HomeSynergeiavol. 5 no. 1 (2014)

Communities of Learning: Networks and the Shaping of Intellectual Identity in Europe, 1100-1500 Ed. By Constant J. Mews and John N. Crossley. Turnhout,Belgium:Brepols,2011.366pages.

Juan O. Mesquida



At the high school history level or in world history manuals, the topics under Middle Ages evoke a rather structured society: feudalism, emerging towns, guilds, monastic orders, scholasticism, and the universities. In this volume edited by Constant J. Mews and John N. Crossley, a group of scholars has chosen to focus on one historical field—the intellectual world—and study less explored or less obvious practices of transmitting knowledge. Instead of centering on institutions like the school of translators of Toledo, the cathedral school of Chartres, or the University of Paris, the contributors to Communities of Learning have delved into the knowledge practices of individuals, some of whom might have been connected in one way or another with medieval corporations. These performances take the form of translation work, philosophy or music treatises, letter writing, or book buying, to mention a few examples. And each instance of knowledge production is always the consequence and the origin of further ripples of knowledge-sharing, creating what we can reasonably call “communities of learning.” What comes out is a new understanding of the spread of intellectual culture in the Middle Ages and, more importantly, in other periods or cultures.