Medieval Studies research group


Medieval studies are a thriving research area within the School of History. Through the Institute for Medieval Studies we are also linked to medievalists in the fields of literature, language, theology and art history across the University of Leeds.

Religion and society is a key area of research for many of the Medieval Studies group. Monasteries and their connections with the wider world are an important theme across the whole middle ages, from Julia Barrow’s work on the tenth-century Benedictine movement in England (e.g. ‘The chronology of the Benedictine “reform”’, in Edgar, King of the English, ed. Donald Scragg, 2008), William Flynn’s work on Hildegard of Bingen (interpreting her music in its liturgical context) and Graham Loud’s work on the charters of the abbey of Cava in Sicily to Emilia Jamroziak’s work exploring Cistercian monasteries across Europe and in particular in frontier areas (The Cistercian Order in Medieval Europe; Survival and Success on Medieval Borders). Reform is also an area of activity: Julia Barrow intends to explore the terminology and thus also the conceptualization of change in religious institutions between 900 and 1150, Maroula Perisanidi is examining reform and clerical authority in the eleventh century in comparative Western-Byzantine perspective. Melanie Brunner works on papal moves to reform institutions in the early fourteenth century and Thomas Smith explores the high medieval papacy, in particular the role of external influence and consensus-driven politics in determining the decisions of popes. The connection between religion and medicine is being explored by Iona McCleery in a series of articles on medicine and healing miracles in late medieval Portugal.

Frontiers, interactions taking place across them and warfare, especially the Crusades, are another major area of research in the Medieval Studies group. Jonathan Jarrett explores the Frankish frontier in Spain (Catalonia) and Alan Murray is working on linguistic and ethnic identities among crusaders in both the Baltic area (especially through the work of Henry of Livonia) and in the Holy Land. Guy Perry has just published a major book on John of Brienne, king of Jerusalem and Latin emperor of Constantinople in the thirteenth century. Axel Muller examines the impact of the use of gunpowder on the late medieval military conflicts, whilst Graham Loud works on crusading movements linked with Sicilian and German rulers and his recent publications include The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa (2010), a translation of a crusade narrative. Thomas Smith examines manuscript evidence of the letters of crusaders to show how the regional reception and transmission of these texts offers us a glimpse into how monastic scribes engaged with the crusading movement from behind the walls of their cloisters as a form of "scribal crusading". Emilia Jamroziak has compared the activities of Cistercian monasteries on the Anglo-Scottish border and in the Baltic area, in particular their attempts at networking with neighbours. Iona McCleery’s work on fifteenth-century Portugal takes note of its pivotal position in developing Euroasian, Atlantic and African trade routes, and explores cultural interactions between foods and medicines from different backgrounds.

Historiography, both modern historiography of the middle ages and medieval history-writing, is a major area of interest for the Leeds medievalists. Emilia Jamroziak is member of international network on ‘New Religious Histories’ that explore legacies of modernization theory and nation-state paradigm on the historiography of medieval religious life. Several of the Medieval Studies group work on medieval chroniclers: Iona McCleery is part of an international group working on translations of Fernão Lopes (to be published by Boydell in four volumes in 2014); Graham Loud has published translations and commentaries of several medieval Sicilian historians; Julia Barrow is working on the representation of religious change and reform in monastic histories.