The University of Manchester Medieval Postgraduate Conference

Education and Ignorance:
The Use of Knowledge in the Medieval World c.550-1550

John Rylands Library, Deansgate
Monday 6 – Tuesday 7th June 2011


Modern historiography has often depicted the Middle Ages as a period of ignorance, dogma and superstition– a period in which knowledge stagnated and education was both restricted to a privileged minority. From the Carolingian Renaissance and the rise of the medieval universities to the condemnations of heretical teachings and the intellectual and spiritual ferment of the Reformation, the reality about education and the use, and transmission of knowledge in the medieval world is undoubtedly far more complex, contested and dynamic than this picture suggests. It is the aim of this two day conference to explore that reality through a diverse range of disciplines and approaches and across the full historical span of the period. Adopting an interdisciplinary and diachronic perspective, we aim to address the questions – How was education theorised, institutionalised and practiced throughout the middle ages? How was knowledge conceptualised, controlled and transformed, and to what uses was it put?

This conference invites researchers to submit papers on a variety of issues including –

  • the losses and restoration of classical knowledge in the early Middle Ages
  • the development of the medieval universities
  • the educational role of the monasteries and the mendicant orders
  • the influence of the transmission of Greek and Arabic texts from the East
  • heresy and censorship
  • educating the laity: preaching and confession
  • didacticism in medieval literature, art and architecture
  • materiality of education: medieval textbooks, manuscripts, copybooks etc.
  • methods of learning – memory, mnemonics and scriptural exegesis
  • the development of science and medicine
  • the spread of literacy and the rise of the vernacular
  • unconventional and popular learning –alchemy, occult, folk and magical practice
  • educating the middle classes; contrasts between secular and ecclesiastical education,
  • Lollard, Reformation and Renaissance ideas about education and their impact

The conference will thus provide a forum for interdisciplinary research, attracting students from areas such as Archaeology, History, Art History, European and English Studies, Philosophy and Theology.

Please e-mail proposals of no more than 300 words to Daisy Black  All queries should also be directed to this address.  Please include biographical information detailing your research area, institution and level of study.

For more information concerning the conference, see our website