Learn about climate in the Middle Ages at ‘Medieval Glastonbury’  


Europe’s largest medieval studies conference is back for 2021 – and this year’s event focuses on "climates".

Because of pandemic restrictions, this year’s International Medieval Congress at Leeds takes place online, until Friday.

The 28th congress organised by the University’s Institute for Medieval Studies, features more than 1,600 speakers and 500 academic sessions, fringe events, performances and workshops. More than 2,000 delegates are dialing in from 57 nations, making it the largest conference of its kind in Europe.  

Dubbed the “Medieval Glastonbury Festival” by participants, it offers a platform for discussion on all aspects of the Middle Ages. This year, the event will focus on climates. This special focus is timely, not only as the UK comes to terms with the latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also in light of broader concerns about climate change.  

Throughout the week, experts from around the world will reflect on the important insights from previous climate events throughout history, and how findings from the past can help society to better understand current events and help us move forward during uncertain times. 

IMC Director Dr Axel Muller said: “The medieval climate is of interest to modern scientists as an indicator of how societies experience and adapt to rapid change in response to floods, storm surges, volcanic eruptions and drought.” 

Delegates will have a chance to engage in powerful discussion about the global crisis of today and subsequently develop professionally in an open and inclusive environment.  

The event will also feature a wide range of fairs selling antiquarian books and crafts, a publishers’ bookfair; a Medieval pub quiz, embroidery and bookbinding workshops, and theatrical performances. 

Double lecture

The programme will open with a double lecture by two esteemed experts in climate history.  Jean-Pierre Devroey (Département d'enseignement d'Histoire, Arts et Archéologie, Université Libre de Bruxelles) will speak about “How to Write and Think about Political, Social, and Economic History in Dialogue with Climatic and Environmental Data: A Case Study in the Age of Charlemagne, 740-820.” Innocent Pikirayi (Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria) will address “Towards New Climate and Environment Change Understanding in Africa: Re-Engaging the Medieval Climate Optimum / Anomaly and the Little Ice Age”. 

Alongside the special thematic focus on ‘climates’, all aspects of medieval studies will be covered as the Congress welcomes speakers from a wide range of academic disciplines, across the humanities, from archaeology to theology! Reflecting the diversity and importance of medieval studies scholarship, the IMC serves as an important reminder of the vitality and importance of humanities scholarship in facing challenges past, present and future.  

A full programme of events, plus practical information on timings, accessibility and frequently asked questions, is available on the IMC website

Further information 

For media enquiries email the University of Leeds Press Office at pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk