Research Paper Topics For Medieval History Major

Subject Group

Convenor : Dr Carl Watkins

Web Officer : Dr Chris Briggs

Research projects

See also the Medieval Studies at Cambridge website


Cambridge has one of the largest concentrations of ancient and medieval historians in the world, and a similarly large number of staff in the associated disciplines of archaeology, Classics, literature, and art history. We have a very long-standing M.Phil. programme in Medieval History, with a strong track record of launching people into doctoral study and an academic career thereafter. The research expertise of the staff in this subject group covers not only western Europe in the early and later middle ages, but ancient Greece and Rome, Byzantium, and Central and Eastern Europe. (For more information about research in Classics, click here.) The faculty members have wide and varied interests, but share some overlapping areas of thematic strength, including the intersection of medieval law and society, cross-cultural intercommunication and exchange, the medieval peasantry, religious authority, the beliefs of the masses, intellectual culture, and gender. There has been an established professorship of medieval history since 1937, now held by Professor John H. Arnold (following the retirement of Professor Rosamond McKitterick in 2016).

At Cambridge we have access to a huge array of resources to support research into medieval topics. The colleges hold a large number of medieval manuscripts of many different kinds, and the University Library has both its own manuscript collection and an unparalleled collection of rare books. The library also houses important medieval documents (such as the Ely Diocesan Archives), as does the city's Record Office. There is a dedicated palaeography scholar who teaches on the M.Phil. and generously supports other scholars, and a dedicated Latin specialist. The Fitzwilliam Museum is home not only to medieval art and coins but also medieval objects from armour to reliquaries, and to yet more medieval manuscripts. Access to London, and via Stansted Airport to the continent, provide a route to even wider resources for the medieval past.

Undergraduate study

Within the Cambridge History Tripos, students are introduced to medieval history by being given a wide choice of survey courses in Part I of the degree. In Part II, we offer various more focussed and thematic 'Specified' and 'Special Subject' papers on topics such as The Black Death, The Angevin Empire, The Middle Ages on Film, and Heresy, Inquisition and Society. Medievalists contribute also to several 'Themes and Sources' papers including Money and Society, Royal and Princely Courts, and Religious Conversion and Colonialism.

Undergraduate students can choose to take a Dissertation in their final year, and there are ample resources to pursue a medieval topic (usually via sources in modern translation, but with the possibility of using medieval primary materials directly).

Postgraduate study

We offer a full-time M.Phil. programme in Medieval History, one of the first to have been offered by the Faculty. It has recently been restructured, and aims to allow students a balance between intensive and well-supported skills training (in Latin and palaeography primarily, but with the possibility also of pursuing further language training), a thorough grounding in the debates and methods of the field, and the chance to explore a particular theme in depth. The Faculty staff closely involved in the M.Phil. have expertise that ranges from the early to the late middle ages, and from Byzantium and eastern Europe to western Europe and England. Potential supervisors can be drawn from the even larger body of medieval specialists across the university.

The M.Phil. culminates in a dissertation of 15-20,000 words. Students will be given support to make use of original primary sources in their dissertation topic, whether drawing upon the extensive possibilities held directly within Cambridge, or accessing materials from elsewhere in Europe. Students graduating from the M.Phil. have a very strong track record of moving on to further doctoral research.

Research culture

The medievalist community at Cambridge is extensive, and there are a number of vibrant research seminars held within and between faculties, where graduate students, postgraduates and early career scholars play a key role. Conferences are held regularly, and it is possible for postgraduates to propose themes for workshops or small conferences.

Medieval colleagues are also involved in the following cross-period seminars:

People specializing in this area

Medieval Art History Research Paper Topics to Consider

The medieval period is a vast period during which the arts flourished. Some of the well-known artistic styles that emerged from this period include Romanesque, Byzantine, Viking, Byzantine and Gothic. Since there are varied cultures and histories associated with this particular period, narrowing down on your topic of choice can be an overwhelming task.

It is important to gain clarity on the area of focus early on, when preparing to write a medieval art history research paper. Start with a question then look for the bigger picture – whether it is the historical period of interest, major themes of that time, the geographical area you want to look into, or medieval art and its impact on themes like love, spirituality, society and culture.

A great place to start getting more background on the topic of interest is to go through the reference section of the library. Some investigation and detailed research will put you in a position of advantage as you progress with writing your research paper. Primary sources can be a challenge since they are rarely available with English translation. Don’t forget to integrate online resources such as search engines for medieval art history articles.

Medieval art history research paper topics to consider can be useful when you have trouble picking a good idea. You can try here for a preliminary idea on how such research paper topics should be structured.

  • Evaluating the roles of women as contributors in the history of medieval art.
  • The significance of patronage and agency for medieval art history.
  • Elaborate on how the iconography of cities and the urban experience played a part in the medieval world.
  • A postmodern interpretation of the margins of medieval art.
  • The depiction of folklore and other secular motifs in Northern European medieval art and architecture.
  • An examination of the medieval concepts of race, morality and power in Ireland.
  • Provide a detailed analysis of the centrality of religious art and imagery in medieval manuscripts.
  • The importance of symbol and meaning in the European Art of Late Middle Ages.
  • Exploring the concept of devotion, religion and liturgy in Late medieval England.
  • The iconography of love in medieval art from the 12th century onwards.
  • The role of intertextuality between early medieval art and drama.
  • Portrayals of art and nature in medieval and renaissance art history.
  • Elucidate on the religious conceptions of the human body during medieval
  • times.
  • Adolph Goldschmidt and his role in the shaping of medieval art history.
  • The process of creation and the development of style in medieval art.

No matter how simple or complex the scope of your research paper topic is, it is important to prioritize having a well-written structure with clear transitions in your argument. The reader needs to understand the point of every paragraph and the link between the ideas you put forward. Sample topics can help you brainstorm and narrow down on your own idea more effectively. Take the help of whatever resources you need to provide scholarly citations to back up your points.


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