Jewish Life in the Middle Ages: Lincoln and Beyond – A University QR Collaborations Project with the Lincolnshire Archives

Lincoln was home to an important and vibrant Jewish community in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Fortunately for us, this community has left behind a remarkable trail of evidence in our national and regional archives. Past histories of Lincoln’s Anglo-Jewish community have been dominated by the story of Little Hugh of Lincoln, for whose death 19 innocent Jews were executed in 1255. While evidencing the increasingly difficult circumstances in which the Anglo-Jewry lived prior to their expulsion from England in 1290, the surviving records provide some fascinating insights into the dynamics of Jewish life, the Jews’ religious, social and business interactions with one another, and their encounters with their Christian neighbours, the Cathedral clergy and the Crown’s officials.  

For many years now, Lincoln has been home to the Lincolnshire Archives, one of the UK’s largest regional collections, which preserves the manuscript records of the medieval city, cathedral and diocese of Lincoln. In 2023, Professor Louise Wilkinson of the Medieval Studies Research Group received funding from the University of Lincoln’s QR Collaborations Scheme for a pilot project to survey the archival holdings relating to the medieval Lincoln Jewry that are held locally. She received valuable assistance from Dr Dean Irwin, our visiting fellow, who acted as academic advisor, from Simon Neal, our archival researcher, and from Jessica Holt, our research assistant. The project surveyed and compiled a handlist of documents relating to the medieval Jewish community that are held in Lincoln. We also hosted a free talk and document workshop at the Lincolnshire Archives in June 2023 to showcase its remarkable collections. In the longer term, we hope that this initiative may aid long-standing plans for an exhibition that is warmly supported by the head of Lincoln’s Jewish community. 

A major output of our project has been the first handlist of documents held in the Lincolnshire Archives on the medieval Jewry. Simon Neal has produced English summaries of the Latin documents (some of which also contain Hebrew or have Hebrew records associated with them) that contain references to members of the medieval Jewish community. Simon worked carefully through a range of original single sheet deeds, as well as entries in cartularies and other miscellaneous documents. He also consulted microfilm copies and transcriptions of cartularies for Lincolnshire religious houses held elsewhere that are also available for readers to consult at the Lincolnshire Archives. The records of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral proved to be particularly fruitful, since they contain references to local Jewish families, their neighbours, their associates, their business partners and their residences. These include, for instance, a portion of a thirteenth-century chirograph that recorded the notification of a grant by Robert le Turnur to Jacob, son of Leo, a Jew of Lincoln, of some land in the parish of St Michael on the Mount, which lay next to Jacob’s house (Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, Dij/76/2/47). A notification of a grant by Lincoln’s famous female castellan, Lady Nicholaa de la Haye (d. 1230), to Peter the Woad Seller, of her land and houses in the parish of St Michael also carefully recorded how this property lay near the land formerly of Moses son of Benedict, a Jew of Lincoln (Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, Dij/76/2/22).

A photograph of the notification of a grant by Nicholaa de la Haye, referring to land formerly of Moses son of Benedict, a Jew of Lincoln. The document reference is Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, Dij/76/2/22. Copyright: The Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. Reuse is not permitted.
This image shows a notification of a grant of property by Nicholaa de la Haye (‘Nichola de la Haie’) to Peter the Woad Seller, mentioning the nearby land formerly of Moses son of Benedict, a Jew of Lincoln: Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, Dij/76/2/22. Copyright belongs to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral. Please note that reuse of this image is not permitted. We are very grateful to the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral for granting us permission to use this image. We are also grateful to Claire Arrand, Lincoln Cathedral’s Librarian, and to the staff of the Lincolnshire Archives for their assistance. 

There are also references among the documents in the Lincolnshire Archives to the properties of Jewish women like Belaset of Wallingford, who was hanged for clipping the king’s money (Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, A/1/8, fol. 107, no. 290), and Floria of London, who went into exile in Edward I’s reign (Lincolnshire Archives, D&C, Dij/75/2/27). In fact, there are some extremely interesting post-1290 grants of former Jewish property that enrich our understanding of the local context of the sad events surrounding the Expulsion.

Researchers are welcome to contact Louise Wilkinson to request a copy of the handlist.  

