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A Historical Biography of Archbishop Eskil of Lund (c. 1100-1182)

The Carlsberg Foundation 'Semper Ardens' Monographs

What

Although he is one of the individuals from twelfth-century Scandinavia who left most traces in the extant source material, Archbishop Eskil (c. 1100-1182) remains an enigmatic character. Historians still disagree in their evaluations of the impact of Eskil's exceptionally long tenure as prelate, during much of which he was not only next to the king in power, but also leader of the Nordic Church during its crucial formative period and contributed profoundly to the "Europeanisation" of the Nordic societies. The ambition is to offer a thorough revision of the posthumous image of Eskil and concurrently central aspects of medieval Danish political history. The book presents a new interpretation of the making of the Nordic world and its separate kingdoms in the twelfth century.

Why

Archbishop Eskil has never been the subject of a monograph or a scholarly anthology. Thus the arguably most influential church leader and power-broker in twelfth-century Denmark, still remains a marginal figure in Danish historiography. The main subject of the book is not merely the life of a single individual but the story of how Denmark and the Nordic kingdoms entered into the Latin-Christian cultural sphere and went from constituting a "barbarian" periphery to playing a central role in contemporary European politics. The human aspect of individual lived experience makes even distant histories engaging and the biographical narrative framework is well-suited to contextualise and situate more abstract, theoretical and structural aspects of the study of people and societies in the past.

How

The research involves a thorough study of the entire source material directly or indirectly relating to Eskil, as well as the integration of the recent advances in scholarship in regard to the Scandinavian societies and their place in the European context. In the recent years I have worked on aspects of Eskil's international network and the correspondences between Eskil and a formidable array of prelates, popes, and philosophers. I have already published several articles, conference papers, and conducted the basic research to gain an estimate of how far the sources will support a fact-based reconstruction of Eskil's life and place it in a contemporary cultural and political context. The aim is to publish a scholarly monograph in English and one in Danish aimed at the general reader.

SSR

The biography of Archbishop Eskil will serve as a prism through which contemporary developments are refracted. These include issues such as monetarisation, state-formation, internationalisation and the making of a pan-European learned elite, the internal connections between the Nordic kingdoms through the union of their churches - cultural processes embodied by Eskil himself. The study will contribute to the current theoretical discussions of relations between centre and periphery and how horizontal networks function to uphold political structures in a premodern society. The book explores the dialectic between individual and collective histories and incorporate the most recent research to create a more nuanced and comprehensive picture of high-medieval people and their societies.