Collaborative Projects

The following list a short selection of recent collaborative research ventures between the Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds and other bodies of funding and scholarship. If you have any queries or recommendations for additions, please contact us at

Rethinking Reform 900-1150: Conceptualising Change in Medieval Religious Institutions

An International Research Network funded for three years (2016-19) by the Leverhulme Trust, this project brings together medieval scholars from across Europe. The now universal label ‘reform’ is a modern construct going back to c.1800 and conceals more than it reveals. Central to the project is consideration of the question: How should we conceptualise the programme of institutional changes which swept the Western church 900-1150? 

The project is coordinated by Professor Julia Barrow, with partners from the universities of UEA, KU Leuven, Ghent, Paris VIII, Mainz and Durham. Central to the investigative work are four one-day workshops exploring different facets of the main theme at sites across Europe (York, Leuven, Leeds and Mainz) and the project will culminate in a two-day conference at Ghent University in 2019. The first workshop, Languages of Reform, was hosted by the University of York in January 2017; the second, The Narratives of Reform, took place at KU Leuven in September 2017; and the third took place at the University of Leeds in April 2018. The final workshop will take place at JGU Mainz in September 2018.

Imitation: Mechanisms of a Cultural Principle in the Middle Ages

A 3-year collaborative project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, this initiative explores the significance of imitation for medieval social, cultural and religious history. Dr Melanie Brunner is the only UK-based member of the initiative.  In light of recent plagiarism scandals in German politics, the project also addresses the tension between originality and tradition, innovation and imitation in the Middle Ages and beyond. Project members are drawn from universities in Germany, Switzerland and Russia.  

Origins of Firepower

This project develops collaborations between the Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS), History and Philosophy of Science (HPS), and the Centre for Heritage Research (CHR) within the university, and the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the Arms & Armour Research Institute, University of Huddersfield, and other partners across the UK and beyond. The project centres on the transitional development of gunnery, the birth of modern technically-trained experts in engineering, and wider 'revolutionary' developments in warfare and natural philosophy (science) in the period. Origins of Firepower seeks to expand a core area within the IMS's historic 'Fields of Conflict' research focus on the production and procurement of weapons, cannon, and scientific instruments, among other aims. 

‘Not the Final Frontier’: The World of Medieval Islands

Funded by the Newton Trust, this project brings Dr Luca Zavagno of Bilkent University in Turkey to Leeds to work with Dr Jonathan Jarrett and IMS affiliate Dr Rebecca Darley of Birkbeck, University of London, to re-examine the role of the Mediterranean islands in the history of the late antique and early medieval periods. Malta, Sicily, Crete and Cyprus were all imperial Byzantine possessions at the beginning of this period, and for a long time were the Empire’s furthest frontier with its maritime neighbours. New work, including Dr Zavagno’s, however emphasises that this did not make these places defensive boltholes but rather hubs of contacts extending in several directions. What can we learn by re-examining these ‘middle grounds’ and making them centres, rather than edges, of Mediterranean history? Two round tables and a postgraduate workshop in Leeds will work towards some answers to this question. 

Rethinking the Medieval Frontier

Thanks to the award of a Small Research Grant by the British Academy, Dr Jonathan Jarrett has been able to build on research he has already conducted to form a network of scholars interested in new insights on medieval frontiers and border zones. This is a traditional area of study for medievalists, but there are many new insights from anthropology and political science to consider, in addition to comparisons from other periods. This research demonstrates complex frontier situations in the Middle Ages, not unlike modern nation-states and discussions of agreed borders. As we move towards an area of international uncertainty on issues of borders and the nature of states, what do the Middle Ages and their frontiers have to tell us about how people, polities and cultures interact? Gathering a team of interested scholars from the Universities of Leeds, Swansea, Exeter, Kent and Birmingham, as well as the Universidad del País Vasco in the Basque Country and Bilkent University in Turkey, Dr Jarrett plans a series of workshops and conferences, using the medieval frontier as a foundation, that will build new models and frameworks of enquiry which can also potentially be used by scholars in other fields researching frontiers. 

White Rose Collaboration Project 'Marginalisation and the Law'

Just like in the modern world, medieval societies contained subordinate groups and individuals who were repeatedly relegated to the margins. While many of these groups have been the subject of extensive discussion, historians have paid far less attention to the methods by which marginal identities were created, identified, expressed, or rewritten over time. One of the most important of these methods is the operation of laws. This project brings together four historians with expertise on medieval law and two scholars of contemporary socio-legal theory in order to examine the key elements that have underpinned the processes of marginalisation in the medieval and modern periods. The expertise of the medievalists ranges broadly, from AD 600-1500 and over Western Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic world. The law scholars specialise in the relationship of the law to gender, sexuality, mental health, and criminal offending from the Victorian period to the present day. Through a series of workshops and lectures in Leeds, Sheffield, and York, these scholars aim to explore the vocabulary of marginalisation in the medieval and modern worlds; identify forms of continuity and change in the way that groups have been marginalised; and consider the limits and powers of different types of law to create marginal groups. Dr Maroula Perisanidi is the Lead Academic for the project, and Dr Melanie Brunner is also associated with this project.