Spotlight on Professor Frances Andrews

Professor Frances Andrews (centre left) with fellow members of the Faculty.

Professor Frances Andrews (centre left) at the launch of The Medieval Journal.

Professor Frances Andrews arrived in St Andrews in 1995 and, despite occasional sabbatical years spent researching in Berlin, Rome and Florence, has grown deep roots here. She very much appreciates being in a place with so many colleagues working in cognate areas and the wonderful students that this attracts. Her research combines investigation of the history of mediaeval Italy with work on the mediaeval Church and the boundaries of the religious life. Alongside projects encompassing the whole of Latin Europe and beyond – as reflected in The Other Friars (2006), or Ritual and Space (2010) – she has therefore been investigating the history of Italian religious movements (The Early Humiliati, 1999) and of the Italian City-States as places where the encounter between religious identity and secular utility was both creative and revealing of broader social and political change (Churchmen and Urban Government in Late Medieval Italy, 2013). Her enthusiasm for the history of the Italian peninsula has also led to a collaboration with colleagues in the USA on a volume of sources intended for use by undergraduates (Medieval Italy: Texts in Translation).

Frances frequently finds herself working on those at the periphery of the medieval world: the first Humiliati were condemned as heretics; a study of observant reform among the Dominican friars led her to investigate the legal advice given to a house that sought to avoid it; and her most recent work concerns an enthusiastic Dominican friar, Venturino of Bergamo, who led a pilgrimage to Rome in 1335 but ended up condemned by a papal tribunal and banished for 7 years. Both the Humiliati and Venturino were eventually reinstated, though with very different effects. Whether these concerns reflect anything about Frances is for others to decide, but they certainly drive the interest which led to her teaching a course investigating the treatment of Heretics and Social Outcasts in the late middle ages.

Frances is also a strong believer in the intellectual advantages of collaboration between disciplines: she lives with an art historian, so perhaps it is inevitable that she thinks that the two ways of working, those of history and art history, have a great deal to learn from each other.  She has tried to put this into action in her teaching, through courses exploring textual, archaeological, and art historical evidence (on Medieval Rome, and The Early Mendicants). She was also the driving force behind the launch of the St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies, combining the vast range of expertise of St Andrews mediaeval historians with that of extraordinary colleagues in the Schools of English, Modern Languages, Divinity, Philosophy and, of course, Art History. SAIMS has exploded into life in the six years since it began, with the launch of The Mediaeval Journal, annual academic visitors, lectures, conferences and seminars in addition to the numerous students successfully working across disciplines.

2013 has been an unusual year: taking on responsibility for the School of History submission to the Research Excellence Framework has given her a much greater knowledge of the research of colleagues across the School, but at the cost of hands-on understanding of over-engineered bureaucracy (something medieval Italians knew a lot about). On the other hand in April she was delighted to receive the Student Association award for best doctoral supervisor in the University.

In the latter part of AY2013-14, Frances will head to Washington for six months to work on a monograph on religious office-holding and public life in late mediaeval Italy. On her return she will be presiding at the Ecclesiastical History Society Summer Conference in Sheffield (24th-26th July 2014). Her chosen theme is ‘Doubt’. Perhaps that says it all.

About standrewshistory
With over forty fulltime members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from Scotland to Byzantium and the Americas to South Asia. Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching, allowing for in-depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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