School of English

Image of James Aitcheson

James Aitcheson

Research Student,



Historical novelist specialising in late Anglo-Saxon England and the Norman Conquest. Author of four novels, published in the UK by Random House and Quercus, and also in the US, Germany and the Czech Republic. My latest novel, The Harrowing, was published in July 2016 and named by The Times as a Book of the Month.

I studied History at Emmanuel College, Cambridge (2003-6), where I specialised in the Middle Ages; I then undertook my MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University (2007-8), where I developed the concept for what, in 2011, became my first published novel, Sworn Sword.

Research Summary

Current status

PhD (full-time) - currently registered

Research Topic

Writing the Middle Ages: the boundaries of historical fiction

Research Summary

My PhD thesis consists of two parts: a fantastic-historical novel, notionally set during the eleventh century at an unidentified monastery in England; and a critical commentary on the process of writing it and its context within the wider genre of historical fiction.

The critical commentary discusses some of the issues that arise from writing fiction set in the past. Comparing and contrasting my own approaches and creative philosophies with those of other novelists, it explores how historical fiction works and how it is constructed, its objectives and responsibilities, and its possible future directions.

Research Interests

Historical fiction


Public understanding of the past

Early medieval monastic and intellectual culture

Early medieval astronomy

Research Supervisors

Dr Spencer Jordan

Dr Christina Lee

Primary Funding Source

Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Partnership



AITCHESON, J. Sworn Sword. Preface, 2011.

AITCHESON, J. The Splintered Kingdom. Preface, 2012.

AITCHESON, J. Knights of the Hawk. Preface, 2013.

AITCHESON, J. The Harrowing. Heron, 2016.

Conference Papers & Roundtables


'Historical fiction as virtual reality', Other Voices, Other Times (Bath Spa University, June 2012).

'Representing the Middle Ages in fiction', The Middle Ages in the Modern World (University of St Andrews, July 2013).

'Dreams come true: predicting the future in late Anglo-Saxon England', Medieval Midlands (University of Nottingham, May 2018).

'Space, place and identity in historical fiction', Orientations: A Conference of Narrative and Place (University of Nottingham, May 2018).

'Writing the Middle Ages: new approaches to historical fiction', The Middle Ages in the Modern World (John Cabot University, November 2018).

'Comets, eclipses and other celestial phenomena in late Anglo-Saxon England', 19th Biennial Meeting of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists (University of New Mexico, August 2019).


'Viking facts in fiction: how much research does a historical novel need?', The Viking World: Diversity and Change (University of Nottingham, June 2016).

'Imagining the medieval world: popular medievalism and historical fiction', International Medieval Congress (University of Leeds, July 2017).

'Communicating the Vikings', Midlands Viking Symposium (University of Leicester, April 2019).

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