Staff Profile


Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh

Principal Research Fellow

School: School of Humanities

Campus: Canterbury

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 from social and cultural perpectives. 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.

I am currently completing an article on late medieval urban migration, focusing on Richardian and Henrician Canterbury. Thereafter, I shall return to an investigation of late medieval production and consumption in provincial urban society, using as my central case study the Cinque Port of Hythe. Having previously studied and published on the town's butcher-graziers and fishermen, this new research will greatly extend my analysis of late medieval towns.

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 Studies, Agricultural History Review, Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, Social History, Social History of Medicine and Southern History.

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

I am a contributor to the 'Christianity and Culture' project, University of York.

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

Lectures and talks in 2016:

'Medieval Hythe' for the Study of the History and Archaeology of Lympne history group, March 2016

'St John's Hospital, Canterbury' for the 'Medieval Canterbury Weekend', Canterbury Christ Church University, April 2016

'Canterbury's Medieval Hoospitals and Almshouses' for Canterbury Family History Society, May 2016

'Looking to the Past: the St Thomas Pageant in Early Tudor Canterbury' at the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Festival, University of Kent, June 2016

'St Mildred's/Worthgate area in the Middle Ages and the people who lived there' for the Friends of St Mildred's church, Canterbury, July 2016

''Going to Visit': an Imaginary Tour of Sir Peter Buck's House in Seventeenth-Century Rochester' at the 'Writing Buildings' conference, University of Kent, July 2016

'Patrons, power and the parish church in Norman Kent' at the 'Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220' conference, Canterbury Christ Church University, September 2016

'Medieval Hospitals in Hythe and in the Kentish Cinque Ports' for the Study of the History and Archaeology of Lympne history group, September 2016

'Agricultural Practice in the Medieval Kentish Marshlands' for the Orpington and District Archaeological Society, November 2015

'Gift Giving and Commemoration at English Medieval Hospitals' at the 'Medical Aspects of Medieval Monuments' conference, The Monumental Brass Society, November 2016

'Neighbours across the Religious Divide in Henrician Kent' for the Locality and Regional Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, December 2016

Publications and research outputs

Select, recent publications


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

Edited volumes

Early Medieval Kent, 800–1220, Kent History series (Woodbridge, 2016): ‘Introduction’.

Negotiating the Political in Northern European Urban Society c.1400–1600 (Tempe, Arizona and Turnhout, 2013): ‘Discord in the public arena: processes and meanings of the St Bartholomew’s day festivities in early sixteenth-century Sandwich’. 

Later Medieval Kent, c.1220–1540, Kent History series (Woodbridge, 2010): ‘Kentish Towns: urban culture and the parish in later medieval Kent’ and ‘Kentish hospitals during the late Middle Ages’.


'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, 2017).

‘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: Revisiting Postan and Tawney (Hatfield, 2016).

‘The Economic Impact of the Reformation on Two Canterbury Parishes', in A. Foster and V. Hitchman, eds, Views from the Parish: Churchwardens’ Accounts c.1500–c.1800 (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2015).

‘‘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: Diverse Imaginations of Christ’s Life (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).

‘Canterbury’s martyred archbishop: the ‘cult’ of Simon Sudbury and relations between city and cathedral’, in M. Penman, ed., Monuments and Monumentality in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Donington, 2013).


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