheistic cults of the empire. Without subsidies from the imperial treasury, pagans were unable to maintain and repair their religious monuments. This was reinforced by additional legislation ordering the closure of all shrines and temples, threatening pagans with death if they continued to practice haruspicy and animal sacrifice. This condemned the empire’s major structures and artistic monuments to permanent disrepair and eventual ruin.

The widespread Christian vandalism of late antiquity was the largest campaign in world history to destroy an entire civilization’s artistic and architectural heritage. This campaign to erase the great monuments of antiquity from memory was significantly more destructive than the barbarian invasions of the 5th century. Without this added ingredient of ritualized violence, Christianity would never have become the dominant religion of the ancient world.

Section II: Christian Book Burning And Literary Vandalism

There was widespread, active destruction of heretical and pagan writings through book burning. Although sometimes used by pagan magistrates to destroy subversive literature, it was only during the imperially coerced Christianization of Rome that book burning increased significantly in volume and frequency. Under the Nicene state religion, book burning became a prominent form of ritualized violence against heresy and paganism. The literature that was burned was chiefly of the magical, astrological, religious, philosophical or anti-Christian variety. People had their limbs amputated for copying heretical and other banned books.

According to the book of Acts, Christianity began its campaign of active literary destruction as early as the 1st century. A group of Ephesian converts, in response to a Jewish sorcerer’s failed exorcism, gathered together their religious and prophetic books and had them burnt. This act of religious violence is spoken of with approval as an example of how god’s word spread widely, gaining influence among the people. This served as one of the chief theological justifications for the many book burnings that were carried out in Christian Rome.

Legislation that prescribed the burning of heretical and pagan, especially magical and astrological, books was enacted by Constantine in the early 4th century. These included books by Arius, the priest who denied that Christ was consubstantial with the father, and the Neoplatonist philosopher Porphyry, who wrote a book attacking the Christian religion. The pagan Library of Antioch, which contained Julian’s extensive collection of Greek and Roman classics, was burnt to the ground in 363 by the Christian emperor Jovian, an act of retaliation against Julian for replacing Christianity with Hellenistic paganism.

Imperial legislation prescribing the burning of pagan books, specifically by magicians and astrologers, is found in the Codex Theodosianus. The burning of pagan books continued into the 6th century, where it is well-attested in contemporary sources associated with the reign of Justinian. Not only were the books of heretics such as Nestorius and the Manicheans to be consigned to the flames, but also books by the hated Porphyry and other pagan critics of Christianity. The laws of Theodosius II and Valentinian, ordering their inquisitors to burn the writings of Porphyry and any pagan work judged anti-Christian, were maintained by the Codex Justinian. The Digest grants the inquisitor considerable latitude in deciding which books were sufficiently heretical, magical or anti-Christian enough to warrant being consigned to the flames.

There was a systematic and empire-wide destruction of pagan literature through book burning under Justinian. The most spectacular book burnings were carried out by Christian officials in Constantinople and Asia. Amantius, the Byzantine inquisitor, ruthlessly hunted down pagans in Antioch. He smashed their idols, burned their books and confiscated their wealth by imposing exorbitant fines. Justinian even found it necessary to ban pagans from all teaching positions in the empire. This legislation is associated with Justinian’s closing of the Neoplatonic Academy in 529, a great deathblow to secular education in philosophy and the sciences.

How successful was the church’s war on Western culture through incineration of pagan texts? The entire ancient corpus of magical, astrological and religious literature was so thoroughly destroyed that nothing has managed to survive. We have none of the many scholarly writings that could have shed light on traditional Greco-Roman polytheistic worship, such as Varro’s monumental Antiquitates rerum humanarum et divinarum. Christian officials diligently rounded up and burnt any work of philosophy written from a materialist perspective, like those by Epicurus and his followers. The fragmentary literary remains of Epicurus, a voluminous author who published over 300 books, is due to the zealous efforts of Christian book burners. Christians also successfully eradicated all pagan literature that openly criticized the Nicene state religion on both rational and philosophical grounds. Of the most famous anti-Christians, only fragments of their prolific literary output survive. Pagan anti-Christian writings were considered so dangerous that even their Christian refutations had to be incinerated along with them. Of the anti-Christian works that bothered Christians the most, Porphyry was repeatedly singled out by imperial legislation for burning, followed by Julian’s diatribe against the “Galileans.” We know that many pagans wrote against Christianity, but the fact that barely any of this literature survives is a clear indication that what Christianity could not dispel through reasoned argument, it silenced through brute force.

The monastic scriptoria played a major role in the church’s eradication of all secular knowledge. The monks would recycle parchment from secular manuscripts by scraping off the ink with a mild acidic solution a “washed” parchment was then re-used for the copying of Christian manuscripts. This was subsequently known as a palimpsest. For centuries, manuscripts overwritten with patristic, biblical and liturgical texts were almost always of pagan origin. The systematic destruction of classical literature somewhat abated by the eve of the Carolingian “Renaissance,” but the secular writings of antiquity were still far more likely to be destroyed by Christians than any other body of literature. That this was the case is further demonstrated by examination of the ratio of classical to Christian manuscripts. When extant manuscripts are considered, the ratio is 1:25 or 4%. A 7th century copy of the Vulgate, for example, is listed by Codices Latini Antiquiores (CLA) as a palimpsest with sheaves pilfered from the manuscripts of 9 different classical authors, including Livy, Cicero, and Seneca. Given the 4% ratio, the statistical likelihood of so many classical authors being used for a single manuscript because of fortuitous circumstance is so remote it borders on the impossible. This is made even more improbable when one realizes that the libraries of the late antique and medieval periods were typically stocked with patristic, biblical and liturgical writings. The Vulgate manuscript would never have been assembled unless the church was deliberately targeting the ancient cultural patrimony of an entire civilization and people for systematic eradication.

The most notorious – and the most destructive – act of Christian cultural genocide was the deletion of Archimedes’ mathematical treatises. In their place was found a Byzantine liturgical manual. This is known as the famous Archimedes palimpsest. The most important of these manuscripts, the Method of Mechanical Theorems, reveals that Archimedes had a rudimentary understanding of the integral calculus he was the first to calculate the area and volume of solid geometric figures using infinitesimal magnitudes. This was some 2000 years before Newton and Leibniz, the modern discoverers of the integral and differential calculus. If Christianity had not retarded scientific and technological development in ancient and medieval times, mankind would be far more advanced than he is now. Christianity was the single greatest impediment to material progress in the history of Europe.

Section III: Censorship and the Christian War on Western Culture

The ecclesiastical decision to censor and suppress classical literature was influenced by militant Christian “fundamentalists,” bigoted anti-intellectuals like Ambrose and John Chrysostom. These men, because of their prominence in ecclesiastical affairs and importance for the patristic canon, were able to aggressively push for an agenda calling for the eradication of all pagan artistic, cultural and scientific achievement. The patristic attack on the intellectual foundations of the ancient world was continued by the medieval church. Isidore of Seville, the most influential and widely read author of the Dark Ages, repeatedly warned his flock of the spiritual dangers posed by reading secular philosophy and science. The canon law of the church had long prohibited Christians from reading secular literature, excluding clergy who consulted these writings to combat heresy and paganism.

The Christianization of 4th century Rome made the church sole inheritor of the great storehouses of ancient wisdom that had been accumulated throughout the centuries. As pagans dwindled in numbers and influence, the monastic scriptoria came to dominate textual transmission, especially after 400. Guided by ecclesiastical censure and canon law, the scriptoria, with few exceptions, ceased copying secular writings for over 300 years, severing medieval Europe from the great scientific and technological achievements of the ancient past. During the Dark Ages, nearly all Greco-Roman literature was removed from circulation and replaced with patristic, biblical and liturgical writings. Works of science and philosophy, some well ahead of their time, were discarded by ecclesiastical officials as rubbish. Sometimes they were re-used for mundane purposes relics were once found wrapped in the pages of Livy’s Histories. Italian Renaissance scholar Pietro Bembo estimated that less than 1% of all Greek literature survived the turmoil and chaos of the Dark Ages. Modern scholars have made similar estimates for the survival of Latin literature.

Christian religionists allege barbarian invasion as a significant factor in the loss of Western scientific and technical knowledge they neglect to mention that the barbarians who terrorized the western half of the empire were also Christians. At any rate, barbarian invasion played virtually no role in the destruction of the West’s literary heritage the majority of Greek and Latin literature was still extant by 500 AD, as the age of Germanic migration was drawing to a close. Although there is no evidence of barbarians burning books or libraries, there is an abundance of evidence implicating Christians in the active destruction and censorship of an entire civilization’s repository of secular knowledge. After the Christian destruction of the Library of Alexandria, the second most destructive act of Christian literary vandalism was the burning of over 120,000 manuscripts by crusaders during the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

Apologists for Christianity emphasize the role of economic and material factors in the disappearance of Western culture during the Dark Ages. In their view, most pagan works simply disintegrated because they were written on papyrus, a fragile material. But this is a myth papyrus is a highly durable medium, able to withstand the centuries under the right conditions. They cannot explain why the fragility of papyrus was never an issue for the transmission of classical texts until after late antiquity, when the Christian church was at the apogee of its power and influence in Europe. Other religionists speculate that the transition from papyrus to parchment in late antiquity made the copying of pagan literature a costly enterprise. This argument fails because the relative cost of papyrus and parchment cannot be ascertained from the available sources cost is irrelevant anyway because parchment replaced papyrus in Egypt.

The Christian religionist unwittingly reveals another mode of ecclesiastical censorship and suppression: the refusal to recopy pagan works from papyrus to parchment, which happened during the large-scale replacement of papyrus with parchment in the early medieval period. Still, and embarrassingly enough for the Christian religionist, he cannot explain why Christian writings, whether patristic, liturgical or biblical, outnumber pagan writings by a staggering ratio of 25 to 1. Only widespread Christian censorship and suppression of pagan science and philosophy can adequately account for these glaring statistical discrepancies.

