MI History

a comprehensive history of the Medieval Institute has yet to be written, but there are some documents available that give a glimpse into the MI’s past, considerations for the present, and ideas for the future.

Organizationally, the Institute owes its origin in great part to the efforts of Father Philip S. Moore, C.S.C., who was dean of the Graduate School, and led the move in 1946 to create an institute for medieval studies that would offer graduate education and provide a locus for the activities of campus scholars interested in the study of the Middle Ages. Locating the Institute in the Library made tangible the vital connection between the resources for scholarship and the scholars themselves.

The University Archives has online an extended essay by Fr. Moore on Academic Development at the University of Notre Dame in which he notes: “The Mediaeval Institute was formally founded in 1946, but it too issued out of an earlier Program in Mediaeval Studies which dates back to 1933.” He quotes a description of the Institute from the 1959-60 Bulletin of the Graduate School: “It [the Medieval Institute] is ‘a center of research, instruction, and preparation of teacher-scholars in the Christian civilization of the Middle Ages,’ and offers courses on mediaeval thought, life and culture.”

Since those first years, the Institute has grown dramatically (along with its library) and expanded from its initial emphasis on medieval theology and philosophy to encompass much broader interests and forms of scholarship. In 1994, Medieval Studies Librarian Marina Smyth wrote: “The Medieval Institute Library: A Brief History,” which details the growth of the library collection up to that time.

The current mission statement of the Medieval Institute reads:

The Medieval Institute, founded in 1946, promotes research and teaching on the multiple cultures, languages, and religions of the medieval period and their interrelations. Our institute fosters an interdisciplinary intellectual community through advancing scholarship in our world-class medieval library collection; hosting research visitors from this country and abroad; sponsoring lectures, conferences, and other academic events; and serving as a premier center in the United States for training students in medieval studies. We offer both an undergraduate major and a Ph.D. program in medieval studies; students can work with over sixty faculty medievalists, from a dozen different departments around the university. The Medieval Institute coordinates and facilitates the activities of the largest contingent of medievalists of any North American university.