Statement on Presentism and Medieval Studies from the MAA’s Advocacy and the MAA’s AHA Program Committees

The Inaugural Advocacy Committee and American Historical Association Committee  — both of the Medieval Academy of America — join together to speak against accusations of presentism leveled against scholars and researchers who study the Middle Ages in relation to contemporary social issues. Modern social issues have prompted medievalists and other scholars to ask new questions of their sources, just as generations of scholars before them did in relation to their own present times. For centuries, scholars have sought to reform and to enlighten previous ways of thinking and to open new critical paths for understanding history and culture often in the face of sharp criticism from followers of earlier practices. Opening up new avenues of thought by looking at past voices in a new critical way is not an erasure, it is quite the opposite. Medievalists whose work takes them to consider issues connected to race, religion, gender, disability, and the environment do so judiciously, cautiously, and critically. They are not rewriting or in any way tampering with the historical record by studying medieval injustices through a contemporary lens and with modern vocabulary. Rather, such medievalists largely figure as responsible advocates for the social good and follow a critical and ethical code while simultaneously looking back to the past in an attempt to better explain the present.

Advocacy Committee:

Jonathan Correa-Reyes
Leah DeVun
Matthew Gabriele
Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Miriamne Krummel, Chair
Christina Maranci

AHA Program Committee:

Katie Hodges-Kluck
Ned Schoolman, Chair
Roger Martinez-Davila

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