Bede writing. Yates Thompson MS 26 © British Library

Medieval Theses 2020

Each year, hopeful young scholars publish their theses on Medieval History as well as archaeology, literature, art. The following list is not comprehensive. But we register what we find with links to the depositories



Margaret of Burgundy (1374-1441) Drawing of tombTussen twee dynastieën : Margaretha van Bourgondië, gravin van Henegouwen, Holland en Zeeland
By Brandsma, M.
Doctoral Thesis
Leiden University

Margaret of Burgundy (1374-1441) is known mainly for two reasons. Firstly, her marriage in 1385 to William of Bavaria, eldest son of the Count of Hainault, Holland and Zeeland, laid the foundation for the transfer of power in these principalities to the Burgundian dynasty some 50 years later. Secondly, she supported her only child Jacqueline of Bavaria, who fought many battles in order to prevent this. The combination of these two roles points to a conflict of interest. By supporting her daughter as the rightful Bavarian heir, Margaret inevitably came into conflict with members of her own dynasty of origin, the Valois Burgundians. The overarching question in the research presented in this thesis is what tilted the scales for Margaret as a political player in different phases of her life: was it her loyalty to the Burgundian or to the Bavarian dynasty, her connection with the Hook party in Holland, or was she driven mainly by self-interest, as is sometimes suggested? Related to this is the question whether her means were substantial enough to allow her to play her own game. In this biographical study, a chronological and a thematic approach have been combined. The loyalty question serves as guideline for the first part, in which the story of Margaret’s life is told chronologically within the broader context of political developments. The thematic second part is dedicated to her financial position as a widow, her court, and her religious and literary patronage.

Vestment, cope c. 1280 - 1299. From: Rome: Musei Vaticani, Museo SacroOpus anglicanum : the visual language, liturgical rituals, and gifting of a medieval English brand
By Valentina Susanne Grub
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Art History Thesis, St. Andrew’s

In 1246, when Pope Innocent IV saw embroidered copes and mitres which were made in England, he exclaimed; “England is for us surely a garden of delights, truly an inexhaustible well; and from there where so many things abound…” Embroidery made between 1200-1350 in England, known as opus anglicanum, was internationally recognized, traded, gifted, collected, and coveted. The technical skill combined with a distinct aesthetic resulted in an iconic textile brand. Though first described as a brand in the context of contemporary imitated textiles, I extend this understanding by close visual analyses and archival readings. “Opus anglicanum: The Visual Language, Liturgical Rituals, and Gifting of a Medieval English Brand” argues for a quadripartite examination of the opus anglicanum brand, grounded in luxury brand theory. I articulate the technical and aesthetic hallmarks of the brand by examining archival records of embroiderers and the specific aspects of their work which differentiated opus anglicanum from other contemporary textile decorations. I then evaluate the opus anglicanum brand aesthetic by a close visual reading of its background designs and popular motifs, through which emerges the enduring relationship between manuscript illumination and embroidery design. As the majority of extant opus anglicanum textiles are ecclesiastic vestments, I then assess these textiles in the context of contemporary liturgical writings and rituals. As archival evidence indicates, opus anglicanum textiles were often presented as gifts. Therefore, I conclude by studying the effect of medieval English embroidery in the context of gift-giving rituals. This dissertation, while grounded in both medieval and modern scholarship, reevaluates these textiles and argues that the enduring legacy of opus anglicanum is due to its identity as a medieval brand.


Giotto Mourning of the ChristSelf-representation in the three-dimensional arts: a study of Italia and Germania, CA 800 – CA 1200.
By Mariia Ivanovna Gordusenko
Edingburgh University

This thesis is a study of self-representation in sculpture in the Middle Ages. The research offers a new interpretation of the uses of self-representation by practitioners working in various three-dimensional media active in medieval Italia and Germania before the twelfth century. An analysis of a series of case studies provides evidence for investigating issues hitherto often overlooked, including literacy, devotion, skill, craftsmanship, commemoration and identity. Emphasis is placed on visual analysis of the case studies. Sculptors’ self-representations, integrated within these religious objects produced for use in Christian practice, are identifiable either through inscriptions or documentary evidence. This thesis applies interdisciplinary methodologies to explore practical, devotional and cultural functions of the case studies. It combines iconological and iconographic approaches to indicate cultural connections and exchange between European regions, where my examples are found. The roles of artists and patrons and their mobility, and the continuity of self-representational tradition from antiquity to the Middle Ages are considered to provide necessary background context to this enquiry. The topics of sculptors’ iconography, literacy and social standing have not received systematic attention in previous scholarship. However, this analysis of sculptors’ self-representations demonstrates that certain iconographic codes existed already in the early medieval period. Iconographic analysis of one of the examples indicates affiliation of the sculptor with lay brothers. Insufficiently studied to date, this social group receives thorough attention in this thesis. In other examples, signed self-representations accurately specify sculptors’ professional titles and social positions. This thesis also demonstrates that the me fecit-signatures are indicative of sculptors’ authorship and literacy. Having established this, this enquiry challenges the misleading impression of medieval artists’ anonymity popular in early scholarship. It also proposes that sculptors’ self-representations should not be perceived in a standardised way. The case studies reflect social diversity of early medieval sculptors’ community on both sides of the Alps. They encompass individuality of their authors, ensure devotional expression and serve as a means of communication between sculptors, their contemporaries and further generations. The thesis opens new perspectives for understanding of early medieval sculptors and their work.


