Hastings: An Unusual Battle


Part of the reason academic warriors have covered the ground so often is that the battle is by no means easy to understand. It was unusual in a number of ways; so unusual, that the battle demands special care in interpretation.

Diagnosis of a ‘Plague’ Image: A Digital Cautionary Tale

This image has been mistakenly used to depict the Black Death, however it actually refers to leprosy - from British Library, MS Royal 6 E VI, vol. 2, fol. 301ra

This short essay offers a lesson in caution. It is a story of error, but also an opportunity to be reminded of the care needed to properly contextualize all our evidence

Small-town life in a late medieval Burgundy: the case of Cluny

Town of Cluny - photo by Ludovic Péron / Wikimedia Commons

To serve the domestic needs of the mother community, a town grew up at the gates of the abbey in which traders and merchants, men of law and craftsmen of all sorts soon established themselves.

Trickery, Mockery and the Scottish Way of War

The earliest known depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 from a 1440s manuscript of Walter Bower's Scotichronicon

This article seeks to examine two prominent themes, those of trickery and mockery, in how warfare against England was represented in Scottish historical narratives of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Dental Health in Viking Age Icelanders

Photo by Allan Foster / Flickr

The purpose of the study was to evaluate dental health in Iceland 1000 years ago.

Medieval iconography of watermelons in Mediterranean Europe

Image of watermelon from the Tractatus de herbis, British Library ms. Egerton 747, which was produced in southern Italy, around the year 1300

With the objective of obtaining an improved understanding of watermelon history and diversity in this region, medieval drawings purportedly of watermelons were collected, examined and compared for originality, detail and accuracy.

Marking the Face, Curing the Soul? Reading the Disfigurement of Women in the Later Middle Ages


This specific example, and a survey of later medieval texts suggests that the period between 1150 and 1500 was one of increasing attention to the facial features of both men and women within and outside clerical circles, driven partly by increased exposure of western Europeans to peoples of different physical appearance, and partly by the rediscovery of the ancient pseudo-science of physiognomy, which claimed to read character traits from facial features.

‘Like the Wick of the Lamp, Like the Silkworm They Are’: Stupid Schoolteachers in Classical Arabic Literary Sources

Teaching - photo by Wolfgang Sauber / Wikipedia

That schoolteachers were incorrigibly fatuous was certainly a common perception, widespread in adab literature of the ʿAbbāsid period and in later sources too. Indeed, the question of their stupidity, or rather, the stereotype of ‘the stupid schoolteacher’ was a topos which several classical and post-classical writers were fond of using, along with others such as ‘the dull person’, ‘the smart sponger’ and ‘the ridiculous bedouin’.

Rapid Invention, Slow Industrialization, and the Absent Entrepreneur in Medieval China

17th century Map of China

For some sixteen centuries, about eight times the length of the period since the onset of England’s Industrial Revolution, China was the source of an astonishing outpouring of inventions that included a vast variety of prospectively valuable novelties as diverse as printing, the blast furnace, the spinning wheel, the wheelbarrow, and playing cards, in addition to the more widely recognized gunpowder and compass.

Can Florence in the Quatrocento Help Shape Tax Policy Today?

Florence a 1500

I therefore decided to apply what I knew about tax policy—the only subject on which I was conversant and which seemed remotely relevant—to Florence in the days of the Medici, and see what happened.

The Sense of Time in Anglo-Saxon England

Sundial at the Church of St John the Baptist, Pampisford, Cambridgeshire. Photo by Nige Brown / Flickr

Much has been written about how the Anglo- Saxons measured time, but relatively little about why, or in what circumstances. When did it seem important to note the year or the month, the day or the hour?

The Book of Dame Frevisse: Margaret Frazer’s Medieval Mysteries

margaret frazer novice tale

Margaret Frazer has written and published fifteen medieval mystery books thus far. These books are considered detective fiction.