How to Write a Research Proposal Without Access to a Library

Writing a research proposal is one of the most difficult parts of a PhD application. It can be even more challenging without access to an academic library. This post aims offer some suggestions on how to go about writing a research proposal if you do not currently have access to a university library.

Alumni Library Access

No matter how long ago it was that you graduated, it is worth investigating the option to rejoin your university library as an alumni member. At the University of Lincoln, access to the library is free for alumni and includes the right to borrow books. You can find information about how to register here:

If you have move away from the town or city where you did your previous degree(s), but live in or near an area with a university, it is worth locating their library website and looking for information about access. Each library sets is own policies, so it can be helpful to do some research before seeking to join. For instance, some libraries ask members of the community who do not have a study, work, or alumni affiliation with the university to pay for membership, especially if they require borrowing rights. Coming in as a visitor is usually free, but you may need to show identification, or be limited to visit at certain times (i.e., some libraries will restrict visitors during exam periods or late at night). If you have any questions, best thing to do is contact the library directly and ask.

Legal Deposit Libraries

Access to online resources—especially journal articles, which are often published behind a paywall, is likely to be one of your biggest challenges. Legal deposit libraries provide access to all UK publications, which is obviously enormously helpful for research. If travelling for research is an option for you, may want to look up which one is closest to you. You can’t borrow from a legal deposit library, so visiting one does require some advance planning. For this reason, if you are able to build library visits into your research process, you may want to plan to do this after you have done some of your research online, and have figured out what books or articles you cannot find elsewhere.

You do need to sign up in advance for access, but it is free to do so–here is the link to get a reader’s pass at the British Library. Your pass grants you access to their electronic resources on visiting their reading rooms. There is no free printing, and permission to download will depend on copyright and licensing restrictions. Make sure to bring a memory stick for anything you are able download, plus a laptop or notebook for notetaking. (If you have a smartphone, you might also want to install a scanning app, which you can use to create PDFs.) If you are planning to access print materials, do investigate the library catalogue at least a week before you visit–especially at the British Library, you will need to order the print books you want to see in advance.

Another library that might be useful is the Institute of Historical Research Library in London. Membership is free. Even if you are not able to visit in person, their website has a large number of links to free online resources. The IHR also provides a range of resources for research training, which can be very helpful.

Caring or family responsibilities, work schedules, and financial limitations might mean that visiting libraries in person is not possible for you. It is possible to conduct all of the research for your PhD proposal online–read on for further suggestions.

Free Online Resources

Academic libraries spend a substantial amount of money on subscriptions to journals and databases, which we make available to researchers and students at our university. Because of subscription contracts and copyright law, many of these online resources are not accessible to alumni or associate readers. However, there are a number of places you can go to look for reliable academic resources that are available open access, published and distributed under copyright and licensing conditions that make them free to read and access.

A good place to start is the University of Lincoln library’s list of free online resources, which includes links to things like the Directory of Open Access Books, the Directory of Open Access Journals, and more. During first stages of the pandemic, when access to physical library collections was severely limited, medievalists across the world put together lists of online resources. Our medieval studies library guide contains a very large list of useful and interesting resources. This list is great for browsing, but the Medieval Academy of America has an online list that’s much for searchable, and well worth a look.

Book reviews can be helpful, at the proposal stage of research, for helping you understand the overall landscape of a field, and what big questions have been asked and answered. The final paragraph of a review will often open up the big questions of what work still needs to be done in a field, so it’s particularly worth reading this attentively. It’s a good idea to explore an open access online book reviews journal like the Medieval Review (or the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, if you’re interested in the early Middle Ages or late antiquity). These journals provide free access to reviews of newly published books that have been published, and have very archives of reviews of books going back over thirty years. Digital Medievalist is another useful free online journal, which includes reviews and reports on online projects.

Social media can be useful for information about new projects or publications, but it can be easy to miss things, and searching for past posts can be tricky. A great place to go for articles about the Middle Ages in the news, information about new projects or discoveries, and general fun and inspiration is

Lastly, you might want to explore academic podcasts in your area of interest. For example, New Books in Medieval History offers in-depth interviews with academics talking about their recently published books. Many universities or academic research institutes release recordings of lectures or seminar papers as podcasts. This can be a great way to access work-in-progress or simply take a break from reading on a screen.

