Material Histories: History MA projects with the Museum of English Rural Life

As part of our MA in History, our postgraduate students work with the curators and collections of the Museum of English Rural Life to learn about the history of material culture, and the various ways in which historians can use objects and artefacts to understand the past.

The students then choose an object from the collection and produce a short blog, video, or podcast explaining what it can tell us about the period it was made. Here are three of those videos made by students on the 2018-19 MA course.

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Women’s Voices: From Slavery to the #MeToo Movement – Fairbrother Lecture 2019

The end of the American Civil War offered emancipated African American women the right to bring rape charges against white men for the first time, leading to an escalation in disclosures of sexual violence. In this lecture, History Ph.D. student Elizabeth Barnes considers lessons from this wave of revelations for the modern day #MeToo movement and explores how the pattern of progress followed by sustained backlash continues to be felt today.

The prestigious Fairbrother Lecture is an annual Graduate School event at which a Reading doctoral researcher presents their research to a wider audience.

Posted in American History, Cultural History, Events, gender history, modern history, News, Research, Students Page | Tagged , ,

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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