[paper] Torsten Hiltmann (Münster): Heraldry and History – an odd though promising couple. Old misunderstandings and new perspectives

At the centre of this paper is the relationship between heraldry and history, or more precisely, heraldry and historical scholarship. The paper argues that by misunderstanding heraldic studies as being part of historical research and by reading and criticising heraldic studies as if they were historical studies, the highly important role heraldic sources can play for a better understanding of the medieval culture and society was largely overseen.

Instead of seeing heraldry as a mere subcategory of history, the paper argues that heraldry and history should be understood as two distinctive disciplines. While heraldry searches for a better understanding of coats of arms, their formal rules and their proper description and visual representation, historical research wants to understand past societies, past structures and events (for instance by the bias of heraldic sources and medieval heraldic communication). In clearly separating those two approaches to heraldic sources, the purposes and results of the respective studies become much clearer. The paper illustrates the impact of this new understanding of heraldic and historical approaches by outlining their different ways of introducing Medieval Heraldry. It contrasts the formal approach of heraldry (shield, helmet, crest, …) with the chronological approach of history (emergence of heraldry in the context of the great turnaround of the 12th century, medial and social spread in the 13th century, etc.). In doing so, it also offers a first outline of the roadmap of the new research project “The performance of coats of arms. The history of heraldic communication in late medieval culture and society (12th to 15th centuries)”.

Date:  1 July 2013
Place: International Medieval Congress, Leeds,Session 107 (Medieval Heraldry Revisited I: Creating ties of visuality. Heraldry and the display of social relationships)

Cite the article as: Torsten Hiltmann, "[paper] Torsten Hiltmann (Münster): Heraldry and History – an odd though promising couple. Old misunderstandings and new perspectives", in: Heraldica nova. Medieval Heraldry in social and cultural-historical perspectives (blog on Hypotheses.org), published: 11/06/2013, Internet: http://heraldica.hypotheses.org/443.

Torsten Hiltmann

Torsten Hiltmann is Juniorprofessor for the High and Late Middle Ages and Auxiliary Sciences at the University of Münster. He is interested in new approaches to late medieval and early modern heraldry, the medieval notion of kingship and the methods and technologies of Digital Humanities. On hypotheses.org, he is maintaining, among others, the blog “Heraldica Nova”.

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