[Header image: Detail of Rogier van der Weyden’s The Magdalen Reading, bef. 1438. National Gallery, London, NG654.]
“De Monasterio Desolato: Politics and Patronage in an Irish Frontier Convent,” in The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, Vol. 4 (2015), 21-45.
The nuns of Ballymore, Ireland, vanish from the historical record in the later fifteenth century. Previous scholarship on the house has adhered to an older view of medieval Cistercian women, suggesting that Ballymore’s failure was due to enclosure and an inability on the nuns’ part to manage their landholdings effectively. This article argues that both the foundation of the convent and its eventual disappearance owe more to political circumstances than to economic mismanagement: Ballymore was located on the border between Anglo-Irish and Gaelic-Irish areas, and the town was the caput of the de Lacys’ Westmeath manor. As the Gaelic Irish lords experienced a resurgence in power, the fortunes of the de Lacys — and therefore the nuns of Ballymore whom they patronized — went into decline.
“The First Female Anglo-Saxonist,” in “History Matters” column, History Today. [Read online]
In May 1756, an elderly governess died in the household of the Duke and Duchess of Portland, and was quickly and quietly buried in the churchyard of St Margaret’s, Westminster. Elizabeth Elstob left behind no family and few mourners, just some rooms full of ‘books and dirtiness‘, as one visitor described them. Yet Elizabeth was a pioneer of medieval studies in England; in her youth, she became the first person to publish a grammar of Old English written in modern English, and would have accomplished much more if not for the restrictions which eighteenth-century society placed on women’s scholarship.