Dr Hannah Skoda

Medieval Violence: Physical Brutality in Northern France, 1270-1330 (Oxford Historical Monographs) (Oxford University Press, 2012)

Medieval Violence provides a detailed analysis of the practice of medieval brutality, focusing on a thriving region of northern France in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. It examines how violence was conceptualised in this period, and uses this framework to investigate street violence, tavern brawls, urban rebellions, student misbehaviour, and domestic violence. The interactions between these various forms of violence are examined in order to demonstrate the complex and communicative nature of medieval brutality. What is often dismissed as dysfunctional behaviour is shown to have been highly strategic and socially integral. Violence was a performance, dependent upon the spaces in which it took place. Indeed, brutality was contingent upon social and cultural structures. At the same time, the common stereotype of the thoughtlessly brutal Middle Ages is challenged, as attitudes towards violence are revealed to have been complex, troubled, and ambivalent. Whether violence could function effectively as a form of communication which could order and harmonise society, or whether it inevitably degenerated into chaotic disorder where meaning was multivalent and incomprehensible, remained a matter of ongoing debate in a variety of contexts. Using a variety of source material, including legal records, popular literature, and sermons, Hannah Skoda explores experiences of, and attitudes towards, violence, and highlights profound contemporary ambiguity concerning its nature and legitimacy.

  • 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.

  • Legalism: Property and Ownership

  • Literarische Texte und Darstellungen

  • People as property in medieval Dubrovnik

  • Anger in Inferno and Purgatorio

  • Collective violence and popular justice in the later Middle Ages

  • Collective violence and popular justice in the later middle ages

  • Collective Violence in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century Oxford

  • Collective violence in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century oxford

  • Conflict, Friction and Contact in Medieval Oxford

  • Heresy, Inquisition and Life Cycle in Medieval Languedoc

  • More


Masters students supervision in late medieval social and cultural history

I am keen to supervise graduate students researching the social and cultural history of later medieval Europe, particularly England, France and Germany, with the history of education and of conflict, history of nostalgia, and history of slavery forming areas of special interest.

I currently teach:


Gen II. Approaches Gen VI and VII
OSS Early Gothic France Disciplines
Crime and Punishment SS Joan of Arc
  FSS Crusades and Flanders
  Italy in the Quattrocento

Times Higher Education - Medieval Dread: Student deviance and devilry https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/medieval-dread-student-deviance-and-devilry

BBC History Magazine - How bloody was medieval life? http://www.historyextra.com/article/premium/how-bloody-was-medieval-life

BBC History Magazine - History Explorer: Medieval Universities http://www.historyextra.com/article/premium/history-explorer-medieval-universities

History Extra Podcast https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/history-extra-podcast/id256580326?mt=2 (no. 75)

Making History - BBC Radio 4 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04bndm9

List of site pages