I have recently submitted my doctorate in Medieval History. Through an examination of litigation records from the London based consistory court (c. 1467-1524) my doctoral research uncovered how popular perceptions of marriage as a social institution was navigated through the exchange of gifts. People used gifts during marriage negotiations to display emotion, intimacy, and marital intention. A focus on marital gifts challenges legal and institutional concepts of marriage making, and has added a different dimension to our understanding of how people in the middle ages defined themselves and their relationship to others.
My thesis made significant inroads into our knowledge of later medieval popular perceptions of gift-exchanges, and material culture more generally. I employed mixed methodology, incorporating anthropological ‘gift’ scholarship alongside an archaeological and material culture perspective. I examine how the act of giving, the object given, and the story told about it, were all used by deponents in their presentation of evidence to the court. The object that made a gift was tied to its material components, and held specific characteristics and cultural associations. The exchange of things created a bond of reciprocity between people; and exchanged things were valuable beyond their economic worth because they represented a emotional and social connection. People recognised and exploited the material meanings of the gift, and this indicates the conscious efforts that went into the gift-giving process, and its subsequent retelling.
In the year 2015/2016, I served as graduate academic officer for the Oxford History Graduate Network at Oxford’s History Faculty. I am also the co-organiser of the international and interdisciplinary Medieval Graduate Conference. In September 2016 I co-organised a conference on People, Places, and Possessions, 1350-1550. I am in the process of co-editing a special issue of the Journal of Medieval History, with Rachel Delman, based on this conference, due for publication in September 2018.
As a historian I am particularly drawn to the importance of outreach and access because I believe it is important to make our history as rich, and as varied, as possible. In 2016 I helped found the Manuscript Outreach Network which aims to use college and university held manuscripts in outreach and access initiatives, and encourage interest in a subject which secondary school students might otherwise not have access to. I have also volunteered as a speaker at Cheney Academy, based in Headington, and as a historical advisor to the National Trust as part of the University’s Knowledge Exchange programme.