Category Archives: News

Announcing two fully-funded PhD Scholarship Opportunities

MEMS is delighted to announce two fully-funded doctoral opportunities for those who are planning to embark on a PhD programme in the 2020-21 academic year.

University of Kent Vice Chancellor Research Scholarship
MEMS will be awarding a Vice-Chancellor’s Research Scholarship to a student embarking on a PhD in October 2020. To be considered for this scholarship, you must apply to the MEMS PhD programme via the University’s online application pages by 19th January 2020. All applications received before this date will automatically be considered for this scholarship.

How to apply:
To be eligible for the MEMS Vice Chancellor Research studentship the topic must be interdisciplinary project with a literary-historical approach, candidates must submit their application for a PhD with MEMS at the University of Kent by the specified deadline. This must be done online via the Postgraduate Admissions web form.

PhD Studentship: CHASE (AHRC)
The University of Kent is proud to be part of the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) which was awarded a £17million Doctoral Training Partnership by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in October 2013. Our partners include The Courtauld Institute of Art, Goldsmiths, the Open University, and the Universities of East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex. CHASE is one of only 11 UK AHRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships and the partners have committed an additional £10million in studentship funding which allow CHASE to support over 375 PhD students in the arts and humanities across the partner institutions over five years. CHASE will offer students a wide range of exciting opportunities to gain professional experience, work across institutions and disciplines, and acquire advanced research skills. Further information is available at:

New students wishing to be considered for these scholarships must apply for a PhD place at the University of Kent by 10th January 2020 at the latest. Applicants are advised to discuss their research project with academic members of staff in the relevant schools as soon as possible. Any current PhD students wishing to be considered for AHRC funding should contact their Centre Director of Graduate Studies (with responsibility for research programmes) to advise them of this as soon as possible or by 10th January 2020 at the very latest.


Process and Timetable
Stage 1: All applications for PhD study received by relevant schools by 10th January 2020 will be considered for AHRC funding. Candidates shortlisted for the CHASE competition by academic schools will be invited to complete a CHASE application form and then interviewed. Candidates will be informed of the outcome as soon as possible following the interviews. Candidates successful at school-level interviews will have their applications submitted to the Kent CHASE Studentship Selection Panel.

Stage 2: The Kent CHASE Studentship Selection Panel will decide which applications will be submitted to the consortium stage of the competition.

Stage 3: The final Kent shortlist of applications will go forward to the consortium stage of the competition at the beginning of March. Applications will be considered by CHASE selection panels comprising academic colleagues representing all seven CHASE member institutions. All candidates will be informed later in the Spring Term about the outcome of their applications.

Further Information
The University’s ‘student funding’ pages are a vital source of information about our postgraduate funding opportunities. Those interested in applying for scholarships should also consult the web pages of other schools in the Faculty of Humanities, which may offer additional sources: the Schools of Arts, English, European Cultures and Languages, and History.
Please get in touch with us if you have any questions about our programmes and studentships:

Claire Taylor
Centre Administration Manager
Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies
Rutherford College
University of Kent
Kent  CT2 7NX


Announcing ‘Bookscapes’ CHASE doctoral training workshops

MEMS and The Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-east England (CHASE) are delighted to announce the launch of Bookscapes – a set of four workshops designed to provide CHASE doctoral students with advanced training in palaeographical, codicological and bibliographical skills. Its aim is to help students unlock the evidential potential of manuscripts and early printed books both as single material objects and as constituents of collections. It does so by organising sessions based in the rich — and often understudied — range of libraries in the East of England.

Led by Dr David Rundle, Lecturer in Latin and Manuscript Studies (University of Kent) the first session is to be hosted by the University of Essex and by the Plume Library in Maldon. It is a residential workshop which will take place on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th December, with the first day at the University’s campus of Wivenhoe Park, where we will be have a hands-on session with the books owned by Samuel Harsnett, archbishop of York (1561-1631). The group will be taken to Maldon the next morning where we will visit the disused church which was converted into a library by the local-born archdeacon of Rochester, Thomas Plume (1630-1704). The session will, therefore, consider both printed books and manuscripts (medieval and early modern), and individual books and the nature of a library as both collection and building. Please note (1) that places are limited for this event and (2) access to the Plume Library is solely by a steep spiral staircase.

