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Vikings attacking England. St Edmunds © The Morgan Library and Museum

Heirs of the Vikings

Chronicles, hagiographies, and charters tell us different stories of the character and the identity of the Vikings. By comparing the evidence from both England and Normandy, a new book introduces the reader to the complex ways in which Scandinavian heritage was used strategically to cement local politics. 

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Viking Ships near Roskilde © Stefan G. Rasmussen

Pocket Museum: Vikings

North-Western Europe is currently teeming with new Viking museums and exhibitions. In the crucible is the huge renovation of the museum at Bygdoy in Oslo and Copenhagen is finally planning to exhibit its grand collections, the Viking exhibition in Stockholm recently reopened,. While we wait, a new publication offers a fine introduction to the material culture of the Vikings

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Peacock and -hen from The Lovell Lectionary Between c. 1400 and c. 1410. Harley 7026 f. 5 © The British Library, London

Birds in Medieval English Poetry

First full-length study of birds and their metamorphoses as treated in a wide range of medieval poetry, from the Anglo-Saxons to Chaucer and Gower.



Birds in Medieval English Poetry. Metaphors, Realities, Transformations
By Michael J. Warren
Boydell & Brewer 2018

First full-length study of birds and their metamorphoses as treated in a wide range of medieval poetry, from the Anglo-Saxons to Chaucer and Gower.

Birds featured in many aspects of medieval people’s lives, not least in their poetry. But despite their familiar presence in literary culture, it is still often assumed that these representations have little to do with the real natural world. By attending to the ways in which birds were actually observed and experienced, this book aims to offer new perspectives on how and why they were meaningful in five major poems: The Seafarer, the Exeter Book Riddles, The Owl and the Nightingale, The Parliament of Fowls and Confessio Amantis. In a consideration of sources from Isidore of Seville and Anglo-Saxon place-names to animal-sound word lists and Bartholomew the Englishman, the author shows how ornithological truth and knowledge are integral to our understandings of his chosen poems.

Birds, he argues, are relevant to the medieval mind because their unique properties align them with important religious and secular themes: seabirds that inspire the forlorn Anglo-Saxon pilgrim; unnamed species that confound riddling taxonomies; a belligerent owl who speaks out against unflattering literary portraits. In these poems, human actions and perceptions are deeply affected by the remarkable flights and voices of birds.


  • Introduction
  • Native Foreigners: Migrating Seabirds and the Pelagic Soul in The Seafarer
  • Avian Pedagogies: Wondering with Birds in the Exeter Book Riddles
  • A Bird’s Worth: Mis-Representing Owls in The Owl and the Nightingale
  • ‘Kek Kek’: Translating Birds in The Parliament of Fowls
  • Birds’ Form: Enabling Desire and Identities in Confessio Amantis
  • Epilogue
  • Glossary: Old and Middle English bird names
  • Bibliography


Michael Warren has studied Medieval English at Royal Holloway as well as Magdalen College, Oxford. In 2017 he obtained his Phd with the thesis, Bird Kind: Avian Transformations, Species and Identities in Medieval English Poetry, was submitted in December 2016 and succesfully passed in April 2017. He is now a visiting lecturer at Holloway, teaching on the first year an undergraduate course on medieval poetry whilst continuing to work as an English teacher at Cranbrook School in Kent. His research focuses on birds, environments and the natural world generally, as depicted in medieval poetry (Anglo-Saxon to 15th century).


From The Lovell Lectionary. Between c. 1400 and c. 1410. Harley 7026, f. 5  © The British Library, London






Pictorial Stone from the Church in Bro, Gotland c. 400 - 500. Source: Flickr

Beowulf dated to AD 550

When was Beowulf composed? In the 10th and 11th centuries as the Toronto School decided in a postmodern whiff? Around AD 700 as linguistic studies have proven? Or as an oral epos, around AD 550, and in Gotland as suggested in a new book?

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Laws of Hywel Dda © The National Library of Wales.

Law and the Imagination in Medieval Wales

Medieval law was never just intended as compilations of rules and regulations. Books of Law were always also dossiers of cultural prescriptions or guides. But were they also imaginative pieces of literature? New book raises the question in connection with a detailed study of the the law-books of Medieval Wales.

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Constance of Sicily is handing over her son. Source: Bern, Burgerbibliothek, Cod. 120.II. Ca. 1195 – ca. 1197 Petrus de Ebulo: Liber ad honorem Augusti, lat.

Widows of Kings in the High Middle Ages

What happened to queens, when their husbands, the kings, died? Was the widows of kings still regarded as queens? How did they proceed to preserve their status and political role? New book explores the phenomena of “royal widowhood” in the English as well as German High Middle Ages

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The "Heinrich-Brunnen" in Quedlingburg is a modern rendition from 2007 of the scene of the coronation of Henry I. Source: wikipedia

The Construction of Ottonian Kingship

How did Henry the Fowler and his son, Otto the Great, turn Germany into the political centre of 10th century Europe? By besting the Magyars? Or by more traditional mythmaking? New book explores the various sources and their role in the later historiography.  

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Capricorn - Liturgical calendar for Ravenna, Italy, Milan (?), 1386

The Medieval Calendar in Books of Hours

For people in the Middle Ages keeping track of time was all important. Early on, the Church set up itself as the timekeeper par excellence. But how did clerics keep the time? New book introduces the student to the intricacies of medieval timekeeping.

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