Professor Julia Barrow

Professor Julia Barrow


I studied at St Andrews (MA in Medieval History, 1978) and then at Oxford (DPhil, 1983); the subject of my doctoral thesis was the bishops of Hereford and their acta (charters) 1163-1219. After several temporary positions, which included a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship at Birmingham 1986-9 and a year spent working for the Victoria County History of Cheshire 1989-90, I was appointed to a lectureship at the University of Nottingham in 1990 and taught there until 2012, when I was appointed to a chair at Leeds. I was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2016.

I am one of the three editors of Northern History (the other two are Leeds colleagues Simon Green and Stephen Alford) and I am also one of the editors of Early Medieval History and am on the editorial boards of Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library and of Tabularia.

Research interests

My research interests lie chiefly in church history c.700-c.1300. A major interest throughout my career has been the study of episcopal charters and administration in England and Wales c.1000-c.1300, and I have edited three volumes of episcopal charters for the dioceses of Hereford and of St Davids, and have in addition participated in editing the White Book of Southwell, the great cartulary of Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. Studying episcopal charters has encouraged me to branch out in a number of different directions. One of these is the study of medieval clergy, investigating how they were recruited, educated and trained and how they built up their careers. The start of this process often began in childhood and the study of clerical careers is informative about medieval family life and relationships, including the role of uncles, hitherto rather overlooked in accounts of medieval families. Working on this topic was the basis for my book The Clergy in the Medieval World: Secular Clerics, their Families and Careers in North-Western Europe, c.800-c.1200 (Cambridge, 2015) and also a number of articles on cathedral clergy and clerical education. 

A further interest is the concept of 'reform' and the extent to which it can be appropriately (or indeed safely!) applied to the history of the western Church in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centuries. I am the Principal Investigator of a Leverhulme-funded international research network entitled  Rethinking Reform 900-1150: Conceptualising Change in Medieval Religious Institutions . The project brings together partners from universities in Belgium, Germany, France and the UK and so far we have held three workshops investigating the terminology used for describing institutional change in the church, narratives of change and also the development of historical writing about the medieval church in the modern period, and the process by which reform began to be used widely by historians to define institutional change. Although the term 'reform' was used in the middle ages it was used much less frequently then it is used by historians of the present day writing about the middle ages; in fact, it is largely a construct of the earlier nineteenth century. The term 'reform' is loaded - it implies virtue on the part of those undertaking activities defined as reforms - and therefore should not be used without care.

I have also worked on urban topography in the high middle ages, on the connections between the forging of charters and the writing of history in the twelfth century, on demonstrative behaviour, and on Bede's hidden use of biblical exegesis when developing lines of narrative in his Historia Ecclesiastica.


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • MA St Andrews 1978
  • DPhil Oxon 1983

Professional memberships

  • FBA
  • FRHistS
  • FSA

Student education

Research supervision:

I can offer supervision within the following areas across the 800-1300 period, chiefly in England but also comparatively across north-western Europe: bishops and clergy; ecclesiastical history and prosopography; charters; historical writing.

I am currently supervising (in all cases cosupervising) PhD theses on women in post-Conquest England; the relationship between ordination and education in the careers of Carolingian clergy; the historical and iconographic context of the twelfth-century wallpaintings in Kempley church (Glos); Wayland the Smith, and ideas underlying queenship in England between the mid-ninth century and the early twelfth century.

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>