Articles Features

From Beowulf to the First Crusade: 10 Medieval Studies’ Articles Published Last Month

What’s new in medieval studies? Here are ten articles published in April, which tell us about topics including dealing with guests in Sweden to trade in Ethiopia. 

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 over 40 open-access articles we found.


The First Crusade and the Failure of Kerbogha’s Campaign from Mosul to Antioch (March–June 1098): A Re-evaluation

By Thomas Brosset


Abstract: This article addresses why the campaign of Kerbogha’s combined forces against the First Crusade failed by using accounts in Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Latin, and Old French. The discussion starts with an overview of how the different claims that explain the campaign’s failure have evolved since the eighteenth century. Then, for the first time, Kerbogha’s route from Mosul to Antioch has been precisely recreated, revealing a longer campaign than formerly estimated. The focus of the article then discusses the reasons why Kerbogha besieged Edessa. This section is followed by an explanation of why the failure of the siege led to the collapse of the entire campaign. Finally, the tactics used during the battle of 28 June 1098 are re-evaluated by considering the poor condition of the combined Muslim force. The article claims the campaign primarily failed because of the deficient structure of the army and the rivalries between its commanders.

Click here to read this article

The Donati-Ardinghelli Wedding of 1465: A Closer Reading of Braccio Martelli’s Letter of April 27 to Lorenzo de’ Medici

By Judith Bryce

Renaissance Quarterly

Abstract: This article offers an intensive—although still not exhaustive—reading of a letter written to the adolescent Lorenzo de’ Medici by Braccio Martelli, a member of his brigata. It is a document that focuses on the celebrations accompanying the wedding of Lucrezia Donati, the object of Lorenzo’s affections, to Niccolò Ardinghelli, an anti-Medicean living in exile. I examine some of the letter’s multiple overlapping topics and contexts, including private sociability (wedding practices, music, dance, dress), the trophy status of Lucrezia, sexual and political tensions, and the ties between the letter writer and his addressee in terms of client/patron and homosocial relations.


Click here to read this article

Osbert of Clare and the reforging of Westminster Abbey’s past

By Jennie M. England


Abstract: Twelfth-century Westminster Abbey was a centre of forgery production: its scriptorium not only produced charters claiming rights and privileges for its own house but also contributed to the production of spurious documents for other English monasteries. Among these forgeries, the distinctive draftsmanship of one monk—Osbert of Clare—has been traced in some of Westminster’s longer and more elaborate creations. But Osbert was more than a forger, he also wrote hagiographical Lives of saints, including that of Edward the Confessor, whose cult he fiercely championed. Osbert’s different identities have long been recognised, but never reconciled. This essay investigates both Osbert’s forgeries and hagiography, and in doing so reveals that it is only by considering these different genres of writing together that Osbert’s (and his abbey’s) ambitions can be fully recognised. In particular, it appears that Osbert’s forgeries sought to claim prestige for Westminster not only through their contents, but also through the memories they invoked and invented.

Click here to read this article

The legal position of guests in late medieval Stockholm

By Sofia Gustafsson

Urban History 

Abstract: The article analyses the legal position of foreign visitors in late medieval Stockholm through the prism of the concept of legal certainty, which requires public, explicit and clear regulations, an institutionalized jurisdiction and equal, just and impartial judgments in court. The article concludes that the authorities in Stockholm strove to create legal certainty for foreign guests and that the regulated relationship between local hosts and visiting guests both provided a control mechanism for the authorities and security for the guests.

Click here to read this article

Hildegard of Bingen: Philosophical Life and Spirituality

By Peter Harteloh


Abstract: Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) was a medieval mystic. From a young age, she had many colorful visions and became well known and influential not only in her own time but in ours as well. Her music reached the mellow house scene in the 1990s, reviving Hildegard’s spirituality for people today. In this paper, I will approach Hildegard as a philosophical practitioner and conduct an imaginary philosophical consultation. I will study her biography, listen to her words by some authentic text fragments and propose a spiritual exercise on her music in order not to just think about Hildegard of Bingen but to try and think like Hildegard of Bingen, in line with the principles of philosophical practice. This way, I will try to understand Hildegard in a practical way and not (just) annotate the regular (theoretical) interpretations of her life. I will distinguish three phases in her life as movements towards spirituality: (1) her relationship with the world, (2) her relationship with God, and (3) her relationship with herself as a spiritual being. I will argue that her life is an example of a philosophical life. Hildegard’s “not fitting in any place” (being átopos) and her development define such a life as a path towards an authentic self, attained by spirituality. The paper intends to contribute both to the understanding of philosophical consultations and to the understanding of Hildegard of Bingen

