Rethinking Authority in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages — IMC Leeds, 5-8 July 2021

deadline for submissions: 
September 7, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Samuel Barber
contact email: 

Rethinking Authority in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages
International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 5-8 July 2021

Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages bore witness to a radical redefinition of the forms and foundations of political authority. Political structures in both East and West were fundamentally transformed by the fragmentation of imperial hegemonies and the coalescence of new polities in their wake. Questions of 'authority', its construction, and contestation have thus occupied a central (if often fraught) place in the study of this period. Recent historiography has rightfully moved away from constitutional histories centred on 'the State' as the prevailing methodology for locating authority in postclassical societies. In its place has emerged a fragmented scholarly landscape, characterised by a diversity of methodologies between fields and disciplines. Interpretation has frequently been focused on 'ideology' as derived from ('official', often court-adjacent) texts at the expense of potentially conflicting or contrasting pictures presented by other types of evidence. Contemporary understandings of the concepts embedded in such texts were not necessarily stable, however. What did it mean for a ruler to be styled rex in the context of the fifth or sixth centuries versus later in the period, for example? Likewise, what strategies connected the representation of political power with its action in the lives of early medieval people? These sessions propose an interdisciplinary and transregional conversation on how political authority was constituted, theorised, represented, and experienced in the late- and post-Roman worlds. We warmly invite papers considering these issues on any geographic region between (broadly speaking) the fourth and tenth centuries CE from any disciplinary perspective. We particularly encourage papers which push the topic beyond the traditional boundaries of early medieval European history. Possible topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Social, anthropological, gendered, spatial, archaeological, or other theoretical perspectives on the production of authority.
  • The relationship of the environment, landscape, and climate to the formation of political structures in late ancient and early medieval societies.
  • Auctoritas in context: late ancient and early medieval concepts of political theory and practice.
  • Comparative approaches to social formations or ‘the State’ (either temporally or geographically)
  • Tensions between ideological (re)presentation of power and material realities of its action.
  • Spaces of authority, both physical and ideational.
  • Audiences, in-groups, and out-groups. By whom was power legitimised and where?
  • Cities as political centres.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words as PDF or Word documents to Sam Barber ( and Mateusz Fafinski ( by 7 September 2020.