The tenth century is an overlooked moment in European history. It has played an important role as a starting point for the national narratives of modern countries, including England and Germany, but is often characterised as a ‘dark age’, a ‘century of iron’ in which the structures of the Carolingian Empire (751-888) collapsed and the map of medieval Europe took shape in the rubble.
By rejecting these stories of nations or chaos as starting points for our project, we seek to understand the tenth century on its own terms. Uses of the Past is an ideal theme for this endeavour because the absence of clear administrative or legal structures in our period meant that action in the present often drew authority and legitimacy from claims about the past. The ways that contemporaries chose to use (or not to use) the past – especially the Carolingian past – can be highly instructive to the historian.
Focusing on legal, liturgical and historical attitudes to the past will therefore help us recapture the imagined landscapes of tenth-century Europe and to explore it not as a chapter in pre-ordained national narratives, but as a case study in transition – an example of how people in the past dealt with crisis and rapid change in the political order.
The project will produce academic articles and monographs, but also attempts to open up the period to a broader audience by providing online resources for teachers and general readers. To accomplish these goals, we are collaborating with schoolteachers, museums and archives in Germany, Austria, Spain and the UK. As well as these online outputs, we are also organising a public exhibition of related manuscripts in Catalonia.
We have regular posts about tenth-century history from members of our team as well as guest posts from other scholars on our Articles page.
To meet our researchers and associated partners and find out more about our research interests, click through to our Project Team page.