Click here to read this article

The Qurʾān as a Historical Source

By James Howard-Johnston

Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association 

Abstract: The redirection of the qiblah to the Kaʿbah (Q 2:142-5) is redated from 622, very soon after the hijrah where it is placed in the sīrah, to 628 on the eve of the Prophet’s negotiations with the leaders of Mecca at al-Ḥudaybiyah. It is interpreted as a compromise forced on the Prophet, if he was to reach a settlement with the Quraysh. A corollary was God’s authorisation of pilgrimage in pagan fashion and of animal sacrifice at the Kaʿbah (Q 22: 23-38, Q 5: 2-4). The Kaʿbah was redesignated a monotheist sanctuary, on the grounds of its foundation by Abraham (Q 2:125-7, Q 3:96-8, Q 22:28-9). These sūrahs (and an anomalous late passage in Q 14:35-7) are all late. No earlier sūrah associates Abraham with the Kaʿbah.


Click here to read this article

Byzantine plate and Frankish mines: the provenance of silver in north-west European coinage during the Long Eighth Century (c. 660–820)

By Jane Kershaw, Stephen W. Merkel, Paolo D’Imporzano and Rory Naismith


Abstract: The late seventh-century introduction of silver coinage marked a transformation in the economy of north-west Europe, yet the source(s) of the silver bullion behind this change remains uncertain. Here, the authors use combined lead isotope and trace element analysis of 49 coins from England, Frisia and Francia to provide new insights into north-European silver sources during the ‘long eighth century’ (c. AD 660–820). The results indicate an early reliance on recycled Byzantine silver plate, followed by a shift c. AD 750 to newly mined metal from Francia. This change indicates the strong role of the Carolingian state in the control of metal sources and economic structures across the North Sea zone.

Click here to read this article

Beowulf, the Wrath of God and the Fall of the Angels

By Francis Leneghan

English Studies

Abstract: Beowulf’s anger has typically been viewed either negatively, as a sign of his monstrosity, or positively, as a form of furor heroicus (heroic anger). This article argues that the hero’s battle-fury is a manifestation of the wrath of God. Through comparison with Genesis A and other Old English biblical poems, it identifies the Fall of the Angels as an important new context for Beowulf’s first two monster-fights. Countering arguments that Beowulf is a flawed or even failed hero, it proposes that when read in the light of Old English biblical poetry, Beowulf emerges not as frenzied berserker but as a righteous avenger whose anger is controlled and directed against evil.

Click here to read this article

Elite Attitudes to the ‘Public Sphere’ in Fifteenth-Century Castile

By Laurence McKellar

Journal of Medieval History 

Abstract: This article examines the manifold and complex responses of fifteenth-century elite politicians and writers to ‘public’ politics in Castile. Through analysis of a variety of sources including chronicles, allegorical poems, treatises, glosses and letters, it shows how the multiple conceptions of non-elite agency and attitudes to it can nuance our understanding of Castilian politics in the late Middle Ages. It argues that fifteenth-century chronicles, glosses and allegorical poems demonstrate a new attention from the elite to wider contexts beyond the confines of the traditional political society, which responded both to literary fashions and to real changes in the political reality of late medieval society. Moreover, their complex and even contradictory responses, which denigrated, appropriated and addressed these wider ‘publics’, ought to be considered integral to the development of ‘public opinion’, as part of a set of discursive and institutional struggles for the right to express political opinions.


Click here to read this article

Some factors affecting the prosperity of trade in Ethiopia, 14th–18th Centuries

By Mengistie Zewdu Tessema and Wondemeneh Adera Ayalew

Cogent Arts & Humanities

Abstract: Trade has long been one of the significant economic activities in the Ethiopian region and the Horn of Africa. However, some challenges had been hampering the development and prosperity of the trade. Thus, the main purpose of this article is to explore factors that affected the development and prosperity of trade in Ethiopia between the 14th and the 17th centuries. To carry out this study, both primary and secondary sources are employed. Using thematic analysis, a qualitative research approach, the study attempts to explore the factors that handicapped the development of trade in Ethiopia in the period understudy. This study revealed that the underdevelopment of trade during the period was not associated to a single factor. Rather factors like negative social attitude toward trade; the state’s limited control over the origin of items of trade; uncertain access to the Sea; the shift in the diplomacy of the state and limited diversity in the items of trade; and the absence of currency had contributed for the underdevelopment of trade. Thereby, this article argues that the limited growth of trade is associated with multiple factors which were hampering the commercial sector from attaining its utmost level of prosperity.

Click here to read this article

We found 41 open-access articles from April – 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 March