Patrician Purity and the Female Person in Early Renaissance Venice

Venetian couple at the Carnival - photo by Frank Kovalchek /Wikipedia

This essay studies the Venetian patriciate’s enforcement of its exclusiveness and superior status by focusing on the purity and social standing on the women of the class.

Halls, ‘hall-houses’ and tower-houses in medieval Ireland: disentangling the needlessly entangled

Moylough castle - Photo by 	liam murphy / Geography.org.uk

This short paper addresses what I regard as two critical issues in Irish castellological research: the definition of the ‘hall-house’, and the relationship of buildings so identified with the tower-houses of the later middle ages.

Renaissance Robotics: Leonardo da Vinci’s Lost Knight and Enlivened Materiality

Model of Leonardo's robot with inner workings, as displayed in Berlin. Photo by Erik Möller

The knight, when activated, would spring upright while simultaneously closing its arms in a lateral, pectoral embrace.

Neither Cursed Nor Possessed: Mental Abnormality in the Late Middle Ages

15th century image of Saint Thomas Aquinas

I plan to address the more formal ecclesiastical proscriptions regarding mental abnormality.

Performative Rituals for Conception and Childbirth in England, 900–1500

British Library - Royal 2 B VII  f. 22v

This study proposes that performative rituals—that is, verbal and physical acts that reiterate prior uses—enabled medieval women and men to negotiate the dangers and difficulties of conception and childbirth.

Shell-keeps re-visited: the bailey on the motte?

Bedford Castle, from Matthew Paris' Chronica Majora

This essay revisits the historiography, history and archaeology of shell-keeps, offering a critique both of past applications of the term and of the sites themselves.

The Sacred and the Profane: Understanding the Motives of the First Crusaders

The Four Leaders of the First Crusade (1095) - from François Guizot, The History of France from the Earliest Times to the Year 1789, (London, 1883)

Various explanations have been proposed to explain why tens of thousands of medieval men and women would travel several thousand miles and endure great hardship in order to try to reassert Christian control over the Holy Land.

The Fool as Entertainer and Satirist, on Stage and in the World

Luttrell Psalter - Two men are carrying on their shoulders a pole, on which is seated a bearded, naked man, coloured blue and carrying a bladder-balloon on a stick, a sign of the jester or fool. (British Library)

In the Middle Ages he symbolized the vanity of human pretension, whereas the lord he served represented divine perfection; it was a neat image of the antithesis within man’s nature, as they conceived it, sublime and ridiculous together.

‘God Damn’: The Law and Economics of Monastic Malediction

Hildebert cursing a mouse. An image from the  12th century manuscript De Civitate Dei

Today monks are known for turning the other cheek, honoring saints, and blessing humanity with brotherly love. But for centuries they were known equally for fulminating their foes, humiliating saints, and casting calamitous curses at persons who crossed them.

Kissing Heaven’s Door: the Medieval Legend of Judas Iscariot

The Betrayal with Judas kissing Christ and soldiers standing by.  British Library Harley 1782   f. 6v

When we consider Judas Iscariot as he appears in the Bible in modern terms, we might think along the lines of a pantomime villain.

Curse or Blessing: What’s in the Magic Bowl?

Incantation bowl with an Aramaic inscription around a demon. Now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

I intend to look at magic bowls in order to see how and for what purpose they were used, and to get a glimpse at the way they worked and what hidden treasures can be found within them.

The Iconography of ‘Husband-beating’ on Late-Medieval English Misericords

Misericord, St Mary's church, Fairford
A woman beating a man, grabbing his hair.
15th C. possibly taken from Cirencester Abbey. Photo by Julian P Guffogg / Geograph.org.uk

More misericords depicting husband-beating survive in England than in other European countries, and their artistic profusion is mirrored in the rich vernacular tradition for which violent wives proved a favoured subject.

The English way of war, 1360-1399

Anointing of Pope Gregory XI. Battle of Pontvallin (1370). Bibliotheque Nationale MS Fr. 2643

This thesis challenges the orthodox view that the years 1360 to 1399 witnessed a period of martial decline for the English.

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