Dr Jenny Benham

Dr Jenny Benham

Lecturer in Medieval History

School of History, Archaeology and Religion

Email:
benhamj@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone:
+44 (0)29 2087 5648
Location:
4.27 (4th Floor), John Percival Building

Research interests

  • Political and cultural history of the early and high Middle Ages
  • International relations and medieval diplomacy
  • Early medieval legal history
  • Medieval warfare
  • Medieval Scandinavia

Current research projects

Education and qualifications

BA, MA and PhD University of East Anglia

Honours and awards

2016-2018       The Leverhulme Trust grant for international network 'Voices of Law'

2000-2003       Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) PhD Studentship

1999-2000       AHRB Master Studentship

Career overview

Before arriving in Cardiff in September 2013, I worked for several years outside academe, first in the legal sector and then in the publishing industry. I also spent five years as the lead teacher and Norfolk co-ordinator of the Civitas school in Great Yarmouth, and worked for three years as a project officer for the AHRC-funded project Early English Laws at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

Professional memberships

2016 Elected Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

2015 Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

I welcome undergraduate students interested in gaining an in-depth knowledge of the political and cultural history of the early and high Middle Ages and Medieval war and diplomacy. The contents of the courses can be found below:

Undergraduate year one modules

Undergraduate year two modules

Undergraduate year three modules

Postgraduate

  • HST642 Approaches to the History of Medieval Britain
  • HST681 Medieval Diplomacy
  • HST682 Dispute Settlement in the MIddle Ages
  • HST833 Palaeography
  • HST900 Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study
  • HST903 Themes in Ancient and Medieval Warfare
  • HST906 Epic Warriors: Achilles, Beowulf and Beyond

Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice

Cardiff, together with the universities of Cambridge, Glasgow and Copenhagen and the Frisian Academy in the Netherlands, have been awarded c.£80,000 by The Leverhulme Trust for the international network 'Voices of Law: Language, Text and Practice'. The network  aims to establish a wide comparative framework that will highlight cross-cultural connections and cover areas of exceptional significance for the study of law, language and legal practice in Britain, Scandinavia and Frisia in the period AD 600-c1250. Over a 24-month period, the network will hold three colloquia and three workshops, each at a different institution in Britain, Scandinavia and The Netherlands. The network will further produce two edited collections, a collaborative monograph relating to the main themes, and a postgraduate skills guide on working with early medieval law.

Law, Treaties and International Relations in the Middle Ages

I am currently writing on my second monograph Law, Treaties and International Relations in the period c. 700 to c.1250.This project will fill an important gap in our current knowledge of how diplomacy and international relations was practiced in a period before fully fledged nation states. While the modern cross-disciplinary study of international relations has broadened the discussion of diplomatic issues for later historical periods, the current biases of that discussion – centred on nineteenth-century understandings of the nation – have limited its application to the medieval and early modern periods. Despite this it is evident that diplomatic practices before the emergence of the nation-state have acquired a peculiar relevance in an era when globalisation so powerfully challenges the state’s economic and even political significance. The monograph is an attempt to focus on a specific type of diplomatic evidence, treaties, and aims to define them in a legal and socio-cultural context, thereby re-aligning the medieval historiography with its more modern counterpart, and to explore some of the textual and practical possibilities and problems of this context. It considers why some treaties in the high middle ages have been regarded as laws while others have not and argues that while the modern concept of international law is based on the three principles of treaties, legal practice (or custom), and general principles of law (including canon and Roman law), medieval scholars have only looked to the latter principle, thereby disregarding the treaties and legal practice. Scholars investigating the history of international law seem to have missed something quite significant by focusing on only a small feature of the latter of these principles for the medieval period. Similarly, there has been so little work done on the treaties themselves, and on legal practice or customs, that it is premature to conclude that in the medieval period there was no concept of law under which rulers conducted their relations with each other. The monograph hence investigates the potential for 'international' law in the early Middle Ages.

For more information on this, and my other research, please see War, Peace and Diplomacy in the Middle Ages

Early English Laws

Early English Laws is an AHRC-funded project to publish online and in print new editions and translations of all English legal codes, edicts, and treatises produced up to the time of Magna Carta 1215 and to provide each with introductions and full commentary on all aspects of the texts, language, and law. It aims to transform the way in which these improved texts can be used by scholars and will provide a comprehensive resource on early law.