Department of History

Medieval Heresy and Dissent Research Network

Project summary

This research network was established in 2014 and is based in the University of Nottingham’s Department of History and Institute for Medieval ResearchThe three co-directors are Peter Darby, Rob Lutton and Claire Taylor. We are concerned with the historical study of a range of forms of heresy and religious dissent in medieval Christendom. The network is an institutional focus for heresy studies, providing a forum for staff and students researching this area.

It is the only network of its kind, globally we are gaining a reputation as the place to go for heresy studies with a broad contextual as well as specialist foci.

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Five funded and self-funding PGRs students are currently taking heresy-related degrees with us; Jack Baigent, Carl Dixon, Esther Lewis, Tim McManus and Martin Roberts, with Dr. Harry Barmby having just successfully completed. We run a popular module for PGTs, ‘Heresy and Religious Dissent in the Middle Ages’, and UG modules relating to or solely focussed on medieval heresy in all three years. We have run two extremely well-attended and successful Public Lectures (Prof. R. I. Moore and Dr. Rebecca Rist) which were accompanied by workshops with the speakers open to the public, ranging from U3A students to sixth-formers. Through the latter we have developed an on-going relationship with Winstanley College (Wigan). Since 2015 we have sponsored sessions at the International Medieval Congress (the largest medieval conference globally) and in 2018 will co-sponsor 4 sessions (12 papers) on the theme of ‘Memories of Heresy and Counter-Heresy’ with the AHRC-funded Doat Project at York and The Department for the Study of Religions at Masaryk University, Brno. We have also collaborated with the UoN Department of Theology in the production of a series of videos on the theme, Why Study Medieval Heresy and Dissent? Immediate future plans include attracting funding for post-doctoral fellowships, further funding for PGRs, and engaging in syllabus and exam design with colleges and exam boards.


This existing work provides us a context and platform for our most ambitious project to date, a major international two-day conference at Easter 2018 on the subject of Heretical Self-Defence: Religious Dissidents Confronting Opposition in the Medieval West. It addresses how, and how well, heretics and people rightly or wrongly associated with heresy, defended themselves from persecution. It aims to highlight the following categories of resistance in particular: Text, Law, Subterfuge, Flight and Arms and is, we believe, the first international conference on heresy to actively involve scholars working on the Early, High and Late Middle Ages (i.e. c. 500 to c.1500). As such, it is a timely and positive contribution to the scholarship, which has recently experienced a series of exciting challenge to its own orthodoxies, but so far lacks direction and focus for future priority areas. Given our existing reputation and activity, we are well placed for providing a forum from which this development can emerge, and also to provide a scholarly infrastructure for carrying it forward. Paper proposals were invited on any medieval individuals, groups or movements and we have selected the best 24 of those submitted to make up our programme. We have received £10,000 funding for this from the UoN International Collaboration Fund and PVC’s Fund (Grant for Research/Impact). This has enabled us to fund 8 invited international scholars, all leaders or rising stars in their field, and ten post-graduate bursaries. We hope then to mentor some of these students in applying for post-doctoral fellowships to be based here, to apply for further research funding ourselves, and aspire to become a recognised centre within the university.  

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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