Between 1100 and 1600, the borders of medieval Europe gradually became cemented into the contours of what are now the nation states of Europe. These modern political borders, around which anxieties of nationality, identity, territory, and sovereignty continue to be dramatized, represent the latest manifestation of a continuous process of territorial renewal, often violent, always traumatic. In Britain, the sixteenth-century Reformation exemplifies a larger agenda of nationalist unification; in Europe, the medieval legacy of regionalism and imperialism was superseded by national borders in a globalized economy.
With issues of migration, identity, global movement, and transnationalism on the current political agenda, this is the right time to explore the cultural history of borders and the responses of writers and thinkers, both secular and religious. Historical studies of medieval frontiers, which focus on the political and military aspects of borders, can be read alongside recent theories of medieval multiculturalism and national identities to assess the significance of borders and borderlands as social, political, geographical, and literary spaces.
The aim of our research group is to explore the cultural and political implications of borderlands in medieval and early modern Europe, and to set these discussions in the context of modern borders and border anxieties. Drawing on a range of disciplinary perspectives including literature, history, archaeology, geography, languages, and cultural practice, we hope to open up further discussions and debates across other disciplines and time periods.
The Borders and Borderlands research cluster is one of the major research strands within the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Bristol, and is affiliated with the Bristol Institute for Migration and Mobility Studies (BIMMS).