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Shklar Fellows for Academic Year 2013-2014

Christian Raffensperger

Christian Raffensperger

Wittenberg University, Assistant Professor of History

Title of Research:

“War Worse than Civil:” Marriage, Kinship, and Inter–Kingdom Warfare in Medieval Eastern Europe”


Raffensperger notes in his fellowship research proposal that although medieval chroniclers used terms such as “Germaniia,” “Polonia,” or “Rus,” the medieval states of Germany, Poland, Russia or Ukraine did not actually exist. Rather they are modern concepts historically used in an attempt to create structure or definition. Raffensperger maintains that the organizing principle of medieval states was less about ethnicity, religion, or even governance than it was about family. Therefore, he plans to focus on medieval politics in terms of dynastic ties between ruling families in order to better understand the importance of kinship in medieval royal decision-making and in the establishment of a framework for a larger medieval Europe (including both Byzantium and Eastern Europe). His research will demonstrate the deep interconnectivity between European states in the two crucial areas of kinship and warfare. Marital ties between the ruling families of these states created bonds that were drawn upon in times of war and thereby expanded what began as familial, intra–kingdom disputes (civil wars) into much larger, inter–kingdom wars where multiple extended families called on the support of their neighbors. This in turn extended the circle of war. Understanding kinship is a crucial step to unraveling the nationalist focus of --- or even the idea of nation in --- medieval history in this region and improves our modern understanding of family as the focus of medieval kingdoms.