Trevor Russell Smith

Trevor Russell Smith

IMS PG Researcher and Postgraduate Tutor

Summary: Thesis: National Identity, Propaganda, and the Ethics of War in English Historical Literature, 1327–77


I study contemporary English attitudes to violence in the particularly brutal and wide-ranging wars during the reign of Edward III (1327–77). My project began as a reevaluation of the commonplace misconception that people during the Middle Ages, especially English writers with little first-hand experience with war, accepted the suffering and destruction that results from devastation because it was seen as a pragmatic means to an end. To challenge this, I investigate chroniclers’ evaluations of violence, especially against civilians, through close readings and linguistic analysis. I am particularly interested in varied conceptions of the civilian as a separate category, which is inherently immoral to attack, and how writers pair this with emotive language to provoke sympathy for suffering. These moments are especially strange in English writing, as the English were well-known for the scale of destruction they inflicted in France. I am investigating all of the fifty or so English chronicles written during the reign of Edward III (over twenty of which remain unedited and rarely, if ever, considered), rather than just the popular and ‘exciting’ texts published in accessible editions. I aim to provide a nuanced analysis of varied ethical perceptions of the conduct of war, and how this affects rhetorical techniques and representation. I contextualise these layered texts in their many theoretical frameworks, such as idealistic classical warfare, chivalry, divine will, national identity, just war, rebellion, and total war. This is especially important in considering how some writers (especially combatants) rationalise or praise attacks on civilians. To help understand often dense language I compare these texts with those across a range of genres, including prescriptive texts, letters and journals, incidental poetry, romance, and moralist treatises.


c. 2019 The Battle of Neville's Cross: A Casebook (Liverpool University Press) [under contract]

Journal Articles and Book Chapters
2018 ‘Ethics and Representation of War in the Lanercost Chronicle, 1327–46’, Bulletin of International Medieval Research, 20

2017 ‘Willing Body, Willing Mind: Non-Combatant Culpability According to English Combatant Writers, 1327–77’, in Killing and Being Killed: Bodies in Battle. Perspectives on Fighters in the Middle Ages, ed. by Jörg Rogge (Transcript Verlag), pp. 79–107 read online here

2015La chevauchée, o la estrategia del crimen en la guerra de los Cien Ańos’, Desperta Ferro: Antigua y Medieval, 31, pp. 61–65

Book Reviews
Julia Marvin, The Construction of Vernacular History in the Anglo-Norman Prose ‘Brut’ Chronicle: The Manuscript Culture of Late Medieval England (Boydell, 2017), review in Northern History [forthcoming]

2017 Nicholas A. Gribit, Henry of Lancaster's Expedition to Aquitaine, 1345–1346 (Boydell, 2016), review in Medieval Warfare [forthcoming]

2017 Joanna Bellis, The Hundred Years War in Literature, 1337–1600 (Boydell, 2016), review in De re militari [forthcoming]

2016 Michael Livingston and Kelly DeVries, eds, The Battle of Crécy: A Casebook (Liverpool University Press, 2015), review in De re militari read online here or here

2016 Jaclyn Rajsic, Erik Kooper, and Dominique Hoche, eds, The Prose Brut and Other Late Medieval Chronicles: Essays in Honour of Lister M. Matheson (York Medieval Press, 2016), review in Cerae, 3 read online here or here

2015 David R. Carlson, John Gower, Poetry and Propaganda in Fourteenth-Century England (Boydell, 2012), review in Leeds Studies in English, 46 [forthcoming]

2015 Rory Cox, John Wyclif on War and Peace (Boydell, 2014), review in De re militari read online here or here

2014 Charlotte Brewer and Barry Windeatt, eds, Traditions and Innovations in the Study of Medieval English Literature: The Influence of Derek Brewer (Brewer, 2013), review in Leeds Studies in English, 45, pp. 141–43

Recent Conference Activity

Conferences Organised
I co-founded and co-organise, with Sophie Harwood and Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis, the annual Medieval Culture and War conference. Each year the conference is held at a different university with particular strengths in medieval studies. In May 2018 we will hold our third conference at the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, with keynote presentations by Justine Firnhaber-Baker and Bertrand Schnerb.

