Session117
TitleEnvironmental History of the Middle Ages, I: Borders between Wild and Tame
Date/TimeMonday 4 July 2022: 11.15-12.45
 
OrganiserPolina Ignatova, KOMPASS, Linköpings universitet
 
Moderator/ChairHuw Jones, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
 
Paper 117-a Environmental Control and the Self in Early English Homiletic Literature
(Language: English)
Will Beattie, Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame, Indiana
Index Terms: Language and Literature - Old English; Lay Piety; Mentalities; Sermons and Preaching
Paper 117-b 'He gave great thanks to the Creator who tamed the wildness of the untamed': Shifting the Border of the Tamed in High Medieval Wales
(Language: English)
Geraint Morgan, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index Terms: Hagiography; Historiography - Medieval; Language and Literature - Latin; Local History
Paper 117-c The Exotic European Spice: The Life of Saffron in Medieval Europe
(Language: English)
Lauren Colwell, Department of English, Ohio State University
Index Terms: Crusades; Daily Life; Economics - Trade; Medicine
 
AbstractThis session will look into the borders (and their absence) between natural and human-made environments. Will Beattie's paper will discuss early English religious texts which represent bad weather as simultaneously the work of the divine and also the subject to human (mis)behaviour. Bad weather, therefore, is presented as controllable and uncontrollable at the same time. This paper will address this dichotomy by exploring the borders between human agency and divine retribution in the popular 11th-century Sunday Letters. It will argue that these letters represent an early English view of the environment as an extension of the Christian self, in which control over the environment depended upon self-control. Geraint Morgan will explore how people in High Medieval Wales understood the ways in which changes to the boundaries between wild and tame had been brought about in the past. During the High Middle Ages Welsh authors regularly explored past environments in historical writings. For example, the miracles of the saints, such as David's sermon at Llanddewi Brefi or Illtud's attempts at coastal defence construction, represented highly localised explanations for how the environment had reached its medieval form. In analysing these perceptions of the past, perceptions of the contemporary environment (including its operation and potential societal regulation) are revealed. Lauren Colwell will investigate the role of saffron in formulating real and imagined constructs of class and race. Saffron trade created cultural contact zones between the East and the West. Dietary uses of saffron represented material comfort as well as ideas of European superiority. Saffron was also used for ritual and pharmaceutical purposes, which led to farmers' attempts to grow it in Europe.