Medieval Women Revisited (7-9 July 2016)

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Just over 25 years ago the Centre for Medieval Studies of the University of York launched a new interdisciplinary MA pathway ‘Women and the the Later Medieval World’ and at much the same time hosted an international conference entitled ‘Medieval Women’.

Since that time the study of medieval women has evolved considerably, though interest in the study of gender and particularly masculinity has raised questions as to how we now relate to and engage with the study of women’s lives and experience in the medieval past. Recent scholarship has moreover returned to some of the questions that were pioneering a quarter of a century ago, particularly in relation to the ‘status’ of women after the Black Death. By revisiting the theme of medieval women, this conference seeks to explore where scholarship, particularly scholarship first inspired by the ‘Women and the Later Medieval World’ has taken us.

This then is both an exploration and a celebration. It is also an opportunity to welcome scholars from Central Europe who a quarter of a century ago saw their world transformed by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution and the collapse of authoritarian communist regimes. We are delighted that the conference is supported by the Department of History of the Palacky University, the Czech Republic.


Thursday 7 July




Isobel Davis (Birbeck, UK) The Woman Question – then and now
Rachel Moss (Oxford, UK) (B)Romance and Rape Culture in Late Medieval England

18:30 Wine Reception

Friday 8 July


Daniela Rywiková (Ostrava, Czech Republic) Sin and Death Gendered: Female Identity in the Late Medieval Pastoral Care and Visual Culture
Gerhard Jaritz (CEU, Hungary/KREMS, Salzburg, Austria) Late Medieval Visual Culture and the Constructions of Female Space

11:00 Coffee break


Hollie Morgan (Lincoln, UK) Where the Magic Happens: The Lady’s Chamber in the Late-Medieval English Imagination
Kim Phillips (Auckland, NZ) The Breasts of Virgins: Sexual Reputation and Female Bodies in Medieval Culture and Society

13:00 LUNCH


Marija Mogorović Crljenko (Pula, Croatia) Marriage and Concubinage in Istria during the Transition from the Middle Ages to the Early Modern Times
Vicki Blud (York, UK) Unspeakable Acts and Queer Medieval Women

15:45 Tea break


Beata Możejko (Gdańsk, Poland) Women in the medieval Hanseatic city of Gdańsk,: Sources and research problems
Deborah Youngs (Swansea, UK) ‘In most humble wise sheweth and compleyneth….’: female plaintiffs and Star Chamber in early Tudor England and Wales

19:00 Speaker’s Supper

Saturday 9 July


Teresa Phipps (Nottingham, UK) Locating Women: Gender and Space in Borough Court Records
Jeremy Goldberg (York, UK) Material Girls Revisited: Problematising the Social and Economic Position of Women in Later Medieval England

11:15 Coffee Break


Michaela Antonín Malaníková (Olomouc, Czech Republic) Guardianship or Partnership? Property Relations of Spouses in Late Medieval Czech Towns
Cordelia Beattie (Edinburgh, UK) Did married women stop making wills in fifteenth-century England?

13:15 Lunch

14:30 Round Table: Medieval Women: Where Next?

York Festival of Ideas – Shared Heritage: West and Islamic World (16 June 2016)

Thurs 16 June, 6.30pm to 7.30pm, KG07, King’s Manor, Exhibition Square

Free tickets:

Every day we hear the media talking about ‘us’ and the Islamic World as if there are two societies with little or nothing in common. Many public commentators seem unaware that both societies developed to a large extent from Roman and Greek roots. Roman and Greek art and architectures laid the foundations for both Islamic and Western creative developments. Greek philosophy and science was translated into Arabic with the West often learning about these works from Arabic texts. Join Michele Campopiano of the University of York as he addresses this shared cultural heritage. He will explain how English scholars in the age of the Normans travelled east to learn about the advancements of their Muslim contemporaries. Christian theologians discussed the works of Muslim philosophers and their reflections about God and Religion developed along the same lines as their Arab and Persian contemporaries. Europe and the Islamic World shared legends and myths of the great heroes of Antiquity – Alexander, Caesar and others. As Roman ruins stand in their magnificence in our city of York, so they stood and stand in Syria, Egypt,Libya and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.



About the speaker

Dr Michele Campopiano is Senior Lecturer in Medieval Latin Literature at the University of York. He has studied and worked in several countries in Europe and the Middle East. He has also published extensively on the history of the Islamic World.