Apologists say Islamic conquest of Egypt in 642 disrupted trans-Mediterranean shipments of papyrus, which resulted in the loss of much ancient literature. However, the historical record reveals that the West’s barbarian rulers, as well as the Byzantine emperor, always had access to a steady supply of Egyptian papyrus. Although Egypt came under Moslem rule, papyrus manufacture remained a Christian enterprise, with Moslems now exporting it to Europe. The irony is that, although Byzantine rulers always had access to an abundant supply of papyrus, the Greek and Roman literature in their possession still gradually dropped out of circulation and vanished from library shelves.

In the Latin-speaking West, decline in papyrus as a writing material is related to large-scale abandonment of Roman forms of government. For example, the Code Justinian contains legislation mandating the use of papyrus for government documents. In keeping with Roman bureaucratic norms, the Merovingian chancery used papyrus until the late 7th century. This practice disappeared under the Carolingians, a dynasty originating in the Germanic east. Unlike the Romanized west, which was more urban and centrally administered, the Germanic east was decentralized and rural. For these reasons, parchment gradually supplanted papyrus in Europe.

In the Christian religious mind, Irish monasteries played an instrumental role in the “preservation” of Western scientific and technical knowledge, but this is a risible claim. What work of preservation was there when over 99% of all secular writings were either destroyed or suppressed by the Christian church? There was no preservation. What did manage to survive, did so in spite of Christianity, not because of it. That almost nothing of this literature managed to survive shows that the Christian church conducted a remarkably successful campaign of censorship and suppression, the most successful in all history. This is further reinforced by statistical data on book production from 400 to 800 AD. In the fifth century, 27% of extant manuscripts copied were pagan, with the rest being works of a largely patristic, biblical or liturgical nature this declined to 7% in the sixth century, 2% in the seventh century and 1% in the eighth century, out of a grand total of 834 extant Latin manuscripts. Over a 400-year period, we see classical works being gradually removed from circulation. This is a pattern indicative of widespread and systematic literary censorship and suppression. If the steep decline in the number of classical texts copied had continued uninterrupted, all pagan scientific, technical and philosophical knowledge would have vanished from memory. Contrary to the bigoted claims of Christian religionists, we do not see “preservation.” Careful examination of the historical record reveals that the Christian church bears sole responsibility for the destruction and suppression of over 99% of Greek and Latin literature. The church’s eradication of the accumulated wisdom of the ages is one of the greatest crimes ever committed against the West. No act of censorship has been more destructive in world history than the one carried out by this institution. Without the life-giving knowledge of the ancient world, maintaining an advanced pre-industrial civilization became virtually impossible. Christian censorship and suppression of secular knowledge is the main reason behind Europe’s descent into the Dark Ages after the collapse of imperial rule in the West.

Apologists condemn all criticism of the church for suppressing the technical and scientific knowledge of antiquity as anachronistic. The fact of the matter is that progress, curiosity and reason are among Europeans’ most important inheritance from the classical world. Modern Western civilization would cease to exist without these values. The decision of the scriptoria to discard works of science, mathematics, engineering and philosophy was a complete rejection of progress, intellectual curiosity and reason. It was the rejection of civilization in favor of a prehistoric existence as the Christian ideal. As a direct result of Christianization, the scriptoria nearly ceased copying the writings of antiquity for centuries for the first time in history, Europe was in danger of losing her ancient storehouse of scientific, technical and philosophic knowledge that would be so crucial for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.

Section IV: Narrowing of the Western intellectual horizon

Christians declared all-out war on the secular foundations of the Roman state. In doing so, they inevitably attacked Rome’s tradition of great art and architecture, as well as the vast storehouses of scientific and technical knowledge that had been accumulated over the centuries. Christians who desired the total eradication of paganism had nothing viable with which to replace the secular culture of the late antique world. Many Christians, conscious of the inferiority of their own religious traditions when compared to the majestic scientific and philosophical achievements of Western culture, attacked secular learning out of envy and spite. This intellectual poverty of the Christian religion induced a significant narrowing of Western intellectual horizons. The entrenchment and consolidation of the Nicene state religious cult obviated the necessity of a classical education for worldly success. Many pursued a religious vocation instead, an option that suddenly became attractive as the Christian church increased in power and influence. The 4th century witnessed the dismantlement of the public education system by zealous Christians, who were disgusted with the paganism of the classical academic curriculum. The Christian emperors, unlike their pagan antecedents, did not patronize secular philosophy and science the administrative apparatus responsible for disbursement of state funds, now controlled by an ecclesiastical bureaucracy, withheld them in the case of teachers who specialized in the classics. This angered many of the last remaining pagans of late antiquity, who bitterly complained about the role of Christianity in spreading a general lack of interest in pursuing a secular education.

A man with a classical education was no longer as highly esteemed as he once was before the age of Constantine. The leaders of the empire’s most powerful institution, the church, contemptuously dismissed their learning as mere “worldly wisdom.” In the eyes of the church, reliance on the faculty of reason alone was the mark of demonic possession, a path fraught with snares for lost souls on the way to eternal damnation in the fires of hell. The educated man was condescending and arrogant he was too sophisticated for the simple message of the gospels. An educated man would also question Christian doctrine, even embrace heresy, making him especially dangerous from an ecclesiastical point of view. The existence of the classical curriculum posed a significant obstacle to the imperial policy of Christianization. By downgrading and marginalizing the pursuit of a secular education, the church was able to gradually eliminate this threat, producing a more docile public, like the sheep in the parables of Jesus. From now on, Christians like Martin of Tours would have more important things to do than learn how to read and write.

The final triumph of orthodoxy over reason is enshrined in the church’s canon law, which forbade clergy and laity from reading the secular literature of antiquity. This canonical prohibition was famously enforced by Pope Gregory I, who severely reprimanded his bishops for instructing students in classical literature. “One mouth cannot praise both Christ and Jupiter at the same time,” thundered Gregory from the Papal See in Rome. The Church controlled all medieval scriptoria in Europe. Advice to monks from church leadership, ordering them to despise all secular knowledge as “foolishness in the eyes of god,” exercised a damaging influence on the scribal transmission of classical literature, merely strengthening the clerical refusal to not copy works of pagan origin. What followed was the inevitable loss of the knowledge needed to run an advanced pre-industrial society. This only worsened and prolonged the Dark Ages, reducing Europeans to a Neolithic existence in the process. Gregory’s hatred of Rome’s secular past was so fierce he was rumored to have personally hunted down and burnt every copy of Titus Livy’s History he could get his hands on. The Library of the Palatine Apollo, first established by Augustus in Rome, was burnt to the ground on his orders. This was to protect the faithful from being contaminated by the “poison” of secular Greek and Latin literature.

For 200 years of western European history, Isidore of Seville was the only real “intellectual.” His Etymologies, the most popular and widely used textbook of the Middle Ages, was written in support of Christian “fundamentalism.” Although unsurpassed in topical comprehensiveness, Isidore’s intellectual depth and range of knowledge are considerably inferior to the Roman encyclopedists who preceded him. Isidore lived in a geocentric universe enclosed within a rotating star-studded sphere, not unlike the cosmology of the ancient Hebrews. The concept of infinite space was completely alien to Isidore’s way of thinking. The fact that all knowledge could be summarized in a single volume shows how drastically intellectual horizons had narrowed under Christian influence. Isidore regarded all pagan science and philosophy as heresy anathema to right-thinking Christians. The church, using the Etymologies as a guide, censored and suppressed the pagan literature quoted in its pages. Isidore further denigrated intellectual curiosity as dangerous and harmful. His widely influential Monastic Rule warned monks of the dangers of reading pagan literature the rule stated that ideally monks should be completely ignorant of all secular knowledge. Isidore’s condemnation of secular knowledge reinforced the prevailing “fundamentalist” orthodoxy of the church, which demanded censorship and suppression of all pagan science and philosophy.

Some Christian Responses

Christian religionists tout Aquinas and Roger Bacon as exceptions to the anti-scientific world-view of the church, but these men were writing in response to Aristotle, who had just been rediscovered in the 12th century. Even in antiquity, Aristotle was considered outdated. Neither Aquinas nor Bacon were scientists, none of them performed any real scientific experiments and none of them advanced science in any real or tangible way. Their achievement was to reconcile the Semitic doctrines of Christianity with the superior pagan ways of Aristotle, but the results of this were highly unsatisfactory. Aquinas was also the father of medieval scholasticism, which proved highly detrimental to the rise of modern science in Europe. Scholastic methodology was eventually mocked for its absurdities by Renaissance writers like François Rabelais. Because of the Christian emphasis on scripture and tradition as final source of authority, the church was opposed to the pagan epistemic values of public verifiability of evidence and empirical rationality. To the church hierarchy, the search for knowledge in accordance with such principles was both arrogant and dangerously heretical. Even with the reintroduction of pagan science and philosophy in the 12th century, there was still significant ecclesiastical opposition to the unaided reason as guide to truth.

The Christian church persecuted those who chose to question Christian religious orthodoxy with impunity. This fostered an environment in which pursuit of scientific and technical progress became a virtual impossibility. For example, the posthumous condemnation of the 6th century Alexandrian philosopher John Philoponus as a heretic ensured that his principled rejection of Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophy would remain unknown for centuries to come. This organized ecclesiastical persecution of free thinkers ruled out any possibility of material progress until the Scientific Revolution.

