Announcement: Virtual Launch Event: History & Community – 20 Exhibits from Downside Abbey

Virtual launch event

Monday 30 November 2020, 5.00-6.30pm GMT.

Sign up via link at the bottom of this post.

History creates community, and community creates history. Being part of a community means sharing histories, and these histories leave traces that can be encountered long after the event. The experience of such encounters enables us to develop a sense of our past and to connect with our community’s history and identity.

A perfect example of this are the materials preserved at Downside Abbey, not only in its library, archives and special collections, but also dotted around the abbey complex. Together they expose a rich, outward-looking historical and cultural heritage that connects Downside with the history of its neighbourhood, the Southwest region, the British Isles, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, the Vatican, Russia and even Australia.

Featuring twenty carefully curated exhibits rarely or never displayed before, this online exhibition presents a vibrant panorama of the community’s heritage from Roman settlements in Somerset to medieval German monasteries, and from Russia at the eve of the Revolution to the beaches of Dunkirk in World War II.

All exhibits were chosen and curated through close collaboration between Downside’s community and a team of academic researchers from the University of Bristol under the direction of Dr Benjamin Pohl. The virtual launch event will include talks by Dr Pohl and the project team, a live demo of the exhibition website plus a Q&A session.

Registration (free of charge) is required in advance .

Join the virtual launch event on Monday 30 November 2020, 5.00-6.30pm GMT.

The event will be held as a Zoom webinar, and attendance is free and open to all.

Sign up to register your attendance (required):

The exhibition was made possible through generous funding and support by The British Academy, the Centre for Medieval Studies (University of Bristol), the Centre for Material Texts (University of Bristol) and the Centre for Monastic Heritage (Downside Abbey and University of Bristol).

We look forward to celebrating the launch of this exhibition with you!

Announcement: project workshop ‘History & Community, Part II: History @Downside’

Below is the poster for our second project workshop (entitled: ‘History & Community, Part II: History @Downside’), which will take place at Downside Abbey (Stratton-on-the-Fosse) on Wednesday 25 March 2020.

In this workshop, we will present and discuss the ongoing work undertaken collaboratively by the project PI (Dr Benjamin Pohl), two student research assistants (UoB), Downside’s monks and the abbey’s Director of Heritage and Outreach Officer in preparation of a public exhibition that will take place at Downside at the end of 2020. The exhibition carries the working title ‘History @Downside: An Exhibition in 20 Objects’, and it will feature a carefully chosen and curated selection of materials from the abbey’s special collections.

Attendees will be given the opportunity to engage first-hand with heritage-related work-in-progress, provide feedback on the materials selected so far and even suggest additional materials for display in the exhibition. This will take the shape of an informal conversation (guided by the workshop organiser) between the participants, the exhibition team and the monastic community of Downside Abbey.

Attendance is free (incl. a free lunch), and travel will be provided free of charge between the University of Bristol and Downside Abbey on the day. A shuttle bus will leave from outside 13 Woodland Road at 8.15am, and it will leave Downside in the afternoon (3pm or thereabouts). Following popular demand at our previous workshop, there will also be a special guided tour of the abbey church, the monastic library and the special collections after lunch.

The list of participants is filling up quickly, and as before we will also set up a waiting list (operated on a first-come-first-serve basis). If you would like to attend, please email

Call for submissions – ‘History & Community’ – Downside Review Special Issue Spring 2021

We are excited to announce that we are now inviting submissions of articles (7,500–9,500 words max. incl. references) for a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal The Downside Review, guest-edited by Dr Benjamin Pohl (University of Bristol; project PI).

The theme of our special issue will be ‘History & Community’, and we are aiming to address a range of scholarship on the subjects of history, historical writing, historical thought and historical consciousness in Western monastic communities from the beginnings to the present day.

Topics may include, but are not limited to: the relationship between historical writing and communal identity within a monastic setting; the collective nature and outlook of monastic historiographical production; the relationship between history, liturgy and the daily monastic life; the role(s) played by individuals acting as historians (or ‘agents of history’) within their communities; the codification of communal memories; etc.

There are no chronological or geographical limitations, and we welcome contributions from across the Arts and Humanities. Depending on the number of submissions received, this special issue will be published in one or two volumes as The Downside Review’s January and/or April issue(s) 2021.

For submission guidelines (incl. guidance on formatting, referencing, peer-review, permissions etc.), please visit the journal website.

For general information, see

Please email your submission to and no later than 1 September 2020. Any enquiries should be sent to the same email addresses.

Please help us spread the word by sharing this post and the poster below.


Announcement: public lecture ‘Abbots as Historians’, 27 Feb 2020

In this public lecture, Dr Benjamin Pohl (University of Bristol, project PI) will explore how and why medieval Benedictine abbots engaged first-hand with the writing of history by recording the traditions and collective memories of their monastic communities.

Which resources were available to these abbot-historians that ordinary monks did not have at their disposal? What difference did it make when the monastic historian was himself an abbot? Was it common for medieval abbots to pick up the pen, or was it an exception?

The public lecture will take place at Downside Abbey Visitor Centre on Thursday 27 February 2020, 5pm. Attendance is free and refreshments will be available.

Booking for the event is essential by emailing Steve Parsons or calling 01761 235323. Further details available here:

Announcement: project workshop ‘History & Community, Part I: History in the Community’

Below is the poster for the first of two project workshops (entitled: ‘History & Community, Part I: History in the Community’), which will take place at Downside Abbey (Stratton-on-the-Fosse) on the morning of Wednesday 11 Dec 2019. The list of participants is filling up quickly, but we will have a waiting list (operated on a strict first-come-first-serve basis) in case any of our registered participants drop out in the interim. If you would like to attend/join the waiting list, please email