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Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh


School of Humanities & Educational Studies

Lecturer in Medieval & Early Modern Studies; Co-Director of the Centre for Kent History & Heritage

I have taught at Canterbury Christ Church University at undergraduate and postgraduate levels for over fifteen years. As Co-Director of CKHH, I organise the annual History Weekends as well as other public engagement events showcasing new research in history and allied fields. I have been involved in several funded research projects since 2000 and currently, among other projects, I am working on a 3-year funded project on Kent's Maritime Communities with Dr Craig Lambert (University of Southampton). 

I began lecturing in medieval and early modern history at the University of Kent in 1995, and continue to offer a postgraduate option module in the MEMS Taught MA there. In the early 2010s, I taught at the University of Huddersfield. I have been lecturing at Canterbury Christ Church University for well over fifteen years to undergraduates and postgraduates, including supervising doctoral students.

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, migration, pragmatic literacy and affective piety employing the exceptionally rich archival sources for Canterbury and the Cinque Ports. I have also undertaken studies on medieval peasant society, the agrarian strategies of the great monastic landlords and maritime communities.Among the research projects I am currently involved in are the Leverhulme-funded Gough Map project, the Lossenham Project and the 3-year funded 'Kent's Maritime Communities' project, the latter involving the allied supervision of two doctoral research students, one full-time and one part-time.

Research Projects

  • Civilisation, Power and Knowledge in early modern East Kent: an analysis of discourse and transgression of social and cultural practice in the Cinque Ports c.1600-c.1640. Researcher(s): Mr Jason Mazzocchi. Supervisor(s): Dr Dave Hitchcock, Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • Different Voices: Parochial Charity in the Medway Valley 1660 - 1840. Researcher(s): Mr Peter Joyce. Supervisor(s): Dr Dave Hitchcock, Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • Doctoral Research Project. Researcher(s): Dr Lily Hawker-Yates. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Lesley Hardy. [Postgraduate Research Project (past)]
  • Off the ration: Exploring the alternative food sources available to families in Kent during the Second World War.. Researcher(s): Mrs JACIE COLE. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Simon Prince. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • The Emotional Life of the Poor in England between 1600 and 1800: How did the poor cope with poverty?. Researcher(s): Mrs Elizabeth Burton. Supervisor(s): Dr Dave Hitchcock, Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • The place and role of women in medieval Canterbury and its hinterland: the changing role of women in the local economy in the decades before and after the Black Death. Researcher(s): Ms Tracey Dessoy. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Astrid Stilma, Professor Thomas Hennessey. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • The suppression of several of Kent’s monastic houses during Cardinal Wolsey’s asset-stripping ‘Little Dissolution’ (1520s). A critical study of three religious houses: Tonbridge, Bayham and Lesnes.. Researcher(s): Mrs Jane Richardson. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Claire Bartram. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • The use and development of the Maison Dieu, Dover and its significance to the crown, port and local community 1450-1606.. Researcher(s): Ms Kieron Hoyle. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Claire Bartram. [Postgraduate Research Project]
  • Tonbridge: the evolution of a town 1250 to 1700. Researcher(s): Mrs Maureen McLeod. Supervisor(s): Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh, Dr Claire Bartram. [Postgraduate Research Project]

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 Advisory Council for Kent Archaeological Society. I am also a Trustee of the Wye Rural Museum Trust and the Oxus Foundation. Such appointments have offered opportunities to engage in organisational activities, including the provision of outreach activities and the provision of research skills to members of KAS 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, Workshops, Conferences and Lectures.
Additionally, I edited two volumes in the Kent History Project: Early Medieval Kent, 800-1220 (2016) and Later Medieval Kent, 1220-1540 (2010), as well as being one of the editors of Maritime Kent through the Ages (2020).
Since 2005 I have been a reviewer for the following history journals: Age of Chaucer Studies, Agricultural History Review, Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, Journal of British Studies, Social History, Social History of Medicine and Southern History.
Since 2015 I have been a reader for Boydell, Routledge, Manchester University Press and Nottingham Medieval Studies.
I contributed to several projects organised by the 'Christianity and Culture' group, University of York.

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’