Northern Network: Manchester Met host Inaugural Symposium for the Study of the Crusades

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By John Marshall

Manchester Metropolitan University played host to a selection of established and promising historians in the field of medieval history last month, as part of the Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades inaugural symposium on ‘Diversity’.

The Northern Network was founded last year by Dr Jason T. Roche. The idea behind the initiative was to establish a collaborative, multi-institutional and interdisciplinary regional hub of academic staff and postgraduates who work on the crusades and related fields of enquiry.

It is hoped that a regional hub could provide a platform that showcases the North as a power in the study of the crusades, and that brings scholars together on a regular basis for fostering research and postgraduate study in our areas of expertise. The Northern Network is the product of that initiative and the symposium was the first event towards those ends.

Professor Melanie Tebbutt introduced the symposium, praising both the Northern Network and event organisers, “The inaugural symposium to launch the  Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades is a welcome indication of the strength of Crusades studies in the North”, as Northern scholars who work on the Crusades have often been over-shadowed by those in the southeast and especially London.

“Dr Jason T. Roche and Dr Kathyrn Hurlock, who organised and co-ordinated the symposium, are to be congratulated for highlighting the exciting potential of Crusades studies in northern England. The History Research Centre is delighted to support this ‘Northern Powerhouse’ initiative, which draws attention to the many young scholars who are working on the Crusades in northern England. The establishment of the Northern Network suggests that Crusades research in the region has a very bright future.”

The event comprised of two sessions on papers investigating the diversity of the crusades and crusading in Europe, the Mediterranean and the East and featured a wealth of talent from across the country. The speakers included up-and-coming PhD students presenting their own ideas for the first time, alongside distinguished historians including Dr Alan V. Murray from the Institute for Medieval studies at the University of Leeds and Manchester Met’s Dr Jason T. Roche

The event itself began with Dr Alan V. Murray’s topic of ‘Clermont to Mexico, “Changing goals, participation and organisation of crusading (11th-16th centuries).

Alan’s keynote opened the floodgates for ideas, which over the course of the day consisted of various papers on different subject matters, while all linking back to the overarching idea of the diversity of the Crusading Movement.Other speakers included James Titterton, Mark McCabe, Jack Beaman, Joanna Phillips, Timothy Owens, and Manchester Met’s very own promising Postgraduate Research student, Ian Bass. Dominique Ward-Lees, 2nd year History student, commented on the papers, saying: “Today has been really insightful and it has been interesting to hear different perspectives from PhD students in their field of study.”

The final session consisted of a round table Q & A session chaired by Jason Roche and paneled by Jason, Kathryn Hurlock, Alan Murray, Dr Natasha Hodgson of Nottingham Trent University and Katherine Lewis of the University of Huddersfield. With the round table the organisor’s hoped to engage more fully with the audience members and to hear their thoughts and ideas. This really gave the audience the opportunity to dig their claws into the subject matter as potential future pioneers in the history of the Crusades and more specifically of the Northern Network.

Jason Roche described the symposium as “a great success, attracting around 50 attendees during the course of the day; this is a remarkable figure for an inaugural event intended primarily to showcase the talents of the region’s Postgraduate Researchers, and it provides a clear demonstration of the need and appeal of such a Network in northern England.”

He added that, “We have begun making plans to hold the second Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades Symposium at Manchester Metropolitan University on the theme of ‘The Modern Appropriation of the Crusades’. The intention then is for other universities connected to the Northern Network to host the annual symposium. In doing so the region will have its hub of crusade scholars which can go on to promote cross-institutional, multi-disciplinary and collaborative research, networking and public engagement activities.”

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