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CARMEN Open Letter to NEH concerning cutting funding of the NEH Overseas Summer Programs

Dear Colleagues

I write on behalf of the CARMEN Worldwide Medieval Network (www.carmen-medieval.net), which brings together over 10,000 medievalists via national associations and leading university centres right across the world.

We understand the need for financial responsibility, but we are nonetheless worried about the impact on American scholars of cutting funding for the NEH Overseas Summer Programs.

Many medievalists have benefited from these programs, from senior scholars, to scholars who are rather isolated in small institutions, to high school teachers (the source of future student cohorts). The nature of Medieval Studies means it is almost unthinkable for scholars and teachers not to have experienced first-hand the Rome of the catacombs and the popes; the medieval university cities of Paris, Oxford, Prague and Vienna (and their resources); the Florence of Dante and the Borgias; or the Islamic magnificence of the Mezquita in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada.

From an international perspective the decision has two graver potential impacts. First, it will privilege humanities research into modern and contemporary America over earlier periods. Second, it may isolate American scholars of the Middle Ages further. Canada and Australia, and countries all across Europe, are conducting research now in very different, more collaborative, large-scale, international ways. Who knows which will prove the best approach? But, there is a risk of the US being left behind or left aside.

In my own scholarly career I grew up in a climate where French research was dominant. Today, Anglo-American approaches, methodologies, and scholars are considered to be leading the field. But that is not to say that the tide could not turn again. In a rapidly globalizing world (where CARMEN, for instance, is building ever-closer links across Latin America and Asia), we need an engaged, visible body of American medievalists who have sufficient support to remain familiar with the fundamental sources (written and physical) for studying the European Middle Ages.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Simon Forde (Director), on behalf of the CARMEN Executive Committee