Bookscapes – workshop one
Sloman Library, University of Essex
Friday, 6 December 2019, 12:00 – Saturday, 7 December 2019, 20:00

Please note that while first refusal will be given to CHASE students, it is hoped that there will be space for others in the MEMS community.
To book a place or for more information, please contact


Thomas Becket Life, Death, and Legacy – Call for Papers

We would like to draw your attention to our call for papers for the international conference ‘Thomas Becket: Life, Death, and Legacy,’ which will take place from 11–14 November 2020 in Canterbury Cathedral, coinciding with the 850th anniversary of his martyrdom and the 800th anniversary of the translation of his relics into the Trinity Chapel. This conference is co-organised by scholars at the Cathedral, Christ Church University, and the University of Kent, and we are very grateful to the British Academy for supporting us. 

The Becket 2020 conference will be one of many cultural celebrations that commemorate and re-examine the legacy of Becket next year, so stay tuned for more news about exciting exhibitions, publications, research projects, and various public engagement events.

We would be delighted if you would please consider submitting an abstract to before the deadline on 21 October 2019. We hope that your papers offer new, interdisciplinary approaches to the study of Becket (both locally at Canterbury and within a wider European context) and we want to offer an inclusive chronology of scholarship on Becket that stretches across medieval, early modern, and modern history.

Thomas Becket – Life, Death and Legacy Conference

Thomas Becket – Life, death and legacy

A conference to commemorate the extraordinary life, death and legacy of Thomas Becket will take place between 11-14 November 2020 at Canterbury Cathedral, 850 years after Becket’s martyrdom and 800 years since the translation of his body into a shrine at Canterbury Cathedral.

When Becket was murdered by four of King Henry II’s knights inside Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December 1170, news of the sacrilegious violence spread quickly. In a matter of months, this merchant’s son from Cheapside had transformed into one of the most famous martyrs in medieval Europe.

The Thomas Becket – Life, Death and Legacy conference will provide a platform for showcasing important and innovative new research on Becket. We welcome participation from delegates interested in history, visual and material culture, archaeology, architecture, literature, liturgy, musicology, and/or reception of Becket’s cult both at Canterbury and within a wider European context. In addition to being interdisciplinary, this conference also embraces an inclusive chronology of scholarship on the medieval, early modern, and modern period.

If you would like to share your research on Becket on this special occasion, please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words with your proposed title, name, and affiliation to by Monday 21 October 2019. Each paper will be 30 minutes in length and we are hoping to produce an edited collection after the conference. If you have any questions about this conference, please contact Dr Emily Guerry ( or Professor Louise Wilkinson (

The conference is being co-organised by academic partners at the University of Kent, Christ Church University, and Canterbury Cathedral with support from the British Academy. As well as the conference an exhibition at the British Museum is being planned.

Research project on Raphael wins Oxford’s Public Engagement Research Award

Raphael – The Drawings, a Leverhulme-funded research project, that was co-organised by Dr Ben Thomas in the Department of Art History with colleagues from the University of Oxford, won a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement with Research in the Project category at the University of Oxford. The prize was awarded at a ceremony earlier this week, Wednesday 10 July 2019.

The two-year research project aimed to transform our understanding of how Raphael drew, employing an innovative multi-disciplinary approach to the close study of his drawings.
An exhibition at the Ashmolean, Raphael: The Drawings, embodied the essential findings and conclusions of the project’s work, bringing together 120 drawings in three strands: invention; orchestration and expression in which Raphael’s experimental approach, visual strategies and graphic language were highlighted. The exhibition attracted 67,000 visitors.
Ben was co-organiser of the project team with Professor Catherine Whistler, supported by the project research assistant Angelamaria Aceto.

The project is detailed on page 10 of the research awards brochure here:

June’s ‘Picture this…’: Medical Mysteries

Anna Hegland, PhD candidate at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, is the author of this month’s ‘Picture this…’ – a collaborative project, designed to reveal some of the treasures of Canterbury Cathedral’s library and archives.

