Sunny Harrison

Sunny Harrison

PhD Candidate

Summary: The Text and Reception of De medicina equorum by Jordanus Ruffus: Animal-care Practitioners and the Horse as Non-Human Patient

Location: Parkinson Building


My doctoral thesis examines veterinary medicine and animal-care in the later Middle Ages through the development of a tradition of horse-care treatises stemming from De medicina equorum by Jordanus Ruffus (d. 1256), a horse-farrier in the scientifically vibrant court of the Emperor Frederick II (d. 1250). My research considers the broad range of healing options available to medieval horse-carers, the experiences of horses as non-human patients, and the representation of the variety of individuals and groups involved in horse-care. My central argument is that cultures of healing and care for humans and animals overlapped significantly in the Middle Ages, and that they should be approached using roughly the same methodologies, theories, and ideas. 

My research is funded by the University of Leeds 110th Anniversary Scholarship.

About me:

I studied for a BA in History at Bangor University, graduating in 2009. I moved directly to Leeds to study for an MA in Medieval History at the School of History/Institute for Medieval Studies, graduating in 2010. My MA was funded by the School of History and Institute for Medieval Studies MA Scholarship.

My research interests include the history of animals, health and medicine, magic, science, and didactic literature. I study the cultures and ideas surrounding medieval animals using methods and theories originally developed for studying people (and animals) who were ignored historically or by contemporary society. For instance: people with disabilities, modern animals, people of lower status, and less-free peoples.  

Undergraduate Teaching: 

ENGL1310: Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic

HIST1055: Historiography and Historical Skills (The Black Death: Bacteria, Society, and Culture)

HIST1090: Medieval and Renaissance Europe

HIST1300: Primary Sources for the Historian (Animals in Medieval Society)

Selected Recent and Upcoming Conference Papers

  • ‘Locating equine illness and healthcare in the later Middle Ages': Society for the Social History of Medicine Conference, Canterbury, 10th July 2016
  • ‘Utility, disfigurement, and occupational health in later-medieval horse medicine’: Disease, Disability, and Medicine in Medieval Europe, Swansea, 4th December 2016
  • ‘Behavioural disorder, control, and occupational health in later-medieval horse medicine’: The Medieval Brain, York, 10th March 2017
  • ‘Care as a violent act in later medieval horse-care treatises’: Who Cares? The Past and Present of Caring, Leeds, 28th March 2017
  • ‘Pain, lameness, and the horse as non-human patient’: International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, USA, 11th May 2017
  • ‘Beast, Heal Thyself: Animals Treating Animals in Late Medieval Illustrated Veterinary Treatises’: International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 4th July 2018 
  • ‘Magic and emotion in late medieval horse-care treatises’: Living in a Magical World: Inner Lives, 1300-1900, Oxford, 17-19th September 2018 

Conference Organisation

I am co-organising the Medieval Bodies Ignored conference to be held in Leeds from 3-6 May 2018. This conference is a three-day event encompassing 24 papers, 3 keynote speakers, a round-table, and a public lecture and event at Leeds Central Library. The conference is funded by the University of Leeds, Medium Ævum, the Society for the Social History of Medicine, and the Royal Historical Society.

Outreach and Public Engagement Activities

I have been an Education Outreach Fellow since May 2017. This involves delivering research and study skills workshops to students in years 12 and 13, to aid them in the completion of their independent research projects (either the Extended Project Qualification or the International Baccalaureate Long Essay). By providing the students with excellent preparation for the specific needs of higher education I am facilitating and encouraging their progression to university.

Research Networks

I am the founder in 2016 and co-director of the Leeds Animal Studies Network: an interdisciplinary research group dealing with all aspects of the ‘animal’. LASN seeks to create meaningful links between scholars and disciplines working on animal studies. We have organised two very successful seminar series in 2016/17 and 2017/18 that have attracted prestigious speakers including Karl Steel (CUNY) and Erica Fudge (University of Strathclyde) and we hosted the second annual Northern Animals Colloquium in October 2017. We are generously funded by the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Cultures.  


Dr Iona McCleery (Institute for Medieval Studies) and Dr William Flynn (Institute for Medieval Studies)



Twitter: @Avignon_Papacy