Book at Lunchtime: Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350

Book at Lunchtime title and TORCH logo against a backdrop of books

Join us for the TORCH Book at Lunchtime event on Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350 by Dr Laura Slater. The event will begin with a free sandwich lunch at 12:30pm, with the discussion 1pm-2pm.

Book at Lunchtime is a series of bite-sized book discussions held fortnightly during term-time, with expert commentators from a range of disciplines. The events are free to attend and open to members of the University and the public alike.

Register for your free place on Eventbrite here. If you would prefer not to use Eventbrite, please email



About the book

Images and imagery played a major role in medieval political thought and culture, but their influence has rarely been explored. This book provides a full assessment of the subject. Starting with an examination of the writings of late twelfth-century courtier-clerics, and their new vision of English political life as a heightened religious drama, it argues that visual images were key to the development and expression of medieval English political ideas and arguments. It discusses the vivid pictorial metaphors used in contemporary political treatises, and highlights their interaction with public decorative schemas in English great churches, private devotional imagery, seal iconography, illustrations of English history and a range of other visual sources. Meanwhile, through an exploration of events such as the Thomas Becket conflict, the making of Magna Carta, the Barons' War and the deposition of Edward II, it provides new perspectives on the political role of art, especially in reshaping basic assumptions and expectations about government and political society in medieval England.

About the panel

Dr Laura Slater is a Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the ERC-funded ‘Music and Late Medieval European Courtly Cultures’ research project, focussing on ‘Gender, Lineage and Patterns of Patronage in Late Medieval France, England and the Low Countries’. She is researching the cultural patronage and courtly role/s of Queen Philippa of Hainault, looking particularly at the illuminated manuscripts associated with her and their unusual musical content. Her broader research interests centre on the relationships between art, ideas, power and politics in medieval Britain and Europe.

Dr Pippa Byrne is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in Medieval History at Somerville College. Her research concentrates on the twelfth century, and the intellectual, legal, and political developments associated with the rise of scholasticism and the phenomenon known as the ‘Twelfth-Century Renaissance’. Her current research project, sponsored by the British Academy, focuses on ideas of law, justice, and royal authority in twelfth-century Norman Sicily.

Dr Jessica Berenbeim is a University Lecturer at the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. Her research focuses on the aesthetics and materiality of writing; medieval art and architecture; archives and archival theory; and the cultural history of medieval Britain. The central theme of her research is the role of visual culture in documentation, historical knowledge, and political power.

Tim Farrant is a DPhil Candidate in Theology at Pembroke College, Oxford. His doctoral research is centred on the reception of Augustinian thought in the High Middle Ages, and its impact upon observations of the natural world. He has particular interests in medieval zoology, hexameron literature and biblical exegesis in late twelfth- and early thirteenth-century intellectual culture.