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Doctoral Research

Doctoral Research

Completed Doctoral Theses in Medieval History (since 2015)

Name

Title

Year Completed

Summer, Michel

Beyond Mission: Willibrord as a Political Actor between Early Medieval Ireland, Britain and Merovingian Francia, 690–739

2022

 

Abstract: The thesis reassesses the activity of the Northumbrian cleric Willibrord (658–739) on the continent between 690 and 739. Traditionally, Willibrord has been perceived as the first representative of a new wave of Anglo-Saxon missionaries, who initiated the Christianisation of the peripheral regions of the Frankish kingdom with the support of the Carolingian dynasty. In contrast, the thesis examines the development of Willibrord’s network in Francia and detaches his activity from a missionary framework which anticipates the formation of the Carolingian Empire after 751. The thesis shows that Willibrord’s rapid integration into the area between Utrecht and Trier was based on his ability to combine different political and ecclesiastical networks, ranging from Ireland to Rome, with each other. Through the foundation of churches and monasteries, the consolidation of ecclesiastical traditions from the Insular world and the continent, and his interaction with different communities across north-eastern Francia, Willibrord secured his position a political actor in the Merovingian world. However, the early Carolingians were but one of many groups who supported Willibrord between 690 and 739, and their relationship was not predetermined. Contrary to the traditional scholarly narrative, Willibrord’s activity extended beyond his mission to Frisia and contributed to the formation of a new ecclesiastical landscape in Merovingian Francia long before the ascension of the Carolingians.

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/97925

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Bromhead, Catherine

Legitimisation of Sacral Kingship in Early Medieval Ireland and England, 6th to mid-8th centuries AD

2021

 

Abstract: This thesis is a comparative analysis of sacral kingship in early medieval Ireland and England from the sixth to mid-ninth centuries that explores the nature of kingship during a period of religious conversion in two distinct cultures on the periphery of the Roman Empire. Sacral kingship is defined as an institution in which a ruler occupies a unique position in society that is both secular and religious. They are an actor through which a deity, or multiple deities, act and they are protectors of their demesnes, both natural and supernatural. However, the realities of rulership have demonstrated that kings do not become kings as a matter of course, but rather through a complex process of legitimisation. The thesis explores three modes of legitimisation: descent from deities and legendary figures, inauguration rituals, and royal/elite burial. Through this analysis, the thesis seeks to understand the similarities and differences between sacral kingship in early medieval Ireland and England, why these methods were used and how they were effective, and to understand the agency of the kings, clergy, and the people in partaking of and reinforcing this ideology. The comparative model is used to highlight the variety of approaches used in this thesis as well as pinpoint similarities in order to create a model of broader processes of sacral kingship in early medieval Europe.

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/96807

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

John Tighe

Settlement Patterns and Socio-economic Change in the Diocese of Tuam, c. AD 400–1000

2021

 

Abstract: This thesis explores the inter-relationship between settlement patterns and socio-economic change during the early medieval period in the Diocese of Tuam. A thematic approach is taken, exploring the physical settlement evidence, changes in power structures, burial practices, and the nature of the economy. On a national scale the study area in particular and Connacht more broadly, are viewed as backwaters in relation to wider socio-economic trends during the early medieval period in Ireland. This is discussed in the analysis, and any discrepancies from national trends explored. A significant constraint for this study is the meagre corpus of documentary sources for this area, especially compared with areas in East Leinster and Ulster. This makes it all the more essential to collate this data with the archaeological evidence, both excavations and surveys of the upstanding remains of features. The methods employed by landscape archaeology are central to this thesis. It is with this in mind that a number of case studies, such as Magh Séola and Lecarrowkilleen, are identified as being advantageous both to exploring the connection between settlement patterns and socio-economic change during the period and to reconciling the evidence on the ground with the documentary sources. 

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/97034

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Callaghan, Lynsey

Exploring Circulation: 'þe proporcions' in a Fifteenth-century English Miscellany and the Vernacularisation of musica speculativa

2021

 

Abstract: If no copies had survived of ‘þe proporcions’, the assumption might have been that the audience for Boethian music theory in fifteenth-century England was scholarly, clerical, and Latinate. The discovery of a third copy of this Middle English translation of a Latin proportion treatise, in a miscellaneous collection of writings in Dublin, Trinity College MS 516, expands our understanding of the reach of Boethius' De institutione musica. Trinity MS 516 originally belonged to John Benet, vicar of Harlington in Bedfordshire, England. By examining the newly discovered version of the treatise in Benet's miscellany alongside the copies in London, British Library, Lansdowne MS 763 and in New York, Pierpont Morgan, MS B.12, a picture starts to emerge of music theory readers outside of elite institutions of learning, with variable kinds of literacy. This study provides the first comparative analysis of all three versions of ‘þe proporcions’ and an assessment of its circulation. As the earliest example of a treatise on Boethian proportions in Middle English, ‘þe proporcions’ offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain insight into the circulation of speculative music theory in late medieval England.

