German Influence in the Medieval Period

Research project
Ancient and Medieval History
German Influence in the Medieval Period

The demise of the now thoroughly debunked political construct known as ‘Drang nach Osten’ left a gaping whole in approaches to German influence over the course of the Middle Ages. Coupled to the reluctance to investigate the questions of German influence itself in the aftermath of World War II, when Nazi ideas of Lebensraum still resonated, and ‘influence’ was conceptualized as part of conquest and subjugation, the topic attracted no attention for a long time. While older paradigms based on German ‘east colonisation’ as one organised movement by German people have been discounted, and some specific studies of concrete cases of German migration highlighted medieval realities, no recent attempt has been made to study the issue more comprehensively. Furthermore, a systematic re-evaluation of German influence has never been carried out. The time has come for taking a fresh look at the topic, in order to reassess German influence in medieval Europe. That influence was not merely linked to conquest and settlement; it included artistic influence, the spread of language, coinage, historical texts, and the power of the imperial model and prestige for example. We shall analyse the role of German influence in different areas, from Ireland through France to Central and Eastern Europe. In what ways did such influence spread? What areas of life were influenced by German models and how? How was such influence perceived at the time (either explicitly or implicitly through the creation of competing artistic or historiographical models for example)? We shall analyse trade, coin circulation, intellectual exchange, migration, urbanization, intermarriage, historiography and artistic influences. This will go beyond the usual approaches of ‘colonization’ and conquest.

Organised by: Nora Berend and Vedran Sulovsky. January 2022 – December 2024

Supported by the DAAD-University of Cambridge Research Hub for German Studies with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (FFO)