Early Career Research Grant won by Dr Emily Winkler

5 Dec 2018

Emily Winkler

Dr Emily A. Winkler has won a prestigious Early Career Research Grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The grant, which is worth a quarter of a million pounds, will fund her work as Principal Investigator of a two-year project entitled ‘The Search for Parity: Rulers, Relationships and the Remote Past in Britain’s Chronicles, c. 1100–1300’. Dr Winkler will be working at the Faculty of History in Oxford; her colleague Dr Owain Wyn Jones (Bangor University) will work on the project as Co-Investigator.

The project asks how and why diplomatic relations between rulers in the distant past (before AD 800) mattered to writers of history in high medieval England and Wales. The period 1100–1300 saw a flourishing of historical writing in England and Wales, which included a burgeoning interest in the shared remote past of the island of Britain. Stories of the deeds of King Arthur abounded, as did tales of Julius Caesar’s failed conquest of Britain, and of the anger and the affection shared between legendary brothers Belinus and Brennius. There is a tendency to view these narratives as chronicles of Anglo-centric civilisation, progress, and expansion on the one hand; on the other, as accounts of the kingdoms of Britain and their struggles for independence and hegemony.

In some senses, it has been sensible to view this period of historical writing in light of conflict. In the two centuries between the Norman Conquest of England and Edward I’s conquest of Wales, the people of Britain – as well as their rulers and elites – faced civil war, pitched battles and sieges, and contested borders. But what if they were also about something else? Dr Winkler and Dr Jones seek to discover what chroniclers of the remote past thought not only about conquest and struggle, but also about moments of peaceful, formal or even merely respectful interaction between rulers, obscured as these might be by accounts of short-term or protracted violence and oppression between peoples. Their project will enable them to tell a new story about the value of diplomatic relationships between ancient peoples – both real and imagined – to the readers and writers of medieval Britain.

Dr Winkler and Dr Jones will also lead a Project Partnership with the Historical Association, an organisation which supports the study, teaching and enjoyment of history at all levels. Working with secondary school teachers, they will help develop new curricular resources to supplement Key Stage 3, GCSE and A-Level papers on the Norman Conquest, The Experience of Warfare, and Warfare Over Time. By developing strategies for engaging with medieval historical writing about conflict and conquest in the British Isles, their aim is to help students discover for themselves the human side of remembrance in the Middle Ages.

Dr Winkler has been the John Cowdrey Junior Research Fellow in History at St Edmund Hall since September 2015. Her first book, Royal Responsibility in Anglo-Norman Historical Writing, examined four early twelfth-century writers in England as narrators of two conquests of England, the first by Cnut of Denmark in 1016, and the second by William of Normandy in 1066. In rewriting their sources, these writers made different judgements about historical causation and the moral obligations of rulers. In moments of crisis, the book argues, it is possible to discern most clearly these writers’ expectations for kings, as well as rulers’ duties and causal influence.

At St Edmund Hall she works with postgraduate students on their research journal, Ex Aula, teaches medieval papers to undergraduates, writes for The Aularian, and gives talks about her research for alumni of the Hall. You can read some of her reflections in the Times Literary Supplement about the Bayeux Tapestry here, and hear her talk at Teddy Hall’s Research Expo 2017, ‘Was there History in the Middle Ages?’ here. For more about her research and a list of her publications with links, please see her St Edmund Hall profile page.

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