Articles Features

From Flails to Scandals: 10 Medieval Studies’ Articles Published Last Month

What’s new in medieval studies? Here are ten articles published in March, which tell us about topics including the Bayeux Tapestry and Louis the Stammerer.

This series on highlights what has been published in journals over the last month that deal with the Middle Ages. All ten articles are Open-Access, meaning you can read them for free. We now also have a special tier on our Patreon where you can see the full list of the 50 open-access articles we found.


Medieval Sex Work Studies: The State of the Field

By Lucia Akard

The English Historical Review

Excerpt: Recent scholarship on medieval sex work is varied in its approach: scholars have tackled the thorny issue of identity and subjectivity, examined the economy of sex work, and sought to understand its moral place in medieval society. Despite these varied approaches, however, much of the scholarship continues to persist in othering, and even dehumanising, pre-modern sex workers.

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Holy icon or sacred body? The image of the emperor in the iconoclastic controversy

By Maria Cristina Carile

Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies

Abstract: Throughout Iconoclasm the imperial icon was used in iconophile writings as the major argument in support of icon veneration. It included images of the emperor reproduced in various media and even panel portraits. Although the latter have not survived, they were real objects with a strong presence in the Byzantine system of visual communication. This paper will show that the role of the imperial icon in Byzantine imagery and image theory was closely connected to the perception of the emperor and of the sacred imperial power in Byzantium.


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The Making and Meaning of the Bayeux Tapestry Revisited

By Mark Hagger

Journal of Medieval History

Abstract: This article revives the suggestion, previously made by Otto Werckmeister and Shirley Ann Brown, that the Bayeux Tapestry was intended to act as part of a petition to free Bishop Odo of Bayeux from imprisonment at the hands of his half-brother, William the Conqueror, and that it was commissioned by the three knights named in it, Turold, Wadard and Vitalis, perhaps with the support of Abbot Scolland of St Augustine’s abbey, Canterbury. It argues that the role played by these three knights has been too quickly dismissed, and in so doing asks wider questions including about how political petitions were made and whether any attempt to deny Harold Godwinson a royal title and a reign had been successfully communicated to the population at large.

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Fantastic Flails and Where to Find Them: The Body of Evidence for the Existence of Flails in the Early and High Medieval Eras in Western, Central, and Southern Europe

By Alistair F. Holdsworth


Abstract: Flails are one of the most contentious and misunderstood classes of medieval weaponry, despite their prevalence in popular media: some researchers question their existence entirely and the bulk of historians are skeptical of widespread temporal and geographical prevalence, while others, and a significant volume of period evidence, would argue the contrary. While the expansive use of flails in Eastern Europe and Byzantium is familiar, many Central, Western, and Southern European sources are less well known or largely forgotten, especially those stemming from the later-early and early high medieval eras (up to 1250).

In this work, I collate and discuss the bulk of the available literary references and artistic depictions of flails and their use alongside some of the archaeological finds from Western, Central, and Southern Europe, with an emphasis on the 12th and 13th centuries. The significance of this volume of evidence is examined, and an assessment of flails as a part of medieval culture and warfare is considered. Collectively, this would suggest that knowledge of flails as instruments of war and associated cultural connotations, if not their actual prevalence and use in warfare, was far more widespread across Europe this time period than has been previously estimated.

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The making of towns, the making of polities: Towns and lords in late medieval Europe

By Christian D Liddy

Past & Present

Abstract: The relationship between towns and lords was fundamental both to the making of towns and to the making of polities in the late Middle Ages. The European literature on state growth has led historians to focus on the role of towns in historicizing narratives of state formation and national exceptionalism. These different narratives have depended on urban typologies that emphasize the importance of the self-governing town at the expense of the town that operated under conditions of lordship. Yet the relationship between towns and lords was an essential, and inescapable, aspect of urban life.


The experiences of the English town of Walsall, in the historic county of Staffordshire, are set within a European context. Walsall’s small size made it typical of the majority of urban centres in late medieval Europe. In an enduring pattern, the late medieval town was a site of continuing political experimentation, and urban development necessitated lordship. The complex entanglements between towns and lords also shaped polities. The article makes a case for the comparability of local political landscapes in different parts of Europe.

