Dr Emily A. Winkler

Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing

Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing (OUP, 2017)

It has long been established that the crisis of 1066 generated a florescence of historical writing in the first half of the twelfth century. Emily A. Winkler presents a new perspective on previously unqueried matters, investigating how historians' individual motivations and assumptions produced changes in the kind of history written across the Conquest. She argues that responses to the Danish Conquest of 1016 and the Norman Conquest of 1066 changed dramatically within two generations of the latter conquest. Repeated conquest could signal repeated failures and sin across the orders of society, yet early twelfth-century historians in England not only extract English kings and people from a history of failure, but also establish English kingship as a worthy office on a European scale.

Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing illuminates the consistent historical agendas of four historians: William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon, John of Worcester, and Geffrei Gaimar. In their narratives of England's eleventh-century history, these twelfth-century historians expanded their approach to historical explanation to include individual responsibility and accountability within a framework of providential history. In this regard, they made substantial departures from their sources. These historians share a view of royal responsibility independent both of their sources (primarily the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) and of any political agenda that placed English and Norman allegiances in opposition. Although the accounts diverge widely in the interpretation of character, all four are concerned more with the effectiveness of England's kings than with the legitimacy of their origins. Their new, shared view of royal responsibility represents a distinct phenomenon in England's twelfth-century historiography.


Dr Winkler’s research and teaching centres on Europe before 1200. She works primarily on historical writing, political thought and the reception of the classics in the early and central Middle Ages, with particular reference to the British Isles, the North Sea zone, and the Anglo-Norman world. Her work seeks to apply cross-disciplinary and comparative approaches to the past for a better understanding of medieval people and ideas.

Her first book, Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing (Oxford University Press, 2017), examines ideas of moral and causal responsibility, historical contingency, and royal rulership in eleventh- and twelfth-century historical writing. In June she directed a major international conference on the Norman presence in the medieval Mediterranean. In the summer of 2017 she held an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship at the University of Mainz in Germany, where she worked on a research project about relationships in the remote past in Britain’s high medieval historical writing.

At present, she is writing an article on the changing attitudes towards kingship and queenship in tenth-century Britain, and a study comparing invasion narratives of the early medieval British Isles. Her current collaborative projects include a volume of essays entitled Rewriting History in the Central Middle Ages, c. 950–1250 and a new collection about the Normans in southern Italy and Sicily. Future projects include a monograph about the nature of historical writing in the medieval British Isles, and a shorter study on the Norman impact on visions of the past in the Mediterranean.

As Vice-President for the UK and Europe of the Haskins Society, a scholarly organization devoted to the study of the early and central Middle Ages, Dr Winkler plans and supports conference sessions on a variety of themes to support the Society’s international community of medievalists. Dr Winkler’s outreach activities have included organizing a major millennial anniversary event commemorating the Danish Conquest of England, speaking for local historical associations in Malmesbury, London, Aylesbury and Knutsford, and working closely with the alumni associations of Jesus College and St Edmund Hall to promote lifelong learning of history.


More information can be found at:




  • Imagining the medieval face of battle: the ‘Malfosse’ incident and the Battle of Hastings, 1066–1200

  • Royal Responsibility in Anglo-norman Historical Writing

  • Translation, Interpretation and the Danish Conquest of England, 1016

  • The Latin Life of Gruffudd ap Cynan, British kingdoms and the Scandinavian past

  • Discovering William of Malmesbury: The Man and his Works

  • The Norman Conquest of the classical past: William of Poitiers, language and history

  • 1074 in the Twelfth Century

  • England’s Defending Kings in Twelfth-Century Historical Writing

  • William of Malmesbury and the Britons

  • More

I currently teach:


Disciplines of History History of the British Isles I 
History of the British Isles I  History of the British Isles II
History of the British Isles II  
General History I  
General History II  
Approaches to History: Archaeology  

Dr Winkler delivered a ‘Teddy Talk’ at St Edmund Hall’s Research Expo in February 2017, entitled ‘Was there history in the Middle Ages?’, available as a University podcast and YouTube video. An advocate of writing, she has served as a judge for St Edmund Hall’s Ex Aula prize for the best article submitted to Ex Aula, the on-line journal edited by St Edmund Hall postgraduate students.


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