Noblesse oblige?: Barons and the Public Good in the Middle Ages

Date / time: 3 April - 4 April, 8:30 am - 3:00 pm

Noblesse oblige?: Barons and the Public Good in the Middle Ages

The traditional—and still popular—image of the ‘feudal’ political order of the Middle Ages is one of anarchic knights and overmighty barons pursuing selfish ends to the detriment of peace and justice. Our teleological narrative thus explains the emergence of the modern state by the rise of centralised monarchies which abolished private conflict and introduced ‘commonweal’. The medieval aristocracy, in this telling, is a negative force, a symptom of the collapse of the Roman imperium and an impediment to human flourishing.

However, recent work has questioned this characterisation of the baron’s role in government and the conception of public good, as well as the benevolence of centralised governments themselves. Is the vilification of medieval lords not another case of history written by the victors? With papers by emerging and established scholars in the field, ’Noblesse oblige?’ will host a discussion and reevaluation of baronial government and aristocratic commitment to the common good in the Middle Ages.

The two-day conference, made possible with funding from the Leverhulme Trust, Society for the Study of French History, and Royal Historical Society, will be held on the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich on the 3rd and 4th of April 2019, and will begin with a keynote address by Prof. Martin Aurell, director of the Centre d’Études Supérieures de Civilisation Médiévale, Université de Poitiers, and author of many books on aristocratic culture. A full schedule may be viewed below.

In order to register for the conference, please go to:

Accommodation at the UEA campus is available through Broadview Lodge, although availability is limited. To book tel. 01603 591918 and quote the reference ‘Kx60106 – Noblesse Oblige Group’.

Location: University of East Anglia, Norwich