Prof. Barbara Bombi FBA to be the 2023 Anselm Lecturer

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies is pleased to invite you to the final of the four public annual lectures that it organises. These lectures, which range across the wide area covered by MEMS, are intended to celebrate the vitality of scholarship by bringing internationally renowned experts to Canterbury to share and discuss their research. For the 2023 Anselm Lecture, we are able to look to our own community for a scholar of such standing. We are delighted that MEMS’s own Prof. Barbara Bombi will be giving this year’s Anselm Lecture at 5pm on 8th June in the Templeman Lecture Theatre.

Prof. Barbara Bombi

In the summer of 2022, Prof. Bombi was elected a Fellow of the British Academy. That election is a reflection of the high standing she has within Britain’s academic world, and beyond. Her reputation has had material benefit to the University of Kent, attracting both funding and students to its campus. As well as an outstanding historian with several important monographs to her name, she is an excellent academic citizen: in her role as the School of History’s Director of Research, she was instrumental in co-ordinating the submission to the Research Excellence Framework that saw the University of Kent achieving the accolade of having the top-ranked history department in the UK. Prof. Bombi has always been a stalwart supporter of MEMS, its work and its scholars.

Prof. Bombi’s lecture is entitled ‘Memories of Italian merchants in fourteenth-century England: A tale of Fortune and Misfortune’. Below you will find an abstract for the lecture.

The lecture will be followed by a reception, to which you are also invited. If you cannot attend in present and so want to join online, do contact the Centre.


Italian merchants became an essential tool of funding for the English Crown between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They were instrumental in funding the Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French wars and moving cash and goods between northern Europe and Italy via Flanders and France. However, many Italian merchant companies that embarked on these commercial enterprises faced bankruptcy owing to lack of liquidity and because of the challenges faced by the English Crown vis-à-vis its creditors. This paper will investigate the rise and fall of the Frescobaldi company in England at the beginning of the fourteenth century. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the paper will not only investigate financial accounts and correspondence, but also how the bankruptcy of the Frescobaldi was recorded in some contemporary literary sources and sonnets produced in the context of the dolce stil novo.

Ann Blair to give 2023 MEMS Renaissance Lecture

MEMS is delighted to be able to invite you to this year’s Renaissance Lecture. We are very honoured to be hosting Prof. Ann Blair, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard University as our Renaissance Lecturer for 2023. She is one of the world’s leading scholars of the intellectual life of the Renaissance world. Her work, for instance Too Much to Know (2010), often has striking contemporary resonances. At 5:30pm on Friday 26th May in the University of Kent’s Templeman Lecture Theatre, she will be sharing with us her new research on ‘The appeal of composite books for learned printers and authors in the Renaissance’.

Prof. Ann Blair, MEMS’s Renaissance Lecturer for 2023.

Prof. Blair explains her topic:

A number of learned books in the Renaissance were composite, by which I mean that they comprised multiple texts, by one or more authors. Famous works like Erasmus’s Praise of Folly or Thomas More’s Utopia for example were not first published in standalone editions as we encounter them today, but rather in composite volumes, alongside other unrelated texts. In this talk I’ll ponder some of the reasons for the appeal of publishing multiple texts together in composite volumes. My main case study will focus on Conrad Gessner of Zurich (1516-1565), who published more than sixty books, among them his well-known folio volumes of natural history and bibliography. I draw on the printing histories and abundant paratexts in this corpus to suggest some of the reasons why he and his printers favored composite volumes, notably: to justify a new edition of a text already published by other printers, to add name recognition, to produce a book of sufficient heft, to avoid leaving pages blank at the end of a quire. I propose that these findings could apply to other author-printer relationships, in cases where we do not have good evidence for what motivated composite volumes.

You are welcome to join us in person but if you cannot travel to the campus, please contact the Co-Directors of MEMS, Drs Rory Loughnane and David Rundle, for a Zoom link.

Constables, Charters and Kent: a MEMS collaboration with Kent Archives

Kent Archives U269/O342

Maidstone: Kent Archives, U269/O342 – the rights of the Constable of Dover

MEMS is delighted be collaborating with Kent Archives in organising an exciting event on 22nd and 23rd May 2023 to welcome significant new additions to the Archives’ collections.

