Alternative Facts and the Middle Ages

Workshop Theory and History of the Field 15 September 2017

PhD and ReMa students participating in this workshop as part of their degree programme write

a short paper (1 ECTS).


Organized by the NWO project Communication and Exploitation of Knowledge in the Middle Ages, in association with the Netherlands Research School for Medieval Studies.


The Research School's introductory activity to the new academic year is a workshop that focuses on the booming catchphrase 'alternative facts.' This phrase has become conventional in media, politics, and beyond and was coined as a euphemism for demonstrable falsehoods. Of course there are facts that can easily be verified. Other statements, however, might be more difficult to validate - especially when dealing with history - and depend on such factors as academic and societal consensus and definition. Some alternative facts, for example heliocentrism, succeed in becoming commonly accepted 'true facts,' crossing borders between questionable knowledge and true knowledge. This workshop poses the question how we should deal with alternative facts as students and scholars within the field of medieval studies. Despite the negative connotation of ‘alternative facts’, the aim of this workshop is to take its implications seriously and to discuss the role of alternativity in the study of the Middle Ages. Discussion sessions will firstly question the role of alternative facts in the medieval period, and examine the implications of such practices of classification. Secondly, attention goes out to medievalisms and in particular to the problem of alternativity therein and how this affects us as scholars.
These problems will be tackled under guidance of Natalie von Möllendorf (TU Dortmund), Els Rose (UU), and Josephine van den Bent (UvA) who are going to introduce various exciting topics regarding medieval 'alternative facts.'

'The Truth about the Apostles: Alternative Facts in the Apocryphal Acts' - Els Rose (UU)


'The Mongol yasa in Mamluk Texts: The Use of a Mysterious Law Code as Propaganda' - Josephine van den Bent (UvA)


'Drawing a Different Picture; Carthusian Monasteries between Ideal and Reality' - Nathalie van Möllendorff (Dortmund)


The workshop takes place in Utrecht (c. 10.30-17.00). Registration is mandatory. All interested scholars are welcome to participate but especially all new members (ReMA, PhD, and up) of the Research School are expressly advised to join to become acquainted with each other and existing members of the School. You can register with the organization (Pieter Boonstra, RUG; Nathan van Kleij, UvA; Theo Lap, RUG; Mark Vermeer, UU) through



Location: Utrecht, Drift 25.102

10.30–10.50 Welcome with coffee and tea at Drift 25, room 102

10.50–11.00 Introduction by prof. dr. Catrien Santing, director

11.00–11.30 Dr. Els Rose (UU): ‘The Truth about the Apostles: Alternative Facts in the Apocryphal Acts’

11.30–12.00 Josephine van den Bent (UvA): ‘The Mongol yasa in Mamluk Texts: The Use of a Mysterious Law Code as Propaganda’

12.00–12.30 Nathalie von Möllendorff (Dortmund): ‘Drawing a Different Picture: Carthusian Monasteries between Ideal and Reality’

12.30–13.30 Lunch

13.30–14.30 Session I: is it valuable to historicize ‘alternative facts’?

Reader: ‘Materiality, Art, and Symbolism’ & ‘Fact and Text’

Locations: Drift 25.102 & Drift 23.212

14.30–14.50 Coffee- and tea-break

14.50–15.50 Session II: to what extent do alternative facts influence medieval studies?

Reader: ‘Orthodoxy, Religion, and Science’ & ‘Alternating the Dark Ages’

Locations: Drift 25.102 & Drift 23.212


16.00–16.50 Plenary discussion

16.50–17.00 Conclusions and evaluation

17.00 Drinks