Other Ways to Access Articles

Many, but not all, academic authors have an or researchgate account. Both services have a good free account option, and can be useful for finding copies of papers that you might want to read. Humanities Common is another academic networking site, which some academics prefer, since it’s specifically not-for-profit and more transparent about how it uses subscribers’ data.

Finally, you can always reach out to an academic author by email, and politely ask if they can send you a copy of their work. The landscape around copyright, sharing work, and open access is changing rapidly. With traditionally published academic work, the copyright is owned by the publisher, not the scholar who wrote it, meaning that the publisher is in charge of where and how the work is distributed. Be aware that not everyone is able or willing to share their work. However, that caveat aside, most people are flattered to hear that someone wants to read their writing, and want to help if they can, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Managing References

At an early stage of collecting resources for your proposal, it is a good idea to spend some time planning how you are going to sort and manage the references you find. Without access to an academic library, you are likely to be working across Google Scholar, open access resources,, and more. Finding a way to keep track of what you find, what you want to cite, what you want to skim (or have a book-review level knowledge of, but not necessarily read in full at this stage), what you need to really dig into and read in full if at all possible, and what looks-like-it-would-be-useful-but-turns-out-not-to-be, is absolutely vital. Reference management software is your friend here, and there are a lot of free platforms. Zotero and Mendeley seem to be the most popular right now.

How do I know when to stop reading?

In general, most people feel confident and comfortable sitting down to articulate what research needs to be done and why they’re the ones to do it when they start to recognise the names of books and scholars and see the same things repeated in footnotes and bibliographies. When you feel you have a sense of what the major ideas and questions in your field are, that’s a good point to start thinking about what you want to change or add.

Good luck with your research proposal!

Lincoln Student Secures PhD Placement at the British Library: Joining the Medieval and Renaissance Women Project

This October (2022), Paula Del Val Vales, a University of Lincoln History PhD student, is joining the British Library for a six-month-long PhD placement with their ‘Medieval and Renaissance Women Project’.

This new major project aims to digitise 80 manuscripts and 200 documents related to medieval and renaissance women from all over Europe. These include illuminated and finely decorated manuscripts, medical treatises and religious works (e.g., psalters and books of hours), as well as a variety of charters and documents concerning different aspects of women’s lives. This is a wide selection that showcases the various roles of women as patrons, readers, book-owners, collectors, and writers. The manuscripts and documents will be catalogued and made accessible to the wider public through the British Library website, contributing to enlarging our current knowledge on the history of medieval and renaissance women.

During the six months, Paula will catalogue several of the documents and manuscripts, write blog posts for the British Library, and promote this new and exciting project focused on women’s history; before re-joining the University of Lincoln to continue with her PhD thesis in History on “The Queen’s Household in the Thirteenth-Century: An Anglo-Iberian Comparative Study”, supervised by Prof. Louise Wilkinson and Dr Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo.

Well done, Paula! This is a wonderful achievement.

Lincoln Medievalists at Leeds

The annual International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds is a very special part of the medieval studies year. One of the world’s largest gatherings of medievalists, it features thousands of scholars from all over the world for five days of papers, roundtables, and discussions of all things medieval. For the first time since 2019, the congress will have an in-person as well as a virtual component. Many members of the Medieval Studies Research Group will be taking part. We hope to see you there!

File:Parkinson Building, Leeds University, England-12Sept2010.jpg
Parkinson Building, University of Leeds

On Monday, 4 July:

  • Professor Louise Wilkinson will be moderating Session 206: Noblewomen Network II: Politics, Power Relations, and Strategies.
  • Dr Michael Wuk will be speaking about ‘Rites of Passage and Conceptual Monastic Enclosures’ in Session 225. (Michael was the recipient of a 2022 Miriam Czock Fund Busary–congratulations!)
  • Dr Renata Ntelia will be speaking about ‘Medieval Playing: the Conception of the Magic Circle within the Games Canon’ in Session 223.

On Tuesday, 5 July, Dr Nicholas Bennett will be speaking about ‘Taming Giants: The Editing and Publication of Some 14th Century Episcopal Registers’.