Welsh Marshes. Offa's Dyke . Source: WikipediaPatterns of Power, Power of Patterns: Exploring Landscape Context in the Borderland of the Northern and Central Welsh Marches, AD 300-1100. (Doctoral dissertation).
By Garry Duckers
University of Chester, United Kingdom.2020

Scholarship regarding the early medieval Welsh Marches is frequently disparate and disjointed. Studies have concentrated on the analysis of monuments, in part because of the paucity of early medieval archaeology upon which to create a tableau conducive to macro landscape-based research. Where syncretic works in the Welsh Marches have attempted to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, they are often dated, not embracing, or utilising new techniques or methods. This is exacerbated by approaches in archaeological remotes sensing that have focused on methods or only producing dots and lines on a map, rather than its application and integration into theoretical frameworks widening further the divide between theory and practice. Combined, these approaches also fail to integrate fully within discourses emerging in border studies, a critical field of study when analysing border regions. To tackle these challenges, this thesis examines the borderland landscape of the North and Central Marches using traditional geographical and archaeological techniques, combined with GIS and remote sensed methodologies such as lidar to offer new insight into processes of power and how that is reflected in the landscape. This research targets not only landscape morphology but embraces border theory on the expression and apparatus of power emphasising the ‘borderland’ as an active agent in territoriality and social processes. This study has analysed remote sensed data and data sets that have previously been underutilised and combined theoretical concepts into a holistic body of work. New or misinterpreted archaeological sites have been identified, adding to the archaeological knowledge of the region and facilitated an enhanced picture of the early medieval landscape. In addition, the interrelationship of boundaries and sites hitherto unrecognised in the Welsh Marches have collectively opened new avenues and concepts to underpin and augment further research on dyke systems and border formation processes.

Visegrad Castle DanubeWho Stole the Water? The Control and Appropriation of Water Resources in Medieval Hungary
By András Vadas
Submitted to the Medieval Studies Department, Central European University, Budapest in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medieval Studies Budapest
Hungary Budapest, 2020

In this dissertation the problems surrounding water management, a space where different economic and other socio-political interests met and sometimes clashed are addressed. Modern politics focuses on who has legitimate rights to claims in such disputes, but for historians, it is certainly more relevant to understand how such conflicts were approached and resolved in the past by posing questions about how pre-modern societies dealt with these same problems. These questions include what kind of disputes unfolded with regard to the use of water and the degree to which water conceived as private or as ‘common’? How were different interests aligned with each other? In this dissertation these questions are raised in the context of Central Europe, and more particularly, in the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages (from the ca. tenth century to the mid-sixteenth century), i.e. the period of the re- appearance of literacy in the area after the Roman period. Throughout the different chapters of the dissertation it is argued that use of water by the societies of the Kingdom of Hungary in the Middle Ages gave rise to fairly complex sets of customs and norms that, until the Modern times, were the most important principles in settling water use related disputes.

Art Metal Production in Early Medieval Bulgaria (according to the findings)
By Stella Milcheva Doncheva
Dissertation submitted to the Shumen University
Shumen 2020

Against the background of production traditions, there is an opportunity to trace the external cultural interactions, manifested in various forms. An example of a model of technological development in early medieval Bulgaria is the production centers for metal art, which functioned in the first half of the 10th century in the vicinity of Preslav. Each region of metalworking has a complex structure in which the individual production areas are often far apart. They function according to the developed system of exchange with the various metallurgical fields, where the connection between them is determined not so much by economic compliance as by the degree of culture and traditions. The regularly located complexes of workshops show the presence of proximity in the location of the individual production areas, which is influenced by the cultural development of the early medieval Bulgarian community and the synchronous time of functioning. Metalworking has considerable autonomy and this is especially evident in the various stages of the technological process. Its distinctiveness is expressed in the specialization of the blacksmith’s trade, the special social and public status of the masters, the nature of the productive and trade relations, etc. The production of artistic metal is characterized by its own traditions and its own path of development, reflected in the history of alloys, production technology, the typology of metal inventory and the system of concepts. Local traditions are refracted through the prism of general practice in the development of production. Often these are established principles in technology and the individual stages in it, which retain their stability over time and reach both the Middle Ages and the New Age, with minor changes as a result of technical progress.

The subject of research is the rich collection of belt sets, received from the archaeological excavations of the three centres for the production of metal art from the early Bulgarian Middle Ages near Preslav – near Novosel, Zlatar and Nadarevo. The finds of belt sets in the three centres are the most numerous and mass-produced products, the number of which so far exceeds 3000. Along with them, the finds from the production centres received in the museum collections before the excavations were examined. This applies primarily to the third production centre near Nadarevo, Targovishte region. The study aims to investigate the production of artistic metal in early medieval Bulgaria on the basis of the numerous production of belt sets, collected as a result of 20 years of research of the first known specialized centres for metal plastics. As a result of archaeological excavations from 2004 to 2009, the first centre was studied – the one near Novosel, Shumen region. From 2007 to the present, the second production centre near Zlatar, Preslav region, is being studied with a short break. The centre near Nadarevo, Targovishte region was partially explored in the 1990s within one season. The number of finds in the National Museum in Sofia and the museum collections from all over Northeastern Bulgaria prove the existence of large-scale and organized production, in parallel with that of the other two complexes.


Bede writing. Yates Thompson MS 26, © British Library