Library link: http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/94546

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Ó Suilleabhain, Niall

Wealth, Violence and Status: Lay and Ecclesiastical Élites in the Middle Loire Valley, c. 850-c. 1150

2020

 

Abstract: Interpretations of the period following the disintegration of the Carolingian empire in Western Europe at the end of the ninth century have long divided historians, between those who believe a violent rupture in political and social structures took place around the year 1000 and those who argue for an essential continuity. This thesis aims to transcend these debates, by approaching medieval society through a case-study in the Loire valley region relying on two fresh methodological insights. Firstly, it will investigate changes in the economic structures which provided society's material base; secondly, it will analyse how those élites claimed, performed and maintained their status. Based on these two approaches, the thesis explores changing patterns of élite behaviour in order to better understand the social and economic changes which took place from the late ninth century onwards. The thesis examines the effects of shifting landholding patterns, the emergence of seigneurial customs, changing attitudes to church patronage and lay violence, and the methods by which élites were identified in documents, to establish their implications for the ways by which élites could claim and maintain their status. It concludes that there was a significant and fundamental transformation of social and economic structures, beginning in the middle of the tenth century, in the middle Loire valley, although the pace of change is slower than would be appropriate for a 'Feudal Revolution'. Nevertheless, the breakdown of the Carolingian political order unleashed a wave of competition amongst local and regional élites, which saw them innovate and adapt the heritage of Carolingian culture to create a new, 'feudal' social order. This was fuelled by the changes in economic structures which provided élites with more wealth to promote their own status; the competition for status in turn fuelled élites' need for more wealth and their incentive for economic expansion.

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/92550

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Brendan Meighan

The Development of Irish Identity: Political Aspiration and Literary Conceptions, 600‒919

2020

 

Abstract: This thesis examines the development of an Irish identity in the early medieval period. It covers roughly three centuries, from 600 to 919, and it focuses for the most part on the formation of an Irish political identity, as expressed most clearly in the idea of a kingship of all-Ireland. It also explores more general questions of identity in Ireland at this time, with specific reference to the complex relationship between Irishness and Gaelicness.

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/92829

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Lynn Kilgallon

Parliament and Community: Theory and Practice in the Insular World, c. 1399‒c. 1460

2019

 

Abstract: This thesis presents a comparative study of the communitarian language and ideas which underpinned parliamentary institutions in English Ireland and Scotland from c. 1399- c. 1460. Recent years have seen a proliferation of studies on the medieval English parliament, which offer new frameworks of interpretation for how ideological concepts-especially those which pertain to parliament and community-were located within the realm of political discourse and governance. This thesis extends the intellectual framework of the 'new constitutional history' in England to a comparative study of Irish and Scottish parliaments, but with a closely contextualised approach giving primacy to the idea that there was no one 'ideal' model of parliament in the insular world. As such, the comparative element of this thesis is firmly focused upon Ireland and Scotland, whereas England serves as a 'backdrop' against which dominant interpretations are contested and challenged by testing their application in these two structurally different polities: 'colonial' Ireland and 'sovereign' Scotland. 

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/89740

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Shirley Markley

2018

 

Abstract: In Ireland a largely missing domestic medieval settlement record stimulated archaeological research into understanding its absence. Regional field survey of standing later medieval buildings in north-west Ireland combined with national documentary and archaeological research has identified a to date unrecognised medieval building technique: stone and earth mortared construction. Stone and earth mortared construction was a common vernacular building tradition utilising stone bonded with earth and sealed by lime plaster renders or lime washes both internally and externally. This construction technique and the materials it used allowed structures to appear and disappear rapidly from the later medieval landscape given weathering effects, masonry reuse, the predominant non-use of foundation trenches as well as later landscape disturbances, resulting in little visible archaeological footprint surviving. Only high status earth mortared stone structures such as churches, hall houses and castles survive. This construction technique has been substantiated by the identification of earth mortar construction pits delimiting the external wall lines of stone and earth mortared structures. These earth mortar pits also indicate the position of new buildings not previously identified.

