Dr Roy Flechner writes:
On 12 May the International Research Network 'Converting the Isles' held
its second colloquium in Cambridge, entitled 'Conversion to Christianity
and Social Change in the Insular World'. The colloquium consisted of three
sessions with a pair of speakers each, and a fourth and final session
featured a special lecture by the Cambridge archaeologist Dr Sam Lucy, who
spoke about the recent important finds from an excavation near Trumpington,
where an Anglo-Saxon 'bed burial' was unearthed, and one of the skeletons
was accompanied by a unique gold and garnet cross.
The aim of the colloquium was to explore social economic incentives for and
implications of conversion to Christianity in the Insular world. As with
past and future colloquia in the series, we endeavoured to pair speakers
from different disciplines or whose work relates to different places in the
Insular world. The sessions were thematic, which allowed participants to
explore the same issues from different angles, using distinct
methodologies. For example, Professor Máire Herbert (Cork) and Professor
Dawn Hadley (Sheffield) both addressed the question of the manner in which
conversion affected gender relations, but one did so as a literary scholar
and focusing on Irish material, whereas the other addressed Scandinavian
settlers in Anglo-Saxon England from an archaeological perspective.
Ordinarily, such talks would feature in separate conferences, but in
'Converting the Isles' we strive to bridge geographical and disciplinary
boundaries. And to judge by the experience of the recent colloquium, we
have good reasons to be optimistic that the existing gaps can be bridged.
It was especially encouraging to see how both the active role played by
session moderators and the lively participation by the audience helped to
tease out commonalities between talks, and address topics more conceptually.
In fact, this series of colloquia owes as much to its audience (consisting
of experts and non-experts alike) as it does to the speakers, and it was
very pleasing to have in the audience scholars who spoke in the previous
colloquium, held in September 2011. Such fruitful group discussions lend
more weight to the notion that conversion to Christianity ought to be
researched in an interdisciplinary and collaborative way, a notion on which
the network is premised.
The talks have been audio-podcasted, and are now available from the network's temporary website. The
website also provides details of speakers, talk titles and other materials.
We would like to acknowledge generous financial contributions that enabled
this event to take place: from ASNC, the Trevelyan Fund (History Faculty
Cambridge), and Trinity College Cambridge.