the Global Middle Ages Project is the name of an ambitious effort to study, teach, and research an interlinked world.
how the world is studied is fragmented—atomized into many academic disciplines, departments that concentrate on national literatures and histories, or divided up into area studies that focus on a continent, region, or sites around an ocean or sea.
specialized knowledge and training are indispensable. but gmap (pronounced “g-map”) was born from a lively desire to see what would happen when highly specialized scholars collaborate to deliver the world whole—reconstructing the planetary past as a web of crossings and encounters, global cities and villages, a world in dynamic exchange without the artificial truncations of boundaries.
in 2004, seven scholars attempted this in a teaching experiment at the University of Texas. clicking on articles will take you to reports on how the experiment worked. the exhilaration of our experience—for teachers and students alike—led to the initiatives collected on this site under the name of the global middle ages.
we are conscious that clustering our initiatives under any kind of “Middle Ages,” even a global one, marks an imperfect choice. we welcome the continued problematization of the concept of a “MiddleAges.” but a global Middle Ages at least signals an intent to study a world without a center, and without an assumption of privilege for any location in the world.
interestingly, a global perspective reveals that different zones of the world produce structural change, new technology, and sophisticated transformations at different rates of speed. we are interested in how the western inheritance of historical time—history as divided into “modern” and “premodern” eras, with identifying features allotted to each era—can be re-thought and complexified in a global perspective.
our timeline of 1,000 years is flexible, and not meant to restrict. the investigations we undertake can begin long before 500 c.e. and proceed long past 1500 c.e. gmap’s charge is merely to see the world whole in a large swathe of time—the world from europe in the west to china in the east, across islamic civilizations and africa, eurasia and india—as a living network of interwoven spaces, braided into relationship by trade and travel, cosmopolitan religions, global cities, cultural borrowings, mobile stories, traveling technologies, and even hostility, war, and conflict.
knotted to the great romance of this project is our commitment to rigorous analysis and the exploration of a variety of analytical, critical, and conceptual approaches and methods.
gmap was chosen by SEASR in 2008 as one of three humanities projects to demonstrate experimental software specially developed—with support from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation—to advance scholarly research in electronic formats.the software creates a database that can be queried through keywords that identify themes, issues, and questions that are central to a researcher’s purpose, in order to generate new research possibilities. See news for more details.
gmap’s plan of action
gmap will seek resources and a campus for a residency year in which seven faculty from different disciplines and area concentrations can gather in residence to brainstorm how to teach an interrelated world, mulling over themes, trajectories, methods, and texts.
in the middle of the year, the group will teach a graduate laboratory to students from all disciplines, gathered from all over, to test methods and materials which would continue afterward to be improved.
at year’s end, the residential group will teach a summer institute to university and college faculty, who can then return to their campuses and adapt the teaching to local conditions.
the group will also create usable texts as needed for teaching a global middle ages, and involve colleagues at large as guest teachers and interlocutors throughout the year.
to engage university communities and the general public, the group will mount a series of public and community events during their residency year.
these events can include exhibits of comparative cartography or comparative chivalry, a public film festival, workshops and symposia, interreligious forums, museum exhibitions of material culture such as fabrics and coins, performances of music from around the world, and projects investigating how the young learn about the premodern past through digital media and games.
experiments and events would be recorded, so that they can be analyzed for future interdisciplinary work. these electronic archives will also be used for mappamundi, the digital initiative that extends the face-to-face teaching of gmap past all borders.