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Research Blog - ARCHIVE PAGE

Welcome to the Renaissance Centre's research blog! This page provides a space for all our members to write about current work. Entries might relate to particular sources/publications, archival visits, conferences, project ideas, reflections on new approaches/concepts or any other aspect of research. Do come back to see the latest updates. We warmly welcome contributions from anybody with interests in our period. Entries should be emailed to Jayne Sweet at Blog posts are listed chronologically, alternatively you can jump straight to specific articles by clicking on contributor names below.

Jenny Alexander; Stephen Bates(1); Stephen Bates (2); Ingrid De Smet; Rocco Di Dio; Liam Lewis/Paloma Perez Galvan; Elizabeth Goldring; Lawrence Green (1); Lawrence Green (2); Amanda Hopkins; Ioanna Iordanou; Beat Kümin (1); Beat Kümin (2); Beat Kümin (3); Sara Miglietti; Femke Molekamp; Gloria Moorman; Alexander Russell

Report on Internship at the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia, October 2017, by Gloria Moorman, CSR PhD candidate
Valorization between Early Atlases and Island Books: October at the Biblioteca Correr, Venice.

The conceptual links between two atlas projects, those of Joan Blaeu (1598/99-1673), active as cartographer in Amsterdam and official mapmaker to the Dutch East India Company (1638-73), and Vincenzo Maria Coronelli (1650-1718), Franciscan Friar and official cosmographer to the Republic of Venice, have formed a recurring and stimulating thread throughout the month I spent in Venice as an intern at the library of the Museo Correr.

Full report here: 

Report on the International Medieval Congress, July 2017 at the University of Leeds, by Lawrence Green, CSR Honorary Research Fellow

As I had received my first degree at the University of Leeds in 1965 it was with some feelings of nostalgia that I returned during the summer – over half a century later – to deliver a paper at the University’s 24th International Medieval Congress (IMC). Established in 1994 and organised and administered by the Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS), the Congress has established itself as an annual event and is the largest conference of its kind in Europe. The University hosted 2,444 delegates from 56 countries, bringing together researchers from Chile to China, the US, Russia and Algeria. The academic programme, too, swelled to include just under 2,000 individual papers given in 627 academic sessions, spanning the full range of disciplines in medieval studies: topics included medieval Ethiopia, religious conversion narratives, Byzantine architecture, palace cities in Japan, Europe and the Middle East, and Old English riddles – and many more.

Full report here: 

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Remembering the Reformation, by Stephen Bates, CSR Honorary Research Fellow, October 2017

We are entering a great phase of remembrance: the five-hundredth anniversary of the Reformation or, to be more precise, of Martin Luther’s Thesenanschlag – his nailing up of the Ninety-five Theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Schlosskirche or Castle Church. This event almost certainly never happened, but owes its popularity to Philipp Melanchthon’s Vita Lutheri, published following Luther’s death in 1546. Luther did write the Ninety-five Theses on 31 October 1517, but he put them in a letter to his primate, Albrecht, Archbishop of Magdeburg. Writing a letter is not nearly as dramatic a symbol as hammering a nail into a door. The physicality of the anschlag (the attack) gave the moment enormous potency; Luther might have been hammering a nail into the coffin of the medieval papacy. Yet, in truth, the Ninety-five Theses reveal Brother Martin circa 1517 as a loyal critic of the Church. From his covering letter to Albrecht it is clear that Luther assumed that the Archbishop would join him in denouncing the vulgar salesmanship and exaggerated theological claims of Johann Tetzel’s campaign to sell indulgences across Saxony. He was in for an unpleasant surprise.

Full report here: 

Renaissance Editing Workshop, organised by Liam Lewis and Paloma Perez Galvan
The Renaissance Editing Workshop was a half-day event on 26 May 2017 in the Wolfson Research Exchange designed to act as both an introduction to different styles of editing, as well as a focused group to discuss Renaissance editing practices. Three presentations by Prof. Ingrid De Smet (Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, Warwick), Dr. Dario Brancato (Concordia University, Montreal), and Dr. Giacomo Comiati (Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, Warwick) provided introductions to some of the questions and theoretical issues raised by editing practices for Renaissance texts. Topics included: the ways that commentaries in critical editions might be constructed, with a focus on an edition of Jacques Auguste de Thou's didactic poem on falconry; the various audience of critical editions of texts including Giovanni Della Casa's Latin poems; and how we as scholars can distinguish the authorial intention from editorial intentions, specifically in the case of Cosimo de’ Medici and Baccio Baldini’s ‘edition’ of Benedetto Varchi’s Storia Fiorentina. The second-half of the workshop focused on precise case-studies, and the participants engaged with their chosen topics in more depth. Group discussion raised the issues of how each of the speakers would edit certain portions of the original text. In this part of the workshop participants could envisage how difficult it can be to make a critical edition of a Renaissance text. Workshop members and speakers enjoyed engaging with the topic and were very active in discussion sessions. The speakers themselves also provided positive feedback about the workshop, noting that it was an interesting and stimulating seminar and that the event encouraged fruitful discussion. A follow-up Medieval Editing Workshop is planned to take place during the next academic year.

