Dr Catherine Rider

Research interests

My research interests are in the medieval cultural and religious history.  Much of my research to date has focused on the history of magic and popular religion in the late Middle Ages. My book Magic and Religion in Medieval England, published in 2012 by Reaktion Books, focuses on the church's attitude to magic, which can be found in the confesssion and preaching manuals written by reforming churchmen from the thirteenth century onwards. I use these sources as a way of looking at how church reformers perceived popular religious practices (such as divination and healing), and how they decided which practices were legitimate and which were not. 

Since completing the book I have been working on a new project on 'Attitudes and Responses to Infertility in Medieval England'.  This will examine how people viewed infertility (What did they think caused it? Did they tend to blame the man or the woman?) and how they responded to it (Medicine? Prayer?).  This project brings together several of my research interests: in medieval religoius culture, the history of medicine, and the history of sex and marriage.  I am currently writing up the material I gathered during a year of research leave funded by the Leverhulme Trust in 2011-12. 

Other Interests

I continue to be interested in attitudes to magic and the supernatural in the Middle Ages.  I am a co-investigator on the AHRC funded project 'Magic in Malta, 1605: The Moorish Slave Sellem Bin al-Sheikh Mansur and the Roman Inquisition', led by Prof. Dionisius Agius in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. I also co-organised a conference on 'Demons and Illness: Theory and Practice from Antiquity to the Early Modern Period' with Dr Siam Bhayro (Theology and Religion) in April 2013 and we are currently working on editing the proceedings of this.

I am also interested in confession and preaching manuals in their own right, and previously worked project funded by the British Academy's Neil Ker Memorial Fund to edit one short thirteenth-century manual, Sciendum Est Autem Sacerdotibus [Priests should know...], and to study the manuscripts in which it is found for evidence about the people who read and copied it.

Previous to these projects, my PhD research focused on late medieval writing on magic as a cause of sexual impotence (a topic which interested canon lawyers and theologians because of its implications for marriage law, and also medical writers). For a very brief summary of this see my article in the Lexikon zur Geschichte der Hexenverfolgungen, available online at http://www.historicum.net/themen/hexenforschung/lexikon/sachbegriffe/art/Impotenz_und_Ma/html/artikel/5727/ca/48030df25f/ (scroll down for the English version).

Recent Conference and Seminar Papers:

July 2014: Defining and Perceiving Infertility in Medieval England, conference on 'Perceptions of Pregnancy, Medieval to Modern', University of Hertfordshire, UK.

July 2014: God's Will, Old Age and Miraculous Conception: Infertility in Late Medieval Religious Writing, International Medieval Congress, Leeds University, UK

May 2014: Stones, Metals and Plants against Magic in Medieval Medical Texts, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, USA.

  July 2013: Responses to Infertility in Late Medieval England, Conference on Infertility in History, Science and Culture, University of Edinburgh.

 June 2013: Treating Magical Illnesses in the Middle Ages, Keynote lecture for postgraduate conference on Sorcery in the Supernatural in Medieval Culture, Bangor University.

April 2013: Protection against Demons in Medieval Medical Texts, Conference on Demons and Illness, University of Exeter, UK.

July 2012: Making Sense of Infertility in Medieval England, International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, UK.

May 2012: The Church and Magic in Medieval England, Medieval Seminar, Brown University, USA.