Lucy Pick

Lucy Pick in Oxford

Report on Lucy Pick’s Lecture for OMS: A Guest Blog by Pilar Bertuzzi Rivett

Watch Lucy Pick’s OMS Lecture 2022 here:

The Oxford Medieval Studies Lecture for Hilary Term 2022 was delivered on 8 February by Professor Lucy Pick, historian of medieval thought and culture, author of Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in Early the Spanish Kingdoms (Cornell 2017), Pilgrimage (Cuidono 2014) and Conflict and Coexistence: Archbishop Rodrigo and the Muslims and Jews of Thirteenth-Century Spain (University of Michigan 2004). Professor Pick is a visiting scholar at the Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Oxford, researching the earliest Latin translation of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed.

As a Hebraist and fellow historian of medieval thought, I looked forward to Professor Pick’s take on what Jewish-Christian relationships meant in the case of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed. It is a treat to be able to read a Jewish Medieval author in Latin and since instances of actual intellectual cooperation (especially in the early Middle Ages, which is what I focus on) are very few and far between, I am always curious to learn about them. I was particularly interested in how Professor Pick discovered this cooperation and what method she was going to use in order to flesh it out.

I found that Professor Pick set the scene very aptly when she opened her presentation mentioning that the Guide to the Perplexed “landed in the Latin scholastic world of the thirteenth century like a stick of dynamite.” Maimonides’ synthesis of science, the Law, Greek physics and metaphysics through the lens of the Hebrew Bible was nothing short of “explosive”. He offered a method for assimilating and interpreting the new Aristotle that flooded the schools of the thirteenth century. Did he inspire part of that flood? Did the Guide open up new avenues of thought for Christian readers that could be used as tools in their polemics against the Jews? These were some of the questions that were addressed in her presentation.

In what to me was reminiscent of the Italian school of microhistory, Professor Pick set aside the Christian scholastics of the mid to late thirteenth century, (whose study “used up most of the scholarly oxygen dedicated to Maimonides Latinus”) to focus on a much earlier community of readers of the Guide, one composed of both Jewish and Christians in the city of Toledo. At the heart of her project is the Liber de Parabola (witnessed in only one manuscript, Paris Sorbonne MS 601), the earliest Latin translation of the Guide (Part III, chapters 29-49 in which Maimonides discusses the reasons for commandments). According to Professor Pick, the Liber has not received the attention it deserves, neither as a witness to the Guide nor for its additional content which bears witness to the earliest reception to the ideas of the Guide. She therefore traced these individuals’ contact with the Liber de Parabola to shed light on both positive and negative aspects of its reception by Christians.

The key characters in this “textual community” are Samuel ibn Tibbon, who translated Maimonides’ Guide from Judeo-Arabic into Hebrew; Michael Scot, court astrologer to Frederick II who began his career as a master in Toledo, translating scientific texts from Arabic into Latin and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, in whose cathedral Michael and Samuel may have met and in whose writings we can trace the earliest evidence of Maimonides’ impact on the Latin world.

Samuel’s contribution to the Liber is easiest to identify: he used his Hebrew translation for the base texts; he drew on his interpretation of Maimonides’ ideas about philosophical and Biblical exegesis and illustrated it with examples from his commentary on Ecclesiastics. He is cited by name at least six times in connection with the readings of the Hebrew Bible and interpretation of Jewish law. Pick believes that these passages reflect oral communication between Samuel Ibn Tabbon and the translator.

Michael Scot’s identity is more difficult to establish and rests on substantial circumstantial evidence. Michael Scot knew the work of Maimonides as he cited him in his “De physionomiae”; he was in Rome at the same time as the Liber de Parabola was dedicated to Cardinal Romanus and first appeared on the historical record in 1215 in Rome, accompanying the entourage of the Archbishop of Toledo at the Fourth Lateran Council. Pick notes that Samuel consulted books by Aristoteles meteorology (some of which Scot translated into Latin) in Toledo at some point between 1204 and 1210, thus Michael and Samuel could plausibly have met and worked together.