Shakespeare, Memory and the Iconography of Death by Dr Lawrence Green, CSR Honorary Research Fellow, February 2017

When the skeleton unearthed in a car park in the City of Leicester in September 2012 was confirmed in February the following year to be that of King Richard III there was almost universal rejoicing. The Guardian reported that “there were cheers” when the identity was verified “beyond reasonable doubt” and announced at a Press Conference; the Express – with a characteristic pun – cordially declared: ‘Hunch pays off…’.  

Full report here: 

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MLA (Modern Language Association) Annual Conference, 7th-10th January 2016, by Dr Elizabeth Goldring, CSR Honorary Associate Professor

A whirlwind trip to the USA for the 131st annual MLA conference – held this year in Austin, Texas – in the course of which I was presented with the MLA Prize for a Scholarly Edition for my work as General Editor of John Nichols’s The Progresses and Public Processions of Queen Elizabeth I: A New Edition of the Early Modern Sources (Oxford University Press, 2014).

Full report here: 

The Charity of the Poor in Late Renaissance Venice by Dr Ioanna Iordanou, CSR Honorary Research Fellow

The Venetian popolani were a social group distinct from the higher levels of Venetian society, namely the patricians – the Venetian ruling class – and the cittadini – the Venetian citizens. They comprised the mass of Venetian residents who enjoyed no legal status and were divided into two categories, the popolo minuto – the city’s workers – and the popolo grande – ‘the well-to-do commoners’, those who owned workshops, employed workers, and possessed property. Concerned with how the popolani contributed to the Venetian economy through their labour, a great deal of scholarly attention has been placed on their professional services.

Full report here: 

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Reconstructing Medieval Construction by Dr Jenny Alexander (History of Art)

We have just published our work on the early phases of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the site of the shrine of St James and the end of the camino, he pilgrimage route across northern Spain from the Pyrenees. I was co-investigator on the project, funded by the regional government of Galicia, and was responsible for a stone by stone survey of the masonry of the area around the cathedral’s high altar. Other members of the project studied the sculpted capitals, and the project’s brief was to gain a better understanding of the progress of construction of its earliest parts.

Full report here: 


The Medieval Werewolf by Amanda Hopkins (English & French)
Following our recent blog theme of dark wintry nights/supernatural horror/history/myth, Amanda Hopkins's piece throws a different light on the Medieval Werewolf myth. She explains that, the medieval werewolf is not a horror story, perhaps because of the Church's strict attempts to stamp out non-divine supernatural manifestations and other superstitions in narratives. Werewolf stories were frowned upon, and there is more than one Church edict insisting that werewolves are not real and that people should not believe in them. If many of the people who were writing stories down were clerics, there is a potential conflict, and indeed they would often add a Christian spin to the stories. The ‘typical’ Medieval werewolf story involves a hero-knight being locked (usually magically) into wolf form by his wife, and plays down the bestiality entirely in order to play up his obvious humanity. Completely the opposite of the modern werewolf, which (for cinematographic reasons?) depicts the humanity physically (bipedality, for instance, or demonstrations of higher intelligence) and emphasises the bestial ferocity. Click here to read Amanda's full article. Detail of a miniature of a wolf creeping up on a sheepfold from downwind. Bestiary, England, c. 1200–10 (London: British Library, Royal MS 12 C. xix, f. 19r.


Ghosts, Monsters and Scary Creatures by Ingrid De Smet, Beat Kümin, Alexander Russell and Stephen Bates

With the shortening days and the prospect of Halloween and Guy Fawkes night, we asked some members of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance about their favourite ghosts, monsters and scary creatures. Click here to be alarmed, amazed, amused...

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Dorothy Osborne and Women Letter Writers by Femke Molekamp, CSR Research Fellow

Recently I have been doing some research on the very interesting seventeenth-century letter writer Dorothy Osborne. Osborne was the daughter of Royalist, aristocratic parents. In 1646 she travelled to St Malo in France, where her family were residing during the civil wary, and en route she encountered the essayist Sir William Temple, who was to become her secret suitor for many years, before the pair eventually married. Both families were against the match, mostly on financial grounds.

