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First Millenium

The First Millennium Network seeks to extend this reorientation in scholarly perspective by finding creative ways to encourage interdisciplinary and comparative study of the entirety of the first millennium of the Common Era, particularly in Western Europe, Byzantium and the Islamic world.

In order to encourage scholarship of this nature, the First Millennium Network is currently organizing a program of D.C.-area events, including: a yearly high-profile lecture or similar event; a more regular, local seminar series; and a reading group.

The Network is composed of the Catholic University of America, George Mason University, Georgetown University, the University of Maryland, and the University of Mary Washington.

The Concept of the First Millennium:
In a ground-breaking monograph first published in 1937, the Belgian historian Henri Pirenne argued that one could not understand the medieval West without reference to the Islamic East, or, in his famous phrasing, without Mohammed, Charlemagne would have been inconceivable. We now know the details of Pirenne’s arguments about the persistence of the Mediterranean as a Roman lake, only to be divided East and West by the rise of Islam, are almost entirely incorrect. Nonetheless, Pirenne’s fundamental insight that the pre-modern world was deeply interconnected retains its force. Building on generations of scholarship, in particular Peter Brown’s reconceptualization of a long late antiquity which produced a flourishing in religious and cultural thought in a period formerly thought to be characterized by invasion and decline, we understand more clearly the extent to which connections existed and persisted across assumed boundaries, whether geographical or temporal or religious. The First Millennium Network seeks to extend this reorientation in scholarly perspective by finding creative ways to encourage interdisciplinary and comparative study of the entirety of the first millennium of the Common Era, particularly in Western Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic world. The Network places special emphasis on the diversity of, and interconnections among, the religious communities within first millennium societies—Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Manicheanism, Zoroastrianism, etc.—in their multitude of forms.