My name is Andreas Kjeldsen, and I am graduate student at the University of Copenhagen, Department of History. I am currently roughly in the fourth year of the mag.art. degree (similar to an expanded six-year MPhil) in history, and have also completed a minor in Medieval Studies. If everything goes according to plan, I will be attending University of York in the academic year 2008-09 to take their MA in Medieval History.
My academic interests run towards European medieval history, especially political, economic and religious history. In particular, over the last couple of years, I have been turning increasingly towards legal history, both secular and canonical. I am quite fascinated by the social and cultural aspects of medieval law, and how it often reflects the very diverse structures and mechanisms of medieval societies.
In terms of historical theory and method, I would label myself a moderate post-modernist. I personally believe that in the end, it is impossible to approach the sources in an objective way. There are too many barriers, both linguistic and mental, for that to be possible. On the other hand, that in itself should not be an excuse to not at least make the best attempt we can. We may not ever gain a full understanding of the medieval mind and life, but we might just be able to achieve a close approximation, and that in itself would not be too bad, either.
In my understanding of history, I also tend towards the small and narrow, rather than the broad and general. I am not exactly a microhistorian in the exact sense of that term, but I do tend to be suspicious of those large syntetic works that attempt to treat with e.g. “European Feudal Society” or “Law in the Middle Ages” or similar titles. Such works definitely have their usefulness, but it seems like there’s a considerable risk that you lose sight of important details in your pursuit of the grand exposition. Especially when dealing with the medieval period, which covers a significant timespan, and a very diverse society. When conditions could vary literally from one village to the next, to say nothing of one region or kingdom to the next, it becomes very difficult to speak of a “medieval society” as such, much less write anything conclusive about it, and this in my opinion has led to a considerable number of misinterpretations over the years.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Marc Bloch.
If any of you seem to hear the voice of Susan Reynolds in all of this, you are not mistaken. My views have been influenced a great deal by both Kingdoms and Communities and Fiefs and Vassals. I think that while there certainly are parts of both that can be criticised, her fundamental approach and conclusions are correct.
Anyway, I’ll cut this off before it turns into an essay in itself. As always, comments are always welcome. Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment here on the blog.