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Dr Jenny Benham

Dr Jenny Benham

Reader in Medieval History

+44 (0)29 2087 5648
4.27 (4th Floor), John Percival Building, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


Research interests

I am a historian of diplomacy and international law in the medieval period, with particular interests in espionage, treaties, and the practicalities of war and peace. As I'm originally from the snowy north, I also have an enduring interest in 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







  • Benham, J. 2017. Writing peace, writing war: Roger of Howden and Saxo Grammaticus compared. In: Munster-Swendsen, M., Heeboll-Holm, T. K. and Sonnesyn, S. O. eds. History and Intellectual Culture in the Long Twelfth Century: The Scandinavian Connection. Durham Medieval and Renaissance Monographs and Essays Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, pp. 272-294.
  • Benham, J. 2017. Danelaw. In: Echard, S. and Rouse, R. eds. The encyclopedia of medieval literature in Britain. Wiley
  • Benham, J. 2017. Treaty of Verdun. In: Martel, G. ed. Wiley-Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Diplomacy. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Benham, J. 2017. Treaty of Windsor. In: Martel, G. ed. Wiley-Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Diplomacy. Wiley-Blackwell
  • Benham, J. 2017. Peace of Venice, 1177. In: Martel, G. ed. Wiley-Blackwell's Encyclopedia of Diplomacy. Wiley-Blackwell







I welcome students interested in gaining an in-depth knowledge of the political and cultural history of the early and high Middle Ages, in particular diplomacy and law.

Little Birds: Spies and Espionage in the Medieval World

Spies, their networks and activities played a vital role in the political rivalries of the medieval world. This is clearly
highlighted in the metaphorical ‘little birds’ – e.g. ravens, jackdaws, starlings – found in Latin and vernacular
literature of Europe 500-1200, and which frequently denoted women, children, disabled, religious minorities, and
outcasts engaging in spying activities. By supplementing this literary evidence with historical records and material
culture, this project builds up a richer, more diverse, picture of early medieval espionage that goes beyond the
current historiographical focus on military and diplomatic espionage and revises our understanding of how medieval politics worked.

International Law in Europe, c. 700-1200

Was there international law in the Middle Ages? Using treaties as its main source, this book examines the extent to which such a system of rules was known and followed in the period 700 to 1200. It considers how consistently international legal rules were obeyed, whether there was a reliance on justification of action and whether the system had the capacity to resolve disputed questions of fact and law. The book further sheds light on issues such as compliance, enforcement, deterrence, authority and jurisdiction, challenging traditional ideas over their role and function in the history of international law.

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.

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.


I am interested in supervising PhD students in the areas of:

  • History of international law and medieval diplomacy
  • Early medieval legal history
  • Medieval warfare
  • Medieval Scandinavia
  • Political and cultural history of the early and high Middle Ages