The Global North

Spaces, Connections, and Networks before 1700

Stockholm 12-14 August 2019


When Janet Abu-Lughod sketched the contours of a medieval "world system" in her landmark study Before European Hegemony, published nearly thirty years ago, she located the preponderance of global trade and the density of communication networks in the southern hemisphere. In recent decades, however, new trends in research and new forms of evidence have complicated, enriched, and expanded this picture, geographically as well as chronologically. We now know that vast portions of the world were interconnected throughout the Middle Ages and Early Modern time, and moreover, that the entire circumpolar North was a contact zone in its own right, with many connections to the rest of the medieval globe.

This conference will be the first in a recurrent series dedicated to the Global North, with future conferences concentrating on other periods and other themes. We invite scholars of many disciplines to explore the spaces, connections, and networks of the Global North within a longer time frame and to offer new perspectives that cross the frontiers of traditional national historiographies or insular regional studies. We welcome relevant contributions by scholars of Late Antiquity, Viking period, the Middle Ages, and the Early Modern period, whose work sheds light on the central themes of the conference. Select papers drawn from the conference proceedings will be revised for publication.


Spatial categories

What contemporary physical and geographical categories were used to identify and describe spaces, e.g. seascapes or maritime spaces, mountainous territories, steppes, arable land, or forests? What meanings were attached to these categories, and to notions of the wild and the cultivated, the central and the peripheral? How were these categories shaped, perpetuated, and disputed – and by whom? How did ideas of space create and legitimize hierarchies and forms of authority?

Movement, diaspora, integration

How were groups and communities defined – by themselves or by others – and according to what criteria? How did movement – e.g. migration (seasonal or permanent), pilgrimage, raiding – consolidate or disintegrate solidarities and identities? What forms of individual movement were possible and/or prevalent? To what extent was movement gendered or restricted? How were individuals or groups integrated, separated, or marginalized within communities?

Networks and communication

How global was pre-modern North? What does "global" mean in this historical context? How and why were networks established, and through what forms of communication and interaction? What centres and peripheries can we identify? How were networks sustained or disrupted?


Contact and more information

Emmy Atterving:

Kurt Villads Jensen:

This first conference on the Global North is organized by the Centre for Medieval Studies, the Early Modern history milieu, the Centre for Maritime Studies, and the Institute of Urban History at Stockholm University, and by the Program in Medieval Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.