Dr Katie Stevenson’s Erasmus exchange to Utrecht


Drift: the heart of the humanities at Universiteit Utrecht

In mid-October, Dr Katie Stevenson, a late medieval historian in the School of History, spent ten days on Erasmus teaching exchange to Universiteit Utrecht in the Netherlands. Utrecht University was founded in 1636 and is one of the world’s leading institutions. Katie visited the Department of History & Art History in the Faculty of Humanities, based in Drift and opposite the University Library, an ultra-modern facility inside Louis Napoleon Boneparte’s former palace in the city.

While in Utrecht Katie taught late medieval history to undergraduate and postgraduate students and offered an individuele opdracht on chivalry and the Order of the Garter in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England. Katie also gave a lecture to the departments of English, History & Art History on ‘the Battle for Arthur in Anglo-Scottish Relations, c.1500’.

The School of History at St Andrews offers postgraduate exchanges with Utrecht as part of the Erasmus scheme. Katie is the third visitor to Utrecht from St Andrews; Dr James Palmer visited on staff exchange, and his doctoral student Joanna Thornborough spent several months researching there in early 2013. Click here for more information on the Study Abroad schemes for History students.

St Andrews Historians Run Edinburgh Marathon for Charity

Marathon 2013

Members of the School of History ran the Edinburgh Marathon relay challenge last weekend (26  May) to raise money for MS Scotland – the sixth year in a row the Medievalists have done this. It was a glorious day with a real festival atmosphere.

There were two teams – one led by James Palmer with postdoc Fernando Arias, Neil Montgomery, and postgrad Roberta Cimino, the other led by Justine Firnhaber-Baker with postgrads Kimberley Knight-Ford and Will Eves. The route was divided into four legs, starting in Edinburgh city centre and winding through Holyrood Park down to the Forth, past Musselborough Race Course, out into the countryside and then back to Musselborough for a much needed rest! The teams managed impressive times of 3hrs 44mins and 3hrs 40mins respectively.

For the second team this was a particular achievement because a last-minute withdrawal meant that Kimberley ran two legs consecutively, of 8.4 miles and 5.6 miles! She also did so faster than James and Fernando managed running the same legs individually.

The teams want to raise to £1000 for MS Scotland, a charity chosen because of a former student of Mediaeval History who has Multiple Sclerosis. They are still only half-way to their target but there is still time to sponsor them retrospectively – either contact them directly or donate online at http://www.justgiving.com/history-marathon/, where you can add ‘gift aid’. Any support is much appreciated!

James Palmer visits Virginia Tech, Blacksburg

James Palmer lectureEarly mediaeval historian Dr James Palmer has just returned from a productive time as a visiting scholar at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. He was invited there by Dr Matthew Gabriele as the two continue to develop their research into apocalypse and prophecy in the Middle Ages.

They began their fortnight together by travelling to the annual Medieval Academy of America meeting, which this year was being held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, co-organised by fellow apocalypse scholar (and MacArthur Fellowship winner) Prof Jay Rubenstein. There, James chaired a packed session on ‘The Millennium: Fresh Views of the End of Time’, featuring Dr Brett Whalen of UNC at Chapel Hill with whom James has applied for funding for a network on apocalypse and medieval society. Three full and stimulating days of conferencing ended with a reception inside the iconic Sunsphere, built for for the World’s Fair in 1982.

Returning to Blacksburg, and after finding some proper Bluegrass by the New River, James spent the next week working at Virginia Tech. For the most part, he continued to work on his new book, Perilous Times: Apocalypse and Authority in the Early Middle Ages, which he hopes to finish by this summer. On the Wednesday lunchtime, he gave a brief paper about his methodology and theory to members of the Department of Religion and Culture, which provided a great opportunity to compare ideas and assumptions between different disciplines.

James Palmer teaching 1James Palmer teaching 2

Later that day, James gave a public lecture entitled ‘How the End of the World Shaped the World’ at the Residential College of Ambler West Johnston Hall, the college that had kindly funded his visit. The lecture was well-attended, as James explained how apocalyptic thought encouraged actions and ideologies which helped to transform the political and religious map of Europe in the first millennium AD.

On the Thursday James taught a graduate seminar as part of Dr Gabriele’s course on ‘History and Prophecy’. The session was entitled ‘What is the End?’ and the group had a stimulating time discussing Negri and Hardt’s Empire, the use of narratology in understanding apocalyptic movements, and the intersection of politics and apocalyptic beliefs more generally.

There may be collaboration between St Andrews and Virginia Tech in future, and James is looking forward to welcoming Dr Gabriele to St Andrews in June when he speaks at the conference ‘The Middle Ages in the Modern World’.



UG Hazel Blair awarded essay prize by Groundings Ancients

Groundings Ancients

Third-year honours Mediaeval History student Hazel Blair has been awarded the prize for the best essay published in the new undergraduate journal Groundings Ancients. The prize was judged by the academic advisory board of the journal, made up of academic staff of the four ancient universities of Scotland. Hazel was awarded the prize by Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of Glasgow University, and presented with a cheque at the launch of the journal at the University of Glasgow last week.


