Dr. Natalia Nowakowska is a Tutor & Lecturer in Early Modern History at Somerville College, University of Oxford.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Talking about Jagiellonians...

Anna Jagiellon, Queen of Bohemia & Hungary (d. 1547)
Hans Maler zu Schwaz
We are gradually approaching the half-way mark of the 5 year Jagiellonians Project which I run, funded by the European Research Council. One of the (many pleasurable) challenges of directing a project such as this is managing its communications – striking a balance between saying too little, and saying too much. On the one hand, part of the purpose of this project is to raise the profile of the Jagiellonians as an international dynasty among historians and audiences outside Central Europe. Making full use of a project webpage, Twitter, mailing lists, quarterly newsletters and conferences in the UK and beyond is therefore an important part of our activities. At times, I have felt like a P.R. agency or professional evangelist for the Jagiellonians, even as (paradoxically) my own scholarly and personal relationship with them has become more nuanced, and perhaps more ambiguous.

On the other hand, this is also a fast-moving, collaborative research project – academics often work on a topic for some time before feeling ready to air their findings. There is a time lag (sometimes of years) between a project (or project website) launching and polished historical research hitting journals or bookshelves. All the Jagiellonian Project’s communications have to come with the tacit tag-line: ‘work in progress’, or ‘historians still at work’. Another reason for not saying too much is because this is not a solo project, but a highly collaborative one involving a team of six researchers. When writing books on my own in the past, I have been relatively relaxed about recounting the ups and downs of research online. However, it is not necessarily appropriate to give a blow-by-blow account of the internal workings, and private discussions, of a large team of scholars as we work together on a collectively authored publication.

As it turns out, a major focus of the project’s research has been communication itself – how ideas about a Jagiellonian dynasty were articulated by humanist scholars (those masters of rhetoric and persuasion) in splendid orations delivered at diplomatic summits, royal weddings, coronations, and funerals in 16C Central Europe.  When I look at our website, so well run by our project Administrator Briony Truscott, with its family lists, (forthcoming) maps, timelines and royal portraits, I wonder how far we have inadvertently slipped into the shoes of those humanist diplomats, courtiers and poets, taking on ourselves, five centuries on, the task of presenting the Jagiellonians to a wider world.