From star charts and gemstones to herbal cures for stinking breath, this month’s ‘Picture this…‘ explores a scientific and medical book whose translated title is The Mystery of Seals (Elham 1256). While traditional herbals (like John Gerard’s The herball : or generall historie of plantes or William Turner’s A new herball) were popular for the botanical knowledge they catalogued, this text focuses on the relationships between animal, vegetable, and mineral. Originally published in Germany in 1651 by Israel Hibner, a professor of mathematics in Erfurt, Germany, the book was translated into English in 1698 by a ‘Mister B. Clayton’. It is this English translation that has made its way into the library at Canterbury Cathedral.

According to the publisher, W. Downing, this pocket-sized book was meant to remind readers of the ‘Vertues [sic] and Influences’ of the stars, and ’how readily to apply them to the necessities of Mankind’. The nearly 200-page text includes an index of plants, from herbs and vegetables to flowers and trees, and a list of precious stones and metals which are meant to be combined to help cure various illnesses.

The detail of the two printed diagrams above is just one example of the remedies described in this book. The diagrams depict the two sides of the sigil (an inscribed or painted seal) of Mercury, the planet which rules the month of June in astrological calendars and star charts, and includes the mathematical grid and particular characters (in Hebrew and English) that users are instructed to include on their own homemade sigils. Beneath these images is a full ‘recipe’ that tells readers how to make this sigil, using materials like leather, distilled vinegar, and ‘a clean, wooden bowl’.

The sigil must be stamped before it can be used, but the translator, Mr. Clayton, is clear that this can only happen at very specific times. Earlier in the book, calendars are provided so that readers can ensure their sigils, stones, and remedies will be effective. In June 1698, for instance, sigils with the stamp of Mercury could only be finished on the 20th and 22nd of the month, at ‘7 minutes past 11 in the morn’ and ‘59 minutes past 10 in the morn’, when the planet was in the ascendant. Once the sigil has been stamped, we are told it can be carried in a ‘purple silk bag, and hang’d about the neck’ and used to preserve from and cure all diseases influenced by Mercury.

How do you know if you’re suffering from an illness governed by Mercury? The Mystery of Seals also features a helpful list of ailments from which you can diagnose yourself. Mercury’s diseases range from minor to serious — from lethargy to memory loss and other brain conditions. Sometimes multiple planets can jointly influence the body; when Mars and Venus converge (the ruling planets for April and May respectively) they can cause blisters, warts, and stinking breath!
Those suffering from these conditions are advised not to worry, as ‘there is no speedier means of curing these maladies than by the herbs, roots, and seeds’ gathered while the ruling planet is visible. Each of the seven planets recognized in the seventeenth century gets a similar section devoted to its herbs, stones, and sigil.

Although this herbal does not include images of specific plants, instead prioritizing the sigil diagrams, the Cathedral collections contain a number of other herbals from across the medieval and Early Modern periods. These herbals are full of images of English flowers, fruit, and trees in mediums ranging from more rough-cut wood block stamps to detailed copper engraving plates. All of the greenery listed in The Mystery of Seals, including images of apricot trees (Malus Armeniaca) and lilies, can be found in herbals like those by John Gerard (1545-1612), William Turner (1508-1568), and Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501-1577) (listed in the further reading section below).

The Mystery of Seals provides a unique insight into some of the scientific and medical knowledge that was studied and debated in seventeenth century Europe. Its translation into English speaks to the popularity of the text, and perhaps its use in the middle- and upper-class households who had better access to the range of materials it lists. While today’s pharmacists and doctors avoid prescribing planetary sigils, the plant-based knowledge found in this book gives a glimpse of the home remedies used in and around London and Kent in the Early Modern period.

Further Reading:
Pietro Andrea Mattioli, I discorsi : di M. Pietro Andrea Matthioli … ne i sei libri della materia medicinale di Pedacio Dioscoride … (1557) [W2/A-5-3]
William Turner, A new herball, : wherin are conteyned the names of herbes in Greke, Latin, Englysh, Duch Frenche, and in the potecaries … Latin, … gathered … by Wylliam Turner, … (1551) [H/G-3-20]
John Gerard, The herball : or generall historie of plantes. Gathered by John Gerarde … Very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson … (1663) [W/A-6-31]

MEMS and the 54th International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, May 2019

Every May, thousands of medievalists descend on the town of Kalamazoo, Michigan, to attend the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, catch up with old friends, and visit Bilbo’s, Michigan’s premier Tolkien-themed pizza restaurant. This year, a large contingent of medieval researchers from the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies attended the 54th annual Congress, showcasing a variety of exciting projects and new research.  

