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.

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.

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.

Another Medieval Drinking Song

Image by Matthäus Fridrich from the 16th century

But bring us in good ale, good ale, and bring us in good ale,
For our blessed Lady’s sake, bring us in good ale!

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.

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 /

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 Problem of Old Debts: Jewish Moneylenders in Northern Castile

View of Belorado in sepia from its castle - photo by  FranzPisa / Wikimedia Commons

Focusing especially on Jewish moneylending, the article explores economic relations between Jews and Christians in Northern Castile at the turn of the fourteenth century.

Capital and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England

Jay Paul Gates

Jay Gates, Nicole Marafioti and Valerie Allen speak about Capital and Corporal Punishment in Anglo-Saxon England

‘Spurred on by the Fear of Death’: Refugees and Displaced Populations during the Mongol Invasion of Hungar


Sensitized by the grim headlines which daily announce the appalling plight of twentieth-century refugees in eastern Europe, I was motivated to investigate the behavior and conditions of medieval refugees fleeing the Mongols.

Dear Dad, Send Money – Letters from Students in the Middle Ages

medieval writing - Jean Miélot at his desk 15th century

I ask of you greetings and money.

Locks of Difference: The Integral Role of Hair as a Distinguishing Feature in Early Merovingian Gaul

Childebert depicted in the 19th century, by  Jean-Louis Bézard

The aim of this paper is to understand the meanings that the Franks ascribed to hair and, in this quest, it will survey the different interpretations of hair that existed in sixth century Gaul.

13th century insult discovered etched into the walls of Nidaros Cathedral

Photo by Asbjørn Svarstad /   Dagbladet News


Sexual Violence in the Early Medieval West

Early Medieval Europe

What kind of acts do we consider as sexual violence in relation to the early Middle Ages? And in particular: does the phenomenon come down to a forced sexual act (in the broadest sense of the word, i.e. in a situation whereby somebody against the will of another person achieves sexual satisfaction)?

Between Subjects and Citizens: the Commons of England, c. 1300-1550

John Watt

The political, social and cultural conditions of later medieval England fostered a situation in which ordinary people could have remarkable political agency.

Alcohol and its Consumption in Medieval Cairo: The Story of a Habit

Beer - photo by abbyladybug /Flickr

Through the ages of Cairene history the alcoholic beverages, entangled in political and religious developments, depended more on prevailing doctrinal currents than on people’s habitual or taste inclinations. Therefore, the story of these beverages’ consumption is – not surprisingly – a turbulent one.

King Sverre on Drunkenness

broken bottle - photo by Jonathan Cohen / Flickr

Sverre Sigurdsson, a medieval King of Norway, tells his followers about the dangers of overdrinking.

New online database allows users to explore the families of Medieval England

Mapping the Medieval Countryside

Mapping the Medieval Countryside has announced that the beta version of their searchable English translations of inquisitions post mortem (IPMs) – a major source into the lives and legacies of thousands of families from the Later Middle Ages.

Scottish Witchcraft: Background and Practices

A Visit to the Witch, by Edward Frederick Brewtnall, 1882

Witch hunting became intensified in many parts of Europe during the Protestant Reformation, and especially so in Scotland.

The Experience of Growing Up in Medieval Society

Medieval Children - Omne Bonum - Royal 6 E.VII, f.67v (det). Wiki Commons.

This session (#508) was one of several at Leeds devoted to exploring childhood in the Middle Ages. Our presenters talked about the stereotypes of adolescence, and what the coroner’s rolls revealed about the deaths (and lives) of medieval children.

Imprisoning the Mentally Ill in Medieval England

imprisonment - Detail of a miniature of Bel Acueil in prison, being guarded by Vielle (old woman). British Library

What to do with mentally ill individuals who are violent? This is a question that modern and medieval societies had to deal with.

Pigs and Prostitutes: Streetwalking in Comparative Perspective

feeding pigs

‘No one shall keep pigs which go in the streets by day or night, nor shall any prostitute stay in the city.’

The Laws about Weddings in Viking-Age Gotland

medieval church on Gotland - photo by  Stella Hwang / Flickr

An important source about daily-life in Viking-Age Scandinavia is Guta Lag, a set of laws from the Swedish island of Gotland. This includes details on how weddings were to be conducted.

Having no Power to Return? Suicide and Posthumous Restlessness in Medieval Iceland

A medieval burial in Iceland - photo by Christian Bickel

The purpose of this study is to examine cultural conceptions of the possible afterlives of suicides in medieval (ca. 1200– 1400) Iceland.

John Rykener, Richard II and the Governance of London

Medieval London Quiz

Its narrative of cross-dressing, male prostitution, gay sex, clerical promiscuity and the like seems to offer a rare window onto late medieval sexuality and sexual mores.

Bishops and Their Towns

City of Lucca, Italy. Image via Flickr by bongo vongo.

Another #KZOO2015 post – this one examines Bishops and Their Towns.

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