The aim of RELEVEN is to cast a clearer light on the events of the "short eleventh century" (c. 1030–1095) and specifically to get a better understanding of the ways in which the Christian world was perceived by its inhabitants at the time, particularly in the eastern half of Christendom but also to the north, where the faith had rapidly been expanding.

The key to achieving this is to find a way to link and connect large amounts of disparate sorts of data. We aim to find a model for expressing data about the eleventh century that allows us to incorporate and model different, and even conflicting, perspectives about what the data tell us.

The work of the RELEVEN project is divided into three strands: these are "People and movement", "Place and space", and "Textual culture". Within each strand we seek to explore the relevant sources in order to get a picture of the multiple, and quite often conflicting, ways that the Christians of the period understood their societies and the space they lived in.

The project is supported by the European Research Council and hosted at the University of Vienna in cooperation with the ACDH-CH.

 

Methodology

If digital data is to be useful for historians, it must be directly linkable not only to provenance in the sense of primary source material, but primarily to the authority of the scholar who is interpreting the primary source(s) to make the claim. We will re-frame both existing and new historical data as assertions, often sourced but always linked to an authority; this allows data to be manipulated according to source and authority, and also allows assertions themselves to be linked depending on whether they corroborate, depend on, or conflict with each other.

Movements of people and objects can be mapped according to different reconstructions; the interchange of ideas between people and groups can be drawn, or re-drawn, in competing schematics according to the ideas of different scholars.

The novel aspect of this methodology is that it takes to its logical conclusion something that historians all readily acknowledge and that is especially apparent for pre-modern history: that there are very few, if any, simple and undisputed facts. A related challenge is the contextualisation and reuse of existing online data for the period, to avoid its going to waste.

 

Trans-regional approach

The approach is tested by taking a broad trans-regional approach to the history of the late 11th century (c. 1030–1095), centred broadly in the eastern half of Christendom but incorporating developments elsewhere, especially in the newly Christianised kingdoms of central Europe. The looming weight of the First Crusade at the century's end means that while certain regional or proto-national narratives—particularly for western Europe—are well-developed, they tend to obscure the larger trans-regional trends of communication and contact, particularly in eastern Christendom.

By drawing upon the depth of scholarship and the plethora of digital resources that have emerged for this period in sub-disciplines such as prosopography, textual scholarship, corpus-based research, and archaeology, and by framing this scholarship in terms of assertions whose authority is traceable, it will become possible to look at the history not just from "the eastern perspective", but from several.

 

 

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