In 2022, Kent Archives received some ‘new’ medieval material with shared early modern provenance, reflecting on the history of Kent and of its study in the seventeenth century. This mini-conference is the first time these items will be on display in their new home and that they will have received scholarly discussion. On Monday 22nd May, from noon, we will be in Maidstone and on the morning of Tuesday 23rd May in Canterbury when we will also be seeing related material in both our own Special Collections and in Canterbury Cathedral Archives.

Speakers will include MEMS’s own Prof. Kenneth Fincham, Dr Ryan Perry and Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh.

The event is free and open to all but spaces are limited so do reserve yours by contacting the email addresses listed on the flyer.

University of Kent hosts The European Society for Textual Scholarship annual conference

Earlier this month, the University of Kent hosted the annual conference for The European Society for Textual Scholarship.

The European Society for Textual Scholarship provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the theory and practice of textual scholarship in Europe. It was established in 2001 in close collaboration with the Society for Textual Scholarship (North America).

Members of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) were central to the conference’s planning and organization. The Chair of the Organising and Planning Committees was Dr Rory Loughnane (School of English; Co-Director of MEMS) and other key roles were taken by current PhD students in MEMS: Ségolène Gence (Programming and Communication Officer), Jon Pinkerton (Registration Officer and Secretary) and Samantha McCarthy (Social Officer and Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives Liaison Officer). The Planning Committee included colleagues from across the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives, and Loughborough University.

The conference was the largest ever gathering the ESTS society with more than 110 delegates. Across a packed two-day schedule, the conference featured 32 parallel panel and roundtable sessions, literary walking tours in Canterbury, exhibitions in Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives and the Templeman Library Special Collections, digital exhibitions, and a reception at Canterbury Cathedral Chapter House.

Dr Loughnane said “It was an honour to host the European Society for Textual Scholarship (ESTS) at the University of Kent. We were delighted to welcome delegates from around the world and to help showcase the exciting research in textual studies taking place at the university, not least in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. We look forward to future collaborations with the ESTS and to providing further opportunities for our postgraduate researchers with interests in textual studies.

“The success of the conference was down to the hard work of the members of the organising and planning committees, and the wonderful Conferences team here at the university (led in this instance by Jan Williams), who created such an exciting programme of events. A special note of thanks should be given to the three MEMS PhD students, Ségolène Gence, Jon Pinkerton, and Samantha McCarthy, who did so much to support the planning, organisation, and hour-to-hour running of the conference. It was a real team effort and speaks to the strengths of the research community of MEMS and beyond in the university.”

Student Blog – A trip to Malling Abbey: the face of Bishop Gundulf?

We are sharing with you today a blogpost written by our wonderful PhD student Harry Gilbert, who first did his MA with us in 2020 and who is now back again this year for his doctoral adventure. Harry’s thesis focuses on Rochester Cathedral and its medieval history – a truly fascinating topic which led him to Malling Abbey two weeks ago.

Here is what Harry discovered:

“Not too long ago I accompanied Rochester Cathedral’s heritage officer, Jacob Scott, to Malling Abbey. This was the first of several planned visits that aim to photograph and create 3D models of points of interest across the abbey’s buildings, from the gatehouse to the abbey proper.

The head of a monk sculpted similarly to how Benedictine monks were depicted with big ears in manuscripts.

Though much of the abbey is later, or indeed modern, remnants of the Norman abbey survive to this day, primarily in some of the surviving masonry. What was striking to me was much of the architectural similarity shared between the abbey and Rochester Cathedral; unsurprising considering their intertwined histories.

The highlight of my visit, however, was the face of what appears to be a monk, or possibly even a monk-bishop, within some of the stonework, found upon an older survival of the abbey positioned parallel with one side of the modern cloister.

Though we will never truly know the identity of the monk, Sister Mary Owen informed me that many in the community like to imagine that the face is that of Bishop Gundulf, the second Norman bishop of Rochester who founded Malling Abbey and cared for its administration until he sanctioned the election of an abbess upon his death bed. The head of this mystery monk certainly falls in line with depictions of Benedictine monks, particularly the ears, which bear a striking resemblance to the monks pictured upon fol. 108r of London: British Library, Cotton MS. Nero D II, a version of the Flores Historiarum written at Rochester.

