Project: Sources of judgement in early medieval Spain

Sources of judgement in early medieval Spain

Project participants: Abigail Houseman (2nd year undergraduate student in History) and Dr Jamie Wood

Funder: Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS) 2015, Educational Development And Enhancement Unit (EDEU), University of Lincoln – The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme is a funding scheme designed to encourage undergraduates to become involved in the research work of the University, thereby contributing to that work, and developing their own research and transferable skills. Student Bursaries of up to £1000 are available to support projects that will normally be completed during the summer vacation. Applications are submitted collaboratively by the staff and students participating in the project.

Project outline

Jamie Wood will be working on a project entitled “To be the neighbour of San Pedro: Divine Judgement in tenth-century northern Spain”, which is funded by the John Rylands Research Institute at the University of Manchester, during the summer of 2015. The project examines three tenth-century Spanish manuscripts from the John Rylands Library to unpick what they reveal about the religious, cultural and judicial practices that underpinned the existence of the monastery that produced the manuscripts (San Pedro de Cardeña). Each of the manuscripts is an in-depth commentary on a specific core text of early Christianity (the Psalms, the Old Testament book of Job, and the Rule of St. Benedict) and the aim of the project is to explore what these commentaries can tell us about the functioning of the monasteries as social institutions. How might the core texts of early Christianity and their associated commentaries have affected the practical running of the monastery? Curiously, this is not a question that has been asked of the monasteries of northern Spain for more than a generation, with empirical work largely focussing on their social and economic history.

Abigail Houseman’s project, “Sources of judgement in early medieval Spain”, will be fully-integrated into the overall project, and will encompass a detailed textual baseline analysis of the original primary source texts (i.e. the early Christian writings). The focus here will be on references to judges and judgement in the source texts on which the Cardeña commentaries were made in order to facilitate comparison between sources and commentaries and thus to unpick how early medieval monastic communities drew on the inheritance of the early Church in their concepts of judgement. The student researcher, who has taken a number of medieval modules over the course of her first and second years, is already well placed to analyse this material from a “fresh”, yet informed perspective. Abigail will conduct a close textual analysis of the Book of Job, Psalms and the Rule of St. Benedict, focusing in particular on references to judges and descriptions of processes of judgement. These materials will then be coded into a database and written up into a series of three blog posts (for the Medieval Studies Research Group blog at the University of Lincoln and a poster for presentation at the conference of the Society for the Medieval Mediterranean, which will take place at Lincoln in July 2015, the final week of the UROS project. The conference theme is law, custom and ritual and will represent a valuable opportunity for Abigail to share the findings of her project with leading scholars in the field, as well as to attend the papers that will be given at the conference.

“Sources of judgement in early medieval Spain” will be divided into three phases, to give Abigail exposure to the planning, implementation and sharing of research results (i.e. to experience the full research ‘cycle’), corresponding to the Student as Producer agenda by working alongside but independently of Jamie. Each stage of the process will be initiated and ended by a meeting between Jamie and Abigail, in order to facilitate ongoing training, planning and reflection. Jamie will be available via email or face-to-face for consultation where necessary. The actual research will be conducted independently by Abigail, however, and will be modified as we move forward according to her evolving understanding of the project.


Week 1 – project planning discussion, training in use of database

Week 2 – creation of a bibliography composed of key secondary reading


Week 3 – Rule of Benedict (database entries and summary blog post); trip to Manchester to see the Rylands manuscripts

Week 4 – Psalms (database entries and summary blog post)

Week 5 – Book of Job (database entries and summary blog post)


Week 6 – summarising results into a report and poster

Week 7 – presentation of poster at conference of Society for Medieval Mediterranean (final blog post, including database, report and poster)

Research outcomes

  • Database summarising textual analysis of primary sources;
  • At least four blog posts summarising results, hosting poster and database;
  • Poster for Society for the Medieval Mediterranean conference, July 2015;
  • Poster for initial UROS event
  • Poster for final UROS session.

Research skills that the student will be acquiring

  • Close reading and textual analysis of primary sources, including coding to facilitate entry into the database;
  • Advanced use of database software;
  • Secondary literature searching;
  • Networking with experts in the field at the conference, as well as attending, listening to and taking notes on conference papers;
  • Writing and presentation skills, esp. in writing in a register appropriate for the blog posts and final posters.