Noah Smith, Angela Websdale, Roisin Astell, and Cassandra Harrington organised a session titled “Visualising Gothic: Social and Spatial Contexts”, in which they each presented on their current PhD work, presided by Dr Emily Guerry, also from the University of Kent. Angela Websdale and Roisin Astell both examined artistic transmission and contexts of invention in thirteenth-century England. Angela looked at the way in which the local conflicts which took place in Faversham influenced the design of the wall paintings in the church of St Mary’s, while Roisin challenged the accepted framework for workshop production in English illumination using digital mapping to track collaboration between different artists. Cassandra Harrington and Noah Smith looked towards the continent, with Cassandra focusing on the thirteenth-century drawings of Villard de Honnecourt to examine the different types of foliate heads found in the collection and the language used to describe them, while Noah unpacked his new reading of the so-called Courtrai Chest (also known as the ‘Oxford Chest’) and the commemoration of conflict in fourteenth-century Flanders. Altogether, the four speakers in this MEMS panel highlighted their innovative approaches to workshop production, marginal imagery, and the impact of local conflict on artistic choices.   

Jack Newman, also a PhD candidate from Kent, organised a session on “Crisis, Corruption, and Entropy: England ca. 1250-1450”, presided by Jeremy Piercy from the University of Edinburgh. Jack spoke on English crown corruption in the fourteenth century, looking at the way in which crown officials were able to profit from the wool trade, while Daniella Gonzalez, also from Kent, discussed royal power and the relationship between the king and his barons in London during the reign of Richard II. Along with two speakers from Rutgers University and the University of Toronto, the session focused on new ways to examine political and economic history in the high middle ages through the lenses of corruption, entropy, power, and religious ideals.  

In addition to these sessions on the high and later middle ages, MEMS researchers also represented the early medieval period across a number of sessions. Dr Edward Roberts, the centre’s co-director, spoke in a session on “Forging Memory”, presenting his new research on Ottonian bishops and textual culture in the tenth century to examine ideas of historical consciousness, memory, and episcopal authority. Dr Rob Gallagher gave a paper on the conception of empire in the later Carolingian period, focusing on the way in which the idea of empire was used in England during the reign of King Æthelstan. Finally, Han Tame (PhD candidate and current author!) co-organised a pair of sessions with Professor Jill Hamilton-Clements from the University of Birmingham, Alabama on “Hellscapes”, looking at conceptions of Hell and damnation across textual and visual culture between the ninth and twelfth centuries.

All of these sessions and papers demonstrated the breadth of new research currently undertaken by researchers in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and staff and students acquitted themselves brilliantly in both the presentation of their research and performance at the annual medievalist dance. Large conferences are always a wonderful opportunity to see old friends and make new ones, as well as to share ideas and plan projects with medievalists from other universities and in other disciplines, and we are all looking forward to next year!

Han Tame

Claire Taylor – Postgraduate Administrator Prize Winner!

Congratulations to our Centre Administration Manager, Claire Taylor, who has won a Graduate School Prize.  Claire was awarded “The Postgraduate Administrator Prize” at the Kent Researchers’ Showcase event yesterday by Professor Paul Allain, Dean of the Graduate School.  This prize  recognises the excellent achievements of an administrative staff member working in support of postgraduate education and research at Kent.

Well done Claire!

Material Witness: Maps, Manuscripts, and Medieval Graffiti

On 16th of May 2019 Canterbury Cathedral hosted the 6th session of this year’s Material Witness, the ‘interdisciplinary training programme for the interrogation of physical objects in the digital age’ organised by CHASE, a Consortium of nine universities in the South-East of England that fosters doctoral research in the Arts and Humanities. A group of PhD students undertook a journey in time, looking and interpreting historical relics under the guidance of University of Kent’s Drs Emily Guerry and David Rundle.

The afternoon started in the Cloister, from where Emily enthusiastically led the group to explore the Cathedral’s precincts with the support of a 12th century map from the Eadwine Psalter. This was a useful tool to navigate the Medieval spaces and a source of inspiration not only to rethink the current visible aspect of the buildings, but also to better imagine the Romanesque past of Christ Church, whose few vestiges survive surrounded by later Gothic architecture.

