Christian Etheridge

My prospective thesis formulates the question of how the Scandinavian medieval experience fits into the grand narrative of the accumulation of scientific knowledge in the Middle Ages. This grand narrative revolves around; firstly the transference of scientific knowledge from classical antiquity via Arabic and Greek sources into Latin, secondly the movement of these ideas around Europe and thirdly the use and adaption of these ideas. Within Scandinavia, five scribal centres stand out as being particularly involved in the creation and transmission of scientific manuscripts. These five centres are the cathedral schools of Roskilde and Lund in medieval Denmark, the double Birgittine monastery of Vadstena in Sweden, the Augustinian monastery of Viðey in Iceland and the important trading centre of Bergen in Norway with its associated monastic scriptoria.

The principal purpose of this thesis is to study, describe and explore scientific manuscripts associated with these five Scandinavian centres. By using both palaeographic and art historical evidence it will be possible to evaluate how these works came to Scandinavia and to draw conclusions both about the significance and application of this knowledge, and also what it can tell us about how scientific knowledge was transmitted at this time. My study therefore is rooted primarily in an examination of a series of scientific manuscripts associated with these five scribal centres from both a material and a textual perspective. My primary focus is on scientific works on arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and medicine.

I will examine the impact of transference via ecclesiastic centres. This will involve uncovering the deeper international connections within monastic orders. The influential Augustinian order for example was often associated with learned literature, most visibly demonstrated by St Victor monastery in Paris and its influence on Scandinavian ecclesiastics. Not wishing to neglect the potential secular dimension, I will also attempt to connect existing trade networks with the transmission of manuscripts, using historical research on mercantilism and assessing change over the time period covered by the thesis.

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