'Rethinking the Medieval Frontier' University of Leeds Conference Success

Jonathan Jarrett

The University of Leeds conference 'Rethinking the Medieval Frontier', organised by Jonathan Jarrett and held on 10 April 2018, explored medieval frontiers and borders and was a great success.

Rethinking the Medieval Frontier

The conference 'Rethinking the Medieval Frontier', held at the University of Leeds on 10 April 2018, is part of the wider project 'Rethinking the Medieval Frontier'. This project is coordinated by Jonathan Jarrett, Lecturer in Early Medieval History (University of Leeds), and supported by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant. This network meets periodically to discuss medieval borders, and organises conferences and workshops. For more information, see the website here, or email Jonathan Jarrett (J.Jarrett@leeds.ac.uk). 

This one-day conference sought to explore frontiers and borders by taking a fully comparative approach to the possibilities of what it meant to establish, live in or contest a frontier or border zone. Questions to consider included, but were not limited to, 'Who defined a frontier, and with what effect?' and 'What persons or groups lived in border zones, for what reasons?'  

The conference ran from 09:45 to 17:45, followed by a conference dinner.  

Conference Programme 

The conference programme was divided into three sessions, plus a keynote. The keynote speaker opened the conference: 

  • Patrick Fazioli (Mercy College): 'Social Networks, Complex Systems, and the Medieval Frontier: Towards an Interdisciplinary Approach to the Study of Borderlands'. 

The three sessions, two of which had parallel sessions running at the same time, had three to four speakers each:

  • Session 1. Strand 1: Geography and the Frontier. Strand 2: The Frontier from the Local Perspective. 
  • Session 2. Strand 1: Frontiers between Religions. Strand 2: Defining the Frontier. 
  • Session 3. Rethinking the Medieval Frontier. 

Presenters were international and represented diverse universities, including institutions in the USA, Germany, Italy, other UK universities, and more. Two papers were presented by members of the IMS, and Jarrett also moderated a strand: 

  • Hervin Fernández-Aceves (IMS PG Researcher, University of Leeds). 'A Border within Borders: The Abruzzo and the Kingdom of Sicily in the Twelfth Century', in Session 2, Strand 2: Defining the Frontier. 
  • Jonathan Jarrett (Lecturer in Early Medieval History, University of Leeds). 'Our Man on the March: Three Frontier Lords and Their Geopolitical Positions', in Session 3: Rethinking the Medieval Frontier. 

Conference Perceptions 

Fernàndez-Aceves described the conference as 'a constructive and rewarding forum...with a rich array of papers [that] gathered an engaging and diverse community of scholars'. In particular Fernàndez-Aceves discussed the value of 'going beyond our own regional areas of expertise' and spoke positively of interactions with other delegates. Ultimately he concluded 'it was a pleasure and a privilege to have represented the University of Leeds as a "home player" at such an international and critical gathering'.

Jarrett found the far-ranging interest in the conference 'inspiring and hugely encouraging', and ultimately focused on 'breadth of coverage and potential for comparison' when selecting conference speakers. The conference was limited to forty people in total, including speakers, and these seats were quickly filled. 

More information about the 'Rethinking the Medieval Frontier' project, including upcoming events and posts about the conference, can be found on the project's blog