Monsters, Animals and Outlaws: IMC explores the Other Middle Ages

Sword-bearing knights, costumed dancers, and craftspeople will all descend on Leeds this week (3-6 July) for the 24th annual International Medieval Congress (IMC) at the University of Leeds.

Over 2,500 researchers and scholars are expected to attend Europe’s largest academic conference in medieval studies. Nearly 2,000 of these are expected to present their research, with around half relating to this year’s theme of ‘Otherness’. So, what does it mean to describe something, or someone, as ‘Other’?

“Having an understanding of what the ‘Other’ meant in the past, and the nature of medieval interactions with the other, says a lot about both modern and medieval society,” says Axel Müller, director of the IMC. “To describe something as ‘other’ is to mark it as being apart from you. It could be a person or social group outside your own community, or even something not entirely human.

“‘Otherness’ has clearly captured the imagination of researchers, with two main elements emerging: how you engage with the ‘other’ when you live or work close to them, and how you view the other – usually from a distance, and those descriptions are often far removed from reality. This year, papers cover topics as diverse as monsters, outlaws and even relations between different cultural and ethnic groups.

“We often think of the Middle Ages as a period without much diversity,” says the Congress Director. “In fact, it was full of complex and fast-changing societies with huge amounts of social interaction. At a point when issues of difference and exclusion seem particularly timely, this Congress will explore the ways in which people have distinguished themselves from certain types of ‘other’ as a way of defining themselves.”

As well as exchanging ideas with peers from around the world, delegates will take trips to some of Yorkshire’s most historic sites and take part in a variety of public events designed to bring the Middle Ages alive.

We’ll be telling stories of heroes and monsters and playing medieval music at Medieval Day at the Museum on Sunday 2 July, while the Royal Armouries Museum demonstrate how knights got ready for battle. The Stamford Bridge Tapestry Project will also illustrate how they are commemorating a key moment in British history – the 1066 Battle of Stamford Bridge.

On campus, bookworms will be able to dive in to the Second-Hand and Antiquarian Bookfair, or discover some of the latest titles from over 25 publishers exhibiting at the IMC Bookfair in the Parkinson Building. There will also be chances to indulge in retail therapy at the Medieval Craft Fair on Wednesday, and attend concerts inspired by medieval musical sources on Monday and Tuesday.

The week rounds off on Thursday 6 July with our flagship event, Making Leeds Medieval. Ahead of next season of Game of Thrones starting on 17 July, visitors will have the chance to have their photo taken with the Iron Throne itself, signed by cast members of the hit TV series. We’ll take over the University campus with birds of prey and combat demonstrations, and visitors will even meet some of the historical and archaeological societies working to preserve the history of Leeds and Yorkshire.

To find out more about the IMC and all of our events, visit

Event timeline:

  • Medieval Day at the Museum

Sunday 2 July, Leeds City Museum, 12-3pm. Free.

  • Highlights from Leeds University Library drop-in sessions

Monday 3-Thursday 6 July, Treasures of the Brotherton Galley, 12-2pm. Free.

  • The Franks in the East: Music for a Medieval Prince

Monday 3 July, Leeds Universities Catholic Chaplaincy, 8.30pm. Tickets £14.

  • Otherness in the World of the Troubadours

Tuesday 4 July, Leeds Universities Catholic Chaplaincy, 8.30pm. Tickets £12.

  • Making Leeds Medieval, including Historical and Archaeological Societies Fair

Thursday 6 July, University Square, 10am-6pm. Free.

  • To find out more about IMC events, visit

Fairs and exhibitions

Second-Hand and Antiquarian Bookfair
Sunday 2 July 4-9pm, Leeds University Union, Monday 3 July 8am-7pm, Tuesday 4 July 8am-5pm. Free.
IMC Bookfair
Monday 3 July 10am-7.30pm, Tuesday 4 July 8.30am-6.30pm, Wednesday 5 July 8.30am-6.30pm, Thursday 7 July 8.30am-1pm, Parkinson Building. Free.
Medieval Craft Fair
Wednesday 5 July, Leeds University Union, 10.30am-6pm. Free.

About the IMC

The IMC provides an interdisciplinary forum for sharing ideas relating to all aspects of the Middle Ages. Organised by the Institute for Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds, since 1994 the IMC has sought to cultivate the field of medieval studies by bringing researchers from different countries, backgrounds and disciplines together, providing opportunities for networking and professional development in an open and inclusive environment.


Axel Müller, Congress Director

International Medieval Congress

Parkinson Building 1.03, University of Leeds, LS2 9JT

Tel.: 0113 343 3614 Email: