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Catherine Clarke

Professor Catherine Clarke is Director of the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research

Catherine is a cultural historian specialising in the Middle Ages, but she also works across a wide range of periods on questions of place, identity, heritage and uses of the past.

catherine.clarke@sas.ac.uk

Institute roles

Professor Catherine Clarke holds the new Chair in the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research, and is Director of the Institute’s Centre for the History of People, Place and Community. As part of this role, she is also Director of the Victoria County History.

Catherine joined the Institute in February 2019, moving from the University of Southampton, where she had been a Professor in the English Department since 2012, and where she remains a Visiting Professor.

She is a tutor on the MA in History, Place & Community, for which she is convenor of the Applied Public History module and (with Dr Simon Trafford) the Connecting History module. Catherine is also convenor of the IHR / University of London MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) 'Applied Public History: Places, People, Stories', available for free, any time, on the Coursera platform.

Research interests

Catherine is interested in place, identity, uses of the past, and creative approaches to history. Her research takes her to all kinds of fascinating and unexpected places: from getting muddy in the Welsh Marches, to exploring devotional practices in Ethiopia, to crawling through the Bronze Age mines deep under Cheshire’s Alderley Edge. 

Catherine’s research is built on inter-disciplinary approaches, and embraces creative and practice-led methodologies and co-production with partners beyond academia, and often explores digital methodologies. In recent years, she has led AHRC-funded projects including City Witness: Place and Perspective in Medieval Swansea, and the St Thomas Way: a new heritage route from Swansea to Hereford, inspired by a real medieval pilgrimage, with immersive multimedia content for each site on the trail. She has interests in place-making and place policy, and was a Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery project. She is currently Co-Investigator on the exciting place-based project Invisible Worlds, exploring the multi-layered histories and stories of Alderley Edge, Cheshire, in partnership with the National Trust.

Catherine enjoys communicating with wide and varied audiences. Her book Between the Lines: A History of England in 25 Poems will come out with Penguin in autumn 2025.

Catherine's wider academic work

Catherine has been Programme Co-ordinator for 'Early Medieval England' at the annual Leeds International Medieval Congress, and Academic Director of CARMEN, the Worldwide Medieval Network. She is Series Editor for Places and Spaces: Medieval to Modern (Arc Humanities Press) and a member of the editorial board for Brepols Studies in the Early Middle Ages. She acts as an advisor for a number of research projects.

Catherine is passionate about communicating and making research with communities beyond the academy, and in creative formats. Her media engagement includes The Conversation, BBC radio, and television. She has collaborated with others to produce museum exhibitions, artworks, city trails and interactive digital games as new ways of thinking about and sharing current research.

Publications

Monographs

Medieval Cityscapes Today (‘Past Imperfect’ Series, Arc Humanities Press, 2019)

Writing Power in Anglo-Saxon England: Texts, Hierarchies, Economies (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2012)

Literary Landscapes and the Idea of England, 700-1400 (Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2006)

Edited collections

The St Thomas Way and the Medieval March of Wales: Exploring Place, Heritage, Pilgrimage (‘Places and Spaces, Medieval to Modern’ Series, Arc Humanities Press, 2020)

Journal of Medieval History 41.3 (2015), ‘Power, Identity and Miracles on a Medieval Frontier’ (also published in the Routledge ‘Special Issues as Books’ series, 2017)

Mapping the Medieval City: Space, Place and Identity in Chester c.1200-1600 (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011; paperback 2013)

Selected articles and book chapters

'On the Edges: Medieval Swansea, Visited by Ralph Baldock, Bishop of London', in Portraits of Medieval Europe, ed. Christian Raffensperger and Erin Thomas Dailey (Routledge, 2024), pp. 190-200

(Co-authored with Murray Shanahan), 'Evaluating Large Language Model Creativity from a Literary Perspective', Arxiv pre-prints (2023)

‘Place, Time and the St Thomas Way: An Experiment in Five Itineraries’, in The St Thomas Way and the Medieval March of Wales: Exploring Place, Heritage, Pilgrimage (as above)

‘Place, identity and performance: spatial practices and social proxies in medieval Swansea’, Journal of Medieval History 41.3 (2015), 256-272

‘Witnessing history: perspectives on medieval Swansea and its cultural contexts’, Journal of Medieval History 41.3 (2015), 249-255

‘Imagining medieval Chester: practice-based medievalism, scholarship, and creativity’, Studies in Medievalism XXV: Medievalism and Modernity (2016), 115-134

‘Crossing the Rubicon: Writing Civil War in Twelfth-Century England’, in Essays and Studies 2014: War and Literature, ed. Laura Ashe and Ian Patterson (Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2014), pp. 61-83

With Paul Vetch and Keith Lilley, ‘Between text and image: digital renderings of a late medieval city’, in Digitizing Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture, ed. B. Nelson and M. Terras (Toronto: Iter, 2012)

‘Re-placing masculinity: the DC Comics Beowulf series and its context, 1975-6’ in Anglo-Saxon Culture and the Modern Imagination, ed. Nicholas Perkins and David Clark (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2010)

‘Panegyric and Reflection: A Poem by Abbo of Fleury to Ramsey Abbey’ in Anglo-Saxon England and the Continent, ed. Hans Sauer and Joanna Story (Tucson: Arizona University Press, 2011), pp. 293-302

‘Edges and Otherworlds: imagining tidal spaces in early medieval Britain’, in The Sea and Englishness in the Middle Ages: Maritime Narratives, Identity & Culture, ed. Sebastian Sobecki (Cambridge: DS Brewer, 2011), pp. 81-103

‘Remembering Anglo-Saxon Mercia in late-medieval Chester’, in Mapping the Medieval City: Space, Place and Identity in Chester c.1200-1600 (as above, 2011), pp. 201-218

‘Medieval Chester: Views from the Walls’ in Mapping the Medieval City: Space, Place and Identity in Chester c.1200-1600 (as above, 2011), pp. 1-18

‘Place, poetry and patronage: the Libellus Æthelwoldi Episcopi and its contexts’ (Landscape History, 2010; part of a pair of articles with the archaeologist Christopher Taylor)

Recent presentations

Recent invited lectures and plenaries include the Denys Hay Lecture, 2016 (University of Edinburgh), Emotions: Engines of History, 2018 (University of Silesia), the keynote lecture for the British Association for Local History annual conference (2020), the Toller Lecture on Old English 2021 (University of Manchester), the Reuter Lecture 2021 (University of Southampton), the York Medieval Lecture spring 2022. 

You can view some of Catherine's recent presentations online:

'Chat GPT and Other Creative Rivals' conference (Institute of Philosophy) 2022: 'Absences, Ghosts, Ethics: Using AI to Re-Visit Gaps in the Historical Archive' (at 2:34)

Reuter Lecture 2021: 'Making places: heritage, renewal and site-specific medievalism'

Lancaster Castle Lecture 2021: 'Sensing place: heritage, renewal and new public realms'

York Medieval Lecture 2022: 'Imagining Microplaces: From Medieval into the Present'

Durham IMEMS 2020: 'Making a Pilgrimage: the St Thomas Way'

Approaching the (Family) Archive Seminar Series 2022: 'Absence in the Archive' (reflections on an event from my own family history)

Recent panel discussions include ‘Place and Performance: Virtual Encounters with Material Worlds’ (Im/material Network, University of Glasgow, 2019) and ‘Public History Now!’ (Layers of London event, London Metropolitan Archives, 2019).