Groundings Ancients, which is an offshoot of the Glasgow University undergrad journal Groundings, chooses twelve undergraduate arts and humanities essays to be published in each issue, three each from the universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen.

Hazel’s article is called ‘The end of time in sixth century Francia: Bishop Gregory of Tours’ Histories’ and was written for Dr James Palmer’s honours module ME3232 Mediaeval Apocalyptic Traditions c.400 – c.1200 in semester 1 of 2012-13.

The journal and Hazel’s article can be accessed online on the Groundings Ancients website or in hard copy at the British Library and the University of Glasgow’s Library and Archives, The Bodleian, Cambridge, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, and Trinity College Dublin.

The academic advisory board of Groundings Ancients includes the School of History’s Dr Bernhard Struck.

In summer 2013 Hazel will take up an Undergraduate Research Internship awarded by the University of St Andrews and to be supervised by Dr Katie Stevenson.

Third-year History honours student Hazel Blair awarded University Research Internship (URIP)

Hazel BlairHazel Blair, a third year Mediaeval History undergraduate, has been awarded a St Andrews Undergraduate Research Internship (URIP), to research the cultural significance of scientific experimentation at the courts of the Scottish Renaissance kings James III, James IV, and James V.  This is a ten-week project undertaken over the summer and will be conducted under the supervision of Dr Katie Stevenson.

Hazel writes:

“In my current module on the Renaissance in Late Mediaeval Scotland, I was astounded to discover that there has been little analysis of the growing trend in science experiments at court, despite common recognition of it in the sources and in the historiography. My project will be a fitting expression of my continuing love for mediaeval history at undergraduate level. On entry into honours, my work and learning became more specialised. I have had a wonderful time learning about women’s lives in the Middle Ages, and I have also had quite a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the intricacies of mediaeval apocalyptic traditions. I am privileged to have had my article ‘The end of time in sixth century Francia: Bishop Gregory of Tours’ Histories’ accepted for publication in the new undergraduate journal Groundings Ancients, which represents three students from each of the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. This taste of academia intrigued me. Therefore, this summer, I am overjoyed to be spending ten weeks researching and analysing such a fascinating area of Scottish history. My project will include a survey of the financial records of the kings’ reigns, and analysis of contemporary chronicles and court poetry. I will question the extent to which science, medicine, alchemy, and astronomy were significant tools of kingship and authority in late mediaeval and Renaissance Scotland. I will also consider the significance of scientific experiments within the Stewart court on the rise of medicine within the Scottish universities. My project will be comparatively linked to two other studies taken in the last two years, which explore these themes in the crown of Aragon and in Italian court culture. I hope to place this part of Scotland’s history in its wider European context and am very much looking forward to the commencement of my research internship this June.”

Hazel joins a long and distinguished tradition of successful students from the School of History on the University’s URIP scheme since its inception in 2008. Hazel’s fellow honours student, Olympia Severis, and sub-honours student Alasdair Grant have also been awarded places on the scheme.

Spotlight on James Palmer

James PalmerDr James Palmer has taught in the School of History since 2007 as Lecturer in Continental Mediaeval History.  He obtained his PhD from the University of Sheffield in 2004 under the supervision of Prof. Sarah Foot, before taking up his first lectureship at the University of Leicester in 2005 and then holding a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at the University of Nottingham in 2006-7.

James palmer bookAt heart, James is a cultural historian of the eighth and ninth centuries with interests that straddle the Merovingian, Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon worlds. His early research focused on the politics of memorialisation which surrounded English missionary activities in Germany and Frisia. This work led to the publication of his first monograph, Anglo-Saxons in a Frankish World, in 2009 – a study once described as ‘sensitive and methodologically exemplary’[1] for its efforts to place the missions as a textual phenomenon as well as a historical one. He is working on merovingianworld, an online resource for research and teaching on Merovingian Gaul.

James’s current research project, funded by an AHRC Fellowship, concerns the role of apocalyptic thought and rhetoric in social and political change. He is finishing the book Apocalypse and Authority in the Early Middle Ages and has been developing a website to accompany it (http://medapocalypse.wordpress.com/).

James Palmer apoc

James teaches at all levels in the department and his courses include ME3231 Mediaeval Apocalyptic Traditions and ME4813 Kings and Holy Men in the Merovingian World.

He has obtained some notoriety as drummer and occasional fiddler in Dry Island Buffalo Jump, the University’s only Fife-based faux-Americana country band. Profits from their work goes towards a student hardship fund.




James in documentary 'Mission Bayern', screened in Bavarian cinemas in December 2012

James in documentary ‘Mission Bayern’, screened in Bavarian cinemas in December 2012


For more information on Dr James Palmer see http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/staff/jamespalmer.html