- History of nostalgia
- History of misbehaviour, particularly amongst medieval students
- History of late medieval slavery
My first book focused on popular violence in later medieval northern France. I worked on the interconnections between different forms of violence, from tavern brawls to domestic violence to urban uprisings, and looked at legal and cultural constructions of 'deviance', and the role of emotions in provoking outbursts of brutality.
My current research focuses on the misbehaviour of fifteenth-century students at the universities of Oxford, Paris and Heidelberg. Drawing on criminological models, my research examines the relationship between the negative stereotypes imposed upon students by a variety of commentators and observers, and the ways in which the students negotiated those stereotypes in their actual misbehaviour. The source material ranges from student poems and letters, to sermons and legal material.
Violence and conflict are obviously of great contemporary relevance, as well as essential to an understanding of the complexities of medieval society. Disentangling the relationships between what people did, what they said they did, and what other people said about these actions is extremely challenging, but can substantially deepen and nuance our understanding.
I am also writing a book about the development of something akin to a sense of nostalgia in the later Middle Ages. A variety of social groups engaged with the trope of harking back to a golden age as a way of processing their reactions to the rapid social, political and economic changes which characterise the period.
Further interests include Joan of Arc's emotional world; the history of sufficiency; and the legalism of property and ownership, particularly in the context of medieval slavery. Late medieval slavery is the more unsettling and often un-acknowledged underside of the Renaissance: I am interested in recovering the stories and experiences of slaves. Their humanity continues to resonate across the centuries through the surviving legal material.
I am currently on research leave funded by a Leverhulme prize.