The Institute for Medieval Research concentrates on the period between c. 300 and c. 1500 in Europe and the Mediterranean World as far as the Euphrates, and combines two fundamental approaches:
- On the one hand, it dedicates its efforts to the documentation, edition and interpretation of medieval sources. The goal is to provide better access to and understanding of medieval texts, but also of images and material objects through editions, manuscript catalogues, data bases, dictionaries, repertoria, handbooks, and other research tools, both in print and online. Accompanying studies offer a profound analysis of the sources. Key activities in this sector include editing charters and registers, documenting and publishing inscriptions, producing scholarly abstracts of the acts of medieval rulers, compiling detailed catalogues and descriptions of medieval manuscripts in Austrian libraries, establishing an exhaustive dictionary of Byzantine Greek and documenting the material traces of the historical geography of Byzantium.
- On the other hand, the institute takes a source-based approach to addressing fundamental research questions. One of its main research areas is the formation of medieval identities. Using a set of interrelated questions, it addresses a wide range of sources in order to understand the relationship between ethnicity, religion, power, discourses and cultural practices. Current research topics include the emergence of European peoples during the transformation of the Roman World, the cultural profile of Carolingian Europe and its transformation, the changing role of ethnicity, the impact of Christianity on the formation of particular identities in a comparative perspective, and the significance of translations into the vernaculars in late medieval Central Europe. Other important fields where a broad historical synthesis is the goal include “Communities and Landscapes” and “Language and Cultural Heritage”.
In all areas, the Institute aims at a better use of the growing potential of the "Digital Humanities".
The Institute constitutes one of the leading centres in international Medieval and Byzantine Studies, and seeks to enhance its services and increase its visibility through hosting visitors, promoting international cooperation and exchanges, organising conferences, workshops and seminars, and making its results accessible through international publications, open-access platforms and outreach activities. By studying the distant past, it aims at helping to understand the present.