IMS Contesting Medieval Masculinities workshop success

The IMS workshop 'Contesting Medieval Masculinities', held 17 May 2019, was a great success and included a variety of papers from undergraduate, postgraduate, early-career, and established scholars.

The workshop 'Contesting Medieval Masculinities' asked, what separates studying medieval men from studying medieval masculinities? How can the concept of masculinity benefit areas of medieval studies which have been traditionally more reluctant to consider gendered perspectives? 

Aiming to encourage further use of masculinity as a lens of historical research, the workshop organisers invited contributions from both established gender scholars and those working with material that has so far received little attention from a gender perspective. Works-in-progress, case studies, source analyses, and papers were all welcome formats for submission. 

IMS Participation 

A total of seven scholars associated with the University of Leeds and IMS, from undergraduates to early-career researchers, presented papers:

  • Sunny Harrison (Teaching Fellow, IMS)
  • Madeline Hernstrom-Hill (PGR Researcher, MA, IMS)
  • Jack Litchfield (PGR Researcher, PhD, IMS)
  • Olivia McGhie (Undergraduate Department of History student, University of Leeds)
  • Perry Blankson (Undergraduate Department of History student, University of Leeds)
  • Maroula Perisanidi (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, IMS)
  • Victoria Yuskaitis (PGR Researcher, PhD, IMS)


Twenty-five attendees, including faculty and students from other universities as well as the University of Leeds, participated in the workshop either by presenting papers or joining in the discussion. Papers were delivered by scholars at different stages of their careers, on topics varying from masculine identities during the crusades, to archaeological analysis and its relationship to medieval masculinity, to representations of masculinity in literature or art, to religious masculinities, among others. 

The organisers - Sunny Harrison (Teaching Fellow, IMS), Maroula Perisanidi (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, IMS), and Jack Litchfield (PGR Researcher, IMS)- began the workshop by introducing themselves and asking the rest of the attendees to do the same, creating a congenial and welcoming atmosphere for the papers and discussions to follow. 

Harrison stated that he is 'very pleased with the event', especially because of the 'broad array of papers from different disciplines as well as from scholars at various stages of their careers'.

Perisanidi agreed, calling the workshop 'a great success - all the papers were very engaging and the atmosphere was friendly'. In particular Perisanidi was impressed 'by the range of levels of the participants, which went from second-year undergraduate to established academics in the field'. 

A great succes - all the papers were very engaging and the atmosphere was friendly. 

Litchfield explained that he found the workshop personally useful: 'I learned a lot and, as a result, will consider the topic in my own work with greater confidence'. When describing organising the workshop, Litchfield clarified that he was 'keen to help develop the event as something more informal, during which attendees could reflect on the role which masculinity has (or doesn't have, potentially) in various medieval contexts...We were fortunate in attracting supportive, thoughtful speakers who helped create a convivial atmosphere'. 

IMS postgraduate researchers who attended the conference also enjoyed the event and found it helpful for their own research. Jacob Deacon, in the second year of his PhD, stated that 'seeing the ways in which other historians outside my own field engage with the theme of masculinity really gave me new ideas about how to approach the subject in future research'. 

Seeing the ways in which other historians outside my own field engage with the theme of masculinity really gave me new ideas about how to approach the subject in future research. 

Kayla Kemhadjian, in the first year of her PhD, agreed: 'The conference was engaging all day long - I especially enjoyed the talks which discussed terminology and influence on social class as nexuses for investigations in medieval masculinity'. 

The crusading panel, presented by Natasha Hodgson (Nottingham Trent) and Katherine Lewis (Huddersfield), offered what Harrison described as 'a really interesting perspective on how masculinity informed the crusading ethos (and vice versa) for much of the later Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period'. Other papers, such as Hannah Piercey's (Durham) paper, 'gave the room much food for thought on how we teach materials relating to masculine and mysogynist violence'. 

Kemhadjian found a similar theme to be particularly powerful, as 'the idea of whether or not medieval masculinity exists on a binary with medieval femininity was chewed over carefully throughout the day'. 

Ultimately Perisanidi hopes the success of this conference will 'encourage more people to adopt gender, and especially in this case masculinity, as a lens of historical analysis'.