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: a re-evaluation of the fantastical in historical fiction

Research Summary

Fantastical phenomena - visions, apparitions, spirits, monsters, elves and other marvels - formed an intrinsic part of life in the Middle Ages, and yet are not usually afforded serious treatment by historical novelists. My project will examine whether it is possible to reconcile the fantastical with the historical in modern fiction about the period, and how such an integration might be achieved.

The creative component of my thesis will be a historical novel with magic realist elements, set in post-1066 England. Drawing upon concepts of the otherworldly and the monstrous from Anglo-Saxon and Norse traditions, it will explore the trauma of conquest and the imposition of colonial rule.

The accompanying contextual analysis will examine how the fantastical and the historical intersect in a variety of medieval texts, from Beowulf to Eyrbyggja saga, as well as in recent historical novels by writers including Umberto Eco and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Research Interests

Historical fiction

The relationship between history and fiction

Cross-genre fiction


Public understanding of the past

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), June 2013.


'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.

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