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An Unbeloved Heir? A Reassessment of Louis the Stammerer’s Role in the Last Years of Charles the Bald’s Reign and its Implications for Understanding Carolingian Rule

By Fraser McNair

Journal of Family History

Abstract: The father–son relationship between Charles the Bald and his eldest son Louis the Stammerer is generally understood as one of hostility and distrust. This article takes several episodes from the final decades of Charles the Bald’s reign to question this, re-examining how royal Carolingian fathers and royal Carolingian sons could take steps to overcome previous conflicts and arguing that political ties within the royal family were more robust, and consequently of different significance for our understanding of Carolingian politics, than is usually understood.

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The Jewish ‘monopoly’ of the slave trade in the early Middle Ages: the origins of an enduring historical motif

Joseph Phelan

Patterns of Prejudice

Abstract: Phelan examines the evidence to support the claim that the assertion that Jews played a leading role in the slave trade in the period following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire originated with the work of a number of late nineteenth-century historians, particularly Heinrich Graetz and Wilhelm Roscher. He finds prior examples of this historical motif in the work of several earlier historians, and traces its origins back to the Henry Hart Milman’s History of the Jews published in 1829. His article demonstrates that Milman’s work was widely known and used throughout the nineteenth century, and examines the reasons behind the emphasis in his work on the mutual antagonism between Christians and Jews. Phelan then goes on to examine the adoption of this motif by late nineteenth-century Jewish writers, including the historian and folklorist Joseph Jacobs, and its appearance in standard reference works like The Jewish Encyclopaedia. He concludes with some reflections on the reasons for this surprising development, as well as some suggestions about the reasons for the renewed interest in this topic among historians in recent years.


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Urban Transformation after a Scandal: Preserving Social Values in Late Medieval Dubrovnik

Ana Plosnić Škarić and Ana Marinković


Abstract: This research reveals the original medieval forms of the Convent of Poor Clares while contextualising the spatial interventions after the scandalous year 1433 that led to the urban transformation of the broader neighbourhood. The research methodology addressed historical visual sources analysed in the context of the information provided by archival documents, starting with the Ordo from 1433 and including all the City Councils’ deliberations until 1450. Linking these two sets of information resulted in the schematic and hypothetical visualisation of the disposition of the convent’s medieval buildings and the identification of all the changes in neighbouring public and private buildings and spaces implemented to achieve the perfect clausura inside the densely built urban fabric. Along with the prison sentence to be served inside this very convent, the nobility of the Republic of Dubrovnik ensured that the social values were preserved for the future.

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Are there limits to globalising the medieval?

By Rebecca De Souza


Abstract: The aim of this article is threefold: firstly, it seeks to critique, from the perspective of Iberian and Latin American studies, the Eurocentrism inherent in the research programme known as the ‘Global Middle Ages’ that has emerged in the last two decades in Humanities faculties primarily in the USA and Europe. Secondly, it argues that the identification of global neomedievalism is particularly indicative of the Eurocentric limits of the global medieval paradigm, which is illustrated with several examples from Hispanophone contexts. Lastly, it proposes some alternative theoretical frames through which to analyse the histories of diverse geographies, which seek to account for multiple global temporalities in different linguistic traditions without reinforcing the medieval/modern construction that is in turn rooted in systemic forms of racism and antiblackness.

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The Impact of the Anglo-Scottish Wars (1286–1347) upon Institutional Memories in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Century Monastic Chronicles and Cartularies of Furness and Byland

By Christopher Tinmouth

Northern History

Abstract: The Anglo-Scottish Wars (1286–1347) had a significant impact on lay and monastic communities across the North of England physically and psychologically, as the pressures of war between England and Scotland divided people along increasingly hostile and “national” lines. Monastic chronicles, such as that of Lanercost, have often been used to make sense of the material effect of Scottish raids, and how identities came to possess an increasingly “national” sense. However, less attention has been paid to how the cartularies of Northern English monasteries contributed to how monastic communities affected by the Anglo-Scottish Wars came to make sense of them.

This article will analyse and compare the Furness Chronicle and Anonimalle Chronicle, produced in the fourteenth century, with the early-fifteenth century cartularies produced by Furness Abbey and Byland Abbey. It will contribute towards recent scholarly assessments of how these sources, and the events they recounted, were selectively edited to inform how the monastic communities who engaged with them remembered the impact of the Anglo-Scottish Wars upon them. Chronicles and cartularies were used together to reinforce an institutional memory, or a collective sense of connection with the history of an institution that Furness and Byland were creating in the early fourteenth century.


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We found 50 open-access articles from March – you can get the full list by joining our Patreon – look for the tier that says Open Access articles in Medieval Studies.

See also our list of open-access articles from February