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Ethnicity and the Construction of Prejudice in Premodern Europe c.1200-1700

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/01/05 → …

The network brings together individual research on the identification of cultural and ethnic minorities, the relationship between dominant and sub-dominant groups, the formation of 'national' identities in the context of this relationship, and questions of assimilation and acculturation.

ThisBritish Academy funded project, established in 2005, is an international research network consisting of scholars of the medieval and early-modern periods, based in England, France, Cyprus, Germany, Sweden, Finland, and the US, whose researches cover Ireland, France and Spain, Greece, the Swedish kingdom, and the Levant, and the encounters between Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, and pagan peoples.

The network brings together individual research on the identification of cultural and ethnic minorities, the relationship between dominant and sub-dominant groups, the formation of 'national' identities in the context of this relationship, and questions of assimilation and acculturation. Specific areas of interest include relations between English and Irish, Catholic and Jewish, Frankish and Muslim, Greek Orthodox and Eastern Christian, and Swedish attitudes towards Finns, Sami, and Karelian peoples on the fringes of the Swedish kingdom. Within these relationships, peoples deemed unable to fit were marginalised, persecuted and sometimes physically transplanted, and policies of assimilation, integration, migration, emigration, plantation, ghettoisation and expulsion were all in various contexts advanced as a means to control ethnic minorities. The formation of prejudicial attitudes studied here operated largely at the fringes of European civilisation, and thus define the European identity itself. The project will also explore relationships between different ethnic groups under the pressure of ideologies such as crusading, and of expansion and settlement following new conquests, and the difficulties of fixing communities in the light of peoples whose culture was determined by their mobility.

The objective is to identify and exploit the common focus in the work of these scholars, to enable its collaborative work to be disseminated, offering a genuinely comparative aspect across the longue durée. Through workshops, delivered papers and round-table discussion, we intend to form comparative models of the ways in which ethnic groups were treated, how attitudes towards them were formed, and governmental policies developed. We hope that a Europe-wide picture of the processes of prejudicial behaviour in an historical continuum will emerge.