Despite what the facts reveal, Christian religionists have tried to distort the historical record by pretending otherwise. They believe that Christianity was a necessary ingredient, the “spark” that began the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. This ignores the fact that science and religion, specifically Christianity in this case, are fundamentally incompatible. Christianity is about blind faith, with revelation and authority serving as the only valid criteria for the evaluation of truth. In contrast, science is the accumulation of knowledge through logical reasoning, empirical observation and measurement. Christianity is a form of magical thinking it is not open to revision. Science, on the other hand, is continuously in search of new ideas with ever greater explanatory power. Though scientific and technological progress occurred between 400 BC to 300 AD, leading to the development of ideas that would not be surpassed until the Scientific Revolution, there was virtually no progress from 300 AD to the 12th century, the apogee of Christian power and influence in Europe.

Even Christian Byzantium, which was more successful than the post-Roman successor states of the Latin West, never made any significant progress in science and technology. Under Christian influence, Europe regressed to a Neolithic stage of existence. This is well-supported by recent archeological evidence revealing numerous medieval simplifications of the earlier Roman material culture. Trade, industry and agriculture all witnessed significant declines in technical sophistication, economic productivity and output. Population size also decreased because of overall declines in prosperity and comfort

Christianity: Bringer of Filth and Disease

Ecclesiastical censorship and suppression of Western scientific and technical knowledge facilitated the spread and transmission of disease across Europe. This operated in tandem with the Christian denigration of the human body as a vehicle for sin. Instead of searching for the natural causes of disease, as the Hippocratic writers once did, the official doctrine of the church discouraged the practice of medicine by attributing all bodily ailment to the results of sin and diabolical possession. This retarded progress in the healing arts, leaving Europe at the mercy of disease for hundreds of years.

The negative influence of Christianity in Europe is revealed by the estimated mortality rates from the 14th century Black Death, one of the most devastating pandemics in human history. This was always significantly higher in regions and among populations where Christianity happened to be the dominant religion. For example, although plague reduced the population of the Moslem world by one-third, this was still less than the estimated two-thirds for Europe. These macroregional differences in mortality are also reflected on much smaller geographic scales. England under the Plantagenets lost one-half of her population to plague, whereas Mamluk Egypt lost only one-third.

Among populations, Jews had lower death rates than Christians. Their apparent immunity to the disease aroused the suspicions of their European contemporaries, who implicated them in a clandestine plot to kill Christians.

Why the differential rates in mortality between Moslem, Jew and Christian? Judaism and Islam have long maintained personal hygiene as an integral part of daily ritual practice Christianity, because of its hostility to the body, shunned personal hygiene as worldly and materialist. The church in Spain, for example, regularly encouraged believers to avoid bathing to better distinguish themselves from the hated Moors and Jews. Differences in physical cleanliness between entire geographic regions and whole populations either mitigated or exacerbated the ravages of the bubonic plague.

The triumph of Christianity in late antiquity devalued human physical existence in the eyes of Europeans. Human sexuality was regarded as a necessary evil, to be avoided except for procreation in marriage. The church also discouraged Christians from bathing because concern for the body was viewed as an obstacle to salvation. Although it came very close, the church did not officially ban personal hygiene. Instead, the Christians who ruled Europe allowed the great network of public baths that once dotted the empire, including the aqueducts that supplied them with water, to fall into a state of permanent disrepair.

St. Jerome once said: “He who has bathed in Christ has no need of a second bath.” This injunction was taken seriously by Christian ascetics. They practiced ritual mortification of the flesh by refusing to wash themselves. They wore the same garments every day until they were reduced to rags. The stench that was produced was known by Christians as “alousia” or the “odor of sanctity.” Saints like Agnes and Margaret of Hungary were revered by Christians because of their rejection of physical hygiene.

In the Rule of St. Benedict of Nursia, only those monks who were sick and infirm were granted permission to bathe. Monks in good health and the young were encouraged to wallow in their own filth and excrement. Benedict’s rule was the most influential in the history of Western monasticism. It was embraced by thousands of medieval religious communities as a foundational monastic text

Christianity: Bringer of Violence and Bloodshed

Word of mouth is notoriously ineffective as a means of spreading religious propaganda. This explains why Christianity’s growth remained largely unspectacular until the early 4th century. Of course, the primary reason for the Christianization of the empire was the conversion of Constantine to the new religion. The influence of Christianity in the empire was continuously reinforced and strengthened by the imperially coercive legislation of his successors. Christianization also sanctioned acts of religious violence against pagans, which contributed significantly to the religion’s spectacular growth in numbers and influence. Without Constantine, and the religious violence of his successors, Christianity would have remained just another competing religion in the provincial backwaters of the empire, like Mithraism or the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The imperial policy of Christianization was further aided by the religion’s intrinsic advantages over rival philosophical and religious belief systems, making it more palatable to the masses. This facilitated its rapid spread across the empire until, by the reign of Theodosius in the late 4th century, most urban areas were predominantly Christian. These advantages included the egalitarian ethos of the Christian church. Unlike Mithraism, which was elitist, Christianity accepted all potential recruits, regardless of ethno-linguistic or socio-economic difference. The Christians of the first three centuries practiced a form of primitive communism. This attracted the chronically indigent, as well as freeloaders. Another advantage was the child-like simplicity of Christian doctrine.

The Crisis of the 3rd century, where rival claimants fought each other for the title of Caesar, was an internecine conflict lasting for decades. It produced widespread economic instability and civil unrest. This disruption of daily life encouraged men and women to seek refuge in the mystery religions, but also Christianity, which offered easy answers in an increasingly chaotic and ugly world. The Christian religion promised life everlasting to those who successfully endured tribulation on earth.

Passage of the edict of Milan in 313 meant that Christians would go from being a persecuted minority to a persecuting majority. Although persecution of religious dissidents had occurred before Constantine, such events were comparatively rare. Roman “persecution” of Christianity was mild and sporadic. It was not even religious in nature, but political Christians refused to swear loyalty to the state by offering the pinch of incense to the emperor’s genius. Christians were not so much persecuted as they were subjected to Roman police action for disobeying the laws of the land. In contrast, Christian persecution of pagans and heretics was entirely motivated by religious hatred. It combined the authoritarian anti-pagan legislation of the emperors with the bigotry of the clergy and the violence of the Christian mob.

The first repressive laws against paganism were passed by Constantine. In 331, he issued an edict that legalized the seizure of temple property. This was used to enrich church coffers and adorn his city of Constantinople. He redirected municipal funds from the curiae to the imperial treasury. The curiae used these funds for the construction and renovation of temples, as well as for pagan banquets, processions and festivals. The redirection of municipal funds significantly diminished the influence of paganism in the public sphere. Constantine also showed preference for Christians when considering prospective candidates for government posts. For the first time in the empire’s history, conversion to Christianity was considered an attractive proposition.

Pagan temples and statuary were first vandalized and destroyed under Constantine. Christians believed that this first wave of iconoclasm was in fulfillment of scriptural command: “Ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves . . . for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (Exod. 34.13f). The earliest Christian iconoclasm included the partial destruction of a Cilician temple of Asklepios and the destruction of temples to Aphrodite in Phoenicia (ca. 326 AD). Constantine’s sons, Constans and Constantius II, followed in their father’s footsteps. In 341, Constans issued an edict banning animal sacrifice. In 346, Constans and Constantius II passed a law ordering the closure of all temples. These emperors were egged on by the Christian fanatic Firmicus Maternus who, in an exhortation addressed to both emperors in 346, called for the “annihilation of idolatry and the destruction of profane temples.” The fact that pagans continued to occupy important posts in the imperial administration made it difficult to legislate the active destruction of temples, statuary and inscriptions without alienating a large segment of the empire’s population. Nevertheless, Constantine’s sons turned a blind eye to private acts of Christian vandalism and desecration.

After the death of Constantius II, Julian was made emperor in 361. Having succumbed to the influence of pagan tutors in his youth, he developed a deep hatred for the “Galilean madness.” Accession to the throne allowed him to announce his conversion to Hellenism without fear of retribution. Julian set about reversing the anti-pagan legislation first enacted by his uncle. He re-opened the temples, restored their funding and returned confiscated goods he renovated temples that had been damaged by Christian vandals he repealed the laws against sacrifice and barred Christians from teaching the classics. Julian’s revival of pagan religious practice was cut short in 363, when he was killed in battle against the Persian Sassanids.

His successor Jovian revoked Julian’s edicts and re-established Christianity as most favored religion in the empire. The emperors who came after Jovian were too occupied with barbarian invasion to be concerned with internal religious squabbles it was more expedient to simply uphold the toleration imposed on pagans and Christians alike by the Edict of Milan. Anti-pagan conflict again came to the forefront with Gratian. In 382 he angered pagans by removing the altar of Victory from the Senate. In the same year, Gratian issued a decree that ended all subsidies to the pagan cults, including priesthoods such as the Vestal Virgins. He further alienated pagans by repudiating the insignia of the pontifex maximus.

In 389, Theodosius began his all-out war on the old Roman state religion by abolishing the pagan holidays. According to the emperor’s decrees, paganism was a form of “natural insanity and stubborn insolence” difficult to root out, despite the terrors of the law and threats of exile. This was followed by more repressive legislation in 391, which re-instated the ban on sacrifice, banned visitation of pagan sanctuaries and temples, ended imperial subsidies to the pagan cults, disbanded the Vestal Virgins and criminalized apostasy. He refused to return the altar of Victory to the Senate house, in defiance of pagan demands. Anyone caught performing animal sacrifice or haruspicy was to be arrested and put to death. In the same year, the Serapeum, a massive temple complex housing the Great Library of Alexandria, was destroyed by a mob of Christian fanatics. This act of Christian vandalism was a great psychological blow to the pagan establishment.