Wednesday 6 July will be a very busy day for Lincoln medievalists!

  • Dr Hope Williard will be speaking about ‘Hidden Heroines: The Appropriation of Women’s Voices in Late Antique Latin Literature’ in Session 1006.
  • Dr Anais Waag will be speaking about ‘Marguerite of Provence and a Queen’s Self-Representation as a Political Actor’ in Session 1032.
  • Dr Graham Barrett and Dr Rob Portass will be speaking about ‘The Middling Sort: Managing Estates and Expectations in Early Medieval Spain’ as part of Session 1107.
  • The first Medieval Studies Research Group sponsored session The Many Borders of English Elites will feature papers from our wonderful PGR students Gary Stephens, ‘Borders between Humans and Animals in the Minds of 13thCentury Theologians’; Katherine Delaney, ‘The Physical and Metaphorical Borders of the Warenne Honour from 1248-1361’; and Lynsey McLaughlin ‘From within the Walls: Bordering and Visitor Spaces at Three English Castle Sites’. The session was organised by Dr Anais Waag and will be chaired by Professor Louise Wilkinson.
  • Dr Jamie Wood will be speaking about ‘Formative Spaces: Making Female Ascetics in Early Medieval Iberia’ in Session 1206.
  • The second Medieval Studies Research Group sponsored session, Queenship Across the Borders of Space and Time, organised and chaired by Dr Anais Waag, will feature more papers from our amazing PGRs! Susan Phillips will speak about ‘Goiswintha: Distraught Mother or Vindictive Queen?’ and Paula Del Val Vales will be speaking about ‘Issuing, Sealing, and Signing: An Examination of ‘Queenly Chanceries’ in 13th-Century England and Iberia’.
  • Professor Louise Wilkinson will contribute to the Roundtable discussion of the new Routledge book series Approaching Medieval Sources (Session 1402).

Last, but not least, on Friday, 7 July, Dr Anais Waag will chair the Session 1606: Teacher, Traveller, Politician and Midwife: the Many Roles of Medieval Women and Professor Louise Wilkinson will chair Session 1701: Editing Medieval Records: Past, Present, and Future.

an owl on a perch with a green dish of water next to him
As a break from conferencing, many medievalists will make time to visit the falconry display.

The conference will feature a number of papers about medieval Lincoln and Lincolnshire:

  • Ryan Michael Prescott from the University of Hull will be speaking about ‘The Northern Frontier: Lincolnshire and Yorkshire during the Reign of King Stephen, 1135-1154’, on 5 July in Session 511.
  • Session 704: Church and Society in Medieval Lincoln is sponsored by the Lincoln Records Society and takes place on 5 July.
  • Kathryn Dutton from the University of Leeds will be speaking about ‘The Evolution of a Cistercian Monastic Boundary: The ‘Close’ at Kirkstead, Lincolnshire, 1139-1299’ on 5 July in Session 728.
  • David Kennett will speaking about ‘Building the Great Brick Donjon at Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire: Construction Management in the 15th Century’ on 6 July in Session 1240.
  • Tom Revell of the University of Oxford will speak about ‘Lincolnshire as the New Jerusalem: Trans-Locating Sanctity in Old English Hagiographic Poetry’ on 7 July in Session 1529.

With this abundance of riches, it’s worth remembering that all registered participants at the Congress have access to recordings of sessions until 31 August 2022. You can find more information about this here. Whether you are attending virtually or in person (or both!), we hope you have a wonderful conference!

Image credits: “File:Parkinson Building, Leeds University, England-12Sept2010.jpg” by Tim Green from Bradford is licensed under CC BY 2.0. “at the falconry exhihit at the International Medieval Congress #owl #birdsofprey #falconry #leeds” by Alexandra Guerson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Annual Medieval Studies Lecture 2022

The Medieval Studies Research Group at the University of Lincoln would cordially like to invite you to attend our online Annual Medieval Studies Lecture on 1 June 2022 at 6pm BST.

This year we are delighted to welcome as our speaker, Professor Amy G. Remensnyder from Brown University, an eminent international scholar of the medieval world, who will be showcasing her fascinating new research on the history of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa between 1200 and 1700.

