International Medieval Congress
The International Medieval Congress (IMC) is an annual academic conference held for scholars specializing in, or with an interest in, the study of the European Middle Ages (c. 300-1500). It is organised and administered by the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds and is held in early July. The Congress is the largest annual conference in any subject in the UK, regularly attracting over 1800 registered participants. The most recent Congress took place from 7-10 July 2014.
Aim, Scope and Participation
The main aim of the Congress is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for discussion on all aspects of the European Middle Ages (c. 300-1500). Each year’s Congress has one special thematic strand which focuses on an area of interdisciplinary study in a wider context. However, this special thematic strand is not exclusive, and alongside it the IMC provides a platform of debate in all spheres of medieval research. Session and paper proposals are invited on all aspects of medieval studies, in any major European language.
Participants of the Congress range from senior scholars to postgraduate students, and interested members of the public such as members of the clergy or independent scholars. Every year, Congress delegates come from over 45 countries.
In 2013, the International Medieval Congress moved permanently to the University's main city centre campus, having previously been held at Bodington Hall, a site on the outskirts of Leeds. Because of the move, Congress delegates now have easier access to the University's modern facilities and accommodation, as well as access to the attractions of the city of Leeds.
The International Medieval Congress was first held in 1994 with a total participation of 849 delegates, in part to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the International Medieval Bibliography. The 1994 IMC took place at Bodington Hall, a university hall of residence, and Weetwood Hall, a university-owned hotel and conference centre.
The 1994 Congress was held to commemorate the 1400th Anniversary of Gregory of Tours, although papers on all aspects of Medieval Studies were encouraged.
In following years, the Congress continued to include a special thematic focus in addition to papers on Medieval Studies in general. Often the theme is linked to a relevant anniversary. Thematic Strands to date are:
- 1994: Gregory of Tours; commemorating the 1400th anniversary of the death of Gregory of Tours
- 1995: Crusades; commemorating the 800th anniversary of the inception of the first Crusade (1095)
- 1996: Warfare; celebrating the opening of the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds
- 1997: Conversion; commemorating the 1400th anniversary of the landing of St. Augustine in Kent in 597
- 1998: Settlements; commemorating the 50th anniversary of the re-discovery of Wharram Percy through Maurice Beresford in 1948
- 1999: Saints; aimed to promote interdisciplinary contacts between those working on all the different aspects of saints’ studies
- 2000: Time and Eternity; commemorating the millennium in a wider context.
- 2001: Familia and Domus
- 2002: Exile; commemorating the 700th anniversary of the final expulsion of Dante from Florence
- 2003: Power and Authority; marking to mark the 700th anniversary of Boniface VIII’s publication of the bull “Unam Sanctam”
- 2004: Clash of Cultures, marking the 800th anniversary of the capture of Constantinople by the 4th Crusade
- 2005 Youth and Age
- 2006 Emotion and Gesture
- 2007 The Medieval City, celebrating the 800th anniversary of the creation of the borough of Leeds.
- 2008 The Natural World
- 2009 Heresy and Orthodoxy, marking the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade
- 2010 Travel and Exploration, marking the 550th anniversary of the death of prince Henry ‘The Navigator’
- 2011 Poor...Rich
- 2012 Rules
- 2013 Pleasure
- 2014 Empire
- 2015 Reform
In the last few years the Congress has grown to an average of over 1800 participants each year. It has also become an important part of the medievalist calendar as it offers a European alternative to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, which is held in Kalamazoo, MI, USA.
The core of the IMC is its academic programme. On average, there are over 400 sessions taking place throughout the IMC, with more than 30 running simultaneously.
Anyone is welcome to propose a session or paper. Papers and sessions are proposed online, with the submissions period beginning in May of the previous year. The deadlines for submissions remain the same each year; 31 August for paper proposals and 30 September for session proposals the year before the relevant Congress.
Organisers of sessions can be individuals or a group of colleagues (post-graduate students, independent scholars, university departments, societies etc.), or a named individual acting on behalf of an academic society, university department, research project, a museum, a journal or publisher, etc.
The IMC as an international Programming Committee made up of 35 scholars with differing specialties who assess submissions and then group based upon common themes. All abstracts are included in the IMC’s online programme.
Participants are encouraged to organise session(s) with a balance of both young and established scholars, and with a geographical diversity, one or more being from mainland Europe. Each participant is only allowed to present one paper.
There are usually 3-4 keynote lectures throughout the Congress, with the first one opening the Congress, and the others taking place in the evenings on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Events and Excursions
In addition to the academic programme, the IMC features a large number of events and excursions open to the public run by experts in their field. Each Congress also offers concerts, drama performances and a variety of hands-on workshops. Participants of the Congress also organise an annual football match.
Exhibitions and Fairs
A book fair which features publishers that specialise in medieval studies runs from the Monday to the Thursday of the IMC. Many exhibitors offer special Congress discounts on their latest titles.
Since 2006 a two-day antiquarian and second-hand bookfair, has also been held which includes a number of smaller book dealers.
In recent years a one-day medieval craft fair has been held which includes replica crafts as well as crafts inspired by the Middle Ages. A one-day historical and archaeological societies’ fair has also been held which allows smaller, often local to the area, societies the opportunity to promote their work.
- "Here's a taste of life in those medieval dining halls". Yorkshire Evening Post. 2006-07-13.
- "Fat Monks and other Medieval Mysteries". Yorkshire Evening Post. 2004-07-13.
- "Going down in History". Yorkshire Evening Post. 2008-07-12.
- "Conference parallels 'big society' with medieval times". The Guardian. 2011-07-14.
- Stokes, Paul (8 June 2005). "Yobs and hoodies a medieval scourge too". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 5 May 2010.
- "Blood Lore and Legend", Times Higher Education Supplement, 2006-07-06