Are you an enthusiastic young researcher with a master’s degree in a history-related field? And do you want to challenge the assumption that in early modern Europe, the Middle Ages were ignored in favour of the classics? Then join this project as a PhD candidate! 

It is generally assumed that in early modern Europe the Middle Ages were ignored in favour of the classics. This PhD project will challenge that assumption. You will analyse which authors, texts and intellectual traditions from the Middle Ages lived on in early modern Europe, in which forms and why.

The early modern period is famous for its rich intellectual life. Thinkers from the Renaissance up to the Enlightenment developed new ideas about history, society and civilisations. According to most early modern intellectuals, it was the rediscovery of classical authors that had led to the renewed insights and a blossoming of learning in Europe. The interim centuries of the Middle Ages were subsequently portrayed as a Dark Age. However, the image of the Middle Ages as an intellectual Dark Age may not necessarily reflect the actual practice of early modern intellectual thought and culture in Western Europe.

Increasingly, intellectual historians are crossing boundaries between ancient, medieval and modern times. However, this is not yet done to the full potential. For the Middle Ages, for example, the comparison is still often limited to the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. In contrast, this project seeks to establish a longue durée approach, ranging from the early Middle Ages to the Enlightenment period. Which authors, texts and traditions from the Middle Ages lived on in early modern Europe, in which forms and why? Thus, our project aims to defy the classical opposition between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period so carefully orchestrated by Petrarch, Voltaire and others, and seeks (changing) continuities in intellectual and literary traditions.

We invite PhD proposals that investigate the afterlife of medieval thought in early modern Europe through the study of concrete instances of intellectual transfer, for instance the appropriation of specific medieval authors or early modern revaluations of specific themes of medieval thought, but also the diversity of contexts in which medieval texts and knowledge circulated in the early modern period.

Within this broad framework of the intellectual afterlife of medieval thought in early modern Europe, we are looking for proposals that preferably investigate one of the following fields and/or periods:

  • Historical thought, including narrative historiography and antiquarian research.
  • Encyclopaedias and the ordering of knowledge.
  • Didactic works, in and outside schools and universities.
  • Moral teachings for either rulers, citizens or different social groups.
  • Nature and science.