Old Rulers of the Middle Ages: Kings, Doges and Popes. A Contribution to Gerontological Medieval Studies
Dr. Christian Alexander Neumann
Ageing and old age are universal and multifaceted phenomena: they are both gradual biological processes and at the same time culturally constructed concepts, and thus variable objects of interest. One of the project's key questions is how the "age" factor influences the nature and character of human behaviour. This is especially valid for the holders of political power and also applies to other periods of history. The overarching aim is to analyse the period of old age experienced by medieval rulers using a comparative approach with an interdisciplinary medieval gerontological perspective. Until now the topic has not been studied theoretically or empirically. In this context, it seems fruitful to reflect upon the application of the concept of "gerontocracy" in medieval history. The three largely distinct research traditions of medieval studies on old age, monarchy and modern gerontology shall be brought together. In this way, medieval monarchy will be looked at from a new perspective while gerontology theories will be tested using specific historical examples. The kings of England, Venetian Doges and popes will all be taken into consideration. Additional restrictions will be imposed within these case studies, due to the large quantity of material available. In order to examine the project's fundamental questions further, three distinct approaches will be used one after the other: discursive, discursive-praxeological and praxeological. One of the fundamental matters to approach will be the degree to which text-based representations of old rulers are permeated by discursive norms and ideals and the possible change of a sovereign's behaviour while ageing.