After having followed the steps, stories and works of figures like Prior Wybert, William of Sens and William the Englishman, in an itinerary across the northern area outside the Cathedral, the congregation retired to the dark of the crypts.There they could rediscover the thin scratches, unnoticeable to distracted eyes, of the medieval graffiti, and the wall paintings of Gabriel Chapel, which for centuries had been forgotten and precluded from sight.

At this point it was time to climb the Dean’s steps up to the Howley Library to be warmly welcomed by Ms Fawn Todd, the Cathedral’s librarian, who introduced the collection, its history, and even displayed some of its treasures. Having the group made acquaintance with the library, David took the lead, encouraging observations about the space, its organisation and features. He expanded on those comments, to build more general discourses, that bridged the Cathedral’s library to other notable examples, and gave insights about all aspects of a book’s life: from their production to their conservation and usage.

A brief pause with tea and biscuits stopped the flowing rhythm of the session, in order to provide the energy to enter the last part of the afternoon. In the seminar room of the Archives, David concluded the day, presenting some manuscripts from the Cathedral’s collections, and demonstrating how much these sources can say when interrogated by a skilful researcher.

Thanks to the personnel of Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library, and to Emily’s and David’s energy, this rich and interdisciplinary session was a splendid opportunity to see how historical sources can be read and used to rethink the past, even to try to virtually recreate it. Indeed, material witnesses, be they made of stone or paper, often tell their stories and prove keen to answer our questions.


Kent-Ghent Research Day

On Thursday, April 25th several dozen graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and academic faculty gathered in a large hall in Ghent to discuss Cross-Channel Exchanges in the Middle Ages. The event, falling under the formal umbrella of the Ghent-Kent Research Alliance, consisted of five panels and a keynote paper by Emily Guerry (Kent), with a response to the keynote by Anna Bermans (Ghent, emeritus). Papers varied widely in topic and form: Milan Pajic (Cambridge/Ghent) delved into beer brewers from the Low Countries in Late Medieval England, Micol Long (Ghent) explored the concept of transitus in theory and practice, Philippa Mesiano (Kent) discussed papal mediation in the Treaty of Paris, and Gerben Verbrugghe (Ghent) waxed archeologically about early Flemish settlements in western Britain. These are but a handful of the many—and excellent—papers given, but demonstrate the veritable cornucopia of topics and methodologies that were on display.

That is not to say that certain threads did not emerge throughout the day. Though the panels were loosely organized by topic, a task made all the more difficult by the breadth of the topics at hand, the overarching idea of “exchange” provided a unifying theme. Whether in the form of church realpolitik in the tenth century or corruption, embezzling, and entropy in the fourteenth, the myriad of insightful and engaging questions levied at each panel from an inspired audience spoke volumes as to the usefulness and future potential of the colloquium. Emily Guerry’s keynote paper served to further enhance and codify the excitement that had been building from session to session, focusing on her newest, most groundbreaking research and ending with a ringing endorsement of institutional cooperation and interdisciplinary methodologies.

It is a commonly accepted fact that conferences do not organize themselves, and all credit is due to Steven Vanderputten (Ghent) and Ed Roberts (Kent) who lead the charge from the outset; plying the Ghent-Kent Research Alliance for funding and expanding the scope of the colloquium to facilitate the presence to include strong showings from both institutions. Ghent University did a wonderful job of making the Kent delegation feel most welcomed, with plenty of tea and coffee being provided throughout the day, and a sampling of fantastic Belgian beer and snacks at the Henri Pirenne Institute afterwards.

One of the most important takeaways from the trip was a reinforced sense of community, both between Kent and Ghent but also among the faculty and graduate students as well. Ghent is a wonderful city, and we were afforded ample time before and after the colloquium to partake in much of what it has to offer. This included walking through the Korenmarkt, stepping inside Sint-Baafskathedraal and poring over the Ghent Altarpiece with our resident art historians, and just generally making the most of the opportunity provided to us. Though the pendulum may swing back to Canterbury for the next event, I believe I speak for everyone involved when I say that we’re all looking forward to a return visit, and are truly lucky to be situated between these two great cities and their wonderful communities.

Noah Smith