Student Initiatives

The following list is a small selection of research and conference initiatives run by students or alumni of the Institute for Medieval Studies and the School of History, University of Leeds. This webpage is maintained and updated regularly to keep up with the active engagements of current and past students. For more information about this page, please contact the IMS at

The Leeds Animal Studies Network

The Leeds Animal Studies Network is a collaborative research group set up by Sunny Harrison (Institute for Medieval Studies) and Caitlin Stobie (School of English) in September 2016 to encourage collaborative modes of research which touch upon diverse approaches to the ‘animal’ in the arts, humanities and science. The LASN was granted funding by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Cultures from 2016-2018 develop discussions between departments and networks both within the University and further afield. 

The LASN has hosted a very successful and enlightening seminar series for the last two years, highlighting the work of UK and international animal scholars on topics ranging from North American Bioarchaeology to animals in Medieval French and Icelandic Literature. In 2017/18 the LASN hosted the second colloquium of Northern Animals, a network bringing together animal scholars from the north of England. LASN will be returning in 2018/2019 with a seminar series, symposium, and public events.

The Medieval Culture and War Conference

Drs Sophie Harwood, Trevor Russell Smith, and Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis, recent graduates of the Institute for Medieval Studies at Leeds, co-organised with Drs Eric Bousmar, Michael Depreter, and Quentin Verreycken at the Universite Saint-Louis - Bruxelles and the Universite catholique de Louvain a three-day conference on 24-26 May 2018. This conference was entitled 'Medieval Culture and War: Power, Authority, Normativity' and continued exploring the important themes established in the first conference held at Leeds on 5-7 May 2016, organised by Harwood, Smith, and Tzouriadis, and the second conference held at the Universidade de Lisboa on 22-24 June, co-organised with Ines Meira Arujo and Antonio Martins Costa. 

This conference was held in Brussels and had twenty-nine papers in ten sessions, along with two keynote presentations by Dr Justine Firnhaber-Baker (University of St Andrews) and Professor Bertrand Schnerb (Universite Lille 3), experts in the field, and guided tours of medieval sites in Brussels, including the Town Hall, Market Square, Porte de Hal, and Town Walls. It attracted speakers and audience members from the UK and many countries in Europe. The conference was a success and produced many fruitful debates and discussions that will be continued in the conference proceedings. The next conference in this annual event is in its initial stages of organisation and will be announced soon. 

For more information about the conference series, including programmes for past conferences, please see the website here

Medieval Bodies Ignored

In 2017/18 four IMS PhD students (Rachael Gillbrand, Sunny Harrison, Rose Sawyer, and Vanessa Wright) organised an interdisciplinary conference concentrating upon the cultural history of the body, particularly that relating to bodies that are ignored, by either medieval society or modern scholarship. The weary carthorse, the one-legged beggar and the cradle bound child were all bodies that were ubiquitous and thus/yet invisible; by attempting to access those elements of this landscape that were tacitly understood at the time, but difficult for the modern scholar to access, this conference encouraged a richer understanding of the complexity of medieval life and culture. The organisers prepared a rich and varied sequence of papers, roundtable discussions, and keynotes. This conference was part of a year-long series of events including sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo) in May 2018 and the International Medieval Congress in July 2018.

The organisers also developed a programme of public events focused upon a pan-historical and interdisciplinary examination of ‘The Body Obsessed’. This programme involved a series of public events, workshops and excursions scheduled to take place during the 2017-18 academic year. One strand of the programme involved a discussion of the theory and practice behind the way in which museums handle, display and curate both human and non-human bodies. This was organised in cooperation with several Leeds and national museums.