Pagans, dissatisfied with the imperially-sponsored cultural revolution that threatened to annihilate Rome’s ancestral traditions, rallied around the usurper Eugenius. He was declared emperor by the Frankish warlord Arbogast in 392. A nominal Christian, Eugenius was sympathetic to the plight of pagans in the empire and harbored a certain nostalgia for pre-Christian Rome. He restored the imperial subsidies to the pagan cults and returned the altar of Victory to the Senate. This angered Theodosius, emperor in the east. In 394, Theodosius invaded the west and defeated Eugenius at the battle of Frigidus in Slovenia. This ended the last serious pagan challenge to the establishment of Christianity as official religion of the empire.

Apologists for Christianity argue that imperial anti-pagan legislation was more rhetoric than reality their enforcement would have been difficult in the absence of a modern police state apparatus. This objection is contradicted by archaeological and epigraphic evidence. First, based on stratigraphic analysis of urban temples, cult activity had virtually ceased by the year 400, after passage of the Theodosian decrees. Second, temple construction and renovation declined significantly under the Christian emperors. In Africa and Cyrenaica, temple construction and renovation inscriptions are far more common under the first tetrarchy than the Constantinian dynasty, when pagans still constituted a significant majority of the empire’s citizens. By the end of the 4th century, the authoritarian legislation of the Christian emperors had seriously undermined the strength and vitality of the old polytheistic cults.

The emperors did not stop with the closure of pagan religious sites. In 435 AD, a triumphant Theodosius II passed an edict ordering the destruction of all pagan shrines and temples across the empire. He even decreed the death penalty for Christian magistrates who failed to enforce the edict. The Code Justinian, issued between 529 to 534, prescribes the death penalty for public observance of Hellenic rites and rituals known pagans were to seek instruction in the Christian faith or risk property confiscation their children were to be seized by officials of the state and forcibly converted to the Christian religion.

Imperially mandated closure of all urban temples resulted in the privatization of polytheistic worship. This further exacerbated the decline of the pagan religious cults because of the object-dependent nature of ritual practice, which could not be fully realized in the absence of statuary, processions, festivals, lavish banquets and monumental building. In urban areas, imperial legislation was clearly effective. This was ruthlessly enforced by professional Christians and zealous magistrates, who used the additional muscle of the Roman army to get their own way, especially when preaching and public example failed.

Pagan rites and rituals were still observed at rural sanctuaries and temples for some time after the closure of urban centers of worship. These remained off the beaten track, so to speak, and were harder to shut down. Churchmen like the fiery John Chrysostom, cognizant of this fact, exhorted the rich landowning class of the east to convert the heathen on their country estates. Those who allowed pagan worship on their rural properties were just as guilty of violating imperial anti-pagan legislation as the pagans themselves. Itinerant Christian evangelists, like Martin of Tours, fanned out across the countryside, winning souls for Christ through a campaign of intimidation, harassment and violence. In the end, aggressive evangelism, privatization of pagan religious practice and social marginalization ensured the death of paganism in rural areas. Christianization of the empire was complete by 600 AD, although it is unclear to what extent Christ was considered just another deity to be worshipped alongside the old pagan gods.

Christianity is a religious faith. It cannot be disseminated on a large scale through rational persuasion. No one can explain how Christ rose from the dead, how god subsists as three persons in one or how a bible that teaches a geocentric, flat earth cosmology is an infallible guide to universal truth. These are “mysteries.” This is what makes Christianity so dangerous. Conversion, unless done for gain or under threat of force, is an emotional affair. No one is “reasoned” into Christianity. Either that person must accept the teachings of the Christian faith without question or he must be forcibly converted using the sword. It was through the latter that Christians were able to spread their gospel beyond imperial frontiers, nominally converting all Europe by the 14th century.

The spread of Christianity cannot be understood apart from the use of force. The barbarians who invaded the western empire had to convert to Christianity as soon as they set foot on Roman territory. Conversion to the religion was a condition of their migration and settlement on imperial soil. They would not have been allowed to participate in Roman society as pagans. Christian missions located beyond the imperial frontiers would typically focus on converting barbarian rulers and their courts. Once the king was made to accept the new religion, he would then compel his followers to convert along with him. This pattern emerged early in the Christianization of Europe. These kings were the “new Constantines,” because they embraced Christianity, often after invoking Christ for victory in battle, like Constantine during the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, and then imposed the religion on the aristocracy and the common people. The earliest of these new Constantines included Caedwalla, the 7th century king of Wessex. He invaded the island of Wight and exterminated most of the Jutes who lived there. Caedwalla replaced these with Christian West Saxons and forced the survivors to convert to Christianity at swordpoint. Another was Edwin, the 7th century king of Northumbria, who used a mixture of bribery and threats to convert aristocracy and common people to the new religion.

After the collapse of the West, Christianity remained confined between the river Elbe in the north and the Danube in the south in continental Europe, until 1000. Barbarians motivated by greed and lust for power were the driving force behind the renewed territorial expansion of medieval Christendom. They were impressed by the wealth, opulence and might of Constantinople and the Frankish dominions and wanted it for themselves. For the pagan warlord, Christianity was akin to the cargo cults of Melanesia. If only his barbarian court displayed all the trappings of the Christian religion, he would be as rich as the emperor in Constantinople!

In an illuminating anecdote, medieval chronicler Notker the Stammerer accurately captured the mentality of barbarian converts to Christianity. In the 9th century, Danes would flock to the Frankish court of Louis the Pious to undergo baptism. In exchange for conversion, Louis would give each man a set of brand new garments and weapons. Once, when Louis ran out of these articles to give prospective converts, he had a few rags stitched together into a coarse tunic and gave it to an old Dane who had been baptized some twenty times before. “If it was not because I was ashamed of my nakedness, I would give you back both the clothes and your Christ,” the Dane snapped back angrily. The “rice bowl” Christians of the 19th and 20th centuries make it difficult to dismiss this story as just another monkish fable.

The power-mad King Stephen of Hungary forced his subjects to convert to Christianity. He believed that Christianization of his kingdom would make it as powerful and as influential as Byzantium. Laws were enacted forbidding pagan ritual practice. Stephen ordered all Magyars to attend church on Sunday and observe Lent and fast days. Failure to obey this draconian legislation was dealt with harshly. Eating meat during Lent was punished by imprisonment working on a Sunday was punished by confiscation of one’s tools and beasts of burden. The legal penalty for murmuring during a church service was having one’s head shorn, accompanied by a severe flogging. The “Black” Magyars who resisted Stephen’s forced conversion of Hungary were cruelly suppressed. Many were tortured and then blinded by Stephen’s Christian soldiers, who were angered by the intransigence of their pagan foes. These men preferred death to the shame and dishonor of being forcibly baptized into an alien Semitic religion and culture.

Christianization in Poland unleashed a similar wave of violence. Mieszko I forcibly Christianized Poland to strengthen his grip over the country and avoid forced conversion by the East Franks. Idolatry was suppressed by smashing pagan idols and sanctuaries, confiscating estates and beheading those who refused to convert. Although very little Christian legislation survives from Mieszko’s reign, his successor Boleslaw I, prescribed knocking a man’s teeth out upon refusal to observe Lenten fasting. Fornication was punished by nailing a man’s scrotum to a bridge and giving him the choice between death and castration.

The brutality of these methods led to a great pagan reaction to the Christianization of Poland. Pagans retaliated by killing Christian priests and destroying churches. By the middle of the 11th century, the land was plunged into chaos, the Christian church in Poland nearly wiped out, and Mieszko’s dynasty temporarily driven from power.

The Catholic King led his army onward, plundering, burning and killing as he went, until he reached the river Weser.

The Saxon Wars of Charlemagne, lasting from 772 to 804, was the first time in history that Christianity was used as an instrument of imperialist conquest. Charlemagne initiated formal hostilities by destroying pagan monuments in Saxony. In 782, Charlemagne promptly avenged a Frankish defeat at Saxon hands by massacring 4,500 Saxons in savage reprisal. The Saxon Capitulary of 785 ordered the death penalty for any Saxon caught resisting baptism or observing heathen practices.

Rulers forcibly converted pagans to Christianity for reasons of personal self-aggrandizement. Michael III, emperor at Constantinople, forced the Bulgarian Khan Boris to accept the eastern orthodox rite in 864, after he was defeated in battle. Forced Christianization allowed Michael to expand his sphere of influence in the Balkans. Bulgaria was then flooded with Byzantine clergy who, with the help of Boris’s army, began a nationwide campaign to demolish all pagan holy sites. The boyars accused the Khan of accepting laws that threatened the stability and autonomy of the state. In 866, they revolted against the khan’s forced Christianization of the country but were suppressed with great cruelty. In the final decade of the ninth century, Boris’s eldest son Vladimir, who became ruler of Bulgaria, tried to eliminate Christianity and restore paganism. In this endeavor, he was supported by the boyars. Vladimir ordered the killing of Christian priests and the destruction of churches. Boris was compelled to leave his monastic retreat and suppress the revolt. Vladimir was deposed, blinded and imprisoned in a dungeon, never to be heard from again.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, crusades were launched to convert the indigenous peoples of Scandinavia and the Baltic region to Christianity. There were crusades against the Wends, Finns, Livonians (Latvians and Estonians), Lithuanians and Prussians. St. Bernard of Clairvaux, a monastic reformer, called for the cultural and physical extermination of northern Europeans who resisted forced conversion to the Christian religion.

What has Christianity Done for Europe?

  1. Christianity is dangerous for the following reasons: the religion promotes the survival of the sick, the weak and the stupid at the expense of good racial hygiene. This drastically lowers population IQ and capacity for civilizational attainment, and
  2. the cult relies on blind faith instead of rational persuasion, which has resulted in long periods of widespread chaos and bloodshed, especially during the Christianization of Europe. These dangers were even noticed by contemporary pagan writers, who immediately recognized the threat a triumphant Christianity would pose to the survival of Western culture.

