Thanks to the Erasmus European scheme which every year allows staff and student exchanges between the University of Lincoln and its partner HE Institutions, this April I had the opportunity to join our colleagues and their students at Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic. What an exciting and enriching experience, which gave us the opportunity to share both research ideas and teaching practices!
Welcomed by the snow the day I arrived – an unexpected spring sight – I enjoyed a much warmer atmosphere when joining staff and students in class!
Teaching Day 1: ‘The Iberian Reconquista: Historical Views and Historiographical Debates’. This session was aimed at MA and PhD students, especially those studying a module on the medieval crusades with Dr Antonin Kalous. We discussed the major historiographical issues regarding the study of Medieval Iberia, which include the prominent gap between Arabists and Medievalists (the former focusing on al-Andalus, while the latter considering predominantly Christian sources and perspectives); as well as the complexity of adopting historiographical tools such as ‘frontier’ and ‘Reconquest’ to label extremely complex and nuanced phenomena. This provided the framework which helped students to discuss inter-faith relationships and to dig into source analysis!
The Historia Roderici, a twelfth-century Latin chronicle which is considered one of the earliest biographies of a lay nobleman who would later become a Spanish national hero, attracted the students’ attention and this led to some thought-provoking questions about the nature of inter-faith contacts and military leadership, feudal loyalties and ‘identity’.
Historia Roderici, ms. 9/4922, Real Academia de la Historia, f. 75r.º
Teaching Day 2: ‘Friends and Enemies: Medieval Perspectives’. This was a session for the L1 undergraduate students of History at Palacký, who are currently taking a survey module on Medieval History with Dr Jan Stejskal. We discussed approaches and methodologies applied to the study of friendship, as well as how emotional rhetoric was adopted to legitimise certain types of relationships. We focused on gender relationships and inter-faith contacts among some of the numerous types of bonds defined as friendships (or love, or companionship…) in medieval sources. All this was accompanied by lots of interesting questions at the end of the session: nicely bonus!
Some of our L2 students are getting ready for a term at Palacký University from next September and I hope there will be others from the Czech cohort to join us again soon!
It was a fantastic experience, which I look forward to repeat… next time in ‘real’ spring!