Religion and politics intermingled and intertwined during the early Middle Ages to such an extent that the term ‘political theology’ (popularised by Ernst Kantorowicz in the subtitle of his classic work, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Medieval Political Theology) has come to usefully describe the way in which religious thought could shape political ideas. The study of early medieval political theology has seen a resurgence in recent years, with scholars overturning the assumptions of previous generations about sacral kingship and turning to new sources such as biblical exegesis. This one-day conference will explore the latest thinking on the subject, with particular attention to the idea of the secular during the early Middle Ages.

Robert Markus influentially argued that the beginning of the Middle Ages in Europe witnessed a progressive ‘de-secularization’ but recent work has questioned this analysis, with Peter Brown suggesting that elements of late antique secularity survived until at least the seventh century. As confidence in the progressive secularization of the contemporary world has faltered in the past generation, now seems an appropriate time to explore how concepts of the secular and de-secularization can shed light on the early Middle Ages.

This conference will bring together scholars working on a host of different aspects of early medieval political theology to examine the question of the secular in law, administration, historiography and gender, among other areas. There will be an emphasis on discussion and exchange, with the aim of stimulating further research and collaboration in a fruitful field of early medieval history.

Speakers include:

Gerda Heydemann (Berlin)
Rachel Stone (London)
Charles West (Sheffield)
Robin Whelan (Liverpool)

The conference has been generously supported by Churchill College and the Trevelyan Fund, Cambridge.

Header image: British Library, Stowe 944 (The New Minster Liber Vitae) fol. 6: King Cnut and Queen Emma hover between the earthly and heavenly realms. Image released under the Public Domain Mark.