Christianity never “civilized” or “domesticated” Europeans. On the contrary, Europeans were forced to endure a Neolithic existence when Christians were at the apogee of their power and influence. The church sent men of genius to monasteries or had them consecrated to the priesthood. This prevented them from passing on their genes, a significant dysgenic effect that lowered the collective European IQ. Only the pagan science and reason of classical antiquity could re-domesticate Europeans after 500 years of total intellectual darkness.

The church successfully defended Europe from invasion, argue some apologists, but nothing could be further from the truth. Charles Martel’s confiscation of church property to defend Europe from Moslem intruders was met with significant ecclesiastical opposition. If the church had succeeded in withholding the necessary funds, all Europe would have been reduced to a province of the Umayyad caliphate. Nevertheless, Martel was unable to pursue the Saracens across the Pyrenees and dislodge them from their Andalusian stronghold. The Moslems would continue their occupation of the Iberian Peninsula for 800 years, until their final expulsion by Ferdinand and Isabella in the late 15th century. Southwestern France and Italy were periodically raided and sometimes controlled by Moslem invaders. The emirate of Sicily endured for over two centuries. Even after Norman conquest, a significant Moslem presence remained on the island. The Moslems of Sicily were finally expelled by the middle of the 13th century. The crusades to retake the Holy Land from the Saracens (1095-1291), a series of large-scale military operations under the joint leadership of papacy and feudal aristocracy, failed to achieve its primary objective. In 1204, Christian crusaders sacked Constantinople in an orgy of rape, pillage and murder. The crusaders caused so much damage that the Byzantines were unable to resist their Ottoman conquerors in 1453.

Christianity provided no adequate defense of Europe. The church only did enough to maintain herself as a viable institution. In the process, the church weakened Europe, making her ripe for conquest by the Umayyad and Ottoman caliphates.

Apologists tentatively acknowledge that although Christianity hindered scientific and technological progress, it still made “contributions” to fields as diverse as architecture and philosophy. On closer examination, these “contributions” are neither “Christian” nor worthy of being considered “contributions.” The great churches of the Middle Ages are frequently trotted out, but these have their origin in Roman building methods. The dome, the arch and the vault, the typical features of the medieval Romanesque style of architecture are all borrowed from the imperial Roman architecture of pre-Christian times. The basic architectural plan of most medieval churches is the Roman basilica, a public building reserved for official purposes. Even the Gothic style that supplanted Romanesque still employed architectural features of Roman origin. The ribbed vaulting that was typical of Gothic architecture was originally used in Vespasian’s Roman colosseum and by Hadrian in the construction of his Tibertine villa.

While acknowledging Romanesque as an “accomplishment,” the Christian religionist will conveniently ignore the almost total disappearance of Roman building methods from western Europe for almost 300 years. This was a direct result of the church’s active suppression of Western scientific and technical knowledge. From the completion of Theodoric’s mausoleum in Ravenna to the consecration of Aachen in 805, nothing of monumental significance was built in western Europe. During the intervening period, Europeans, like their Neolithic ancestors, had returned to the use of perishable materials for use in building.

Apologists for Christianity will mention Aquinas and scholasticism as the highpoints of not only medieval, but European intellectual development, even though Aquinas set European scientific and technological progress back by hundreds of years. Scholasticism was an object of ridicule and mockery during the Renaissance. Religionists mention the Christian “contribution” of the university, oblivious to the many institutions of higher learning that existed and even flourished in the ancient world. The first universities taught scholasticism, so they were the frontline in the Christian war against the pagan values of intellectual curiosity, love of progress for its own sake and empirical rationality.

In the Christian religious mind, science and technology are of Christian origin because the men doing the discovering and inventing during the Scientific Revolution were nominal Christians, like Galileo and Newton. This argument is just as absurd as arguing that the Greek invention of logic, rhetoric and mathematics were the result of Greek pagan theological beliefs because Aristotle and other ancient scientists and philosophers were pagans. No, these men were “Christians” because public avowals of atheism were dangerous in an age where even the most innocuous theological speculation could smear reputations and destroy careers. It is a glowing tribute to the courage and honesty of these men that they were able to abandon Christianity’s reliance on blind faith, often in the face of public censure, and consciously re-embrace the pagan epistemic values that produced the “Greek miracle” 2000 years before the Scientific Revolution.

Christian religionists claim that the New Testament is a great contribution to Western civilization. As has been pointed out for generations, the work is notorious for its bad grammar and unrefined literary style. Much of it was composed by Jews who were not even fluent in koine Greek. Overall, the New Testament is an inferior production compared to the meanest writers of Attic prose. Even St. Jerome, the translator of the Vulgate, expressed contempt for the crude, unsophisticated literary style of the Bible. He preferred the elegant Latin of Cicero instead.

What has Christianity contributed to Europe? The answer is very little, if anything. No art, culture, architectural monuments, science or technology. Christianity was a massive waste of European intellectual and physical potential. Furthermore, Christianity almost destroyed Europe.

The church discarded over 99% of ancient literature, including works on science, mathematics, philosophy, engineering and architecture. This was the largest campaign of literary censorship and suppression in history, an act of cultural and physical genocide that nearly severed medieval Europe from the great achievements of classical antiquity. This was cultural genocide because the church nearly wiped out an entire civilization and culture this was physical genocide because the church’s deliberate eradication of secular knowledge placed millions of lives in danger, unnecessarily subjecting them to the ravages of disease, war, famine and poverty. No other religion has caused as much suffering and as much damage to Europe as Christianity.

Selected Bibliography

Fletcher, R. (1997). The Conversion of Europe: From Paganism to Christianity 371-1386 AD. HarperCollins: London.

Jones, A. H. M. (1964). The Later Roman Empire: A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey. 3 vols. Basil Blackwell: Oxford.

Standardized Testing

High school students take the first-ever National Merit Scholarship Program exam

Throughout the U.S., students are getting out their No. 2 pencils, ready to endure a stress-packed four hours of bubbling in answers in the Dec. 12 administration of the ACT. Some 1.5 million students are expected to take the test this school year. Standardized tests have been a scourge of student life in America for more than 50 years, but it's fair to say they're more pressure-packed and ubiquitous than ever before. The ACT and its counterpart, the SAT, have become one of the largest determining factors in the college-admissions process, particularly for élite schools. At least this year's applicants should be familiar with the format by now: students in the U.S. are taking more standardized tests than ever before, and at ages long before college beckons. (See pictures of the evolution of the college dorm.)

The earliest record of standardized testing comes from China, where hopefuls for government jobs had to fill out examinations testing their knowledge of Confucian philosophy and poetry. In the Western world, examiners usually favored giving essays, a tradition stemming from the ancient Greeks' affinity for the Socratic method. But as the Industrial Revolution (and the progressive movement of the early 1800s that followed) took school-age kids out of the farms and factories and put them behind desks, standardized examinations emerged as an easy way to test large numbers of students quickly.

In 1905 French psychologist Alfred Binet began developing a standardized test of intelligence, work that would eventually be incorporated into a version of the modern IQ test, dubbed the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. By World War I, standardized testing was standard practice: aptitude quizzes called Army Mental Tests were conducted to assign U.S. servicemen jobs during the war effort. But grading was at first done manually, an arduous task that undermined standardized testing's goal of speedy mass assessment. It would take until 1936 to develop the first automatic test scanner, a rudimentary computer called the IBM 805. It used electrical current to detect marks made by special pencils on tests, giving rise to the now ubiquitous bubbling-in of answers. (Modern optical scanners opt to use simple No. 2 pencils, as their darker lead is most scanner-friendly.)

The SAT and the ACT are by far the most famous standardized tests today. The SAT came first, founded in 1926 as the Scholastic Aptitude Test by the College Board, a nonprofit group of universities and other educational organizations. The original test lasted 90 minutes and consisted of 315 questions testing knowledge of vocabulary and basic math and even including an early iteration of the famed fill-in-the-blank analogies (e.g., blue:sky::____:grass). The test grew and by 1930 assumed its now familiar form, with separate verbal and math tests. By the end of World War II, the test was accepted by enough universities that it became a standard rite of passage for college-bound high school seniors. It remained largely unchanged (save the occasional tweak) until 2005, when the analogies were done away with and a writing section was added. (That section is graded separately from the verbal test, boosting the elusive perfect SAT score from 1600 to 2400.) (See more about the SAT revisions.)

In 1959 an education professor at the University of Iowa named Everett Franklin Lindquist (who later pioneered the first generation of optical scanners and the development of the GED test) developed the ACT as a competitor to the SAT. Originally an acronym for American College Testing, the exam included a section that guided students toward a course of study by asking questions about their interests. In addition to math, reading and English skills, the ACT assesses students on their knowledge of scientific facts and principles the test is scored on a scale of 0 to 36. Both the ACT and the SAT have found a niche: the ACT is more commonly accepted in the Midwest and South, while schools on the coasts show a preference for the SAT. Students show a propensity for one test or the other: the SAT is geared toward testing logic, while the ACT is considered more a test of accumulated knowledge. One thing the tests have in common: their names no longer have any official meaning. Any pretense of the letters being acronyms was dropped decades ago. They're now simply the ACT and SAT.


To make sure all aspects of medieval research are covered as evenly as possible, the IMC divides its programming into 39 strands.

Each session is allocated to at least one strand, but most are listed in two or more strands depending on their content.

Every Programming Committee member has special responsibilities for a strand within their area of expertise. Their role includes identifying research areas and groups with interests relevant to that strand and promoting interest in the IMC in those areas.

The strand co-ordinator shapes the format, structure, and dynamics of the strand. Their aim is to provide a platform for innovative research, incorporating new perspectives, methodologies, approaches and technologies, as well as reflecting on current and past trends in research. The IMC’s unique size and scope allows comparative and in-depth research to be considered side by side.

