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Foundations in medieval societies: Cross-cultural comparisons

Final Report Summary - FOUNDMED (Foundations in medieval societies: Cross-cultural comparisons)

FOUNDMED has taken a novel look at the history of foundations in five (resp. six) civilizations of the medieval millennium (c. 500 to 1500 CE) in comparative perspective. Experts from the fields of Medieval History (Latin Christianity), Byzantine Studies (Greek-Orthodox Christianity), Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, Indology (Buddhism, Brahmanism and other religious communities on the subcontinent of India) and temporarily Sinology have written an Encyclopaedia of Foundations in Medieval Societies. Each headword article comprises a contribution from each of the academic disciplines involved and an overarching section on intercultural perspectives that offers a summary, comparisons and further questions. The three projected volumes have been released in 2014, 2016 and 2017 presenting on more than 2’000 pages 19 articles concerning all aspects of foundations in Medieval history (‘Foundation – Medieval Terminology and Modern Understanding’; ‘Research on Foundations’; ‘Typologies’; ‘Periodizations’; ‘Written Sources’; ‘Material Sources’; ‘Religious Merit and Temporal Ambitions’; ‘Commemoration and Cult’; ‘Charity and Education’; ‘Foundation Endowments and Revenues’; ‘Founders’; ‘Beneficaries of the Foundation’; ‘Foundation Organization’; ‘Social Position of the Actors’; ‘Gender’; ‘Space’ ‘Critique, Reform and Liquidation’; ‘Inventions, Innovations and Imitations in Intercultural Contact’); these articles are completed by a summary of ‘Religious Foundations in China’.
The work on the encyclopaedia is accompanied by a monograph “World History of Foundations, 3000 BCE to 1500 CE” by the principal investigator Michael Borgolte that covers even more material in time and space (about 750 pages). It has become apparent that all experts collaborating in the project have quarried new insights in their respective fields and material following the leads from questions by their colleagues from different academic disciplines and that new starting points are created for further research. Above all work in this project proves that the decade-old thesis is true that foundations can be regarded as total social phenomena that make it possible to grasp the overall fabric of a society. It is no exaggeration to claim that foundations, their shape, purpose, and implementation, serve as a fundamental petrification of the relationship between individuals, their desires, hopes, sorrows, and options, and the respective historical society, economy, religion, politics and arts in the course of universal history.
Since the volumes of our encyclopaedia appeared online and in print, the results of our work are accessible everywhere to the general public.