Why Should we Care about the Middle Ages? Putting the Case for the Relevance of Studying Medieval Europe

Type of content
Thesis discipline
Degree name
De Gruyter
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Jones C
Oschema K
Kostick C

This introductory chapter puts forward a case for the continuing importance of studying the European Middle Ages. The early twenty-first century is witness to a boom in popular interest in the medieval, one which is playing a significant role in shaping both politics and popular culture. Paradoxically, while this boom has led to increasing study of ‘medievalism’, investment in the disciplines that involve the study of the Middle Ages themselves is in relative decline with questions frequently raised about the value of such research. This chapter begins by examining the challenges that necessitate a defence of research whose key focus is the period between the fifth and the fifteenth centuries. It goes on to consider the nature of the relationship that has developed between Modernity and the Middle Ages and reflects on the changing role that medieval scholars have played in society since History emerged as a professional discipline in the nineteenth century. It poses the important question of what a focus on the medieval might offer contemporary society, arguing that a significant distinction should be drawn between ‘usefulness’ and ‘relevance’. It contends that not only does the medieval remain relevant but that that relevance is to be found in surprising, frequently overlooked, areas that range from advancing modern medical knowledge and assessing the impact of climate change to informing contemporary political and social discourse.

Jones C,Oschema K,Kostick C (2020). Why Should we Care about the Middle Ages? Putting the Case for the Relevance of Studying Medieval Europe. In Jones C, Kostick C, Oschema K (Ed.), Making the Medieval Relevant: How Medieval Studies Contribute to Improving our Understanding of the Present.: EPUB/HARDCOVER1-29. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Medieval Studies, historiography, medievalism, History and Society, popular history, ideology, contemporary and modern nationalisms
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
Fields of Research::43 - History, heritage and archaeology::4303 - Historical studies::430308 - European history (excl. British, classical Greek and Roman)
Fields of Research::43 - History, heritage and archaeology::4303 - Historical studies::430304 - British history
Fields of Research::39 - Education::3902 - Education policy, sociology and philosophy::390202 - History and philosophy of education
Fields of Research::50 - Philosophy and religious studies::5002 - History and philosophy of specific fields::500205 - History and philosophy of the humanities
Field of Research::13 - Education::1302 - Curriculum and Pedagogy::130205 - Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl. Economics, Business and Management)
Field of Research::20 - Language, Communication and Culture::2002 - Cultural Studies::200299 - Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified