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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‘To err is human; to forgive, divine’ – Medieval popes and the concept of papal infallibility

By Professor Rebecca Rist.


Pope Pius IX, who in 1854 decreed the doctrine of papal infallibility in Ineffabilis Deus. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

My research focuses on the history of religious culture and the medieval papacy, and especially the relationship between popes and specific social and religious minority groups, such as Jews (in my recent book, Popes and Jews, 1095-1291), and heretics (in my current research, which you can learn about here).

One of the key tenets of papal authority is the concept of papal infallibility: that the popes, due to the authority they have been granted by God, cannot err in their solemn pronouncements. I was one of three experts – along with Professor Tim O’Loughlin and Dr Miles Pattenden – invited onto BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time to speak to host Melvyn Bragg about the development of this concept.

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