James Titterton

James Titterton


My research examines the practice and perception of deception in medieval warfare. Trickery and deceitful tactics designed to mislead one's enemy are staples of military history but little has been written about their use in the Middle Ages. As well as categorising the various deceptions employed by medieval combatants, my research seeks to analyse how deception in a military context is portrayed in contemporary narrative sources. Deception can be viewed as something underhand and dishonourable, or as an admirable ruse that demonstrates a combatant's intelligence and tactical skill. I am interested in how medieval thinkers reconciled this behaviour with contemporary social values of honour, chivalry and Christian piety.


'Bloodless Turks and Sanguine Crusaders: William of Malmesbury's Use of Vegetius in His Account of Urban II's Sermon at Clermont', The Medieval Chronicle, 13 [forthcoming]

'Por pris et por enor: Ideas of Honour as Reflected in the Medieval Tournament', in The Medieval Tournament as Spectacle, ed. by Alan V. Murray and Karen Watts (Royal Armoures), invited [forthcoming]

'The Arts of Guiscard: Trickery and Deceit in the Norman Conquests of the South and Near East', in A Military History of the Normans in the South, ed. by Georgios Theotokis and Cristian Guzzo (Woodbridge: Boydell), invited [forthcoming]

‘Worthy, Wycht and Wys: Romance, Chivalry and Chivalric Language in John Barbour's The Bruce’, Bulletin of International Medieval Research, 20, invited [forthcoming]


Recent Conference Activity

'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Cleric: The Role of Clerics in Medieval Military Espionage', New Voices in the History of War II, All Soul College, Oxford (12th July 2019)

'The King hath many marching in his coats': The Coat of Arms as an Instrument of Disguise on the Medieval Battlefield', International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (Weds 3rd July 2019) Session 1129

'A Chivalrous Trickster?: Remembering Cunning in the History of William Marshal', International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (Weds 4 July 2018)

'Beyond the Pale: Abnormal Tactics among the Welsh and Irish in Gerald of Wales', Medieval Culture and War Conference, Université Saint-Louis, Brussels, (24-26 May 2018)

'The Chivalrous Virtue of Cunning: The Military Ruse as a Manifestation of Prudence in Medieval Chronicles', International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI (10-13 May 2018)

'Only Mostly Dead: The Dead Body as an Instrument of Military Deception', Medieval Bodies Ignored: Politics, Culture, and Flesh, University of Leeds (4-6 May 2018)

'Bloodless Turks and Sanguine Crusaders: William of Malmesbury’s Use of Vegetius in the Gesta Regum Anglorum', 8th International Conference of the Medieval Chronicle Society, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (10-14 July 2017)

'I have a cunning plan': Ruses and Trickery in Siege Warfare, 1000-1250', International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (4 July 2017)

'Quasi militares insidias: The Ambush in the High Middle Ages', Conference in War & Peace Studies, University of Leeds (15-16 June 2017)

'Bloodless Turks and Sanguine Crusaders: Racial Diversity in William of Malmesbury's Account of Urban II's Sermon at Clermont', The Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades, Inaugural Symposium, Manchester Metropolitan University, (10 February 2017)

'Skilful Stratagem or Base Treachery? The Representation of the Artful Ruse in the Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis', Medieval Culture and War: Ideals, Representations, Realities, University of Leeds (5-7 May 2016)

'For Fame and Honour: Ideas of Honour as Reflected in the Medieval Tournament', International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds (6–9 July 2015)

Book Reviews

Bernard S. Bachrach and David S. Bachrach, Warfare in Medieval Europe c. 400 - c. 1453 (Routledge: 2017), for De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History. link


AHC Partnership Award 2019 - Postgraduate Researcher who Teaches or Demonstrates (Nominated)
I was shortlisted from among 600 nominees for a faculty award celebrating excellence among staff and students.

Three Minute Thesis Competition, University of Leeds Doctoral College Showcase, 5 December 2018
As last year's winner, I was invited to return and judge the entries for the 2018 competition.

Three Minute Thesis Competition, University of Leeds Doctoral College Showcase, 4 December 2017
I was awarded first prize in a competition in which postgraduate researchers presented a summary of their thesis to a non-specialist audience in under three minutes. You can see my presentation here: link

Arts, Humanities and Cultures Poster Conference, University of Leeds, 1 November 2017
I won 'Most Popular Poster', as voted for by the other conference delegates, for my interactive poster entitled 'All is Fair in Love and War: The Ethics of Deception in Medieval Warfare' that challenged the audience to judge whether they thought a medieval author approved or disapproved of a particular incident of military deception.

Arts, Humanities and Cultures Poster Conference, University of Leeds, 27 October 2016
I won 'Most Popular Poster', as voted for by the other conference delegates, for my poster entitled 'How Do You Get Into a Castle? Trickery and Deception in Medieval Siege Warfare (1000-1200', which analysed the variety of ruses used by besieging armies in chronicle narratives.

Public Engagement, Impact and Outreach

'Cunning yet Chivalrous: Trickery and Deceit in Medieval Warfare', 1152 Club, Kirkstall Abbey Visitor Centre, 9 June 2018
I delivered a talk on my research project to the 1152 Club, a history and special interest group that meets at the Kirkstall Abbey Visitors' Centre.

Siege Weekend, Pontefract Castle, 28 May 2018
I was part of a team presenting talks on medieval siege warfare to members of the general public as part of a wider event [link]

'The Devil's Brood at War: Stratagems of the Angevin Kings, 1154-1216', Pontefract Magna Carta Society, King's Croft Hotel, 23 April 2018
I was invited to deliver a talk on military deception in the wars of Henry II, Richard I and John of England to a local group dedicated to promoting interest in local and medieval history.

Arts, Humanities and Cultures Faculty Postgraduate Research Open Day, University of Leeds, 6 December 2017
I presented my poster, 'All is Fair in Love and War: The Ethics of Deception in Medieval Warfare', to prospective postgraduate students at a faculty open day.

Publication in Medieval Warfare magazine VII.5, October 2017
I adapted a paper that I gave at the Leeds IMC for an article in the popular history magazine, Medieval Warfare, entitled: 'The "rules of the game" - Deception in siege warfare'.

'Light Night: A World of Ice and Fire', University of Leeds, 7 October 2016
I created a fun, activity-based stall about the use of 'Greek fire' in an excerpt from Geoffrey Malaterra's De rebus gestis Rogerii. I used information panels to present a brief history of 'Greek fire' but also challenged the public to reflect on the author's attitude towards this unconventional weapon and their own preconceptions about the proper conduct of war.

'Be Curious Festival: Health and Wellbeing', University of Leeds, 19 March 2016.
I created a multi-sensory, interactive display to illustrate the problems faced by besieged garrisons in siege warfare and the foodstuffs that some people reportedly ate to stay alive. I also challenged the public to reflect critically on reports of cannibalism on the First Crusade and whether we can rely on medieval chronicles to be transparent windows into the past.

Other activities

I was one of the PGR leads for the 'War and Peace' research cluster at the university. I have also sat on the School of History's Research and Postgraduate Committee, the Student Taught Education Committee and the IMS Staff-Student forum.

About me

I graduated from Lancaster University in 2009 with a BA (Hons.) in History. During my studies I received the Austin Woolrych Scholarship and Queen's Scholarship for outstanding academic performance. After several years in the world of work, I returned to higher education in 2012 (funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Studentship), receiving an MA (Distinction) in Medieval History from the University of Leeds in 2013. My current studies are funded by a studentship from the School of History at the University of Leeds.

In my spare time, I enjoy reading, cooking, playing board games and following rugby union and cricket.


  • PhD Medieval Studies
  • MA Medieval History
  • BA History