A major element of this project is a series of conferences held in St Andrews on medieval revolts in comparative (or synthetic) perspective. The first of these conferences was a workshop held in April 2013 (programme available here). Two more conferences are planned in the 2014-15 academic year. The first was held from 3-4 October (programme available here), the second will take place from 17-18 April.
Funded by a fellowship from the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, these conferences aim to develop frameworks of comparison that arise out of individual case-studies, as well as to establish a durable network of scholars who will continue to enrich one another’s work. The comparative element is key: It seems apparent that social unrest was a new and widespread phenomenon in the later Middle Ages, which suggests common historical roots or sociological features. Yet, comparison is difficult because the limitations on any particular scholar’s mastery of the sources require focusing on individual situations. Working together provides the best avenue for developing empirically rigorous comparative perspectives on the period that Mollat and Wolff called the age par excellence of popular rebellions.
The preliminary workshop suggested a number of interesting areas for further discussion, including popular political participation, the ‘rise of the state’, and the semantics of violence, as well as highlighting areas that need more attention, such as religion, gender, and comparison to other periods. During the next two conferences, scholars at various career stages from the UK, continental Europe, and the US will come together to talk about their own areas of expertise in relation to wider historiographical and methodological perspectives. The papers from these conferences will form the basis for an edited volume of essays.