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12th June 2017, 10:15am
Women, status and power in medieval England
Credit: SMA Woman dictating to man British Library Folio E IVf.307 What was it like to be a woman in medieval England? What control did women have over their own lives and how did they wield power over others during times of conflict?

These are just some of the questions that will be explored when the Society for Medieval Archaeology’s 60th anniversary annual conference, titled ‘Women, Status and Power in Medieval Society’, is held in Lincoln this summer.

Hosted by the University of Lincoln, the conference will take place at The Collection Museum, Lincoln, on Friday 30th June and Saturday 1st July 2017.

It will bring together specialists from a wide range of disciplines to explore the status of women in medieval society, comparing and contrasting evidence from archaeology, history, art history and literature.

Papers being presented will cover almost 1,000 years of history, spanning the 7th century through to the 15th century. By exploring women’s lives through Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman and medieval times, researchers hope to determine whether the ways in which women were able to exercise power in their own right changed over time and why.

The conference arrives in Lincoln as the city celebrates the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln, taking inspiration from the first female sheriff and castellan of Lincoln Castle during that time, Lady Nicola de la Haye.

Despite Nicola’s vital role in defending Lincoln Castle to turn the tide in the First Baron’s War, few people know of her significance to the course of English history today. As her defence of the English throne is remembered this anniversary year, The Society for Medieval Archaeology felt it timely to take a wider look at the latest research into the role of women in medieval times.  

The conference will begin on the evening of Friday 30th June with the Society’s annual lecture, given by scholar and broadcaster, Michael Wood, who will explore the life of Aethelflaed, the daughter of Alfred the Great who ruled the kingdom of Mercia. It will be followed by a reception and private viewing of The Collection’s Battles and Dynasties exhibition, which has been sponsored by the Society to mark the 1217 anniversary.

Professor Carenza Lewis, Professor for the Public Understanding of Research at the University of Lincoln and President of the Society, will contribute to the programme, launching Saturday’s proceedings with an introduction to the conference.

She said: “The overarching aim of the conference is to get beyond the familiar narratives in which females in positions of power are typically ignored or condemned. We want to see what recent research can tell us about how female empowerment was controlled, enabled, reinforced and enacted in medieval society.

“Nicola de la Haye’s story reminds us how easy it is to forget about the difference that women made in the past, not just in the home but beyond it as well. It prompts us to ask how unusual her experience of wielding domestic, political and military power in her own right was, and how it fits into the bigger picture of women’s place in medieval society. Women’s roles are often overlooked and it is only by taking an interdisciplinary approach and interrogating evidence carefully that we can hope to answer these questions.”

To celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Society for Medieval Archaeology is offering free entry to the conference for all members, including those who join the Society before Monday 19th June 2017.

For more information about the conference, or to book a place, go to For more on The Society for Medieval Archaeology including how to join, visit

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