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Prof Rosamond McKitterick (Cambridge): The power of words: Glossaries, cultural memory and the transmission of knowledge in the early middle ages

February 17, 2015 @ 4:15 pm - 6:00 pm


One of my current projects is an exploration of the communication of knowledge and transmission of ideas across time and space, and the consequent formation of what might be called a cultural map of Europe in the early middle ages. A major aim of this project is to investigate the contribution of particular categories of knowledge for the formation of the cultural memory of early medieval Europe. This entails study of the practical means by which ideas could be exchanged, that is, modes of communication and consequently the role of books, the evidence for the exchange of ideas, connections between individuals and institutions, and examples of texts and types of knowledge. The most basic form of all for the conveyance of knowledge and migration of ideas, however, is not just the texts but the individual words. A remarkable number of peculiar and eccentric dictionaries and thematic word lists were produced in the Frankish kingdoms in the eighth and ninth centuries and  often copied into composite collections of dictionaries and glossaries, or what I have called ‘glossary chrestomathies’.  These glossaries have received attention from philologists, but their creation and character as an historical and cultural phenomenon in the early middle ages needs to be explained.

– Prof Rosamond McKItterick

Chair: Charles West

The Jessop West Exhibition Space
All welcome!


February 17, 2015
4:15 pm - 6:00 pm
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Department of History
0114 222 2555


Jessop West Exhibition Space