Out of the Margins

A scribe, probably Bede, from the Life and Miracles of St Cuthbert, English, 12th century.

If the English language had taken a different path, historians might not exist.

Female foundation: Minster Abbey in Thanet, Kent. (Brian Gibbs/Alamy)

Medieval women wielded spiritual and political power in subtly effective ways. 

Ragner’s reliquary: St Peter’s Church, Northampton.

The unlikely links between an obscure English saint and a Viking warrior.

A good job: John Sweet as Bob Johnson and Sheila Sim as Alison Smith in A Canterbury Tale (1944).

Visiting sites of importance can connect us with history – and each other – in a way that echoes the power of medieval pilgrimage.

Profound but intangible: Scutchamer Knob on the Ridgeway Path of the Berkshire Downs.

A historical landscape is impossible to recover, but we can still feel its power.

Despite the myth of a lone genius toiling away into the night, history is a collective endeavour.

It is tempting to adopt a black-and-white view of the past, but history is complex and should be judged on its own merits.

Even the most obscure topic can be fascinating, and fascination can be found in the most unlikely places.

Modern Britain is dominated economically, culturally and politically by London, its capital city. It was not always that way, as an examination of medieval texts reveals.

Emma receives the Encomium from its author, flanked by Harthacnut and Edward, 11th century (c) British Library Board/Bridgeman Images

In commissioning her biography, Emma, wife to two kings of England, created a subtle yet audacious piece of propaganda, used to maintain her position and secure her reputation.