Staff Profile


Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh


School: School of Humanities & Educational Studies

Campus: Canterbury Main Campus

Tel: 01227 921690

Profile summary

I work in the Centre for Kent History and Heritage where I organise public engagement activities, such as the Medieval Canterbury Weekend, and write the weekly blog for the Centre. I am also an associate lecturer at the University of Kent in the postgraduate Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Previously, I was a Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield in the Faculty of Humanities where I worked on the Leverhulme-funded 'Great Book of Anne Clifford' project. I have worked as the documentary researcher on three English Heritage-funded projects relating to the Cinque Ports and hinterlands of Sandwich and Lydd.

My main research interests focus on medieval and early Tudor urban society, especially the period c.1350 to c.1550. Using microhistory and theoretical approaches from social anthropology and historical geography, I have undertaken a wide variety of thematic investigations relating to those below the elite. These studies have involved research into areas such as material culture, pragmatic literacy and affective piety employing the exceptionally rich archival sources for Canterbury and the Cinque Ports. I have also undertaken studies of medieval peasant society and the agrarian strategies of the great monastic landlords. 

As well as having recently completed an article on ‘Community care: civic charitable institutions in the Kentish Cinque Ports’, I have given several conference papers on late medieval immigration preparatory to writing this topic up for publication using Canterbury’s rich documentary sources. I am also one of the editors of a substantial essay collection entitled Maritime Kent through the Ages to be published by Boydell that will include my case study on the fishermen of late medieval Hythe.

Research and knowledge exchange

Prior to this appointment, I have worked on a number of funded projects of which the largest was the Leverhulme-funded Lady Anne Clifford project of £156,000 at the University of Huddersfield. Many of these projects were multi-disciplinary and, in particular, I have worked with archaeologists, architectural historians and literary specialists. On occasion, this has been outside the university sector and has involved professional organisations such as Canterbury Archaeological Trust and Archaeology South-East, and government departments such as the Environment Agency. These research projects have primarily centred on topics and locations linked to Kent, and, as well as published articles, I have contributed to the 'grey literature' on the county's development.

Teaching and subject expertise

I have taught a wide range of medieval and early modern courses at Canterbury Christ Church University (undergraduate) and the University of Kent (undergraduate and postgraduate), and supervised undergraduate dissertations at the University of Huddersfield. My own courses have centred on late medieval peasant society and medieval urban society, and I have for several years taught an MA option module at the University of Kent on 'Exploring the Medieval Town: Canterbury, an International City'.

As a consequence of my research interests and knowledge of medieval and early modern Kent, as well as my consultancy work for various archaeological and other bodies, I am on the Council for Kent Archaeological Society. I am also a Trustee of the Agricultural Museum, Brook. Such appointments have offered opportunities to engage in organisational activities, including the provision of outreach activities to members and the general public. This experience has been valuable for my recent work for the Centre for Kent History and Heritage that has also involved the creation and organisation of History Weekends, Study Days, Conferences and Lectures.

External activities

Since 2005 I have been a reviewer for the following history journals: Age of Chaucer StudiesAgricultural History ReviewJournal of Medieval Monastic Studies, Journal of British Studies, Social HistorySocial History of Medicine and Southern History

Since 2006 I have been a Council Member of Kent Archaeological Society and a Trustee of the Agricultural Museum, Brook.

Since 2015 I have been a reader for Routledge, Manchester University Press and Nottingham Medieval Studies.

I contributed to several projects organised by the 'Christianity and Culture' group, University of York.

I am a member of the Gough Map project looking at the counties of Kent and Surrey.

I am working with academics at Southampton and Reading regarding a bid for funding from the AHRC.

Topics of lectures and talks given recently:

'Canterbury's Medieval Hospitals and Almshouses'

'Looking to the Past: the St Thomas Pageant in Early Tudor Canterbury'

''Going to Visit': an Imaginary Tour of Sir Peter Buck's House in Seventeenth-Century Rochester'

'Medieval Hospitals in Hythe and in the Kentish Cinque Ports'

'Agricultural Practice in the Medieval Kentish Marshlands'

'Neighbours across the Religious Divide in Henrician Kent'

‘Mayor-making and other civic ceremonies at the Kentish Cinque Ports’

‘Religious women in the landscape: their roles in medieval Canterbury and its hinterland’

‘The pilgrimage experience in late medieval Canterbury’

‘Starting a new life in Ricardian and Henrician Canterbury’

‘Crossing the Channel: immigrant artisans and traders in 15th-century Canterbury’

‘Pigs in medieval Kent’

‘Pigs, naming practices and symbolic meanings’

‘Seasonal settlers: pig herders in the medieval Kentish dens’

Publications and research outputs


The Role of the Hospital in Medieval England: Gift-giving and the Spiritual Economy (Dublin, 2004).

Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220, Kent History series (Woodbridge, 2016).

Negotiating the Political in Northern European Urban Society c.1400–1600 (Tempe, Arizona and Turnhout, 2013).

Later Medieval Kent, c.1220–1540, Kent History series (Woodbridge, 2010).

Select articles/chapters since 2013

‘Fishermen and their families in late medieval and Tudor Kent’, in C. Jowitt et al., eds, Routledge Research Companion to Marine and Maritime Worlds, 1400-1800 (forthcoming, 2020)

'Neighbours across the religious divide: coping with difference in Henrician Kent', in B. Kane and S. Sandall, eds, The Experience of Neighbourliness in Europe, c.1000–1600, Routledge (forthcoming, 2020).

‘Religious women in the landscape: their roles in medieval Canterbury and its hinterland’, in V. Blud, D. Heath and E. Klafter, eds, Gender in Medieval Places, Spaces and Thresholds (London, 2019), pp. 8–24.

‘Shepsters, hucksters and other businesswomen: female involvement in Canterbury’s fifteenth-century economy’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 138 (2017), 179–99.

 ‘Those who marched with Faunt: reconstructing the Canterbury rebels of 1471’, Southern History 39 (2017), 36–57.

‘Looking to the Past: the St Thomas Pageant in Early Tudor Canterbury’, Archaeologia Cantiana, 137 (2016), 163–83.

‘Farming the Kentish marshlands: continuity and change in the late Middle Ages’, in J.P. Bowen and A. Brown, eds, Custom and Commercialisation in English Rural Society, c.1350–c.1750 (Hatfield, 2016).

‘‘To move the mind’: scenes from Christ’s life on Faversham’s painted pillar’, in S. Kelly and R. Perry, eds, Devotional Culture in Late Medieval England and Europe (Turnhout, 2014).

‘Placing the hospital: the production of St Lawrence’s hospital registers in fifteenth-century Canterbury’, in L. Clark, ed., The Fifteenth Century, XIII (Woodbridge, 2014).

‘Pilgrimage in ‘an Age of Plague’: seeking Canterbury’s ‘hooly blisful martir’ in 1420 and 1470’, in L. Clark and C. Rawcliffe, eds, The Fifteenth Century, XII (Woodbridge, 2013).


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Last edited: 13/12/2018 21:16:00