London: British Library, Cotton MS. Nero D II, fol.108r

To this day, Bishop Gundulf is revered at Malling Abbey, and rightly so. From what we know of him from the Vita Gundulfi, this bishop was a man always invested in the spiritual well-being of women. Not only did he oversee his biological mother’s transition into becoming a nun in Normandy, but he loved the Virgin Mary above all other saints, is compared only to the saints Mary and Martha within his Vita, and founded Malling Abbey and provided it with an abbess upon his death.”

Dr Suzanna Ivanič wins the Society for Renaissance Studies Biennial Book Prize 2022

Congratulations to Dr Suzanna Ivanič for winning the Society for Renaissance (SRS) Biennial Book Prize 2022 for Cosmos and Materiality in Early Modern Prague (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2021)

“From the wolf and lynx teeth found in a set of prayer beads, with a Lutheran sermon book in a sixteenth century burgher’s house in Prague, this jewel of a book sketches in a rich material environment in which Catholic and Lutheran customs happily co-existed alongside a range of popular religious practices, often within the same households. Making compelling use of objects, inventories, texts, and the natural matter within them, Ivanič challenges dichotomous understandings of confessional division in a century of religious upheaval. The complexity of personal devotion emerges, experienced within a cosmos shaped by the physical, social and the spiritual, in which individuals escaped confessional straitjackets to negotiate their own relationship with the divine. Its engagingly evidenced micro-histories of multi-confessional Prague and its clockmakers, butchers, and other burghers are triumphs in their own right. Yet Ivanič’s arguments and the convincing insight of her material lens also hold profound and lasting implications for our understanding of religious and social change throughout Europe.”

This is a momentous achievement! To read more visit the SRS Book Prize 2022.

Monograph shortlisted for Society for Renaissance Studies book prize

Recognition for research in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies continues, as Dr Suzanna Ivanic’s monograph Cosmos and Materiality in Early Modern Prague is shortlisted for the Society for Renaissance Studies’ prestigious 2022 Book Prize.

The monograph takes a material approach to understanding early modern religion in central Europe. As Dr Ivanic surveys a rich assortment of religious objects, she reveals how the nature of religion in Prague manifested itself in everyday practice – providing a valuable new perspective on central European history for an anglophone audience. Summing up the book’s approach, Dr Ivanic says: “Through the lens of the strange and mundane objects that people kept in their houses in the seventeenth century, it represents a tiny glimpse into this rich and stunning location at the heart of early modern Europe.”

Upon hearing the news, Dr Ivanic said: “I am absolutely delighted to be shortlisted alongside such stellar publications. It is an honour to be recognised for this work and I am especially pleased to represent east-central Europe on the list: a great moment of recognition for the field where there is some stunning work taking place.”

Cosmos and Materiality in Early Modern Prague can be purchased from the Oxford University Press website. Readers can also use the code AAFLYG6 to received a 30% discount.

Barbara Bombi elected to British Academy in record year

Professor Barbara Bombi, a much-admired member of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, has recently been elected a Fellow of the British Academy – a remarkable achievement which reflects Professor Bombi’s expertise and dedication to Medieval studies at Kent.

The British Academy announced its new fellows on 22 July, in a record year where 56% of the new fellows were women. President of the British Academy Professor Julia Black says: “I am delighted that we have so many new female Fellows. While I hope this means that the tide is finally turning for women in academia, there is still much to do to make the research world diverse and open to all.”

Professor Bombi has been with the University of Kent since 2006, following doctoral and post-doctoral study in Italy. Since then she has been a valued teacher and inspiring colleague, working on ecclesiastical and religious history in the pivotal High Middle Ages (1200-1450). Her extensive research history has revealed fascinating and important new perspectives on the medieval papacy, diplomacy and statecraft. Currently Professor Bombi leads the Leverhulme and British Academy-funded Making of Europe project, which seeks to explore the formations of states in Medieval Europe, bringing together researchers from across the discipline – and the world.

“Barbara has worked tirelessly to educate and support our students. She has supervised dozens of excellent MAs and PhDs and she has mentored many members of staff too, offering guidance and support every step of the way,” say Emily Guerry and Rory Loughnane, co-Directors of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, congratulating Barabara on her election. “Barbara is a brilliant scholar who also cares deeply about our staff and students, and we’re so grateful to her for being such an advocate for all of us in MEMS.”

