I work on the cultural and social history of the later Middle Ages.
I blog about what I do at ideasnowandthen.blogspot.co.uk and https://historyformychildren.com/
My interests lie principally in the social and cultural history of the later Middle Ages: hitherto, I have focused mainly on France, but I am now working comparatively with material from late medieval England, Italy and Germany. I am particularly interested in constructions of deviance; nostalgia; and legalism in this period, and enjoy collaborations with anthropologists and literary scholars.
- History of nostalgia
- History of misbehaviour, particularly amongst medieval students
- History of late medieval slavery
My first book focused on popular violence in later medieval northern France. I worked on the interconnections between different forms of violence, from tavern brawls to domestic violence to urban uprisings, and looked at legal and cultural constructions of 'deviance', and the role of emotions in provoking outbursts of brutality.
My current research focuses on nostalgia in the later Middle Ages. The fourteenth century is often labelled as a century of catastrophe. A fairer assessment describes profound socio-economic, cultural and political changes which had the potential to transform ways of thinking. Many contemporaries responded in profoundly nostalgic terms, harking back to ‘the good old days’, whether the time of their grandparents, or a more nebulous lost golden age. My work examines nostalgia across the social spectrum. Recent anthropologists and philosophers highlight the counter-intuitively hopeful aspect of such an attitude. In many ways, a cross-cultural concept, it was articulated in powerful, lyrical and often subversive ways in the fourteenth century.
I also work on the misbehaviour of fifteenth-century students at the universities of Oxford, Paris and Heidelberg. Drawing on criminological models, my research examines the relationship between the negative stereotypes imposed upon students by a variety of commentators and observers, and the ways in which the students negotiated those stereotypes in their actual misbehaviour. The source material ranges from student poems and letters, to sermons and legal material.
Violence and conflict are obviously of great contemporary relevance, as well as essential to an understanding of the complexities of medieval society. Disentangling the relationships between what people did, what they said they did, and what other people said about these actions is extremely challenging, but can substantially deepen and nuance our understanding.
Further interests include Joan of Arc's emotional world; the history of sufficiency; and the legalism of property and ownership, particularly in the context of medieval slavery. Late medieval slavery is the more unsettling and often un-acknowledged underside of the Renaissance: I am interested in recovering the stories and experiences of slaves. Their humanity continues to resonate across the centuries through the surviving legal material.
See page on St John's College website