Christianization and State Formation in Central Europe website

A very short and much-delayed blowing of my own trumpet, if you don’t mind. Back in 2004, before this blog was even a glint in my eye, I briefly sustained myself by working for Dr Nora Berend of the Faculty of History in Cambridge on a project then called Christianization and State Formation in Central Europe and Scandinavia. The basis of the project was that the team agreed on a uniform set of questions they would like to ask for each of the countries they were surveying, and then got an author or number of authors, largely archaeologists but some historians, to try and answer them. This was supposed to give as close to comparability as possible. The language of operation was English, but the language of many of the authors wasn’t. This could give rise to problems, which was where I came in, Englishing the English.1 This did in fact take a bit of specialist knowledge: for example, when I was faced with one particular pagan prince of legend who had, according to the text I had before me, been “beaten with mousses to death”, it was only the vague recollection of the story of Bishop Hatto of Mainz that led me to wonder if the real answer might have been “eaten by mouses to death”, or as it wound up, “chewed to death by mice”, because that did indeed transpire to be what was meant. Much of it, however, was not that much fun. And it was all due for urgent publication and therefore had to be rushed. That was 2004.

Cover of Nora Berend (ed.), <u>Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy. Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus' <i>c. </i>900–1200</u>

Cover of Nora Berend (ed.), Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy. Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus' c. 900–1200

Now, I don’t blame them. I’m by now certain it’s me, somehow, because apart from my first paper every single publication I’ve been involved with has had this year or more of inexplicable delay. (Sometimes rather more than a year…) I don’t know what’s holding up Medieval European Coinage 6 or the Lay Archives books or indeed the publication of our own Leeds papers, or the volume of Papers from the Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar that’s going to have me in it. They are just stuck and my CV grows stale. It’s hard to have more in print when there’s an infinite delay in the process. I’m only sure that the hold-up is not lack of my own work, because everything I have been asked to do is done. It seems to just be my luck that nothing I write or edit comes out for years. Anyway. By 2007 I’d given up waiting for notice when I saw the above book in Foyles in London and was mildly outraged, because I’d hoped to at least be told, if not indeed to actually get a copy.2 But I was still more perplexed when I examined it and found that it didn’t appear to resemble what I’d done at all.

Detail of the portal at Urnes church

Detail of the portal at Urnes church

This perplexity has now been slightly resolved by Dr Berend who has pointed me at the parallel website. I had been under the impression that book and web were to share text, but this seems to have been wrong. In fact, although it apparently only went up in December 2007, I’m not at all sure that this site retains all the editing I did, as it still reads rather oddly. Nonetheless, it is there, and it’s really quite interesting. We don’t know a great deal about Slavic paganism, and we know precious little about the Christianization (a longue-durée word for a long process, we mean more than just conversion here) of these areas, but what we do know, except possibly about Sweden where I’m not sure that we really had the newest perspectives sadly, is now available at this underpublicized resource. For some reason Google doesn’t really know it’s there, and if you try Googling for the project all the links point to pages at CRASSH that are no longer there, but in fact it does exist, it covers Bohemia, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Rus’ and Sweden, and it does so in a way that makes them very easy to quickly compare. It also has extensive bibliographies for further research and a few choice images. And, in as much as it’s readable English, I helped make it so. I humbly commend it to the readership.


1. I know I’ve said this before, but I don’t know whom to credit for this phrase; it’s not mine, however, as I get it merely from a footnote I think I read on Usenet. However, although I can turn it up on Google Groups more or less as I remember it, that’s in a post from alt.english.usage, which I never read, so I am still mystified. Well, for now, ‘Harvey’ can have the credit for writing in 2002 that “the very concept of having an anglicised form of the word ‘anglicised’ is somehow very pleasing”. Thankyou sir. You were quite right.

2. Nora Berend (ed.), Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy.
Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus’ c. 900–1200
(Cambridge 2007).

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6 responses to “Christianization and State Formation in Central Europe website

  1. Okay, I just looked at the source code of Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy and there are no meta tags at all–so Google will won’t see it as easily. Stick in a few meta name keywords in the header code, e.g. ‘christianisation’ and ‘christian monarchy’ and ‘poland’, and it will be much more visible to the bots. (And my apologies if I’m teaching a grandmother how to suck eggs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who knows what about how this stuff works.)

    As for the publishing, my sympathies. Publishers do tend to move more on geological time than human i.e. glacial pace.

    • Nicola, thanks for comments but my involvement with the project ended in 2004. If they haven’t included any metadata there’s nothing I can do to change that. As for the publishers, I’m pretty sure none of these things have got as far as actual publishers alas. Still with the academics…

  2. I agree with Nicola about the publishing pace. I read a lot of fiction wrters’ blogs and they all confirm that.

    The website looks interesting; I’ve bookmarked it as research site I’m certainly going to use.

  3. Where can I find our more about the Nordic religion, I believe it is called “His and Hers”. (or whatever that is in Old German) All I know is that there are bodies which are held down into their graves with huge heavy rocks….

  4. Congratulations on your recognition with an Outstanding Historical Fiction Blog Peer Award which is also awarded to sites enjoyed by and useful to historical novelists.

    Nominated by Nan Hawthorne’s Booking the Middle Ages
    http://nanhawthorne.blogspot.com

  5. Bill, I suggest you start with the website this post is about. If you can’t find anything there it should at least give you some pointers for reading.

    And Nan, thankyou, very flattering! I don’t think I even read five historical fiction blogs, however, and I certainly don’t write it so as to know what would be useful, so I hope you won’t mind if I don’t make further nominations.

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