Here Christophe, our newest team member, gives an insight into the project and his interests…
So, you’ve come from Liège, how are you finding Oxford?
They are two completely different cities. Liège is quite a bit bigger than Oxford but destruction caused by war and modern urbanization means that most pre-eighteenth century buildings, except churches, have disappeared. As a historian, I love being brought back into the past when walking in Oxford. It’s great being able to find everything I want, from seminars to cinemas,
I was the type of kid who always wanted to take his family
to visit every possible kind of museum during holidays!
from research libraries to pubs, in less than a 20 minute walk. I am sure I am just mentioning the most obvious things though. Hopefully, the time I will spend here will make me discover much more than that!
Have you always been drawn to the medieval period?
As far as I remember, I always have been passionate about culture and history, and mainly about the period before the eighteenth century. So I was the type of kid who always wanted to take his family to visit every possible kind of museum during holidays! At that time, the Middle Ages seemed to me as interesting as, let’s say, Alexandre Dumas’ musketeers or the prehistoric period. It was at university that I devoted myself to the Middle Ages, thanks to some teachers I had back then, and probably also to the opportunity of studying castles and knights.
You have previously specialised in military history, are there any differences in this field?
There are lots of differences, of course, between military and court history, mainly regarding the questions we are asking sources—not “How many knights were there in this army?” or “What materials did they use to storm this castle?” but “What was the role of literary culture in structuring courtly life?”, “What was the place played by women, if any?” and “How was the court turned into a stage by courtiers and princes?”. This project also crosses multiple disciplines. However, many medieval captains were also courtiers who enjoyed staying in princely households, and talking about ladies, romances, music, or jousts. So I see this new research as a way to expand my knowledge of late medieval élites in a new direction.
What’s the most exciting thing about this project for you?
To discover new disciplines “from the inside” and to be part of an ambitious project that aims to redefine what we may think we already know, namely the cultural identity of late medieval courts.
How would you explain this project to interested members of the general public?
Even if we have studied courts for centuries, the focus has remained too often on their national and institutional aspects. The main questions have been “Who was present?” “How were the courts organized?” and “How did the courtly system help kings to centralize their State?” In contrast to this, the MALMECC team wishes to question the cultural aspect of courts, emphasizing the role played by musical performances and international cultural exchanges. The ultimate aim is to design a new model of late medieval courts; one where national boundaries may well appear less powerful than we used to think.
What are your interests outside of academia?
I enjoy reading (reading, always reading…) novels and comic books, fantasy, science-fiction, histories, humour, and classics, as well as watching movies and television series. I also love walking, trekking, and of course visiting lots of different countries and their museums!