Remembering the Reformation conference - event report
Two weeks ago we welcomed over 100 delegates to Cambridge for our ‘Remembering the Reformation’ conference, held from 7th to 9th September in Murray Edwards College. We had been planning this since the launch of our project and this was a major academic event that drew together scholars from many different countries and institutions. Alongside the conference we also held a public lecture, which was given by James Simpson of Harvard University. This was open to all, and held at Great St Mary’s, Cambridge. Simpson’s fascinating (and beautifully illustrated) lecture drew a big crowd and provided a stimulating central event for our conference. We also launched our digital exhibition at this event; for more information on this see here, or go straight to the exhibition itself at https://exhibitions.lib.cam.ac.uk/reformation/!
The idea was always that this would be a conference that challenged ideas of ‘the Reformation’ as a nationally-bounded event, which included approaches from different academic disciplines, and which looked beyond the Protestant magisterial churches to consider what ‘remembering Reformation’ might mean to many different groups, denominations and historical moments. To include as many different perspectives as possible, rather than the three or four hour-long plenary lectures that are standard at this kind of conference, we invited eleven speakers to give thirty-minute plenary papers. These spanned large tracts of time (from medieval to modern-day), extended widely in space (from Mexico to Poland, and from Rome to the USA), and, perhaps most strikingly, showcased a range of approaches. Combining literary and historical analysis, these papers ranged in scale from the global to the micro-historical, and in doing so shed much new light not only on Reformation, broadly defined, but also on the processes and practices of memory in early modern and modern culture. This same diversity could be found across the programme: across nineteen parallel sessions speakers gave papers on such an expansive array of exciting topics that we all wished we could quadruple ourselves so that we could attend them all! For just a taste of the kinds of papers given and the kinds of conversations had across this conference you can see all the tweets from our participants, gathered here through the sterling efforts of one of the conference delegates, the very generous Liesbeth Corens.
We are very grateful to all of our speakers and delegates for their contributions to the discussion, both formal and informal. We would also like to thank Great St Mary’s, Michaelhouse, and Murray Edwards College for hosting the conference and associated events. Our four graduate student conference helpers – Simone Hanebaum, Harriet Lyon, Patrick McGhee, and Fred Smith – were an indispensable part of the smooth running of the conference, and we are very grateful to them for all their help. Above all, though, credit and thanks should go to Tom Taylor who took on the bulk of the organisation and logistics for the conference.
We hope to produce an edited collection of essays featuring some of the speakers from the conference in due course, and are beginning work on that already. In the meantime, we hope that many of the conversations that this conference provoked will continue in many different forums and forms for a long time to come. It was an incredibly stimulating and thought-provoking three days, and there is no doubt that the Remembering the Reformation project will be very much the richer for all we learned from it.