The 39 regular strands allow ideas to be developed over multiple years and allow the Programming Committee to schedule papers and sessions. Each year, the IMC also chooses a special thematic strand. This is intended to complement the other strands without replacing them.

If you believe that your research does not fit within the strands listed below, we want to hear from you. Contact us by emailing [email protected] to discuss your proposal further. We are always looking to develop our strands and ensure that they reflect the broad spectrum of research undertaken in medieval studies.

If you are a member of the IMC Programming Committee, access the Programming Committee website here.


Co-ordinator: Sam Turner, Newcastle University

This strand includes the whole range of medieval archaeology, and embraces sub-disciplines such as numismatics and sculpture studies. Archaeology is fundamental to our understanding of the medieval period, and continues to provide new forms of evidence. For some periods and places it may be the only form of evidence, and always it tends to illuminate areas of human activity not represented in documentary and literary sources. Studies of individual sites have given way to studies of whole medieval landscapes, incorporating both urban and rural settlement, and town-hinterland relations. Studies of medieval burial have enabled research into diet, disease and demographics, whilst new scientific approaches are allowing the identification of population migration. Meanwhile material culture is now seen as an important component in the formation of medieval cultural identities.

Alongside all these areas this strand aims to encourage papers and sessions on all aspects of archaeological sciences including the application of emerging technologies as well as heritage management and rescue archaeology.

Art and Architecture

Co-ordinator: Diane J. Reilly, Indiana University, Bloomington

This strand includes all areas of research into religious and/or secular art and architecture of the Middle Ages, in and beyond the European continent.

The areas of art and architecture overlap in many fields including archaeology, material and techniques, provenance, workshop practices, patronage, iconography, reception, and historiography. However, both art and architecture are freestanding areas with their own specific issues and questions. These include connoisseurship, preservation, literature, philosophy, liturgy, anthropology, ecclesiastical history, natural/practical/theoretical sciences, gender studies, and socio-political considerations. This strand encourages interdisciplinary proposals, bringing together art and architecture scholars with medievalists from other disciplines to consider contextual and comparative examples.

Byzantine Studies

Co-ordinator: Shaun Tougher, Cardiff University

The study of the history and culture of the Byzantine empire is vital for the appreciation of the medieval world. Spanning the fourth to fifteenth centuries, and centred on the city of Constantinople, the empire was in a real sense the continuation of the Roman empire in the East, its inhabitants considering themselves to be Romans. It witnessed, and was directly involved in, some of the major events of the medieval world: the Christianisation of the Roman empire, the fall of the western Roman empire, the birth of Islam and the rise of the Arab empire, the emergence of alternative emperors in the West, the conversion and rise of the Rus, the birth and development of the crusading movement, the division between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the establishment of the Ottoman empire. Culturally, the empire is famed for its art, such as the icon, and its preservation of classical literature, although it has a rich literary heritage of its own.

Research trends include increasing interdisciplinary approaches, a particular interest in prosopographical study, and the development of gender studies. Subject areas covered by the strand include, Byzantine art and architecture, daily life, ecclesiastical history, gender studies, hagiography, historiography, language and literature, law, monasticism, numismatics, politics and diplomacy, rhetoric, sexuality, social history, theology, and women’s studies.

Celtic Studies

Co-ordinator: Helen Fulton, University of Bristol

Research on the medieval Celtic world focuses on the languages, their primary sources, and the diverse interactions between these and other medieval languages and cultures, including vernacular and Christian-Latin traditions, insular and continental evidence, and textual and material sources.

The strand provides a forum for further debate and analysis over a broad interdisciplinary spectrum, encompassing language, literature, history, theology, archaeology, art history, and manuscript studies. The strand encourages both single-discipline and multi-disciplinary proposals on the significance, influence, and reception of the Celtic-language regions and their interactions with the wider medieval world.

Central and Eastern European Studies

Co-ordinator: Jarosław Wenta, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, Torun

This strand is an interdisciplinary strand by definition, focusing on the different cultural territories located between the Baltic and the Black Sea, and between the Holy Roman Empire and the Finno-Ugric World in Eastern Europe. As each of these territories have their own backgrounds and identities, so each requires their own distinctive methods of investigation. Research into the Central and Eastern European Middle Ages has tended to be interdisciplinary in focus and internationalist in outlook.

The strand welcomes proposals for full sessions or single papers which reflect the history of the territories of medieval Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Lithuania, the Romanian principalities, the Teutonic Knights of Prussia and Livonia, and the Kievan Rus. Areas of interest include interactions between the societies and cultures of Central and Eastern Europe and other regions like Western Europe, the territories of Byzantium, Islam, and Central Asia. The strand is keen to encourage research into the medieval origins of the region’s modern characteristics, and particularly into the medieval roots of ‘true’ and imaginary stereotypes and national prejudices.

Church History and Canon Law

Co-ordinator: Brenda Bolton, University of London

This strand welcomes proposals on the broadest possible range of activities undertaken by the Western Church from Late Antiquity to the end of the medieval period. Organized sessions or individual papers are equally encouraged and may address any aspect of Church history-the papacy and the Curia, the activities of individual popes, anti-popes and cardinals papal offices such as the Chamber, Chancery or Chapel, general, legatine and local councils of the Church, and the impact of ecclesiastical legislation throughout Christendom. A profitable local focus of recent years has been directed towards bishops and parish priests, to pastoral care or diocesan politics, to founders and benefactors.

An ever-expanding field of interest is that of Canon Law, by which the public obligation of the laity to each other and to the Church was defined, most commonly in disputes involving marriage or tithe payments. Of considerable concern to the Church was its regulation of clerical behaviour and recent sessions have tended to concentrate on evidence from the newly opened penitentiary records in the Vatican Archive.

This strand, perhaps more than any other, given the over-arching influence of the Church throughout medieval society, overlaps with many other fields, monasticism, religious life, liturgy, music, theology and art, and strong interdisciplinary links are encouraged.


Co-ordinator: Kurt Villads Jensen, Stockholms Universitet

Crusading and religious warfare was a fundamental part of medieval daily life and the medieval mental outlook. It formed modern attitudes to wars and theories about wars, and it still provides material for modern political discussions about the clash of civilisations. Past generations of historians have widened the definition of crusading considerably, to approach crusading as an integral part of medieval societies more generally.

The Crusades and Latin East strand therefore welcomes papers handling any aspect of the crusading movement in its broadest definition, i.e. including crusades in The Middle East, Iberia, North Africa, the Baltic, and the remainder of medieval Europe, and in the high as well as in the later Middle Ages. Papers dealing with the processes of settlement and militarisation in the areas that were conquered by crusaders, and the many religious groups involved are also welcome, as are those that look at the economic, social, and ideological impact of crusading on medieval society.

Culture and Society

Co-ordinator: Dolores Jørgensen, Universitetet i Stavanger

This strand includes all aspects of cultural traditions and social relationships, and provides a field in which abstract concepts such as ‘mentalities’, ‘memory’, ’emotions’, ‘feelings’, ‘identity’, ‘boundaries’, ‘love’ etc. can be applied and discussed.

The strand welcomes contributions on patterns and traditions of thought (mentalités), rituals, gestures and ceremonies, family life (including the treatment of children) and households, marriage and the creation of sexual norms and control (through, for example, the definition of adultery, incest and illegitimacy), marginal social groups (such as outsiders, widows and the aged), as well as other forms of relationships, affinities, and friendships, and non-legal aspects of violence and crime.

Daily Life

Co-ordinator: Gerhard Jaritz, Central European University, Budapest

Daily Life is the repetitive, routinised, and ordinary areas of human existence. The strand concentrates on comparative and context-bound approaches towards the quotidian patterns of different social groups, in various domains of material and non-material culture.

The strand welcomes sessions and individual papers focusing on any of the following areas of interest, mentality, behaviour patterns and habitus, living conditions and standards of living, environment, husbandry, youth and age, health and disease, prevention and care, work and leisure, food, dress, and housing.

We welcome contributions that are based on interdisciplinary research, making use of written texts, as well as of images and archaeological evidence.


Co-ordinator: Cora Dietl, Universität Giessen

This strand links most areas of Medieval Studies, not only literature, music, dance, and the visual arts, but also theology, material culture, economic and social history and historiography. While it is often seen to be firmly within the literary field, even if it is the least determined by language, its scope is much more all encompassing.

Its main objective is dialogue. Dialogue between better known or even canonical, and lesser known dramatic traditions dialogue between the strict field of drama and that of all sorts of para-dramatical events, between a ‘real’ theatre and the threshold of the stage dialogue between the theatre in performance and all arts that somehow contribute to its realization. Interdisciplinary by nature, this strand aims to identify and challenge its own limits and to redefine itself in a dynamic exchange between languages, disciplines and fields of research.

Early Medieval England

Co-ordinator: Catherine A. M. Clarke, University of London

This strand aims to incorporate work on all aspects of early medieval England in its broadest sense. Papers and sessions in this strand can consider any point of time from the first post-Roman migrations into the British Isles up to the Norman Conquest and beyond, including medievalist re-interpretations of early medieval England and its cultures in the modern world. The geographical spread of the strand includes early medieval England, the kingdoms which border it, and the regions overseas with which it had connections.

The strand is designed to accommodate work within and beyond the disciplines. This includes single-disciplinary work from the full range of relevant disciplines, including social, ecclesiastical, economic, and political history, Old English and Anglo-Latin literature, theology, linguistics, art history, architecture, archaeology and material culture, codicology, and palaeography. Interdisciplinary work which cuts across and synthesises more than one disciplinary approach is especially welcome, as is work on broad themes (and especially newly-emerging themes) in the study of early medieval England, and practice-led or creative research.

