The future is medieval this summer at Leeds


More than 1,600 experts from all over the world will come together and take a medieval look at the contentious themes of poverty and wealth, at a forthcoming conference at the University of Leeds.

The 17th annual International Medieval Congress, organised by the University's Institute for Medieval Studies, is the biggest academic event of its kind in the UK and the largest medieval-themed academic conference in Europe.

This year's Congress will look at the gulf between the rich and poor, examining the approaches and views taken by medieval societies to these issues and comparing them to today's. Delegates will learn that the spirit of volunteering was strong in medieval times, drawing parallels with Prime Minister David Cameron's modern day vision of a 'Big Society'. The conference will also consider topics including medieval social welfare, graffiti, and the relationship poverty had with the likes of disability and education.

Entertainment for the delegates will include a Music of Middle Earth performance by The Leeds Waits and Trio Literati on July 10. The performers will give their interpretation of the sounds of J.R.R. Tolkien's world, paying homage to the inspiration that Tolkien, who worked at the University of Leeds' School of English from 1920 to 1925, derived from his time as a medieval scholar. Delegates will also be treated to food-tasting workshops highlighting the delicacies of medieval times, as well as various other musical performances of hymns and folk music of the era.

"Charity is not a new concept and there was a large social conscience in the medieval world," said Axel Müller, director of the International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds. "Public health and social welfare only started when charity and philanthropy ended. Only with the decline of charity in the later Middle Ages did the state pick up the concept of welfare". Müller believes there are further ramifications of the 'Big Society' to be found in medieval times: "History tells us that you cannot force a change towards more charity and philanthropy," he added. "It has to grow out of a firm basis from within the community, and if forced by the state there will be even less growth than there would be without state interference".

The International Medieval Congress runs from 11-14th July 2011 at the University of Leeds.

The International Medieval Congress runs from July 11-14. For more information contact Axel Müller on 01133433614 or see the web site at

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Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email

Notes to editors:

Photo calls

  • There will be photo opportunities at the hands-on 'Pigments, paints and Production' workshop on July 11 at 1900-2100hrs at Bodington Hall
  •  The food tasting session and the cook will be available for photographs at the presentation on July 12 at 1900 at Weetwood Hall
  •  The costumed Arbeau Dancers will be available for photographs at their dance workshop  on July 13 at 1900-2100hrs at Weetwood Hall