Rose Sawyer

Rose Sawyer



After graduating from the University of Leeds in 2012 with a BA (hons) in English and History (First Class), I graduated from the Institute for Medieval Studies in 2013, gaining a Merit in the MA in Medieval Studies. I returned to academic study in 2014 to undertake my PhD. Both my MA and my PhD were made possible by funding from the School of History and the Institute for Medieval Studies.




Level 2 &3

  • MEDV3310: Magic and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages (2017/18). Level 2 and 3 discovery module focusing on belief in magic and the supernatural before the end of the fifteenth century. I delivered seminars and assessed presentations along with the module co-ordinator.
  • ENGL2025: Medieval Literature (2017/18). Level 2 core module introducing students to the language and literature of medieval England. I delivered workshops and marked essays.
  • HIST 3290: Popular Belief in Medieval Europe (2016/17 and 2017/18). Level 3 special subject module in which students study a variety of expressions of popular beliefs and their significance for the wider historical process. I led a seminar based on my own research.

Level 1

  • ENGL1310: Narratives of Witchcraft and Magic (2017/18). Level 1 discovery module tracing the development of the concept of the witch from the Middle Ages to the modern day. I delivered three lectures, on Medea in medieval literature, witchcraft on the Jacobean stage and Harry Potter.
  • HIST1055: Historiography and Historical Skills: Medieval Childhood (2017/18). Level 1 compulsory skills module. I designed the seminar content from scratch, drawing on my own research into medieval childhood. This included developing the module structure, choosing appropriate primary sources, writing the module documentation and setting and marking both essay and exam questions.
  • HIST1300: Primary Sources for the Historian: An Introduction to Documentary Study: Medieval Icelandic History and Culture (2016/17). Level 1 compulsory skills module. I designed the seminar content from scratch. This included developing the module structure, choosing appropriate primary sources, writing the module documentation and setting and marking both essay and exam questions.
  • MEDV1080: Religion and Culture in the Western Middle Ages (2015/16). Level 1 discovery module introducing students, through interdisciplinary study, to various organisational and devotional features of the Abrahamic religions during the medieval period. I delivered seminars and assessed essays and exams.
  • HIST1090: Medieval and Renaissance Europe (2015/16). Level 1 compulsory survey module introducing students to major topics and issues of the whole medieval period, c. 450-1500. I delivered seminars and assessed essays and exams.

GCSE and A-Level

  • Education Outreach Fellow, (November, 2016 onwards). I designed and delivered workshops for GCSE and A-Level students based on my own research interests, including but not limited to: medieval monastic healthcare, postpartum infant care in hagiographical child substitution images, and medieval queenship. Through this I gained first-hand experience of implementing the University of Leeds Widening Participation agenda.



  • July, 2017 – May, 2018: Medieval Bodies Ignored: Politics, Culture, and Flesh (3rd – 6th May, 2018)
    • Interdisciplinary conference concentrated on the cultural history of the body, particularly that relating to bodies that are ignored, by either medieval society or modern scholarship.
    • Funded by the Royal Historical Society, the Society for the Social History of Medicine, the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature and the University of Leeds.
    • Attended by over fifty delegates from across the world.
    • I was involved in every aspect of the process of designing and delivering the conference, including, but not limited to, budgeting, writing funding applications, securing key-note speakers, booking the venue, arranging catering and promoting the conference through social media and conventional channels.



  • May 2018, Medieval Bodies Ignored: Politics, Culture, and Flesh, University of Leeds, ‘“A scandalous and distressing son”: The social consequences of caring for a changeling’
  • July 2017, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, ‘“That elfe and vile conjoin”: Herod's Reconstruction of the Christ Child through Changing Insults’
  • March 2017, The Medieval Brain Conference, University of York, ‘“Þu ert sciptingr”: Associations between intellectual (dis)ability and the child substitution motif in Old Norse Sources’
  • March 2017, Who cares?: The Past and Present of Caring, University of Leeds, ‘Saintly Child Substitution: Devotion as a road map for the parental care of “problem” children’
  • December 2016, Disease, Disability and Medicine in the Medieval World, Swansea University, ‘Skiptingr, Congeon and Wehselkind: Exploring the Medieval Discourse on Changelings and Idiocy through Vernacular Insults’
  • July 2015, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, ‘Changelings: An Examination of “The Holy Greyhound” and other Medieval Sources in Light of Recent Developments in Medical and Childhood Studies’
  • July 2013, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, ‘Sin, Madness, and Death: The Disastrous Consequences of Inviting the Wodewose into Courtly Spaces’


  • Bodies Ignored/Bodies Obsessed Events Series
    • As a member of the Bodies Ignored Organising Committee, I organised a series of public events, in collaboration with local heritage organisations, devoted to examining the place of the body in the museum.
      • October, 2017, ‘Leeds Witch Seminar’, delivered by Lauren Ryall-Waite (Curator at the Thackray Medical Museum)
      • October, 2017, ‘Skeletons’, Tour of an Exhibition curated by the Museum of London and the Wellcome Collection set up at the Leeds City Museum
      • November, 2017, ‘Animal Bodies’, Tour of Leeds Discovery Centre
      • November, 2017, ‘York Excursion’, Tour of JORVIK and the Yorkshire Archaeological Trust Collections
      • April, 2018, ‘The Knight as Shining Armour’, Tour and programme of events at Royal Armouries
      • May, 2018, ‘Killed the Boar, Shaved His Head: The Death of Richard III’, Public Lecture at Leeds Central Library, delivered by Robert Woosnam-Savage
  • Institute for Medieval Studies Outreach Events
    • As a member of the IMS and President of the LUU Medieval Society I instigated, planned, and volunteered for a number of IMS Outreach Events. I also had particular responsibility for social media and using technology to record participant reactions.
      • October, 2015: ‘Illuminating the Middle Ages’ as part of the Light Night Festival, Leeds City
      • March, 2016: ‘Curious Curye’ as part of the Be Curious Festival, University of Leeds
      • October, 2016: ‘World of Ice and Fire’ as part of the Light Night Festival, Leeds City
    • Leeds International Medieval Film Festival
      • Run annually since July 2015, in association with the IMC and the Hyde Park Picture House. Showcasing and discussing a wide variety of medieval films through panels of experts on the films’ subject matter. Over thirteen films have been shown in the past three years, with support from nearly forty academics from across the world. 

Research interests

As a scholar, I research the way in which underlying societal tensions can be expressed through elements of the medieval imaginative landscape. My current doctoral research project is an inter-disciplinary one, focused on the child substitution motif (that is the idea that a human child is/has been removed and another being, the changeling, substituted in its place) as it manifests in texts and images from Western Europe during the latter half of the medieval period. Through detailed comparison of a wide variety of sources, I address key questions about the significance of the motif. In particular, I engage with the figure of the changeling as a cultural construct, an element of the medieval imaginative landscape that is invested with meaning through its cultural context and that can therefore be used as a lens through which to examine and reveal societal tensions; particularly regarding infants and children: their health, their care, and their position within the familial unit. This has incorporated an overview of the etymology and semantics of words that appear to have been used in north-west Europe during the Middle Ages to denote a changeling. I have also investigated how the examination of medieval changeling sources can contribute to our understanding of the medieval discourse surrounding the health and care of infants and children. Finally I discuss how the child substitution motif could function as a means to articulate other anxieties, such as those stemming from familial, theological, or socio-political tension. This research project is the most comprehensive examination of the medieval changeling to date and, as such, makes a valuable contribution to the fields of childhood, family, and disability studies. 




  • ‘“That elfe and vile congion”:: Constructing the body of the child as a site of violence through the child substitution motif’, in Literary Cultures and Medieval/Early Modern Childhoods, ed. by Naomi J. Miller and Diane Perkiss (London: Palgrave, 2019)
  • ‘A Miracle of Thomas Becket: De puero syntectino  (Concerning a boy suffering from a wasting disease) (1172-77)’, in Medieval Disability Sourcebook, ed. by Cameron Hunt McNabb (New York: punctum, 2019)

In preparation:

  • A special edition of a journal, drawing on the proceedings of the Medieval Bodies Ignored conference and focusing on methodological approaches to the study of marginalised medieval bodies. Proposal to be submitted to Open Library of Humanities (OLH) later in the year.


  • BA hons English and History (First Class) from the University of Leeds
  • MA Medieval Studies (Merit) from the University of Leeds