Professor Sarah Hamilton

Research interests

My research focuses on exploring the nature of the relationships between ecclesiastical institutions and rites and medieval society, especially in the years which divide the early from the high Middle Ages, c. 900 - 1100 AD.  My interests include:

  • Episcopal and clerical culture
  • Medieval liturgy
  • Pastoral care
  • Excommunication and dispute settlement
  • Penance
  • Relations between the laity and churchmen
  • Clerical perceptions of the laity
  • Medieval heresy


Research collaborations

AHRC International research network:  'Interpreting Medieval Liturgy, c 500 - c 1500 AD: Text and Performance'  (2009-10) (co-ordinated with Helen Gittos, University of Kent).  This network involved some 25 scholars from 8 different disciplines.

AHRC 'Interpreting Our Medieval Past: A User's Guide to the Languages, Scripts and Records of Medieval Culture' (2013-14) (with Professor James Clark).   We worked with staff at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol and in five heritage organisations, including Exeter Cathedral Library and Archives, Wells Cathedral Library and Archives, the Bristol Record Office and the Devon Heritage Centre, to provide a training programme for medieval research students in both medieval research skills and their application in a public context. 

ERC 'The Past in its Place: Histories of Memory in English and Welsh Locales' (2012-17).  I am  working with colleagues in English, History, Historical Geography and Archaeology at the Universities of Chester and Exeter to explore the history of memory in a range of English and Welsh locales from the early medieval period down to the modern era.

HERA 'After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past in the Crisis of the Carolingian World, c. 900-c.1050' (2016-2019).  I am working with colleagues in Berlin, Vienna, St Andrews and Barcelona to explore how people in different regions of Europe reacted to the changing political landscape of the tenth century by looking at the ways they chose to use and not use their shared past.  It takes as its starting point the observation that the relatively meagre administrative
and legal structures of early medieval Europe meant that action in the present often drew authority and legitimacy from claims about the past.

Other research collaborations include membership of the following networks:

'Rethinking Reform 900-1150: Conceptualising Change in Medieval Religious Institutions' (with scholars from the Universities of Leeds, York, Ghent and Leuven)

'Formative Memory and Institutional Power: Western Society and the Church, 250-1150' (with scholars from Manchester, Oxford, Berlin and Tübingen)

‘The Social Church’ (organised by Ian Forrest, Oxford University and Sethina Watson, University of York)