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Medieval & Early Modern Studies

Caption: View of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1545. Part of the Cotton Manuscripts Collection. Credit: The British Library. Shelfmark: Cotton MS Augustus I ii 4

The Medieval and Early Modern Studies research group is highly interdisciplinary, bringing together researchers in History, English Literature, Art and Music who work on Britain, Europe and the wider world in the period before 1700. Research in the group focuses on four key strands: Religious Cultures, Appropriation and Authority, Music and Sound, and Royal Studies. 

For more information, please contact the research group lead: Dr Katherine Butler

Religious Cultures

This research strand promotes the comparative study of religious cultures across medieval and early modern Europe. It supports a lively variety of interdisciplinary research including the changing institutional, material and spatial contexts of religious life, theology and liturgical thinking, textual and artistic representations, confessional relations, parish communities, domestic worship and broader socio-political and cultural perspectives. 

Appropriation and Authority

This research strand supports interdisciplinary research into medieval and early modern texts, textiles and other cultural products, examining their appropriations across time and space and reflecting upon their relationship with questions of authority and authorship. 

Music and Sound

This research strand focuses on the musical culture of sixteenth and seventeenth-century England and English musicians abroad, and encompasses ballads and popular song as well as music associated with court and the aristocracy. Music is considered in relation to gender, religion, philosophy and politics. Members of MEMS also have interests in manuscript studies and early music printing, as well as the challenges of editing music of this period. 

Royal Studies

This research strand focuses on aspects of monarchical rule and court studies in the early modern period, including royal ceremony in urban and court settings, queenship and kingship, court culture including material culture, the literary and historical reputations of monarchs, and political history of monarchies. 

Current Project Grants

David Smith is currently PI for the AHRC-funded network, ‘Digital directions for collected editions: keyboard music by British musicians before c.1700’. 

Felicia Gottmann is PI of the UKRI FLF Project ‘Migration, Adaptation, Innovation 1500-1800’. 

Brycchan Carey has a British Academy Wolfson Professorship for his project ‘The Parish Revolution: Parochial Origins of Global Conservationism’ 


Major Publications  

Members of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies group have published major studies on: 


External Events and Partnerships 

The group have led a range of events on early modern theatre including conferences on Territory, Politics and Performance in Tudor England, led by Paul Frazer (2017), and Offensive Shakespeare, led by Monika Smialkowska and sponsored by the British Shakespeare Association (2017). Meanwhile, in 2019 Adam Hansen took his Shakespeare Club reading group on the road, to read Shakespeare across the North East, from St Mary’s Lighthouse to the People’s Kitchen.  

Also in 2019, Katarzyna Kosior, Katherine Butler and Chloe Renwick organised international symposium on ‘Sex and Gender Politics’, hosted by Northumbria’s Institute of the Humanities, and Richard O’Brien organised the ‘Tudor Cinema Club’, an outreach event including interactive screening of film clips, readings, and discussion in the beautiful Tudor surroundings of Selly Manor.  

In 2020, a Being Human Festival event ‘Sex Education Zine Cafe’, co-organised by then-member Kit Heyam, engaged members of the public in the discussion of how early modern readers accessed knowledge about sex and how this might inform contemporary sex education. 

Lesley Twomey leads Northumbria’s partnership with Newcastle Cathedral, which has resulted in joint events and walking tours, for example on ‘Plague and War in Newcastle’. 

Group members were also involved in the Durham-Newcastle Colloquium on Medieval and Golden Age Hispanic Studies which met in 2022. 


Dr Katherine Butler

Prof Brycchan Carey

Dr Rachael Durkin

Dr Paul Frazer

Dr Felicia Gottmann

Dr Adam Hansen

Andrea Knox

Dr Katarzyna Kosior

Prof Neil Murphy

Dr Richard O’Brien

Dr Leona Skelton

Dr Monika Smialkowska

Prof David Smith

Dr Carlos Conde Solares

Prof Lesley Twomey 

Dr Philip Wallage

Postgraduate Researchers:

Sandra Elliott, Humility and Authority in the Lives of English Saints in The Golden Legend English Tradition from Manuscript to Print 

Ben Hebbert, Musical Instruments as Materiality in the English Renaissance Court and noble culture 

Sebastian Jørgensen, Repercussio: Mapping the Art of ‘Repeating’ in the Sixteenth Century 



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