Department of History

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Rob Lutton

Associate Professor in Medieval History, Faculty of Arts


Expertise Summary

I welcome doctoral students who wish to research any aspect of the social and cultural history of England c.1200-c.1600, in particular popular religion, including heresy and heterodoxy, church history, and memory.

Teaching Summary

The modules I teach reflect my interests in the social and cultural history of late medieval England. I teach the first year module 'Making the Middle Ages, 500-1500' that surveys the social,… read more

Research Summary

My research is focused on the religious practices and beliefs of lay people in England from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Much of this work has involved investigation of the relationship… read more

The modules I teach reflect my interests in the social and cultural history of late medieval England. I teach the first year module 'Making the Middle Ages, 500-1500' that surveys the social, political and cultural history of Europe. My second year module 'Heroes and Villains of the Middle Ages' explores medieval ideology and value-systems, history writing, myth-making and memory through examination of key historical and legendary figures ranging from King Arthur to Richard III. My third-year special subject, 'Faith and Fire', provides an opportunity for students to explore, in depth, the wide range of primary sources that provide evidence of the religious practices, experiences and beliefs of the people of late medieval England and to engage with major historical debates about the nature and dynamics of popular religion prior to the Reformation. At postgraduate level, I teach 'Power, Authority and Dissent: sources for medieval history', and 'Medieval Palaeography'.

I next expect to be on research leave in the Autumn semester of the academic year 2022/23.

Current Research

My research is focused on the religious practices and beliefs of lay people in England from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. Much of this work has involved investigation of the relationship between orthodox and heterodox pieties.

My main area of research at present is the cult of the Holy Name of Jesus in England, c. 1300-c.1550. The research was supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship in 12011-12 and explores the reasons and consequences of the growth in religious behaviour in England during this period by focusing on how and why devotion to the name of Jesus gained a popular following. The name 'Jesus' meant 'saviour' and was invoked for healing, protection and salvation, and also became important in mystical and devotional practices and in the liturgy. The research uses a range of evidence including religious books containing services, prayers, hymns and theological tracts, last wills that record support for devotion to the name of Jesus by individuals close to death, in the form of bequests for the celebration of masses of the name of Jesus for example, and churchwardens' accounts that mention things like altars that were dedicated to the name of Jesus or the activities of Jesus fraternities. The research is important because, by exploring the particular appeal of the name of Jesus in this historical period, it sheds light on the nature of religious belief and practice in the past and why certain religious ideas and practices gain popular followings. It also has the potential to tell us about the ways religion was changing prior to the Reformation and how the medieval religious heritage went on to shape Western culture. I have published a number of articles and chapters in edited books on the devotion.

In July 2022 (postponed from 2020), to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Richard Pfaff's groundbreaking New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England (1970), Nottingham will host the international conference: 'Pfaff at Fifty: New Devotions and Religious Change in Later Medieval England'. A Medium Aevum (Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature) two-day conference, organised by myself and Dr Ben Barootes (Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies, Toronto), this shall take stock of the enduring legacy of New Liturgical Feasts by reconsidering the important questions that this touchstone book raised through exploration and discussion of current research:

I continue to research and write on lollardy and heterdoxy in late medieval England and am, with Dr Peter Darby and Dr Claire Taylor, a director of the Medieval Heresy and Dissent Research Network at the University of Nottingham ( In April 2018 the network held an international conference on the subject of heretical self defence. The proceedings, a special thematic issue of Nottingham Medieval Studies (see below), represents the first concerted comparative study of episodes and strategies of resistance by individuals or groups required to defend themselves from accusations of heresy from the second to the fifteenth centuries and from the Eastern Mediterranean to England.

I am interested also in questions concerning the nature of memory in the Middle Ages and the application of ideas drawn from cognitive psychology and cognitive anthropology to representations of medieval memory and remembering.