Together with all those contributing to this strand each year, we aim to build an inclusive and supportive forum for all scholars working across varied aspects of early medieval English studies. We welcome and seek to foster ongoing conversations about the future of our field. The future name and scope of this strand is currently under review, as part of a full review of programming strands at the IMC.

Gender and Sexuality

Co-ordinator: Diane Watt, University of Surrey

This strand fosters transdisciplinary debate about gender and/or sexuality (interpreting these terms as widely as possible) in relation to medieval culture. Individual papers may be primarily theoretical, empirical, or textual, or they may adopt a more eclectic approach. Sessions or papers may consider issues such as the status, experiences, or representation of cisgender, transgender and intersex in the Middle Ages, and the construction of masculinities and femininities, or they may investigate topics that include the ideologies and realities of marriage and love, chastity and virginity, and homosocial bonds and same-sex desire.

Research in newly-developing areas is particularly encouraged. We encourage scholars working in the above mentioned fields to organize a number of linked sessions on a theme which can be run sequentially at the IMC. In recent years, there have been round tables on aspects of Women’s Studies and Feminist and Queer Theory. These have proved extremely popular and we would encourage organisers of a session or series of sessions to submit a proposal in these areas in particular.

Geography and Settlement Studies

Co-ordinator: Chris Lewis, University of London

The strand covers all aspects of urban and rural settlement and human geography in the Middle Ages, employing evidence from standing buildings, plan analysis, archaeology (buildings, artefacts, environmental remains, and burials), written sources, and place-names. We are keen to include papers and sessions on all parts of Europe, especially in comparative sessions. The strand aims to include research from across the full range of geography and settlement studies, including (but not limited to) settlement patterns and development, cultural transmission, social, ethnic, religious, and political identities, trade and exchange, travel, and depictions and conceptions of the world in whatever form (maps, texts, art).

Papers and sessions on topics unrelated to the year’s special theme are welcome, whether in an established part of the discipline or a newly emerging area. Interdisciplinary sessions are strongly encouraged. Linked sessions on a single theme can be scheduled to run in sequence at the IMC, and are a good way in which a research group or a local, regional, or national body can present its work to the wider scholarly community at Leeds and make new contacts. The strand co-ordinator is happy to advise intending participants on putting together one or more sessions.

Global Middle Ages

Government, Law and Institutions

Co-ordinator: Charles Insley, University of Manchester

This strand includes non-religious (including secular functions of religious bodies) functions and institutions and extends beyond institutional history to include the culture of government, especially in a comparative perspective and political history.

The strand welcomes contributions on all aspects of the field such as, the governing of countries and units, the function of rulers, succession and legitimacy, culture and trappings of power, political machinery, networks and public relations, planning, and the institutional structures and organisations of the penal, education and healthcare systems, law enforcement, and the army. This includes sources such as documents, charters, rolls, seals, government and institutional buildings, and the physical representations and manifestations of power.

If you have any queries on matters relating to this strand, please contact Charles Insley, who will be more than willing to assist you, e.g. with proposals for sessions and individual papers.

Hagiography and Religious Writing

Co-ordinator: Anne-Marie Helvétius, Université de Paris VIII

The strand is based, not on a particular topic, but on a particular type of source material. It aims to study more and more thoroughly, and from a critical point of view, all of the sources known as Hagiography and Religious Writing. So prominent in number and diversity, these sources impact upon every area of medieval studies.

The strand uses a broad definition of hagiography that includes vitae and other writings about saints, miracles, relics, and shrines visual images and iconography of saints case histories of canonisation (whether successful or not) the various means by which saints’ cults were promoted, and the manifold purposes they served. This strand also welcomes sessions and papers on most other kinds of medieval texts, in any language or combination of languages, that were written for ostensibly religious ends: sermons, preaching aids and handbooks, prayers and meditations, mystical writings, pilgrimage narratives, spiritual biographies and autobiographies, manuals of basic religious instruction, and so on. Some religious genres are covered in other strands. These are: music and liturgy theology and biblical studies.

Health and Medicine

Co-ordinator: Elma Brenner, Wellcome Library, London

Matters of health and illness affected the lives of all people in the past, as is the case today. Health issues of the Middle Ages, such as the Black Death and leprosy, have significantly influenced modern-day perceptions of this period. The Health and Medicine strand explores the social, cultural, religious, economic, intellectual, material and environmental contexts of health in the medieval world, and engages critically with current and recent ideas about states of health and medical practice in this period.

Sessions and individual papers are welcomed on any topic relating to health and medicine in the global Middle Ages. Contributions may explore the circulation of medical knowledge and medicinal substances in Europe and other parts of the world the identities of medical practitioners the pathogenesis of diseases the organisation of hospitals the intersection of medicine with magic and religion representations of medieval health in film and modern literature and other subjects. The strand invites contributions from archaeology, history, literature, linguistics, the biosciences, theology, art history and other disciplines, and encourages cross-disciplinary, diachronic and comparative perspectives.


Co-ordinator: Nadia Altschul, University of Glasgow

This strand encompasses work on all aspects of historical and historiographical relevance during the chronological middle ages as well as its later study. On its medieval side the strand includes work on medieval chronicles, biographies, and life writing medieval concepts of time and of temporality as well as comparative historical and historiographical engagements with global geographies that had been seldom included in more traditional medieval studies. On its modern side, the strand encompasses critical study of historiographical trends and the history of scholarship on the range of disciplines that have engaged with the middle ages in different post-medieval periods and locations across the world.

The strand is especially interested in self-reflexive disciplinary studies and in non-European engagements with the medieval. The topics encompass the intellectual trajectories of the range of disciplines present in the IMC strands, from Anglo-Saxon to Theology. As disciplinary history, the Historiography strand will expectedly have overlaps and cross-listing with other IMC areas.

Colleagues are especially invited to present sessions on a topic of their interest, whether on the annual IMC theme or a different area. Linked sessions, special topics, and papers on emergent subjects are particularly welcome.

Islamic World

Co-ordinator: Jo van Steenbergen, Universiteit Gent

The ‘Islamic World’ represents a transcultural and transdisciplinary strand that focuses on the central medieval Afro-Eurasian space that connected both east and west and north and south in myriad and dynamic ways from the Late Antique movement of the Arabian expansion in the 7th century CE onwards. This world stretches from the West African and Iberian coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the Hindukush and the Indian Ocean in the East, and from the Inner Asian steppes in the North to Sub-Saharan Africa in the South. This historical space is mostly characterized by an enormous diversity, both in its geographical and ecological characteristics, as well as its peoples, cultures and economies. It is nevertheless not incorrect to consider this enormously vast space as a historical continuum as well, with clearly recognisable Islamic formations, closely connected with (but not limited to) the appearance of Islam as a hegemonic monotheistic world religion, and of Arabic as a lingua franca, emerging there, and participating actively, in an endless dialogue with that local diversity, in the political, social, cultural and economic histories of these regions.

Within this broad remit of Late Antique to Early Modern political, intellectual, cultural, social and economic continuities and changes, this strand welcomes papers on a broad range of subjects within and beyond the annual thematic strand. Areas of interest include the histories of power, people and their interaction the circulation of ideas, goods and technologies networking, communication and language knowledge and knowledge practices meaning making, identity formation and representation exchange and competition etc The strand is especially keen to encourage research that promotes awareness of the centrality and complexity of the Islamic world in (medieval) history.

Jewish Studies

Co-ordinator: Alexandra F. C. Cuffel, Ruhr-Universität Bochum

This strand welcomes submissions from medievalists working in all disciplines and all areas of medieval Jewish culture and Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim relations. To all medievalists it offers the opportunity to interrogate the temporal, geographic, and cultural boundaries of what we call ‘medieval’ in relation to Jewish studies and Jewish-Christian/Jewish-Muslim relations. It is a strand that, just like the IMC as a whole, invites comparative encounters across many disciplines. Such disciplines may include Bible studies, religious law and other rabbinic texts, religious thought, inter-religious and intra-religious polemic, liturgy, Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish/Ladino, Judeo-Italian, Yiddish and other Jewish literatures and languages, social history, economic history, history of mentalities, music, art history, archaeology, material culture, paleography and printing history, historiography, non-rabbinic forms of Judaism, such as Karaites, Bete Israel, among others.

The strand seeks to offer a meeting ground for mature and for young scholars, and thus contributes to research training in this increasingly complex and interdisciplinary field. The strand welcomes the presentation of new research projects and findings it encourages methodological innovation and theoretical reflection. Ideas for sessions or strings of sessions, and of publishable groups of papers, are always particularly welcome.

Language and Literature (Comparative)

Language and Literature (Germanic)

Co-ordinator: Sieglinde Hartmann, Universität Würzburg

There are especially four major fields of general interest for medievalists: the ‘Origins of Courtliness’ and the flowering of courtly literature, the ‘Nibelungen Tradition’, mystics’ lives and writings, and literary expressions towards the Reformation.

Current research trends in German studies of general interest for medievalists include, relations between text and image means of symbolic communication in medieval life and literature development and application of narrative theories to medieval epics the creation of new interdisciplinary approaches to medieval literature by combining methods developed in the fields of gender studies, mental history or natural history e.g. with textual analysis to make accessible hitherto unknown or neglected works of German literature especially of the Late Middle Ages to develop new means of evaluating the processes of textual transmission and, in consequence, to elaborate methods of editing medieval literature.

In addition to presentations of current research trends, the strand particularly welcomes paper and session proposals on anniversaries of famous authors medieval translations and translating the Middle Ages medieval myths and their modern reception travel and pilgrim literature Non-Germanic authors or themes and their reception in Germanic art, music, and literature (such as Petrarch) approaches to language and literary history recently discovered authors (i.e. Oswald von Wolkenstein) or wider European literary genres (i.e. Jewish literary culture or the Teutonic Order) introduction to the use of modern encyclopaedias or electronic tools such as the Lexikon des Mittelalters, Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters, Verfasserlexikon, the Mittelhochdeutsche Begriffsdatenbank (MHDBDB, Salzburg), or Repertorium der Sangsprüche und Meisterlieder des 12. bis 18. Jahrhunderts.

