A Viking in the Sun: Harald Hardrada, the Mediterranean, and the Nordic World, between the late Viking Age and the Eve of the Crusades. Event 1: Textual and Material Sources and their Performativity

Date / time: 31 December, 12:00 am

Call for Papers, deadline – 31 December 2022

This international and interdisciplinary project focuses on the status of the Norwegian Harald Hardrada Sigurdsson as probably the best-documented frontiers-crosser extraordinaire of the early eleventh century. It uses his experiences and encounters, as well as their legacies, as a case study to explore the Mediterranean and its links to the Nordic World in the intensively liminal period between the late Viking Age and the eve of the crusades.

Thematically, the project sits at the crossroads of diverse academic fields such History, including Environmental History, Archaeology, and Literature, and between Nordic Studies and Mediterranean studies, including the Byzantine, Islamic, and Western European worlds.

Moreover, the project includes a strong performative and creative element, which will serve to interrogate the subject matter imaginatively, but also for public engagement and impact purposes, and for experimenting in ways to integrate academic research and the creative industries.

In the English-speaking world, Harald Hardrada is mainly known for his death at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, which was a prelude to the Norman conquest of England. He was king of Norway at that time, but he also cast his influence into the Northern Atlantic as far as Iceland.

However, Harald spent his formative years in the Mediterranean, which is a portion of his life that is usually overshadowed, both within academia and among the general public, by his later achievements in northern Europe. Harald left Norway when he was 15, after the death of his half-brother, King Olaf II Haraldsson (who was soon canonized and became the patron saint of Norway), at the Battle of Stiklestad in 1030. After a brief stay in Kievan Rus, Harald joined the Varangian guard in Byzantium, whose members were Norsemen like him, to become its most famous member.

While in Byzantine service, Harald took part in missions and campaigns in several theatres, which included the following regions:

  • Eastern Anatolia and Upper Mesopotamia, where Harald fought in border wars.
  • The Aegean Sea, where Harald fought against pirates.
  • Fatimid Palestine, where Harald took part to a pilgrimage/diplomatic mission, fought against banditry, and was probably involved in the reconstruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher as part of a Byzantine/Fatimid rapprochement.
  • Sicily, where Harald took part in a Byzantine attempt to recover the Island.
  • Apulia, where Harald fought against the earliest stages of the Norman conquest of Southern Italy.
  • The Balkans, where Harald fought a Bulgarian uprising.
  • In the early 1040s Harald was then involved in the turmoil that followed the death of Emperor Michael IV, after which he returned to Scandinavia to claim the crown of Norway.

Topics of Event 1 and Format of the Proposals

We welcome the following typologies of proposals for 20 minutes-long papers:

Academic papers from scholars and postgraduate students discussing scholarship as well as textual and material primary sources which refer to Harald directly or relate to the events of his Mediterranean journeys or their legacy. That, for example, can include historical sources produced in the Western Islamic Mediterranean world that cover the period of the Byzantine invasion of Sicily, in which forces from Al-Andalus took part. Papers on how the sources were performed and their audience are also encouraged.

Discussion of proposals for research-based or research-informed creative outputs connected to the creative economy, such as music, performing and visual arts, publishing, the heritage sector, design, craft, games, among others (the list is not exhaustive).

The working language of the conference is English. Please submit a proposed title and an abstract of no more than 400 words to: gianluca.raccagni@ed.ac.uk. The deadline for submission of proposals is 31 December 2022.

All proposals will be examined by an international advisory panel, and results of the selection will be announced by the end of January 2023.

There will be a conference fee of 250$ that will cover meals and refreshments and an excursion to the waterfall Hraunfossar and the National Park Thingvellir, which is the site of the Icelandic parliament from 930 to 1798, including its museum.