The Heloise of History

Raymond Monvoisin depiction of Heloise in the 19th century

This thesis seeks to determine the historical role of the twelfth-century abbess Heloise, apart from the frequently cited and disputed letters exchanged between her and Peter Abelard.

How to Tell if Your 12th-Century Lover is Just Not That Into You

14th century depiction of Frau Minne, the personification of courtly love

In the twelfth century, courtly love was all the rage with the French nobility. To participate in this trendiest of trends, though, you actually needed to know the rules.

The ‘Miracle of Childbirth’: The Portrayal of Parturient Women in Medieval Miracle Narratives

14th century birth scene, from British Library Royal 2 B VII   f. 48

This paper explores how tales of difficult births found in medieval miracle narratives can contribute to our understanding of the experience of pregnancy and childbirth in twelfth-century England.

The Mad Norse King

King Sigurðr depicted by Gerhard Munthe (1849–1929)

What happens when the mental health of a medieval King of Norway declines and falls into madness? The story of Sigurðr the Crusader, who reigned for over 25 years, reveals a fascinating account of mental illness from the 12th century.

Financing the tribute to the Kingdom of Jerusalem: An urban tax in Damascus


After a brief introduction to legal taxation and Saljuq fiscal policy, the philological problems in the definition of a specific due, al-fissa, illegitimate according to the sharia, will be addressed along with its political function and history. This due was levied in Damascus for the tribute to the Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson

Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson

My book review of Robin Hood tale, Arrow of Sherwood by Lauren Johnson.

How to destroy gods

Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona - created by Laurits Tuxen (1853–1927)

In the year 1168 a Danish bishop destroyed three pagan gods. The story is told in Gesta Danorum, by Saxo Grammaticus, which has recently been entirely translated into English for the first time.

Movie Review: Tristan and Isolde

Tristan and Isolde, starring James Franco and Sophia Myles.

As far as medieval movies go, Tristan and Isolde definitely isn’t the worst I’ve seen. I was looking for a movie to watch after work, and I thought, hey, James Franco, Sophia Moyles, Henry Cavill, and Rufus Sewell, all directed by Ridley Scott?! – this can’t be that bad. Well, it was pretty bad, but it wasn’t the worst 2 hours of my life. So what went wrong?

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.

‘Naked and Unarmoured’: A Reassessment of the Role of the Galwegians at the Battle of the Standard

15th century map British Isles - Photo: Brooklyn Museum

Accounts of the Battle of the Standard, fought in 1138 between the army of David I, King of Scots and the northern English forces rallied by Thurstan, Archbishop of York, have unvaryingly placed the blame for the Scottish defeat on David’s Galwegian warriors who, against armoured English ranks, fled in confusion.

Miracles from Medieval Iceland

saint thorlak - 15th century image of the saint, now found in the National Museum of Iceland - photo from Youtube

The first saint from Iceland was Thorlak Thorhallsson. The saga of his life reveals dozens of the miracles that were attributed to him after his death. Here are ten of these miracles, which reveal much about religion and daily life in medieval Iceland.

King Stephen’s Siege Tactics

Lincoln Castle - Photo by Gustavo Faraon / Flickr

I will describe Stephen’s siege tactics in three general areas: (1) indirect assault, (2) direct assault, and (3) non-weapon engineering.

Foundation Myths in Medieval and Renaissance Italy

Plaque of Regola, the VII rione of Rome. (

The 3 papers featured here looked at the development of the civic identities of Florence, Genoa and Rome through art, architecture and foundation legends.

Conflicting Perspectives: Chivalry in Twelfth-Century Historiography

Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Division occidentale, Français 226, fol. 256v, Bataille de Tinchebray (1106)

Historians have found the task of defining medieval chivalry to be an elusive task.

Finding Truth in the Myth of Lady Godiva: Femininity, Sex, and Power in Twelfth Century England

Lady Godiva by John Collier, c. 1897

Although it is now widely accepted that Lady Godiva never mounted her horse ‘bareback,’ the infamous Domesday Book documented she was indeed a landowner in Coventry. In isolation, this tale is a pleasurable story of risk-taking.

Enumerating the Battles, Skirmishes, and Naval Actions at the Siege of Acre

Philip Augustus and Richard I receiving the surrender of Acre

Hosler examines the many episodes during the siege, which involved Saladin’s Egyptian and Syrian troops, fighting against crusader forces that were eventually joined by kings Philip Augustus and Richard I.

12th-century copy of Consolation of Philosophy was written in Scotland, scholar finds

Dr Kylie Murray with the Boethius manucript - photo courtesy the University of Oxford

A twelfth-century copy of the ‘Consolation of Philosophy’ by Boethius, has been revealed to have been been written in Scotland, making it the oldest surviving non-biblical manuscript from that country.

Angels and the Antichrist: The Cardeña Beatus

Cardeña Beatus 1

Take a look inside the pages of the 12th century manuscript Cardeña Beatus

Philippa Langley: The End of Richard III and the Beginning of Henry I

Philippa Langley placing a rose on Richard's casket. Will Johnston - Leicester Cathedral.

Amidst all the excitement, and the whirlwind that was Richard III’s reburial in Leicester, I managed to catch up with one of the world’s most famous Ricardians, ‘the Kingfinder’, Philippa Langley.

The German Crusade of 1197-1198

Reconquest of Beirut, Alexandre Hesse, 1842

This article reconsiders the significance of the German Crusade of 1197-8, often dismissed as a very minor episode in the history of the Crusading movement.

Infidel Dogs: Hunting Crusaders with Usama ibn Munqidh

Battle between the Turks and the Crusaders  - The Hague, KB, KA 20 fol. 254v

Few works of medieval Arabic literature are as valuable to the student of Islamic perspectives on the Crusades as the Kitab al-I tibar or Book of Learning by Example by the Syrian warrior and man-of-letters Usama ibn Munqidh (1095–1188).

Danish Ferocity and Abandoned Monasteries: the Twelfth-century View

Lindisfarne ruins - created by  Thomas Girtin (1775–1802)

This article tries to explain why twelfth-century authors found it so important to invent stories of Viking brutality towards monks and nuns and what ideas and material they used to create their stories.

The Partition of a Kingdom: Strathclyde 1092-1153

Strathclyde kingdom - Wikimedia Commons

The last British king of Strathclyde, Owein, son of Dyfnal, died in 1018. At that time his kingdom stretched from Lennox, north of the Clyde, as far south as the Rere Cross at Stainmore in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

The Anglo-Saxon War-Culture and The Lord of the Rings: Legacy and Reappraisal

The Lord of the Rings - Aragorn

The literature of war in English claims its origin from the Homeric epics, and the medieval accounts of chivalry and the crusades.

The Lion’s Roar: Anger in the Dispute between Henry II and Thomas Becket

Henry II arguing with Thomas Becket

The purpose of this paper will be to analyze representations of anger in the sources on Becket’s life and the place of anger in the dispute, and to assess what that suggests about understandings and uses of anger in twelfth-century English politics.

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