The Development of Borough Customary Law in Medieval Britain, Esther Liberman Cuenca (Fordham University), Tuesday 31 May 2016

The Development of Borough Customary Law in Medieval Britain

Esther Liberman Cuenca (Fordham University)

Tuesday 31 May 2016, 5.30pm in KG/84

This lecture explores the development of borough customary law, or customary practices that took on the force of law within English towns and cities, as it began to appear in royal charters and custumals (or collections of customs) in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Compared to the abundant scholarship on medieval common law and canon law, both of which generated extensive treatises and commentaries by medieval contemporaries who were professionals formally trained in schools, publications on medieval English customary law have been few and far between. Law merchant and manorial customary law have received some attention, but fewer studies have focused on borough customary law, with the notable exception of Mary Bateson’s seminal Selden Society volumes, collectively entitled Borough Customs (1904-6), which focused mainly property rights and the jurisdiction of the borough courts. Building on Bateson’s work, this talk grapples with how borough officials began to develop their own set of customs as both prescriptive guidelines and as laws that helped them intervene in the pressing concerns of their communities. An examination of over fifty charters from the boroughs of Beverley, Bristol, Colchester, Dublin, and Southampton—as well as six stand-alone custumals from Exeter, Ipswich, Lincoln, Newcastle, Northampton, and Winchester— show that the majority dealt with the procedures and jurisdiction of the borough courts, bearing directly on the source of legal power for the urban elite, but that this focus shifts markedly over time to the requirements and particular challenges of holding political office.

This change in focus reveals three crucial features of the development of borough customary law in this early period. First, the appearance of independently produced custumals embodied a shift in the way borough customary came to be conceptualized. Borough customs were not only seigniorial privileges that granted rights, but also a set of laws that ensured officials could exercise these rights with sufficient responsibility, restraint, and consistency. Second, the increasing emphasis in later charters and custumals on the duties, character, and qualifications of holding political office exemplifies a broader trend in the development of customary law, one that signals the maturation and ever-growing influence of towns as loci of power and the power of men tasked with their governance. Lastly, the discourse of borough customary law combined two, inextricably linked conceptions of custom that depended on both seigniorial charters, with privileges handed down or renewed over time, and collections of practices and traditions that were rooted in local context and concerns.

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Passion, Mystery and Performance: The First Two Centuries of the York Play – Dr Jeremy Goldberg (7 June)

Centre for Medieval Studies & York Festival of Ideas Lecture

Passion, Mystery and Performance: The First Two Centuries of the York Play

Jeremy Goldberg (York)

Tuesday 7 June
6:00pm – King’s Manor K/133
Free Admission. Booking Required

York’s multi-pageant Creation to Domesday cycle for the feast of Corpus Christi – popularly the York mystery plays – is first noticed early in the reign of Richard II. It lasted almost two centuries until its effective suppression by the then Dean of York following its last performance in 1569. The cycle represented a significant devotional and cultural phenomenon, but also a major medieval tourist attraction. Its nature and meaning was not fixed from the time of its first notice and the changing relationship between the crafts that performed the cycle and the city governors who increasingly came to control it is an important part of the story.

This lecture will consider in particular the origins of the cycle, the role of crafts and groups of artisans and traders in relation to individual pageants, and questions to do with the nature of the production. It will ask to what degree spoken text was part of performance before the 1470s and will explore issues relating to performance, in particular how far women were excluded from or included in productions. Finally it will offer some thoughts about the last years of the cycle and its demise before its revival in the modern era.

Jeremy Goldberg is a Reader in the Department of History and a member of the Medieval Urban Household Research Project. A native of Hull, he has been passionate about the Middle Ages since childhood. He joined the department in 1988 having previously been a research fellow at Clare College, Cambridge and before that a temporary lecturer at the University of Keele. His research focuses upon later medieval English social and cultural history; women’s and gender history.

Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649 – Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)

Bede, the recta fides, and the Lateran Council of 649

Miranda Wilcox (Brigham Young University & CMS Visiting Professor)
Tuesday 10 May
5.30pm – King’s Manor KG/84

Fifty years after Archbishop Theodore convened a synod at Hatfield in 679 to demonstrate the orthodoxy of the English in anticipation of the Sixth Ecumenical Council, Bede memorialized the synod and its orthodoxy in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Given the contested nature of what constituted the true faith—the recta fides—it is surprising that Bede only quoted portions of the definition of faith made by the English bishops and recorded in a synodical letter to Rome. Bede’s selectiveness raises pressing questions: What did he leave out? Why did he leave it out?

While some have assumed that Bede was ignorant of the theological and historical contexts, particularly the Christological crises, of the seventh century, textual evidence reveals otherwise. Bede’s understanding of what constituted heretical and orthodox Christology, that is how the divine and human are related in the person of Jesus Christ, developed over his lifetime as he acquired sources. I propose a timeline of when Bede gained access to two key Roman sources: The Book of Pontiffs and the acts of the Lateran Council (649), and discuss how these sources changed the trajectory of Bede’s heresiology and Christology. Although Bede was relatively familiar with the competing Christologies which had divided the East and West by the time he completed the Ecclesiastical History in 731, I argue that he purposefully and wisely focused on Trinitarian doctrine in his account of the Hatfield synod, thus shaping the Anglo-Saxon perception of the recta fides for centuries.


Professor Miranda Wilcox is Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where she teaches medieval literature. Her research focuses on the intersections of religious and textual culture in early medieval Europe, especially in Anglo-Saxon England. She is working on a book project titled Confessing the Faith in Anglo-Saxon England. This winter she is working on a chapter about definitions of faith made by Anglo-Saxon church councils and continental definitions transmitted to Anglo-Saxon England. She received a master’s and doctorate in medieval studies from the University of Notre Dame.