Lampedusa (5254484262).jpg
Lampedusa (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Title of talk: Escaping from Mediterranean Slavery: A Deserted Island and a Pirates’ Shrine

Abstract of talk: In the late medieval and early modern Mediterranean, enslaved people fleeing bondage created a maritime fugitive geography in which a tiny deserted deep-sea island lying between Mahdīya and Malta—Lampedusa—came to occupy an exceptional place. There, fugitives found succour at an unusual shrine shared by Muslims and Christians. It highlights the importance of the sea and uninhabited islands as a passage to freedom and also suggests that the Mediterranean system of slavery could engender compassion for its victims on the part of the violent men of the sea who were slavers—corsairs and pirates.

Biography of speaker: Amy G. Remensnyder is Professor of History at Brown University. In her first book, she focused on high medieval French monastic culture and collective memory. Her next book spanned the Atlantic, placing medieval Iberia in dialogue with colonial Mexico by exploring the Virgin Mary as a symbol of conquest and conversion. A practitioner of engaged scholarship, she is a co-editor of the volume Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice and is the founder and director of the Brown History Education Prison Project. She has held many research fellowships, including most recently at the American Academy in Berlin. Her current book project is a longue durée, maritime microhistory of Lampedusa, which brings together past and present to explore this Mediterranean island’s importance to mobile people now – migrants – and mobile people between 1200 and 1700: pirates and their victims.

How to attend: To register for the lecture, please click on this link. Attendees will receive an email detailing how to join two days before the event.

We hope you will join us!

Lincoln Medievalists at Kalamazoo

Join us in the virtual ‘zoo! Kalamazoo is one of the world’s great annual gatherings of medievalists. Since 2020, it has taken place in cyberspace rather than at Western Michigan University in the US city of Kalamazoo, Michigan. You can hear from members of Lincoln’s medieval studies community in the following sessions.

western michigan university library--a three story rectangular building made of brown brick and copper siding, with a flight of stairs leading up to a clock tower
Western Michigan University Library 6-27-2009 109 N by Corvair Owner

On Monday, 9 May, at 11am EDT, Professor Amy Livingstone will be chairing session 31, Introducing Medieval People. The session features the following papers:

  • The Career of Daniel, Abbot of Saint Benet of Holm (Ethan George Birney, Spartanburg Methodist College)
  • Faith or Fashion? Family Commemoration in Elite Circles around Syon Abbey, ca. 1415–1539 (Virginia Rosalyn Bainbridge, Univ. of Exeter)
  • The Charity of the Poor: Almsgiving in Late Medieval Mainz (Lucy C. Barnhouse, Arkansas State Univ.)
  • Communal Policing, Familial Authority, and Preserving the Urban Peace in Late Medieval Flanders (Mireille Juliette Pardon, Berea College)

Medieval People (formerly known as Medieval Prosopography) is a peer-reviewed journal dedicated to highlighting the experiences of unknown or obscure individuals or groups, as well as exploring the social networks that gave shape to the lives of all medieval people. It aims to reflect the new trends in scholarship and the ever-growing number of tools available to scholars, as well as the rich offerings of digital humanities projects that can assist scholars in developing a deeper and more inclusive understanding of the medieval world. For more information about the journal and to subscribe, visit their website.

Also, on Monday 9 May at 11am EDT, Dr Renée Ward has co-organised and will preside over a roundtable, session 41, The Green Knight (2021): Key Critical Perspectives, with speakers including Megan B. Abrahamson, Central New Mexico Community College; Rob Brown, Harvard Univ.; Annie T. Doucet, Univ. of Arkansas; Michael R. Evans, Delta College; Kevin J. Harty, La Salle Univ.; Chelsea Elizabeth Keane, Univ. of California–Riverside; Lauryn S. Mayer, Washington & Jefferson College; Emily Price, Graduate Center, CUNY; Sarah J. Sprouse, Univ. of Alabama; and Arwen Taylor, Arkansas Tech Univ. Don’t miss a great conversation about a fascinating medieval film!