The strand aims to provide interdisciplinary debate, bringing together specialists of Germanic Language and Literature with medievalists from other disciplines.

Language and Literature (Middle English)

Co-ordinator: Andrew Galloway, Cornell University

Middle English studies (covering, chronologically, language and literature from the immediate post-Conquest to the late-medieval period) are increasingly wide-ranging. Increasingly there is a heightened consciousness of the linguistic situation in the British Isles, where Latin, English, Anglo-Norman, Anglo-French, continental French, and Celtic co-exist and variously inter-relate, on the historical specificity of textual production, and on the means of its dissemination and a focus on how this needs to be taken into account in any assessment of the impact of writing in Middle English. These include Middle English’s function in relation to society (as entertainment, polemic, religious instruction, philosophical tool. . .), its status and its audiences, and its claims to authoritativeness. Recent research has focused on how Middle English as a vernacular ‘authorizes’ itself, in relation to other languages, and as a medium for the transmission of technical (for example, medical) and religious and philosophical ideas.

These emphases bring a new urgency to questions about translation and authorization, gender and culture, power relations, the relations between clerical and lay devotional and religious writings, and discourses of the self, as well as to investigations of the use of English in scientific and other specialist registers. A renewed awareness of Middle English’s place in a highly complex literary and linguistic cultural dynamic also forces a reconsideration of the cultural placing of ‘canonical’ authors, as well as of lesser-known texts.

The Leeds International Medieval Congress attracts contributors with a wide diversity of critical approaches and disciplinary skills, especially in the area of material culture, and their expertise offers Middle English language and literature specialists some exciting opportunities to exchange ideas productively and to view their own work from innovative perspectives. We would especially welcome submissions from historical linguists, and from those working on the inter-relation of Middle English language and literature, and from those who would like to use the congress as a space to experiment with and discuss new research, with other language and literature scholars and with specialists from other disciplines alike.

Language and Literature (Romance Vernacular)

Co-ordinator: Emma Campbell, University of Warwick

This strand covers the full range of medieval vernacular texts and their historical, social, cultural and linguistic contexts, in French, in Occitan, in Italian, and in the Iberian languages.

It welcomes papers from all critical approaches, on individual authors, on all genres (lyric and epic poetry, verse and prose romances, historiography, religious, moral, didactic, and allegorical texts), and on all themes. Sessions and paper proposals are welcome in any of the major European languages.

Late Antique and Early Medieval Studies

Co-ordinator: Yaniv Fox, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan

The Late Antique/Early Medieval Strand incorporates two research areas from the late third to the early eleventh century. The chronological span of both overlaps, and so may suggestions of topics, which can also look beyond this specified period. The geographical focus is on Latin Europe with its ‘barbarian’ periphery, looking out to the Eastern Mediterranean and other parts of the world.

The strand welcomes contributions in all relevant fields of study on Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, including the following: the transformation of the Roman World and the ‘Fall of Rome’ Christianisation and cultural change the integration of barbarians and formation of new identities opening up to comparison with the rest of the world the post-Roman regna the Carolingian World trade and communication war and peace states and missions in Northern Europe the transfer of culture and the transmission of texts Church organisation and Christian ways of life the transformation of European societies in post-Carolingian Europe. Discussion-oriented sessions or round tables are very welcome. This strand regards past societies as a whole, and sees its elements as interrelated, for instance texts and identity formation, or states and (political) culture. It also invites interdisciplinary participation, among others, from archaeologists, art historians, social anthropologists, and historians of religion.

Latin Writing

Co-ordinator: Danuta Shanzer, Universität Wien

During the Middle Ages a Latin-writing intelligentsia was to be found in most of Europe, so that it has become customary to speak of a ‘Latin West’. Within this area, Latin was or came in time to be the primary language of learning, liturgy, law, and record it was also a major language of imaginative literature and a lingua franca permitting communication across national and linguistic boundaries. People wrote in it with varying degrees of skill and effectiveness on virtually all topics from the trivial to the highly serious and from the mundane to the sublime. The study of the ways in which writers expressed themselves in this important but usually acquired tongue (and even in the very early Middle Ages when Latin was still a native language in parts of Europe and North Africa, its literary forms had to be learned and mastered) is the chief focus of the Latin Writing strand.

This strand welcomes scholarly contributions on philological, linguistic or literary aspects of Latin-language texts created during the period c.300 – c.1500. Also covered are the medieval study and teaching of Latin and of Latin-based rhetoric and poetics socio-linguistic aspects of the use of Latin during this period significant influence or reception of Latin-language texts in writings in other languages post-medieval attitudes to or appropriations of medieval Latin writing and the modern study and teaching of medieval Latin language and literature.

There is no restriction by critical approach or by genre: work on rhetorical, compositional, stylistic, or contextual features of ‘popular’ or utilitarian writing (e.g. charms, prophecies, travel literature, chronicles, learned commentary, handbooks and encyclopaedias) is just as welcome as that on forms traditionally considered ‘literary’. Successful sessions have dealt with Latin writings of particular times or places, with the work of individual writers, with writing on particular themes, and with widely practised genres (e.g. letters and letter-collections). Within a session, a mix of disciplinary viewpoints is often advantageous, and we welcome papers with clearly enunciated critical methodologies. Submissions on newly emerging areas of interest and re-assessments of the state of knowledge in long-standing ones are encouraged.

What differentiates this strand from others is its emphasis on the linguistic vehicle itself: how thoughts were understood and expressed in Latin, how that language was regarded by its writers and their audiences, and how knowledge of this tongue was transmitted to others.

Literacy and Communication

Co-ordinator: Marco Mostert, Universiteit Utrecht

One of the most important developments in European history took place in the field of communication. A transition is clearly visible from illiterate societies to societies in which most members are active users of the written word. This complex process, which started in Antiquity and which is still not complete, gained momentum during the Middle Ages. Many disciplines have recently made contributions to our understanding of the history of medieval communication: codicologists and historians of the book, anthropologists and psychologists, but also philosophers, sociologists, literary historians, classicists, theologians, economists, art historians, and historians. Interest in the subject is now widespread within the worldwide community of medieval studies, and more and more scholars are becoming convinced of the potential of studying the tensions between ‘oral’ and ‘literate’ modes of thought.

This strand is intended to provide for sessions and papers on the history of non-verbal, oral, and written communication in the Middle Ages. There is obviously much overlap with other strands, not least because the discourse of communication has by now become part of mainstream medieval studies. Broadly speaking, the emphasis in this strand is more on the uses of (written) texts and other instruments of medieval communication than on their content – even if it will be clear that content will always have a bearing on use. Sessions will be considered addressing one or more of the following topics: the theory of literacy and (written) communication in the Middle Ages (including anthropological, sociological, and psychological contributions to the debate) the debate on orality versus the culture of the written word in the Middle Ages forms of non-verbal communication (smells, colours, gestures, symbolic objects, clothes, the visual arts, the relationship between visual images and texts, music) ritual (e.g. political ritual and ceremony) oral communication (silence, language, the problem of Latin, the problem of the vernaculars) oral and written memory (e.g. lieux de mémoire, the past in primarily oral societies, oral tradition) teaching literacy skills the production and use of written texts (script and script forms, book production and use, reading and the reception of texts, the relationship between manuscript culture and print culture) the preservation of written texts correspondence mandarin literacy the uses of writing by the various social groups (clergy and laymen, atistocrats, peasants, town dwellers, women) the uses of writing in government, management and trade (e.g. legislation, charters, jurisdiction and dispute settlement) literature as a form of communication (e.g. ‘oral’ literature, the composition of ‘oral’ literature, performance) religion and writing (including the magic of the written word) the symbolism of the book the development of ‘literate mentalities’ and a concomitant (dis)trust in writing.

If you have any queries on matters relating to this strand, please contact its coordinator, Marco Mostert, who will be more than willing to assist you, e.g. with proposals for sessions and individual papers.

Manuscript Studies

Co-ordinator: Dominque Stutzmann, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris

Manuscripts are the principal object which enabled the diffusion of texts and ideas in the Middle Ages and have preserved them for modern scholars. They are not, however, a neutral medium and their study offers important insights when interpreting the meaning of the texts and images that they transmit.

The strand Manuscript Studies is concerned with all aspects of the materiality of handwritten texts, from the making of the medieval manuscript to medieval and early modern book trade and collection, and to their modern and scholarly use. It covers the following fields: (a) archaeology of the book and research about techniques, including imaging techniques and biochemical analysis on the support, inks and pigments, (b) layout, mise en texte, text-image relationships, and staging of the text, (c) palaeography and ecdotics to understand the milieus and production, transmission, and reception of works, (d) techniques of reading and the influence of materiality on the intellectual life, (e) sociology of manuscript production and the study of scriptoria, chanceries, workshops, and book trade. Tools and methodologies of research, especially digital humanities applied to Manuscript studies, as well as training and pedagogy in the mentioned areas are also welcome topics.

This strand encourages interdisciplinary proposals, bringing together manuscript scholars with medievalists from other disciplines, especially. epigraphy, literacy and communication, economy and culture.

Sessions and papers in which manuscripts are used as sources, but are not in the focus of the research, will not be listed in this strand. Organisers are encouraged to provide full abstracts for each paper in addition to the session abstract (especially for sessions which are the result of a separate CFP). If you have any queries, please contact the strand coordinator, Dominique Stutzmann.

Watch the video: Medieval Europe - Universities (August 2022).