Ian Wood, born in London, UK, in 1950. Ph.D. from Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Professor of Early Medieval History at the University of Leeds.
Fellow (1 September 1995 – 30 June 1996)
My NIAS project was concerned with the representation of missionaries in hagiography written between approximately 400 and 1050. The aim was not to use these texts for the reconstruction of the careers of missionary saints, or to narrate the history of the conversion of Germanic Europe, but to look at them as documents in which the intentions and perceptions of the authors, and thus the varied and changing attitudes to missionaries, could be examined. More generally, the book was intended to be an exercise in `history as text’ rather than ‘history as narrative’: in other words the prime focus was to be on documentary evidence, its meaning and its interpretation.
In the course of the year I drafted eight chapters, each dealing with a group of saint’s Lives; in particular I drafted all the central chapters concerned with the eighth and ninth centuries, as well as chapters on seventh- and tenth- and eleventh-century material. This constitutes approximately three-quarters of the intended book. My main conclusions have been that the Lives of missionary saints, far from being either accurate representations of events or unthinkingly formulaic, include complex debates about such issues as missionary strategies and traditions, and that they also reflect very considerable psychological differences between individual hagiographers, not least between hagiographers who were missionaries themselves and those who merely recorded the missions of others.
I tried out my ideas in several lectures delivered in the Netherlands and Germany in the course of my stay at NIAS. In addition I gave lectures in France and Italy on other aspects of early Medieval History. I have also completed a number of articles on late antique and early medieval topics other than missionary hagiography. My NIAS year, however, has primarily given me the opportunity to read, think and write at length on my major project, and in doing so I have benefitted from the stimulus of other scholars both at NIAS and more generally in the Netherlands.