Pick also described how Michael Scot became a close associate of Jacob Anatoli while at Frederick II’s court in Naples. Anatoli was Samuel’s son in law, whose philosophical sermons (Malmad ha-Talmidim) recounted conversations with Michael Scot and his knowledge of Maimonides’ work. In one of his sermons on Parshat Nitzavim, Anatoli showed awareness of the Liber de Parabola, inclusive of its structure and introduction and associates it with Michael Scot. Pick very ably showed parallels between Anatoli’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:6 with the opening of the Liber de Parabola which contrasts the interpretation of a commandment with the allegory of a parable.    

By means of a venn diagram, Pick highlighted the interpenetration of ideas amongst the translators of key works in Toledo, Naples and Provence all of whom were engaged in a parallel set of translations and commentaries on Aristotle’s Meteorology inspired by Part II Chapter 30 of Maimonides’ Guide. Since Part II was not available in the Liber, this suggests a wider diffusion of the Guide in Toledo.  

The presentation concluded by showing the “polemical” potential to Christian borrowing of Maimonides’ ideas. The Archbishop of Toledo reacted to Part II Chapter 30 in his Breviarium in which he used Maimonides’ ideas of “principle” and “spirit” to argue for the Christian Trinity. This is an example of how the section of the Guide in the Liber de Parabola was used by later Christians in support of a doctrine of “supersession” rather than fostering a more positive understanding of those who follow God’s commandments, as Jacob Anatoli would have hoped for.

This conclusion was what surprised me most about the presentation. I suppose I approached the topic with the eyes of someone accustomed to the interpenetration of ideas between Christians and Jews of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages when it comes to mysticism. However, Professor Pick’s paper showed that by the thirteenth century intellectual cooperation could be both a tool and a weapon. In her own words, “textual community did not mean safety and an exchange of texts could provide ammunition as well as understanding.” In the period of history I focus on, between the ninth and eleventh centuries, both Christian and Jewish polemical tools were still in their pre-scholastic phase; Peter Damian’s work only really impacted Jewish-Christian relations towards the end of my “horizon.” However, the fact that Dante Alighieri put Pater Damian in the highest circles of Paradise, whereas Michael Scot was relegated to the malebolgie of Hell should have alerted me to the fact that there was not going to be a “happy ending” to Professor Pick’s textual community.

Still, any kind of inter-faith intellectual cooperation in the Middle Ages is worth researching because it demystifies some of the myths that surround the history of Christian and Jewish communities. When genuine, as in the case of Pick’s “textual community” or in the case of the Victorines in Paris, cooperation challenges the narrative of Jews and Christians as distinct cultures in “conversation and conflict.” The key takeaway from this paper for my dissertation is that we are better served to approach the history of Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages from an organic model of culture rather than who influenced whom, to borrow from David Biale and Michael Satlow. I admire the way in which Pick focuses on people and their agency and how comfortable she was with admitting that sometimes, as in the case of Michael Scot’s identity, one has to rely on somewhat circumstantial evidence. As medievalists, we do not always find “the silver bullet”; we are dealing with people and sources that existed nearly two thousand years ago. Even the most refined sleuths sometimes build cases on indirect evidence. If we wanted simple, straightforward, direct evidence, we would be statisticians or, worse still, modern historians.

I found that the interdisciplinary, multi-lingual approach in Pick’s presentation fit very well with the remit of the OMS and with our own identity as medieval historians. In Professor Pick’s words, “life is best viewed through more than one window.”

Pick reminded the audience that.

