Mapping MEDieval CONflicts

Mapping MEDieval CONflicts: a digital approach towards political dynamics in the pre-modern period

Funded within the go!digital-Programme of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (OEAW)

Host Institution: Institute for Medieval Research. OEAW (IMAFO)

PI: Dr. J. Preiser-Kapeller, IMAFO (Email:

Website: :  

While the term "network" has been used abundantly in historical research in the last years, the actual number of studies taking into account the methodology of network analysis is still limited. The reluctance of historians to adapt tools of network analysis can be also connected with the conceptual and terminological divide between humanities and formal sciences. At the same time, the user-friendliness of software tools tempts others to use them as "black boxes" in order to produce a variety of figures without being aware of the underlying concepts.


Against this background, the aims of MEDCON are:

  • The adaptation and combination of a set of software tools which facilitates the relational survey of medieval sources  and the visualisation and quantitative analysis of social and spatial networks (using an open source database application named "OpenAtlas", developed by S. Eichert and A. Watzinger:

  • The development of case studies demonstrating a "best practice" of the application and evaluation of tools of network analysis for medieval history (distribution as open data)

  • The creation of an online platform for the  exploration of data, methods and results by the wider public (open access)

A generalizable work flow from data input on the basis of medieval sources to the creation, visualisation and analysis of social and spatial network models and their web-based publication and presentation is established. In order to demonstrate this in detail, MEDCON focuses on the analysis of political networks and conflict among power elites across medieval Europe with five case studies. The project is also conceptualised as digital extension of several internationally renowned long term-projects for text edition, diplomatics and prosopography at IMAFO:

* Fluctuation between opposing parties in the struggle for the German throne 1198-1208 (A. Rzihacek, R. Spreitzer)

* Coalitions in the war of Emperor Sigismund against Duke Frederick IV of Tyrol (G. Katzler)

* Emperor Frederick III and the League of the Mailberger coalition in 1451/52 (K. Holzner-Tobisch, P. Heinicker)

* Factions and alliances in the fight of Maximilian I for Burgundy (S. Dünnebeil)

* Political factions in 14th cent. Byzantium (J. Preiser-Kapeller)

 We evaluate the explanatory power of these tools for phenomena of political conflict in medieval societies; thereby, we provide a set of "best practice" examples of historical network analysis.
MEDCON uses the relational structuring provided by modern software not simply as instrument for the organisation of data, but as heuristic tool for the reconstruction and analysis of the relational character of social phenomena of the past which is at the same time also of high relevance for modern-day
discussions on the (in)stability of political frameworks. Thus, also the additional benefit of digital tools beyond data collection and their potential to allow for new research questions and analytical results is demonstrated.