Each year IMC in Leeds choose a special thematic strand; for 2014 it is “Empire”.
2014 is the year when the world will celebrate two important anniversaries –the 2000 years since Augustus died and the 1200 years since Charlemagne passed away. Both events will be duly celebrated all over Europe with conferences, exhibitions and publications. Probably inspired by this, the thematic strand for the IMC next year is “empire” or “imperium”.
In the call for papers the organisers write that: “Although the last Western Roman emperor was deposed in 476, the Roman Empire continued to shape imagination even when it had ceased to play a major political role. Throughout the Middle Ages, “Empire” suggested a claim to universal lordship. The concept of imperium implied not only the ability and power to exercise authority over others, but could also be used to distinguish spiritual from secular spheres of power. There was also the concept of “informal empire”, a term often employed by modern historians to describe a group of distinct territories held together by ties of commerce, ideology, dynastic traditions, or conquest. “Informal empires” were forged by King Cnut in the 11th century and by the rulers of Aragon in the 14th. The papacy, the western Empire, and Byzantium all claimed to inherit the mantle of Rome, while the Caliphates expressed a similar claim to universal leadership. The meaning of imperium, in turn, became a central issue in medieval scholarship, whether in scholastic theology, medieval philosophy, canon law, or the writing of history and literature. No type of empire was unable to avoid challenges (and challengers). Each type exercised a profound influence not only on politics, but on every aspect of daily life: on commerce and trade as well as the environment, cultural practice, social structures and organisation, the movement of ideas and people. Empires and their rulers could also be products of political and cultural memory and myth-making, with Charlemagne, Arthur, and Troy perhaps among the more famous examples. “Empire” was not limited to the regions surrounding the medieval Mediterranean. Universal monarchy was central to the self-representation of imperial China, while informal empires rose and fell in Africa as well as in Asia and pre-Columbian America. Christian, Confucian, Buddhist, and Islamic scholars discussed ‘Empire’ in all its varieties and forms. Empire was a universal phenomenon, and thus calls for sustained exploration across a wide range of disciplines, and geographical and chronological areas of expertise.”
Points of discussion could include:
- The role of settlers, merchants, rulers, and others in creating and fashioning empire
- The decline and fall of empires
- The typology of empire
- The governance and organisation of empires
- The experience of empire by individuals and communities
- The representation of Empire in music, art, literature, and material culture
- Traditions of empire, their use and development
- Theoretical models of Empire: Medieval and modern
- Concepts and practices of empire in the Islamic world, Africa, America, and Asia
- The role of imperium in medieval philosophy, theology, and literature
- The role of universal authority in medieval thought and practice
- The influence of medieval concepts and practices of empire on their post-medieval successors
READ MORE: See the full call for papers at the IMC Website
Read about a recent symposium in Germany in connection with the exhibition on Otto the Great: Otto der Grosse und der Römische reich. Kaisertum Zum Mittelalter.
Read about the Karlsjahr 2014