Articles, chapters and edited books include:

  • " 'Love this Name that is IHC': Vernacular Prayers, Hymns and Lyrics to the Holy Name of Jesus in Pre-Reformation England" in E. Salter and H. Wicker (eds), Vernacularity in England and Wales c. 1350-1550, Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy (Brepols, 2010)
  • 'Lollardy, Orthodoxy and Cognitive Psychology', in M. Bose and P. Horbeck (eds), Wycliffite Controversies (Brepols, 2011)
  • 'Heresy and Heterodoxy in Late Medieval Kent' in S. Sweetinburgh (ed.), Late Medieval Kent (Kent History Project, Boydell & Brewer, 2010)
  • 'Vice, Virtue and Contemplation', in R. Hanna and T. Turville-Petre (eds), The Wollaton Medieval Manuscripts: Texts, Owners and Readers (Boydell & Brewer, 2010)
  • 'Richard Guldeford's Pilgrimage: piety and cultural change in late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century England', History 98: 1 (2013)
  • 'The Name of Jesus, Nicholas Love's Mirror, and Christocentric Devotion in Late Medieval England', in Geographies of Orthodoxy: Opening the Pseudo-Bonaventuran Middle English Lives of Christ, ed. Ian Johnson and Allan Westphall (Brepols, 2013)
  • 'Pilgrimage and Travel Writing in Early Sixteenth-Century England: The Pilgrimage Accounts of Thomas Larke and Robert Langton', Viator: Medieval and renaissance Studies 48:3 (2017), 333-357.
  • '"...But Have You Read This?": Dialogicity in Robert Thornton's Holy Name Devotions', English 67 (2018), 119-140.
  • 'Devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus in the Medieval West', in Jane Beale, ed., Illuminating Jesus in the Middle Ages (Brill, 2019), pp. 129-53.
  • 'The Church, Religion and Culture', in Geoffrey Chaucer in Context, I. Johnson, ed., (Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 301-307.
  • 'From micro- to macro-processes of religious change: The Holy Name of Jesus and Christocentric devotion in the long fifteenth century', Journal of Church History and Religious Culture, 99:3-4 (2019): Theme Section: The Religious Field in the Long Fifteenth Century: 412-439.
  • (Jointly edited with Peter Darby and Claire Taylor) Heretical Self-Defence in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, Special Issue, Nottingham Medieval Studies 63 (2019): 1-190.


I have successfully supervised to completion the following PhD students:

  • Alan Kissane, 'Lay Identity in Fourteenth-Century Lincoln' (University of Nottingham Funded, started October 2009, completed 2013)
  • Matthew Ward, 'Affinity and commemoration in late-medieval England: the visual representation of Yorkist and Lancastrian livery collars on funerary monuments, church architecture and in documentary sources, c.1450 to c.1500' (University of Nottingham Funded, started October 2009, completed 2013)
  • Marianne Wilson, 'The impact of Lincoln Cathedral upon religious practice in the city of Lincoln c.1400-1540' (University of Nottingham and AHRC funded, completed 2014)
  • Rebecca Maryan, 'Humoral theory in English and North European religious writing, c. 1300-1450' (University of Nottingham Funded, completed 2016)
  • Ann Garfield, 'The Progress of the Reformation in South Northamptonshire' (Part-time, completed 2016)
  • Harry Barmby, 'An investigation into the punishment of heresy in Languedoc during the thirteenth century' (AHRC funded, completed 2017)
  • Elizabeth Wiedenheft, 'The Delatio in Medieval Europe' (Nottingham Vice Chancellor's Research Excellence Overseas Scholarship, completed 2018)
  • Laura Di Stefano, 'The Business of Pilgrimage in Fifteenth-Century Venice' (Nottingham Vice Chancellor's Research Excellence Scholarship, completed 2019)
  • Hannah Ingram, 'Archetypes and Individuals: Reconstructing Late Medieval Lenders and Borrowers' (AHRC Midlands 3 Cities funded, completed 2019)Martin Roberts, 'Ecclesiastical Justice at the Cusp of the Reformation: The Study and Interpretation of its written legacy with particular reference to some records of the Audience Court of John Longland, bishop of Lincoln' (completed 2020)
  • Esther Lewis, 'Popular Piety in pre-Reformation Bristol, c. 1400-1500 (AHRC Midlands 3 Cities funded, completed 2020)
  • Alexandra Marchbank, 'Testamentary Piety: the evidence of Norfolk and Kent Wills, c. 1400-1535' (AHRC Midlands 3 Cities funded, completed 2020)

I am currently supervising the following PhD students:

  • Joseph Peake, 'A social and cultural history of waste land in medieval England' (AHRC Midlands 3 Cities funded, started 2018)
  • Philippa Stazicker, 'Outlets for devotion; public and private use of Midlands Alabaster Carvings in late Medieval Devotional practice, c. 1380-1540' (started 2018)
  • Andrew Judson, 'Beyond Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: Preaching and Exempla in the Context of the Lollard Heresy' (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, started 2019)
  • Eleanor Cox, 'Apocalyptic Thought in Late Fourteenth-Century England' (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, started 2019)
  • Fred Lloyd-Williams, 'The Cult of Henry VI: Medieval Memory, Sainthood and Kingship' (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, started 2019)
  • Lauren Sisson, 'Mothers and Sons in Late Medieval England (c. 1200-c. 1500)' (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, started 2019)
  • Catherine Gower, '"Nay, they will be kin to us, or they will fetch it from Japheth": The production, dissemination and use of royal genealogical chronicles in the first reign of Henry VI (1422-61)', Nottingham Trent University (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, started 2020)
  • Edmund van der Molen, '"We are only holy to others": Constructing and Contesting Sainthood in the Canonisation Process of Jeanne-Marie de Maille' (AHRC Midlands 4 Cities funded, starting 2021)

Recent conference papers, workshops, round tables and membership of research networks and projects (in reverse chronological order):

  • 'Popular Devotion? The O bone Jesu Prayer in English Books of Hours in the Fifteenth Century', Invited speaker, Medieval History Research Seminar, University of Oxford, June 2020.
  • Organised international roundtable discussion: 'Late Medieval Wills: New Directions for Future Research', International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 2018. Participants from Universities of Nottingham, Edinburgh, and Hull, The National Archives, and Rijksuniversiteit, Groningen. Brought together experts to consider potential for cross-European collaborative research.
  • Invited participant, New Religious Histories workshop, St Catherine's College, Oxford, June 2018.
  • Invited panel member, roundtable: Heresy - in honour of the career of Margaret Aston, Fifteenth-Century Conference, University of Essex, August-September 2017.
  • 'Routinized ecstasy? Robert Thornton's Holy Name devotions', invited speaker, The Late Medieval & Early Reformation Church: a symposium marking the retirement of professor Robert Swanson, The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, June 2017.
  • 'Action and Interpretation in the Late Medieval English Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus', invited paper in panel on the Holy Name at Medieval Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MICH., May 2017.
  • Invited expert and speaker, COST Action Training School for postgraduate research students, 'Passionate Devotions: Emotions in late medieval and early modern texts, images and music', WWU, Münster, April 2017.
  • 'Charisma and Routinization in the Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus in Late Medieval England', invited speaker, Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages Research Seminar, University of Birmingham, November 2016.
  • Invited speaker, COST Action international workshop 'The Religious Field in the Long Fifteenth Century: Framing processes of religious transformation in late medieval and early modern Europe', WWU, Münster, May 2016.
  • 'Looking for Jesus: evidence for the cult of the Holy Name in late medieval English religious manuscripts', invited speaker, Medieval and Early Modern Studies research seminar, University of Kent, November 2015.
  • 'Devotional affiliations in fifteenth-century English manuscript miscellanies', invited speaker, Late Medieval Manuscript Miscellanies Conference, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science, Amsterdam, 2014.
  • Member of European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST) Action IS1301: New Communities of Interpretation: Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe: extensive programme of conferences, workshops, publications, summer schools and training sessions for early stage researchers, 2013-17. Over 200 academics from 22 countries. Attended conferences and workshops in Amsterdam, Oct. 2014, Hull, May 2015, Münster, May 2016 and April 2017, Groningen, Nov. 2016, Rome, Sept. 2017.

Past Research

My research began with heresy and dissent in England. So, my monograph, Lollardy and Orthodox Religion in Pre-Reformation England, offers an interpretation of heterodoxy, in a major Lollard centre, through the close invesLollardy and Orthodox Religion in Pre-Reformation Englandtigation of orthodox religiosities and detailed reconstruction of the social and economic dynamics that underpinned the fragmentation of collective religious life prior to the Reformation. Please see for further details.

Subsequently I extended the scope of my research to consider the nature and dynamics of piety across the period c. 1400-1640. This led to the publication, in 2007, of a jointly edited collection of essays that highlight the centrality of processes of transition in the experience and practice of religion with the intention of raising theoretical and methodological issues in the study of late medieval and early modern pieties. Please see for further details.

Another area of my research has explored late medieval pilgrim guidPieties in Transitionebooks and how writing about pilgrimage and travel was changing before the Reformation in ways that reflected reformist ideas and a growing interest in travel for its own sake rather than as a religious practice. I have published two journal articles on an early printed English account of the pilgrimage to Palestine that establish, for the first time, its author as Master Thomas Larke, chaplain to Sir Richard Guldeford and, subsequently, chaplain and servant to the king's chief minister, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey.

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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