“It has been corrected from my own book. I am Moses son of Rabbi Maimon, the Righteous, of Blessed Memory”
Egypt, 1170–80
Handwritten in ink on paper
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Huntington 80

Conference Report: Hyggnaþing

by Natasha Bradley

Hyggnaþing (‘Meeting of Minds’): A Graduate Conference in Old Norse Studies took place on the 11th of August 2021. A brand-new conference co-organised by Natasha Bradley, a DPhil student at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Ben Chennells, a PhD student at University College London, Hyggnaþing attracted speakers and attendees from across the globe for a one-day online conference exploring all things Old Norse.

Hyggnaþing was created in response to the isolation that has impacted everyone over this past year and a half. With constant lockdowns, library closures, and restrictions on events, postgraduate study has become even more challenging and isolating, with fewer opportunities for students to engage with the academic community. Hyggnaþing was created with connection in mind, providing a virtual space to build networks and share research in a welcoming environment. For this, Hyggnaþing made use of both Zoom and Wonder, a platform which simulates the experience of an in-person meeting and allows for online ‘mingling’.

After some opening remarks from the organisers, the conference began with a panel on the significance of space in saga literature, chaired by Oxford’s own Olivia Elliott Smith. The first paper was by Grace O’Duffy (University of Cambridge), whose paper explored the development of Hǫttr from Hrólf saga kraka, as he progresses from the bone-pile to a masculine ‘ideal’. Then Mary O’Connor (University of Oxford) spoke about courtly space in two Old Norse riddarasǫgur: Ívens saga and Erex saga.

After a quick screen break, the second session of the day, chaired by Sigrun Borgen Wik (Trinity College Dublin), began with a paper from Basil Arnould Price (University of York). Basil’s paper explored the idea of failure as resistance in Grettis saga and Gests þáttr using queer theory. This was followed by a paper from Caroline Bourne (University of Reading), which reassessed the relationship between Scandinavians and the Gower peninsula in South Wales from the tenth century. The panel was concluded with a paper by Giorgia Sottotetti (Háskóli Íslands), who examined small figurines or ‘pocket-idols’ from Iron Age Scandinavia and analysed how they reflect the religious, social, and political changes within the period.

After lunch, Hyggnaþing resumed with a panel on translation, chaired by the co-organiser Natasha Bradley. The first paper, by Katrín Lísa L. Mikaelsdóttir (Háskóli Íslands), analysed the presence of Norwegianisms in medieval Icelandic manuscripts and how their use changes over time. The second paper of the panel was by Davide Salmoiraghi (University of Cambridge). Davide looked at the reception of the Church Fathers in medieval Iceland, examining the spread of the saints’ cult and its influence on the Norse hagiographies. Luthien Cangemi (University College London) concluded the translation panel with her paper on the transition from the concept of Medicina to Physica in Old Norse sources.

Then followed the mid-afternoon virtual coffee break on Wonder. This allowed attendees to mingle together to get to know each other, moving between groups of people to talk. Some attendees continued their discussions about the conference in a more informal setting, and others struck up new discussions about postgraduate life and their own research.

The final panel of the day was chaired by the conference co-organiser Ben Chennells. It explored the receptions and re-castings of Old Norse literature. The first paper, by Grace Khuri (University of Oxford), examined the Victorian novel Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard and its use of Old Norse saga sources. Richard Munro of the University of the Highlands and Islands then presented about how to perform an eddic poem.

The keynote lecture, delivered by Dr Sarah Baccianti, a British Academy Newton International Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, discussed the Old Norse medical charms and healing practices. Exploring material culture and saga literature, Baccianti’s interdisciplinary paper called for a re-evaluation of the distinction between our modern concepts of magic and medicine. The keynote was followed, as with all the panels, by an engaging discussion. An evening social hosted on Wonder concluded the conference.

Hyggnaþing hosted ten speakers, four chairs, and a keynote lecturer, all of whom joined the conference from nine different institutions across the UK and beyond. Seventy-five guests registered to attend, with audience members joining from locations across the globe, from the United States to Australia, to ask questions and make comments that sparked engaging academic discussion. New connections were forged on Wonder and Zoom alike, and the organisers hope that these will be long-lived.