Library link: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/85147

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Ronan Mulhaire

Kingship, Lordship and Resistance: A Study of Power in Eleventh- and Twelfth-century Ireland

2018

 

Abstract: This thesis starts from the premise that historians of medieval Ireland have interpreted 'power' in a very narrow way. Engagement with the rich corpus of international literature on power reveals the sheer complexity and vicissitudes of 'power' as a concept, and forms the launching-pad for the thesis as a whole. From there, the broader issue of resistance is discussed, in particular the phenomena of regicide and revolt - how did resistance manifest itself, and in particular violent resistance? It is suggested that we actually see a decline in the number of regicides between the battle of Clontarf and the English invasion. Connected is the position of non-royal lordship. It has commonly been argued that petty kings were being downgraded to mere 'lords'. This thesis argues that there is no sound evidential basis for this oft-propounded trope, and therefore a posited decline in regicides cannot be explained away by this old argument. The thesis argues that the relationship between non-royal lords and their social inferiors is being reconfigured; a new interpretation is put forward for the emergence of 'baile', and it is likely significant that this coincides with the upsurge in references to 'lords' in the chronicles. Finally, the little-studied phenomenon of revolt is explored at two levels - revolts against the rule of an individual king, and what we might term 'popular' revolts. As regards the first level, much of the discussion revolves around revolts denoted in the annals by the verbal-noun imp?d. It argues that the adoption of a new term, coupled with the decline in regicides over time suggests two things: that patterns of resistance were changing in the century and a half between Clontarf and the invasion, and that the ways in which resistance were being thought about was also evolving. As regards social antagonisms and the like, chapter four concludes that patterns of popular unrest in pre-invasion Ireland bore remarkable similarity to elsewhere in Europe in this period.

Library link: http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/92542

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Stephen Hewer

Justice for all? Access by Ethnic Groups to the English Court System in Ireland, 1252-1318

2018

 

Abstract: This thesis explores the question of access based on ethnicity to the English court system established in Ireland after the advent of the English. It does so on the basis of an intensive analysis of the under-utilized surviving court records at The National Archives of Ireland. These sources contain a vast amount of information which will greatly advance our knowledge of the high medieval society in English Ireland. The neglect of these records has led some historians to miss the detail and internal differences of the high medieval society. Most of the original parchment rolls were destroyed, intentionally, by the IRA at the start of the Irish Civil War (30 June 1922), and now there are only a handful of surviving original court rolls. The surviving calendars (Latin and occasionally English transcripts) of the originals created in 1819-23 by the Records Commission contain thousands of cases. The late-thirteenth and early-fourteenth-century society in English Ireland has been described, almost exclusively, as a dichotomy. The thesis will show that access to the English courts was available to a wider section of the population than was hitherto believed, including many Gaelic Irish. It also seeks to identify and explain a hardening of attitude in the first quarter of the fourteenth century, as the 'Gaelic' people were increasingly excluded from the English common law in Ireland.

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Brian Coleman

County Office an County Society in Dublin an Meath, c. 1399c. 1513

2017

 

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to provide the first in-depth study of the gentry of fifteenth-century English Ireland as a class. Historians of later medieval England have long recognised the importance of the English gentry as the principal agents of royal government in their localities, and have debated the relative importance of magnate retinues and ‘county community’ as the focus of gentry identity and careers. However attempts to extend the analysis of these studies to the English colony in Ireland have so far been limited. This thesis attempts to address this absence by studying the relationships between members of the gentry, with a particular eye on their mutual co-operative association in the ‘county community’, and the vertical ties between the gentry, the magnates, and the royal administration. A particular focus will be on the role of the gentry as agents in their localities of ‘self-government at the king’s command’. This will involve a prosopographical study of the officers of local administration in fifteenth-century Ireland which will explore the size, social structure, and varying levels of engagement with royal government of the gentry through patterns of individual and family service.

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Rhiannon Carey Bates

Bishop and Chapter: The Organisation of Irish Medieval Cathedrals, c. 11111378

2017

 

Abstract: This thesis offers an examination of the mechanisms governing Irish cathedrals from the synod of Ráith Bressail in 1111 to the Great Western Schism in 1378. It is the first ever attempt to understand the history, rather than the architecture of these institutions. The raison d'être of cathedrals, their governance, personnel structures, relationship with Rome and comparisons with similar institutions elsewhere, have not been examined in the Irish context.
My research focuses around two central themes. Firstly, to what extent do Irish cathedral chapters mirror the 'four pillars' paradigm of those in England (and on the continent), or do they tread their own distinctive path? By profiling the dignities that constitute a chapter I have drawn attention to any patterns that have emerged as well as any inconsistencies between the ecclesia inter Hibernicos and the ecclesia inter Anglicos. John Watt's 'two nations' theory is the second theme which runs through this study. It exposes the differences between the church within the pale, where it is supposed the two nations divide was weakest, and the church within Gaelic territories.

