Centre for Advanced Study

at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters

The Nordic 'Civil Wars' in the High Middle Ages in a Comparative Perspective


Former 2017/2018 Social Sciences - Law


In this project, international scholars from humanistic disciplines and social sciences will study the Nordic “civil wars” in the period c. 1130-1260 in a comparative perspective. The project is guided by the following hypotheses:

- The Nordic “civil wars” were less chaotic than has been asserted when labelling them “civil war”, “anarchy”, or “breakdown of order”.
- These conflicts should be studied as regional conflicts, not as national ones. 

In order to investigate these theories, we will adopt a cross-disciplinary and comparative perspective:

- By including medieval scholars working on English, French and German medieval history, we will gain a deeper understanding of how the Nordic “civil wars” can be situated in a broader contemporary European context, something which is almost completely lacking in medieval scholarship.
- Our aim in involving political scientists and anthropologists working on civil wars in a more contemporary setting is to obtain insight into new approaches and theoretical perspectives on civil wars, and to utilise these perspectives on medieval civil wars. This arises from the idea that modern and medieval civil wars share many characteristics, and that by bringing specialists dealing with these separate fields together it will give new insight.

During Fall 2017, a group of social scientists and medieval historians will discuss and develop a theoretical framework applicable for studying civil wars in the Middle Ages. In Spring 2018, medieval historians working with Nordic as well as Continental Europe will work together on the issues of comparing civil wars in different places in Europe, and tracing patterns of interaction between these various areas, taking care to analyse the conflicts at both local, regional, national and supranational levels.

The main goal of the project is to write two books on Nordic civil wars in a European context incorporating a cross-disciplinary approach


  • Afsah, Ebrahim
    Associate Professor University of Copenhagen 2017/2018
  • Althoff, Gerd
    Professor Em. University of Münster 2017/2018
  • Benham, Jenny
    Lecturer Cardiff University 2017/2018
  • Comaroff, John
    Professor Harvard University 2017/2018
  • Esmark, Kim
    Associate Professor University of Roskilde 2017/2018
  • Hermanson, Lars
    Professor University of Gothenburg 2017/2018
  • Poulsen, Bjørn
    Professor Aarhus University 2017/2018
  • Rosén, Frederik
    Senior Researcher University of Copenhagen 2017/2018
  • Vigh, Henrik Erdman
    Professor University of Copenhagen 2017/2018
  • Vogt, Helle
    Associate Professor University of Copenhagen 2014/2015, 2017/2018
  • White, Stephen D.
    Professor Em. Emory University 2017/2018
  • Østerud, Øyvind
    Professor University of Oslo (UiO) 2017/2018

Previous events


Group leader

  • Hans Jacob Orning

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2017/2018
  • Jon Vidar Sigurdsson

    Title Professor Institution University of Oslo (UiO) Year at CAS 2007/20082017/2018
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