Dr Hannah Skoda

Featured Publication

Legalism: Property and Ownership, Edited by Georgy Kantor, Tom Lambert, and Hannah Skoda (OUP, 2017)

legalism skoda

In this volume, ownership is defined as the simple fact of being able to describe something as 'mine' or 'yours', and property is distinguished as the discursive field which allows the articulation of attendant rights, relationships, and obligations. Property is often articulated through legalism as a way of thinking that appeals to rules and to generalizing concepts as a way of understanding, responding to, and managing the world around one. An Aristotelian perspective suggests that ownership is the natural state of things and a prerequisite of a true sense of self. An alternative perspective from legal theory puts law at the heart of the origins of property. However, both these points of view are problematic in a wider context, the latter because it rests heavily on Roman law. Anthropological and historical studies enable us to interrogate these assumptions. 

The articles here, ranging from Roman provinces to modern-day piracy in Somalia, address questions such as: How are legal property regimes intertwined with economic, moral-ethical, and political prerogatives? How far do the assumptions of the western philosophical tradition explain property and ownership in other societies? Is the 'bundle of rights' a useful way to think about property? How does legalism negotiate property relationships and interests between communities and individuals? How does the legalism of property respond to the temporalities and materialities of the objects owned? How are property regimes managed by states, and what kinds of conflicts are thus generated? 

Property and ownership cannot be reduced to natural rights, nor do they straightforwardly reflect power relations: the rules through which property is articulated tend to be conceptually subtle. As the fourth volume in the Legalism series, this collection draws on common themes that run throughout the first three volumes: Legalism: Anthropology and HistoryLegalism: Community and Justice, and Legalism: Rules and Categoriesconsolidating them in a framework that suggests a new approach to legal concepts.

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

Medieval Violence: Physical Brutality in Northern France, 1270-1330

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 nostalgia in the later Middle Ages. The fourteenth century is often labelled as a century of catastrophe.  A fairer assessment describes profound socio-economic, cultural and political changes which had the potential to transform ways of thinking.  Many contemporaries responded in profoundly nostalgic terms, harking back to ‘the good old days’, whether the time of their grandparents, or a more nebulous lost golden age.  My work examines nostalgia across the social spectrum.  Recent anthropologists and philosophers highlight the counter-intuitively hopeful aspect of such an attitude.  In many ways, a cross-cultural concept, it was articulated in powerful, lyrical and often subversive ways in the fourteenth century. 

I also work 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.

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.

  • Fractional Freedoms: Slavery, Intimacy, and Legal Mobilization in Colonial Lima, 1600–1750, by Michelle A. McKinley

  • Introduction

  • Introduction

  • Legalism

  • People as Property in Medieval Dubrovnik

  • Enough-ness in the later middle ages

  • Literarische Texte und Darstellungen

  • The Idea of a Moral Economy: Gerard of Siena on Usury, Restitution and Prescription, by Lawrin Armstrong

  • Education in Twelfth-Century Art and Architecture: Images of Learning in Europe, c.1100–1220, by Laura Cleaver

  • Anger in Inferno and Purgatorio

  • More

Emma Goodwin, Merton

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
In the Media

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