Monthly Archives: April 2015

Justine Firnhaber-Baker Reports on Mediaeval Revolts Conference

On 17 and 18 April, Justine Firnhaber-Baker held a conference entitled ‘The Age of Revolt: Comparative Perspectives’. Seventeen scholars from Spain, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, and the Netherlands came together in St Andrews to discuss revolts, rebellion, and resistance in medieval western Europe.

After an introduction by Justine Firnhaber-Baker, Chris Wickham (Oxford) gave a paper entitled ‘Looking Forward’ about peasant revolts from 600-1200, showing that in this early period rural revolts did occur, usually in protest to encroaching lordship. Two papers on revolt in the Low Countries followed: Jelle Haemers (Leuven) and Jan Dumolyn (Ghent) spoke about how revolts in this region got their names, and Dirk Schoenaers (St Andrews) compared the representation of revolts in the regional historiographies of the fifteenth century. The conference turned next to England with Christian Liddy (Durham) speaking on ordinary citizens’ involvement in politics and Eliza Hatrich (Oxford) arguing that many acts of resistance in English towns must be understood in a legal context as efforts to challenge urban jurisdiction. Rafael Oliva Herrer (Seville) ended the conference’s first day with a talk on the large-scale revolt in Castile against Emperor Charles V. The next morning Fabrizio Titone (Basque Country) outlined the practice of ‘disciplined dissent’ in Sicily at the turn of the fifteenth century, and Vincent Challet (Montpellier-III) discussed the employment and perception of violence in fourteenth-century French rebellions. Justine Firnhaber-Baker (St Andrews) and Andrew Prescott (Glasgow and the AHRC) both spoke about the multiplicity and variety of meanings attributable to revolt in the French Jacquerie and the 1381 English Rising, respectively. The conference closed with an hour of discussion (and a dinner at Maisha, pictured).

medieval revolts

This conference and a previous one, held in October 2014, were supported by an AHRC early career fellowship held by Justine Firnhaber-Baker. Dirk Schoenaers also works on the project as a post-doctoral fellow. Participants at the first conference, some of whom also attended the second one, included John Arnold (Birkbeck), Paul Freedman (Yale), Samuel Cohn (Glasgow), Myles Lavan (St Andrews), Justine Smithius (Leiden), Philip Haberken (Boston University), and Gianluca Raccagni (Edinburgh). A collection of essays from the conferences, edited by Justine and Dirk, entitled The Age of Revolt: Comparative Perspectives on Medieval Rebellion is expected to be published by Routledge in 2016. You can keep up-to-date on the project at its WordPress site.

Professor Robin Fleming Presents at SAIMS Seminar, Visit Supported by Dr Lucilla Butler

Professor Robin Fleming of Boston College presented a paper at the final Mediaeval Studies seminar entitled ‘Women, Children, Migration and Material Culture in Fifth and Early Sixth-Century Lowland Britain’.robin fleming 2

Her paper examined archaeological findings from the burials of women and girls in early mediaeval lowland Britain. It has generally been assumed that women of this time dressed according to the dictations of their societies and that migration accounts for variations in dress. Using cultural remains and scientific analysis, Robin challenged previous conceptions relating to the roles of women in this location and period. Examination of strontium and oxygen isotopes from the teeth of these women revealed an isotopic signature, reflective of water sources consumed from an early age, which was used to determine their origins. She argued that the clothing and objects these women were buried with did not always reflect the typical dress from their points of origin, which may suggest that they had a degree of autonomy when choosing their attire. She ended her presentation with an appeal for historians and scientists to collaborate in order to overcome challenges imposed by the lack of written sources.

Robin is the author of Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise of the Middle Ages, c. 400-c. 1070 (Penguin, 2010), Domesday Book and the Law: Society and Legal Custom in Early Medieval England (Cambridge, 1997), and Kings and Lords in Conquest England (Cambridge, 1991).

We are extremely grateful to Dr Lucilla Butler whose support made Robin Fleming’s visit possible. Dr Butler is the daughter of Lionel Butler, the first Professor of Mediaeval History at the University of St Andrews.

Dr Butler has also generously endowed the Lionel Butler Postgraduate Scholarship in Mediaeval Studies, awarded to a postgraduate student studying for the MLitt in Mediaeval Studies or the MLitt in Mediaeval History. The scholarship was awarded for the first time this year and is used to defray the general costs of study. Selection is made via application based on academic potential and applications are considered by the Director of the St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies and the Head of Department of Mediaeval History.

The funding environment for taught Humanities postgraduates is particularly challenging, and this new scholarship will help to ensure that talented students who wish to pursue their interests in the mediaeval world are able to do so.

Dr Butler’s intention when setting up the endowed scholarship was to provide a foundation upon which others might build.  She is therefore keen to encourage Mediaeval History alumni, especially those taught by her father, to consider joining her in supporting taught postgraduate students in Mediaeval History / Mediaeval Studies by adding to the endowment. More information on how to support the scholarship is available from Alex Hayes, Development Officer on +44 (0)1334 461918 or