Institute for Medieval Studies invites Professor Przemyslaw Wiszewski to speak about cohesions in the multi-ethnic societies in medieval Europe

Professor Wiszewski (University of Wroclaw) spoke at the first IMS seminar talk for the new academic year, presenting the findings of a recent project examining multi-ethnic groups in medieval Europe.

The project, funded by the European Science Foundation (832/N-ESF-CORECODE/2010/0), was entitled Cuius Regio. An analysis of the cohesive and disruptive forces destining the attachment of (groups of) persons to and the cohesion within regions as a historical phenomenon, which resulted in a three-volume series published by Brepols between 2020 and 2023. Two of these volumes are open access: and The project was structured along three main threads: historical memory, everyday social and economic context and the legal and political framework. It involved the collaboration of 7 EU countries and included a large group of scholars. The project was particularly focused on a number of geographical locations, including Portugal, the Kingdom of Aragon, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. 

After giving a brief introduction to the project, Professor Wiszewski explained the impact of the socio-political issues that happened since the beginning of the project in 2014. These issues included Russia’s attack on Ukraine which began in 2014, the migration crisis of Europe from 2015, the crisis of confidence in the European project caused in some part by Brexit, and the global pandemic. By contemporary context. as argued by Professor Wiszewski, helped to emphasize and highlight the importance of understanding the historical significance of multi-ethnic communities, as learning about these cultural traditions and intersections in the past can help us to better understand their place in Europe today.
Professor Wiszewski went on the explain the preliminary conclusions and results from the project, stating that the results show that the medieval and early modern periods demonstrate both conflict and cohesions between ethnic groups. In particular, he noted that dormant hostility between different groups was only awoken when under extremely acute stress or special impulses from external factors. He also explained that anxiety caused by multi-ethnicity was always present in society as a natural phenomenon when different cultures meet, but that through cooperation, different ethnic groups could build trust from the legal mechanism set between them in order to create a diversified and safe system for all. For the most part, different ethnic groups could coexist based on the understanding of mutual benefits, clear security guarantees, compromise and openness, but also a steadfast consistency in setting the boundaries of cultural/social activities and the required recognition of common principles. Prof. Wiszewski exemplified the discussion by drawing from selected aspects of the project – the medieval Silesian context, Czech material, and Iberian evidence.
In the Q&A session after the talk, there were questions regarding terminology and how the project was able to negotiate between disparate understandings of ‘ethnic’ and ‘nation’ between the different ethnic groups represented in the research in the project team itself. There was also a question on gender dimension in the project, the use of legal sources and the role of new archaeological evidence.
For more information on the upcoming talks in the IMS Seminar Series, please click the link to the What’s on at Leeds page.