Full report here: 


Parish Treasures by Beat Kümin (History)
One of the perks of research trips abroad is the sightseeing squeezed in when the archives are closed. While working on records of the former bishopric of Constance (now kept at Freiburg im Breisgau), I got a chance to visit the Minster of Our Lady, today a cathedral but originally ‘just’ the city’s parish church. It was built over several centuries in the late Middle Ages and remained untouched by a WW2 air raid. The south aisle contains one of Germany’s earliest ‘Holy Sepulchre’ groups dating from c. 1330. Clearly pre-Renaissance in style, Christ (measuring some 2.18 m in length) is surrounded by sculptures of angels and female mourners. Other artworks include a relief of a Compostela pilgrim crowned by St James (c. 1130), a monumental silver cross of c. 1200 and an altar triptych by Hans Baldung Grien (1512-16, complete with portraits of its municipal patrons). Among the written treasures are fabric accounts surviving from 1471. Now back to work …

Bodin Conference, St Anne’s College Oxford by Sara Miglietti CSR Alumna
On Tuesday 24th June 2014 I took part in the international conference ‘Community, Government and Territoriality in the Political Thought of Jean Bodin’, organised by Dr Sophie Nicholls and Dr Anna Becker at St Anne’s College, Oxford. The conference brought together junior and senior scholars from the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, Finland, and the US to reconsider one of the most important political writers of the French Renaissance in the light of recent scholarly developments. Indeed, 2013 saw the publication of three works which shed new light on Bodin’s thought: the first volume of Mario Turchetti’s bilingual edition of Bodin’s Six livres de la République (Paris, Garnier); a compared edition and Italian translation of Bodin’s Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem (Pisa, Edizioni della Normale); and Howell Lloyd’s edited volume The Reception of Bodin (published by Brill), which results from a four-year, AHRC-funded project at the University of Hull ( The conference was successful in reassessing Bodin’s thought in the light of these new findings and in setting the agenda for future research in the field. I presented a paper on Bodin’s views on demographic weight and territorial expansion, arguing that his interest in such issues demonstrates the existence within the République of a non-juridical type of political reflection. Other papers discussed Bodin’s stance on superstition (MacPhail), his notion of ‘police’ (Nicholls) and its concrete application to matters such as census and taxation (Berns), his ideas on history-writing (Claussen), his crucial distinction between despotism and tyranny (Turchetti), the tension between the sovereignty principle and the delegation of power to officers (Lee), and the evolution of Bodin’s legal thought (Lindfors). Yannis Evrigenis illustrated a project which he is currently leading at Tufts University, and which aims at making a variorum edition of the République available for online browsing through Perseus ( ). Howell Lloyd’s concluding remarks brought this day of fecund conversation to a close.

A.R.C.H.I.ves by Rocco Di Dio CSR Alumnus

On Monday 2 June 2014, I participated in a very stimulating palaeography workshop on the topic 'The materiality of the Record'. The workshop was held at the Birckbeck University of London and was part of a series of international workshops organised by the A.R.C.H.I.ves project.

A.R.C.H.I.ves is a four-year project funded by the European Research Council and led by Dr Filippo de Vivo in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology in the School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy. The project is devoted to the history of documentary production and archival preservation in late medieval and early modern Italy. Since one of my main research interests lie in palaeography, and my methodological approach focusses on the study of both the materiality and textuality of manuscripts, it was my keen desire to participate in the workshop. I felt that this would be a unique opportunity to meet experts on the field and discuss my research with them. Thanks to the generous support of a bursary offered by the Birckbeck University, I was also able to cover my travel expenses.

The workshop focused on different genres and types of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century documents from the point of view of their material form, combining textual, linguistic, diplomatic and palaeographic analysis. Historians, linguists, diplomatists and palaeographers gave short presentations followed by a very stimulating discussion. I am very happy with this productive experience and I am sure that the ties I have forged with this group of researchers will go to the benefit of my scientific growth.


Arriving in the Renaissance by Beat Kümin (History)
On Thursday 5 June 2014, Rosa Salzberg and I co-hosted a very stimulating workshop on the topic 'Arriving in the Renaissance'. Facilitated by a generous donation to the Faculty in support of interdisciplinary work, we were able to invite an international group of speakers, all of whom with interests in migration, spatial mobility and the hospitality trade. We heard papers on channeling visitors to Siena, Venetian / Florentine inns, the iconography of German public houses, cultural exchange in Bristol/Bordeaux, welcoming strangers to Amsterdam and the migration network of a Jerusalem friary. Participants from ten academic institutions found plenty of scope for discussion, including issues like voluntary/involuntary mobility, the social status of migrants, contrasting local attitudes towards immigration, principal entry points, systems of surveillance and conceptual approaches in the field. We all agreed that the topic merits further collaboration and comparative analysis, not least given its relevance for the societies of today.

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