And finally, on Wednesday, May 11, at 11am EDT, Dr Hope Williard will be a panellist in session 153, Beyond Manuscripts and Rare Books: Medievalist Librarians outside Special Collections Departments’, where she will talk about careers as a medievalist librarian with  Allison M. McCormack, Univ. of Utah; and Julia A. Schneider, Univ. of Notre Dame. The session will be chaired by Anna Siebach-Larsen, Univ. of Rochester and is sponsored by the International Society of Medievalist Librarians.

And finally, there are a few papers specifically about medieval Lincoln or Lincolnshire, that might be of interest to our community.

On Thursday, May 12, at 3:00 p.m. EDT, Katja Elise Marek, Bangor Univ., will be talking about ‘Three’s a Crowd: Three Knights and a Charger on fol. 52v of Lincoln Cathedral MS 91’, in session 235, Fifteenth-Century Painting.

On Friday, May 13, at 3:00 p.m. EDT, Ryan Michael Prescott, Univ. of Hull will be talking about ‘Geopolitics and GIS: Lincolnshire and Yorkshire during the Reign of King Stephen,1135–1154’ in session 322, New Approaches to Medieval Archaeology.

Best wishes to everyone attending, speaking, and participating for a successful and enjoyable Kalamazoo!

Lincoln Medievalists at Pint of Science

This year’s Lincoln Pint of Science festival will feature two talks from members of the Medieval Studies Research Group.

The medieval and me: Remembering the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings

John Sandy-Hindmarsh

7pm, 10th May 2022

The Cardinal’s Hat, 268 High Street, Lincoln, LN2 1HW

Who were the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings? You may think you know the answer, you may not, or you may doubt the question is worth asking. In this talk, we will explore how asking these questions can raise surprisingly complex societal issues. We will consider how we as individuals and societies choose to remember the past, and how this impacts the way we perceive both the present and future. The aim is to demonstrate how asking the simple question of “Who were the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings?” requires us in turn to contend with the broader social issues of identity and citizenship.

For tickets and more information please see here:

Mischievous Birds in Medieval Miracle Stories

Hope Williard

7pm, 10th May 2022

The Victoria, 6 Union Road, Lincoln LN1 3BJ

To inspire and entertain, medieval Christians wrote, read, and told stories about the saints – holy people who had led exemplary lives. This talk will discuss what these stories can tell us about animals in medieval European culture, focusing particularly on three biographies from France and England in which mischievous birds play an important role. The talk will include a wonderful creative response from textile artist Polly Lancaster.

For tickets and more information please see here:

Pint of Science is an international festival designed to bring researchers and members of the public together to share discoveries and conversations in a friendly and informal setting–the local pub! To check out the full programme of events in Lincoln please visit the festival website:

Award Success for Student-Led Project on Making Lincoln Cathedral’s Medieval Manuscripts Accessible

The Medieval Studies Research Group is delighted to announce that two students from the School of English and Journalism, Abigail Laycock and Elizabeth Egan, supervised by our own Dr Renee Ward and Mrs Claire Arrand, have been awarded the Dean’s Choice Award from the Dean of Lincoln Academy of Teaching and Learning (LALT), Dr Kate Strudwick, for their Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS) project, ‘Excavating the Archives: Making Lincoln Cathedral Library’s Middle English Manuscripts Accessible’. Over the summer, Lily and Abbie undertook research on the archive’s collection of manuscripts in or with Middle English texts and prepared materials (text and image) that will be housed on University Library’s Special Collections LibGuide as well as on the Lincoln Cathedral Library’s website, making the content available to both public and academic audiences. To read more about the project, please follow the link here. The award is a splendid achievement and reflects the University’s close relationship enjoyed by its staff and students with Lincoln Cathedral and its collections.

What’s in a name? A blog by Annabelle Mansell

What happens when we focus our attention on people who aren’t named in our sources? This is the question that one of our undergraduate students has grappling with over the summer. Annabelle Mansell, a second-year Classical Studies student who had been successful in securing a bursary from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS), worked with Hope Williard and Jamie Wood on a project called ‘Invisible Agents: Networks of Learning in Late Antiquity’. Annabelle has written a blog post on the experience:

The aims of this project were to begin to understand how low-status, often unnamed individuals functioned within the broader educational network of Late Antiquity. We examined many of the letters of one well-connected teacher, Libanius, and transferred the key relationships discussed into an Excel spreadsheet, which allowed the creation of visual depictions of Libanius’ networks through graphs. With the information being presented in this digital, visual format, it is possible to do specific enquiries into Libanius’ networks. For example, one could see the centrality of an unnamed pedagogue (an enslaved person entrusted with overseeing the education of their master’s children) within a given family cluster by looking at a specific dossier of letters, or one could investigate the changing shapes of the network chronologically. The data being in this form allows for further investigations and a visual presentation of relationships which was not immediately available before. The graphs that have been generated already from the research begin to show how unnamed individuals’ centrality within a network can shift depending on the size of networks, and have begun to reveal more about the nature of the positions of and attitudes towards pedagogues. This project has started to lay the foundation for this area of enquiry, illustrating the value in transferring texts into data that can support visualisations.

This project presented unanticipated challenges. Learning how to operate Microsoft Excel and ConnectTheDots took more time than expected, and technical issues caused large losses of data on multiple occasions, which massively delayed progress. This had an impact on how targets were set and achieved, as I had to learn to create a flexible schedule which allowed for surprise setbacks. A second issue was the large quantity of data available to me throughout this project, making it difficult to complete analysis of all of the letters that I had initially planned.


My supervisors have been invaluable to me throughout this project. The wealth of experience and knowledge they possess (both regarding Late Antiquity and the procedures of research) have been a huge help, and without their guidance and support I could not have achieved as much as I did. Our meetings were always beneficial and encouraging, and even when I was struggling most I was flooded with support and further avenues to explore. It has been a privilege to work on this project together, and an invaluable introduction to collaborative research.

This experience has been a unique opportunity which has allowed me to explore areas I am interested in pursuing further, as well as introducing me to new ideas and burgeoning approaches to handling historical textual data. I have gained technical skills in digital literacy and network analysis tools such as ConnectTheDots. This experience will help with my future study as I have learnt how to extract important data from texts efficiently, and how to use more visual methods to analyse it. It has given me ideas for further possible related research and applications for this data, as we could use it to create maps and timelines, as well as more expansive graphs.

Please click here to download a poster about Annabelle’s project: Annabelle Mansell – poster

Funding Success for former Lincoln MA in Medieval Studies Student!

Here, Holly Shipton, a former University of Lincoln student, shares news of her recent funding success and reflects upon how her experience at Lincoln helped here:

‘Having completed my BA History and MA Medieval Studies at the University of Lincoln I knew the next step for me was to complete a PhD and continue with my academic career. I will begin my PhD at Queen’s University Belfast in October 2021, funded by the DfE research studentship. My doctoral thesis is entitled Landscape, Ecology, and Agriculture in Medieval Ireland: Management and Decision-making on the Manors of Roger Bigod, and will ultimately address questions concerning the issue of agricultural sustainability and ecological sensibility in late medieval Ireland, and will address key gaps in our understanding of manorial management, agricultural production, and English lordship in Ireland during this period.

Studying history at the University of Lincoln provided me with not only an incredible support base, but also a number of skills which set me apart from other students when applying for a PhD. Being able to learn Latin and palaeography in such a specialist environment enabled me to complete a research topic I would not have been able to had I not learnt those skills, as I was able to translate and transcribe thirteenth-century manorial accounts written predominantly in Latin. The range of modules available to me also helped me develop these skills within a number of historical contexts in which I was less familiar, expanding my breadth of knowledge of the medieval world – including topics such as the economic history of North-western Europe and the medieval cult of saints.

When deciding what I wanted to study for my independent project as an undergraduate, and then for my Dissertation at MA level, I knew I wanted to study a topic that was not related to the modules available at the University of Lincoln, but the wide range of medieval specialists meant I could find the perfect supervisor and thus find my own academic path. My MA dissertation won the Lincoln Record Society award for best MA Medieval dissertation 2020, and I was subsequently asked by the LRS to write a short piece about my research for their review – an incredibly opportunity I would not have been afforded had I not studied at Lincoln.

I am extremely grateful to all the lecturers and researchers I interacted with during my time at the University of Lincoln, but I am especially grateful to Dr Mark Gardiner who supervised and supported me through both my dissertations and helped me enormously, along with Dr Jamie Wood, in applying for my PhD and funding.’