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Christina Wade

Gendered Symbolism as a Medium to Negotiate Power, As Evidenced in the Furnished Viking Burials of Ireland

2017

 

Abstract: The central objective of my thesis is the examination of how gendered constructs and their negotiation in grave goods were modified as a result of cultural contact and amalgamation in Viking Ireland. This project examines the archaeological sources to ascertain the influence conquest and settlement had on societal expressions of gender and patriarchy in Viking furnished burial practice. In particular, this study will analyze the semiotics of violence and magic; specifically considering how these symbols might have been represented in ‘gendered’ expressions within burial. Essentially, my study examines how gender was used as a medium to negotiate power and societal dominance as evidenced in funerary materials.
Progressing from the perceived universal binary of man/woman, my thesis engages with gender, specifically utilizing masculinities and femininities to contribute to the better understanding of the multitude of nuances in the myriad of constructions and hierarchies of gender. Masculinity and femininity are not stable or fixed categories and are subject to fluctuations based on societal constructions and individual interpretations. Utilizing feminist theory enables this study to deconstruct gender identities in order to scrutinize the divergent ways gender was represented and altered in this context; as well as understand how these shifting definitions impacted gendered systems of power.

 

Name

Title

Year Completed

Roman Bleier

Encoding St Patrick’s Epistles: History and Electronic Editing of the Manuscript Witnesses

2016

 

Content: Roman’s thesis included a digital edition of St Patrick’s two epistles, Confessio and Epistola ad milites Corotici, using the encoding recommendation of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). His new edition is based on diplomatic transcriptions of all seven surviving medieval manuscript witnesses and attempts to explore Patrick’s epistles in their manuscript context. The electronic transcriptions are a translation of the manuscript witnesses in a machine-readable format and will allow further computer-aided analysis and online presentation of the individual manuscript witnesses.

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Stuart Gorman

The Technological Development of the Bow and Crossbow in the Later Middle Ages

2016

 

Edited abstract: This thesis explores the complexity of the design and development of the bow and the crossbow in the Later Middle Ages. The data used were primarily archaeological, supplemented by some textual and artistic evidence. Information on over two hundred bows and crossbows was collected for the analysis. The methodology was primarily comparative: bows and crossbows were compared to each other across and within centuries and regions, to chart how the weapons developed over time. Historians have generally not engaged with the complex mechanics involved in the operation of a bow or crossbow. An understanding of these mechanics offers valuable insight into why these weapons were designed the way they were, as well as highlighting what aspects of these weapons were truly significant. The length was not the most important factor in longbow design. The challenges the idea that depictions of the longbow in medieval art could be used to reliably provide specific insight into the weapon's design or development, but could provide information on other aspects, such as how bows and crossbows were handled. Study of the crossbow focused on surviving examples from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries. No clear narrative for the weapon’s development could be found; crossbows developed into an increasingly complex variety of weapons. There was some standardisation to the weapon’s design in the fifteenth century, both in composite and steel crossbows, but, while the composite lathe barely changed in the sixteenth century, the steel crossbow diversified into a range of different styles of crossbows, all of which came in different sizes and shapes.

Library link to thesis: http://hdl.handle.net/2262/77397

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Colin Fitzpatrick

Food and drink: Ireland’s Overseas Trade in the Later Middle Ages

2015

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Axel Kelly

Charting the Development of Crusading Ideology: An Examination of Proto-crusade Primary Sources

2015

 

Abstract: This thesis is a study of the development of crusading ideology. First Crusade source materials are examined initially in order to identify the ideological elements that underpinned the crusading movement. Four concepts are identified in this research: ‘bellicose martyrdom’, a coined term referring to the idea of martyrdom in battle; papal spiritual sanction for warfare, in particular remissio peccatorum or remission of sin; imagery and language used to identify both Christian forces and the Muslim enemy and, lastly, recurring accounts of direct divine intervention in warfare. The incidence of each of these concepts in the source texts for the First Crusade is evaluated.

Library link to thesis: http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/81825 

 

Name

Title

Year completed

Brian McNamee

Kingship in the Political Thought of Pope Gregory VII (107685)

2015

 

Abstract: Gregory VII is remembered as the pope who initiated the notion of the supremacy of the apostolic see in temporal as well as ecclesiastical matters. The assumption in the twentieth and twenty-first century secondary literature is that this was inadvertent, that it was an unintended consequence of Gregory's pursuit of spiritual reform, and that his political ideas were subsidiary to his religious motives. 

Library link to thesis: http://www.tara.tcd.ie/handle/2262/90393

 


Last updated 8 February 2022 medieval.history@tcd.ie (Email).