Classical Latin Texts in Education, c. 500—c. 1200. What were the medieval “renaissances” all about?

Jaakko Tahkokallio

In my presentation, I examine how the selection of texts used in the study of Latin changed over the Early and High Middle Ages. As the main evidence, I analyse the numbers of surviving manuscripts of classical and late-antique Latin texts. I demonstrate that over the period 800—1200 the classical texts took over the curriculum and pushed the early-Christian poetry, which dominated the pre-Carolingian study of Latin, into relative marginality. I argue that while the medieval renaissances (Carolingian, Twelfth-Century) are problematic concepts as overall cultural shorthands, they do accurately describe developments taking place within Latin education.


Jaakko Tahkokallio studied history, comparative literature and Latin at University of Helsinki, completing his PhD on the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth there in 2013. He then worked as a post-doctoral researcher in Helsinki (2013-2014) and in King’s College, London (2014-2015). In 2015 he took up a permanent position at the National Library of Finland, as a special collections curator.