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Stephen Mossman


Personal profile


Postgraduate Students

I would welcome enquiries from prospective students considering research on any aspect of later medieval European history (c. 1200-1520), especially if you are interested in intellectual history, religious and ecclesiastical history, the history of the German- and Dutch-speaking regions, cross-cultural contacts, or the manuscript and material culture of the Middle Ages. I would also be happy to supervise projects with a strong literary perspective that consider texts in German and Latin from the German Sprachraum in the period c. 1100-c.1550.

My doctoral students:

Marci Freedman (Manchester), 'The Transmission and Reception of the Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela in Manuscript and Print, 1200-1700' (F/T, first supervisor, with Dr Renate Smithuis and Dr Paul Oldfield): successful completion 2016.

Stephan Lauper (University of Fribourg, Switzerland), 'Das Briefbuch der Straßburger Johanniterkommende zum Grünen Wörth: Edition und Kommentar' (F/T, SNF funded, second supervisor, with Prof. Dr. Eckart Conrad Lutz): successful completion 2018.

Jessica Coatesworth (Manchester), 'The Design of History: St Albans Abbey and the Representation of the Past, c.1200 - c.1600' (P/T, AHRC funded, first supervisor, with Dr Charles Insley): successful completion 2021.

David Rogan (Manchester), 'The Decline of Punishment Miracles in Medieval Europe, c.1000-c.1200' (F/T, first supervisor, with Dr Paul Oldfield): successful completion 2022.

Lee Brooks (Manchester), 'The Heart of the Country and the Fulcrum of Power? The Diocese of Lincoln and the Centre of Political and Ecclesiastical Geography in England, 1066-c.1200' (P/T, second supervisor, with Dr Paul Oldfield)

Tom Quigley (Manchester), 'The Construction of a 'New Jerusalem': Bologna, Saint Petronio, and the Santo Stefano Complex, 1100-1400' (F/T, AHRC funded, second supervisor, with Dr Paul Oldfield): successful completion 2022.

Emma Nelson, 'The Medieval Library of Lincoln Cathedral' (P/T, University of Manchester funded, first supervisor, with Dr Paul Oldfield)

Lucia Inglehearn Ambler, 'Models of the Common Life in the Fourteenth-Century Low Countries and the Rhineland' (P/T, University of Manchester funded, first supervisor, with Dr Georg Christ)

Sam Barber, 'Urban Heresy: Perceptions, Portrayals and Punishments in Toulouse and Albi, 1150-1321' (P/T, first supervisor, with Dr Paul Oldfield)


I read History and German as an undergraduate student at St Peter's College, Oxford, and at the University of Bonn, between 1997-2001. After a year working outside academia, I returned to undertake postgraduate work in the years 2002-06 at Oriel College, Oxford, and at the University of Freiburg. I was appointed as Junior Research Fellow in History at St John's College, Oxford, in the autumn of 2006, and held that post until my current appointment at Manchester in the autumn of 2009. For the academic years 2012-14 I was Marie Curie Fellow in German History at the University of Freiburg. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer at Manchester in 2015, elected to the University Senate for the term 2018-2021, and re-elected for 2022-2025. From February 2020 until August 2021 I was Alexander von Humboldt Fellow in German at the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. I am on research leave courtesy of a British Academy mid-career fellowship in the academic year 2022-23.

Research interests

I am a scholar of late medieval intellectual, religious, cultural and literary history, and I work mostly on the German- and Dutch-speaking areas of Europe, but always considering them within a European framework. The challenge for me is the reconstruction of the intangible: the understanding of thought, opinion, and mentality in an age far removed from our own.

My book on Marquard von Lindau is an attempt to show that German intellectual culture and religious life in the period between the mid-fourteenth and the mid-fifteenth century was not stagnant and uninventive, but vibrant and genuinely radical. Marquard's name is totally unknown to a modern audience, but he was quite possibly the most widely read author in the German language before the Reformation. He is a measured, engaging, and interesting writer, with a genuine interest in those amongst whom he lived. I continue to write on Marquard, and have published a number of articles that explore different features of his work.

I am currently working on a long-term project to write the history of the literary spirituality of the upper Rhineland between the early fourteenth and the early sixteenth centuries, around the 'fixed point' of the convent zum Grünen Wörth (the 'Green Isle') in Strasbourg. This was founded in 1367 by a repentant merchant banker and noted mystical writer named Rulman Merswin, as a kind of lay monastery in which he, his wife, and their associates could shape the form of their own religious lives. It was associated four years later with the Order of St John of the Knights Hospitaller, and in the later Middle Ages became one of the most important centres for the transmission and production of literary texts in all of German-speaking Europe. In the existing scholarship these people get called the 'Friends of God', and understood as a kind of religious movement, but I am swiftly becoming ever more skeptical of this interpretation.

Many of my projects arise from the desire to know when, where, and how particular ideas were known, how those ideas circulated, and what contemporaries thought about them. Careful examination of medieval manuscripts is one way of getting at that kind of data, and much of my work is based on codicological work of this kind. I have also written in this vein on the European understanding of Islam in the later Middle Ages. The Islamic world was just as important for Europe in the Middle Ages as it is in the modern day. My interest lies in understanding exactly and precisely what was known and thought about Islam in different times and places in the medieval west, and how it came to be known. Not all of what was thought was as negative as one might expect. I have written a long article on this issue, starting with my old friend Marquard.

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Digital Futures
  • Creative Manchester


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