Committee News

The Nordic “Civil Wars” in the High Middle Ages in a comparative perspective


Cardiff’s Dr Jenny Benham, project lead for Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice, and Voices of Law committee member Dr Helle Vogt, University of Copenhagen, are both currently involved in the Nordic “Civil Wars” project, based in the Centre for Advanced Studies [CAS], at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo, Norway.

This project, led by Prof. Hans Jacob Orning and Prof. Jón Viðar Sigurðsson, brings together an international interdisciplinary group of scholars, and seeks to answer some fundamental questions regarding the Nordic “civil wars” and how modern political science and anthropology can be used to explore and understand these events.

Upcoming events relating to this project include the seminar on 05 Oct 2017 – Conflict and (dis)order, and an open seminar on 09 Nov 2017 – Are there “good” civil wars? Both seminars will be held at CAS.


Project Abstract

In this project, international scholars from humanistic disciplines and social sciences will study the Nordic “civil wars” in the period c. 1130-1260 in a comparative perspective. The project is guided by the following hypotheses:

– The Nordic “civil wars” were less chaotic than has been asserted when labelling them “civil war”, “anarchy”, or “breakdown of order”.
– These conflicts should be studied as regional conflicts, not as national ones.

In order to investigate these theories, we will adopt a cross-disciplinary and comparative perspective:

– By including medieval scholars working on English, French and German medieval history, we will gain a deeper understanding of how the Nordic “civil wars” can be situated in a broader contemporary European context, something which is almost completely lacking in medieval scholarship.
– Our aim in involving political scientists and anthropologists working on civil wars in a more contemporary setting is to obtain insight into new approaches and theoretical perspectives on civil wars, and to utilise these perspectives on medieval civil wars. This arises from the idea that modern and medieval civil wars share many characteristics, and that by bringing specialists dealing with these separate fields together it will give new insight.

During Fall 2017, a group of social scientists and medieval historians will discuss and develop a theoretical framework applicable for studying civil wars in the Middle Ages. In Spring 2018, medieval historians working with Nordic as well as Continental Europe will work together on the issues of comparing civil wars in different places in Europe, and tracing patterns of interaction between these various areas, taking care to analyse the conflicts at both local, regional, national and supranational levels.

The main goal of the project is to write two books on Nordic civil wars in a European context incorporating a cross-disciplinary approach.



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