Royal Death and Burial: Reading Abbey in Context

by Prof. Lindy Grant

Pic 1

Paul Sandby, Abbey Gateway, painted in 1808, from Wikimedia Commons. The original is in Reading Museum.

It takes a real effort of the imagination to see the past glory of Reading Abbey, founded in 1121 by King Henry I of England as his intended burial house, in the battered remains surviving today. But Reading Abbey was one of the great monastic institutions of Europe in the middle ages, an intellectual and cultural powerhouse, with a magnificent church and richly decorated monastic buildings, a great library (King John kept his books there), and international connections.

Reading’s monks were drawn from the order of Cluny, linking the abbey into the wider Cluniac network, to which so many great churchmen belonged, among them several popes. Its most prized relic, given by the Empress Matilda, the daughter of the founder, was the hand of St James of Compostela, the Apostle to Spain, so that Reading joined an elite group of medieval religious institutions possessing remains of the Apostles of Christ.

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Battleaxes and Benchwarmers’ Trip to Parliament

By Beckie White, 3rd Year Archaeology & History student

Pic 1

The statue of Millicent Fawcett.

On Tuesday 12th March 2019, a group of final year History students at the University of Reading took a trip to Parliament. This trip was undertaken by students enrolled on the Battleaxes and Benchwarmers’: Early Female MPs 1919-1931 module, led by Dr Jacqui Turner.

After an eventful and amusing 8am start to the day, we finally arrived in London, slightly behind schedule, but excited for the day ahead. En route to the Palace of Westminster, home to the British Houses of Parliament, we passed the statue commemorating the life and work of Millicent Fawcett, in Parliament Square. The statue was created by the artist and Turner Prize Winner, Gillian Wearing, and was unveiled in 2018.

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Finding Evidence of Holy Healing: The Case of St Robert of Knaresborough

by Dr Ruth Salter


Prologue of the vita of St Robert of Knaresborough, British Library Harley MS 3775, © The British Library.

My research explores the experiences of pilgrims who sought out miraculous cures through saint cults in medieval England. A key resource for this topic are the hagiographical sources which include reports of the posthumous miracles (collected together in a subgenre called miracula) worked by various saints through their shrines. However, these formally written-up texts were not produced for all saints’ cults, and even when they were, not all survive. One saint’s cult that we know drew in pilgrims was that of St Robert of Knaresborough (d. 1218). Yet, while some hagiographical evidence survives for the saint, most writings on St Robert are focused towards his vita (life) with only passing mentions of what happened following his death.

How, then, can we find out about the types of experiences that cure-seekers travelling to St Robert’s tomb and shrine were likely to have? This is the challenge that faced me when I was asked to present a paper on St Robert of Knaresborough as part of commemorations of the 800th anniversary of his death last summer. What follows below is an adapted version of the paper I presented for the celebratory conference ‘St Robert in his Time’.

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The 1975 European Community Referendum: The First of Two … or of Three?

by Dr Linda Arch

form of ballot paper

“Referendum. A bill [as amended in committee] to provide for the holding of a referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Economic Community,” Paper Number 145, 1974-75, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers Online, accessed 11 January 2019.

On 5 June 1975 the UK held a referendum in which the electorate were asked the following question:

Do You Think that the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (the Common Market)?

Voters were required to answer either ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. In total 17,378,581 (67.2 per cent of those voting) voted ‘Yes’ to staying in the Community, a number uncannily close to the 17,410,742 who voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 EU referendum. The turnout in 1975 was 64.5 per cent, considerably lower than the 2016 turnout of 72.2 per cent.1

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Department seminar series, spring term 2019

All seminars are held on Wednesday at 4:30–6pm in Edith Morley 128. Refreshments are provided and all are welcome!

Wednesday 23 rd, January, Professor Rebecca Rist (Reading), ‘Were Medieval Popes Anti-Judaic or Anti-Semitic?’

Wednesday 6 th February, Dr Dafydd Townley (Reading) , ‘The Year of Intelligence: A History Lesson for Donald Trump.’

Wednesday 6 th March, Professor Elizabeth Gemmill (Oxford), ‘The Register of John Salmon, Bishop of Norwich 1299 – 1325.’

Wednesday 24 th April, Professor Mary Vincent (Sheffield) and Professor Paul Preston (LSE), Title TBC.

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