A figure in red observes a number of painted portaits

PhD student wins bursary from Huguenot Society

Research success continues in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies with PhD student Anna-Nadine Pike winning a research bursary from the Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland. The funding will have a significant impact on Anna-Nadine’s research into Huguenot identities in early-modern Scotland.

With the funding, Anna-Nadine will be able to travel to Edinburgh for a two-week research project. Whilst there she will visit the National Library of Scotland, University of Edinburgh Library and ScotlandsPeople Centre to investigate the manuscripts of Esther Inglis, a daughter of Huguenot parents who emigrated to Britain to escape religious persecution.

The manuscripts are an enterprising topic, having never been analysed as a full collection. “Esther’s beautiful, calligraphic manuscripts form the nexus of my doctoral project, and part of the challenge is viewing as many of these in person as possible,” says Anna-Nadine on her project. “They have never had a full comparative study.”

Anna-Nadine’s project will add to our understanding of Huguenot families in Britain, and reveal how Esther and others in her position thought about their identity in their new surroundings. “Her cross-cultural identity is absolutely central to how Esther presents herself in her manuscripts; her identity is clearly both Huguenot and Scottish,” Anna-Nadine explains. “‘Inglis’ is an Anglicised version of her family’s French name, “Langlois.”

Anna-Nadine’s work is just one example of the ground-breaking work taking place at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Archival work is a crucial aspect of developing our knowledge and furthering our understanding of Huguenot communities around Britain, so we are very much looking forward to seeing where Anna-Nadine’s work takes her.

Anna-Nadine is part vibrant community of researchers from around the University of Kent who have been working on historical and modern displaced communities. Find about the Migration and Movement Signature Research Theme on the University website.

A figure sits at a table wearing a blue jacket

Anna-Nadine Pike

Suzanna Ivanic publishes new book on Catholic visual identity

Dr Suzanna Ivanic, Lecturer in the School of History, has recently published Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism with Thames and Hudson. Featuring over 400 colour images, the sumptuous volume investigates the influence of Catholic iconography and ritual items, equipping the reader with a detailed knowledge and method for interpreting Catholic art – and the art it has influenced in turn.

Dr Ivanic’s approach to understanding the material culture of religion is heavily informed by anthropology, placing great emphasis on how religious meaning is created by the religion’s icons, objects and artefacts. “Religion can no longer be thought of in that very nineteenth-century Protestant sense: as being just about internal beliefs, words and texts,” explains Dr Ivanic, reflecting on her approach to analysing religious artefacts. “It is equally about the visual and material context and the things people do with objects in rituals and devotion.”

Though readers may be familiar with Catholic art’s most famous images and icons – such as The Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel – Dr Ivanic shows that Catholicism’s visual culture includes objects we might not initially expect. She explains: “It was great to be able to work across all types of visual and material culture with this book, from ‘material texts’ like the lavish Lindisfarne Gospels to bizarre modern-day Catholic trinkets.” One such trinket is a plastic Holy Water bottle in the shape of the Virgin Mary – souvenirs which will be familiar to anybody who has visited the Vatican City in recent decades. “And there are weirder ones that weren’t included,” she adds.

As the reader builds up their knowledge of recurring themes, motifs and practices on the Catholic visual code, it becomes clear that the influence of this culture extends into areas outside of religious art. “We see the enduring impact of Catholic visual culture in many unexpected places today, but perhaps most obviously it pervades fashion,” she explains. “The Met Gala in 2018 featured Katy Perry with gigantic angel wings, Rihanna wearing a heavily embroidered Papal mitre (hat) and Blake Lively in a Versace gown that reflected the exquisite liturgical vestments worn by priests as well as various halos and bejewelled crosses.” She also points out that this influence is even felt in our everyday language and emojis: 👼.

From the first page, Catholica is visually striking, and shows how the findings and subtleties of rigorous academic research can be expressed and presented to wider audiences. “I really wanted to integrate the images and text and make sure that they spoke to each other throughout the book, so there was a lot of back and forth as we fitted the layouts together, took out five words here and added a sentence there!”, says Dr Ivanic, reflecting on the process.

Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism is available now, published by Thames and Hudson.  On Thursday 26 May, Dr Ivanic will be hosting a special book launch with the publishers, and will focus on the process of producing the book and publishing research for wider audiences.