The UBC Medieval Studies Workshops

Since 1971 the Committee for Medieval Studies has sponsored an annual meeting on a topic chosen by the Committee. Normally held in the fall, these meetings bring together scholars from across the world. The founders, Richard Unger and Janos Bak, write:

It all started with the idea of inviting Lynn White whom we had met at a MAP meeting. And then, we thought, we could also have his pupil and our friend, Lee Dresdeck, from Western Washington University at Bellingham here. But once we had two people with such interesting topics, we thought why not have a little conference? In those days the question of “new teaching methods” was much debated, so we decided to spend half the time on a round table discussion of curricula—and call it a workshop. (The “teaching” part did not work out too well and was dropped in all later meetings, but the name “workshop” remained.) From there on it was smooth sailing. The first workshop was a great experience in the elegant drawing-room atmosphere of the Woodward Library. So for the next year other friends came to mind who might enjoy coming to the Canadian West and sharing their ideas: Ralph Giesey and other students of Medieval kingship. And the year after other Medievalists thought of other friends, and other topics….

Without ever realizing it, we had established a tradition. At one point we introduced the keynote speaker system […] Within a few years we became well known in Ottawa as well. The meeting has generally been held in the Fall but there have been exceptions. For special occasions such as the joint meeting with the Medieval Academy of America and the Medieval Association of the Pacific, the 20th Workshop was held in the Spring. In the last decade the range of topics has expanded, as has the number of different Medievalists involved in the meeting’s organization. Topics have not been limited to the European Middle Ages, with Workshops being held comparing Asia, Europe and the Middle East in the period. The Committee for Medieval Studies expects to continue expanding and extending the meetings to examine issues and topics of importance to Medievalists and to a wider public. The titles [of the workshops] reflect the interests of UBC Medievalists, but the list of speakers is by now much longer than that of “old classmates.” There are many colleagues and interested laymen in and around Vancouver in whose calendar the [Fall] UBC Workshop is a stable fixture. Some traditions, however, have been abandoned—alas, there are no more profiteroles, where they used to be de rigueur.