2017 ‘Medieval Culture and War: Spaces, Images, Mentalities’
Co-organised with Inês Meira Araújo, António Martins Costa, and Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis
Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal (22–24 June)
2 keynote presentations, 25 papers in 8 sessions, and a personal guided tour of the Castelo de São Jorge

2016 ‘Medieval Culture and War: Ideals, Representations, Realities’
Co-organised with Sophie Harwood and Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis
University of Leeds (5–7 May)
2 keynote presentations, 24 papers in 8 sessions, and a hands-on session with manuscripts at the Royal Armouries

Sessions Organised
2017 ‘Medieval Boundaries and Borders’ (eight papers in two sessions)
1: ‘Intersecting Identities’ (session 71)
2: ‘Thresholds of Agency’ (session 118)
Co-organised with Sunny Harrison and Vanessa Wright
52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo (11–14 May)

2016 ‘Culture and Conflict’ (twelve papers in four sessions and one round table session)
1: ‘Writing War’ (session 1036)
2: ‘Imagining Weapons’ (session 1136)
3: ‘Ideals and Waging War’ (session 1236)
4: ‘The Wars of Edward III’ (session 1336)
5: ‘New Research Opportunities in Late Medieval War: A Round Table Discussion’ (session 1436)
Co-organised with Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis
23rd International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (4–7 July)

2015 ‘Transition and Change in Later Medieval War’ (nine papers in three sessions)
1: ‘Perceptions and Implications’ (session 524)
2: ‘Preparing for War’ (session 624)
3: ‘Models of Military Conduct in the Hundred Years War’ (session 724)
Co-organised with Iason-Eleftherios Tzouriadis
22nd International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (6–9 July)

Papers Presented (selected)
‘Worthy Opponents or Treacherous Rebels?: Identity and the Ethics of War in English Chronicles, c. 1327–60’
24th International Medieval Congress (session 1611), University of Leeds (3–6 July)

2017 ‘National Identity, Language, and War in the Long Anglo-Norman Prose Brut Manuscripts’
Medieval Culture and War: Spaces, Images, Mentalities, Universidade de Lisboa (22–24 June)

2017 ‘Scottish Identity and the Ethics of War in English Chronicles, 1327–77’
52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo (11–14 May)

2016 ‘Divine Will, Human Agency, and Ideals of War According to the Lanercost Chronicle and Geoffrey le Baker’s Chronicle
23rd International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (4–7 July)

2016 ‘Conceiving the Non-Combatant in English Historical and Political Writings, c. 1300–50’
Medieval Culture and War: Ideals, Representations, Realities, University of Leeds (5–7 May)

2016 ‘“Non tamen ille David quem Christus sanctificavit”: Negative Biblical Allusion and David II of Scotland in English Chronicles, 1333–77’
Kingship and the Bible in the Middle Ages, University of Oxford (18 March)

2015 ‘Willing Body, Willing Mind: Morally Killing Non-Combatants during the Hundred Years War’
Killing and Being Killed: Perspectives on Bodies in Battle in the Middle Ages, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany (16–18 April)

[+ 7 earlier conference papers and 12 presentations]


Undergraduate Modules
Medieval and Renaissance Europe (HIST1090), autumn 2017

Primary Sources for the Historian (HIST1300), spring 2017 and spring 2018

Introducing Medieval European Literature (MEDV1090), autumn 2014

Conflict and War in the Late Middle Ages: Prevention, Execution, and Rhetoric (MEDV3530), spring 2016

Postgraduate Modules
Introduction to Medieval Latin (MEDV5000M), autumn 2017

Intermediate Medieval Latin (MEDV5001M), spring 2018

Research Methods and Bibliography (MEDV5110M), autumn 2015 (contributor)

Shameless Autobiography

I completed my BA in European History in 2009 at the University of California at Santa Cruz, with an exchange year at the University of York in 2007–08. I focused on the intersection of literature and history in cultural representations and performed several cross-cultural studies of medieval Europe and the ancient world.

I then undertook my MA in Medieval History at the University of York, graduating in 2010. I worked on the difficult problem of ideals and reality in late-medieval England and France. In my dissertation, ‘Warfare in Jean Froissart’s Chroniques: Representation and Realism’, supervised by Dr Craig Taylor, I investigated various elements of Froissart’s (supposedly) instructional writings, such as risk and reward, courage and cowardice, and the varied demands of leadership, and how they affected his representation of culture and war.

I took three years off to read, travel, work, and sleep. However, my interests called me back, and in 2013 I started my PhD here in the Institute for Medieval Studies. I submitted my thesis for examination in September 2017.

When not pursuing my research, I enjoy chess, chevauchées, classic literature, coffee, hiking, photography, travel, (Islay) whisky, and writing short autobiographical statements.

For my c.v. and a complete list and description of my publications, conference papers, and presentations, please see my profile.


Dr Alan V. Murray (Institute for Medieval Studies) and Dr Catherine Batt (School of English).