Hyggnaþing is incredibly grateful to Oxford Medieval Studies (OMS), sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) for the funding to cover the costs of the conference. This allowed the registration for the conference to be completely free of charge, creating an accessible and welcoming conference for attendees and helping to foster the thriving academic community, and ‘meeting of minds’, that came together for Hyggnaþing. For more information about the conference, see the Hyggnaþing website:

Call for Papers: Oxford University Numismatic Society Graduate and ECR Colloquium 2021 (Tuesday 30th November 2021)

Oxford University Numismatic Society is delighted to announce its call for papers for an online colloquium on the afternoon of Tuesday 30th November 2021. This virtual event held over MS Teams will aim to explore various aspects of base metal coinage(s) and the motives behind its production. We invite contributions from postgraduate students and ECR researchers from any institution on any period or coinage. We hope to welcome three speakers to deliver talks of 30 minutes each (with additional time for questions and responses). Topics might include:

  • Political messages on base metal coinages
  • Fiduciary money and fiduciarity
  • The circulation and quantification of base metal coinage
  • Social and cultural aspects of base metal coinage and money
  • Hoards and/or base metal coins in their archaeological contexts
  • History of collections and base metal coins
  • Fakes and plated coins
  • Money and medallions in base metals

Abstracts of no more than 400 words (excluding a short bibliography) should be sent to for consideration by the organising committee by Monday 20th September 2021. Speakers will be contacted shortly thereafter. If you have any further questions, please contact the Secretary by email at

(7-8 January 2022) Identity Abroad in Central and Late Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (Cambridge(venue TBC))

*Keynote Speakers: Prof. Miri Rubin (Queen Mary University, London); Prof. Roser Salicrú i Lluch (Institució Milà i Fontanals,CSIC,Barcelona); Prof. Teresa Shawcross (Princeton University)

Life in the central and late Middle Ages was characterised by high levels of mobility and migration. Shifts in political, economic, cultural and religious life encouraged and sometimes forced individuals and groups to move ‘abroad’ permanently or temporarily, to places nearby or further afield.

The position and impact of these ‘foreigners’in societieshas been widely discussed. However, what isless consideredis how theyunderstood and (re)presented themselves. Ourconference aimsto explorethe construction, expression, and practical significance of different forms of social identity among individuals and groups living ‘abroad’ in Europe and the Mediterranean in the period between the eleventh andfifteenth centuries.

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from graduate and early career researchers working across all relevant disciplinesin the Humanities and Social Sciences. By bringing together a variety of different perspectives, the conference not only aims to consider how ‘identity abroad’ functioned in specific contexts, but also to emphasise developments, patterns, and divergences. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

• Individuals and groups living ‘abroad’, such as merchants, artisans, pilgrims, scholars, diplomats, soldiers, exiles, ethnic and religious minorities, and captives and enslaved people

• Voluntary orforced, temporary orpermanentmigration

•Importance of political allegiance, language, cultural heritage, and faith in identity construction

•Means of identity expression, such as writtenproduction and material culture

•Relations between different ‘foreign’ individuals and groups

• Interaction and assimilation/resistance to assimilation with ‘local’ populations, institutions, and rulers •Impact of gender, socio-economic background, and other types of differences

• Theoretical explorations of the concepts of ‘identity’, ‘foreignness’, and ‘abroad’ in the Middle Ages

Abstracts of 250 words and a short biographical note should be sent to by 12 September 2021. For more information, visit and follow @identityabroad on Twitter.

Workshop: Oxford Medieval Commentary Network

Saturday, 9 October 2021, Christ Church, Oxford

Sign-ups for the workshop are now open. Sign-up closes 15 July 2021.

Sign-up form

The first workshop and initial meeting of the Medieval Commentary Network will take place at Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 October 2021, from 9am – 5pm. A buffet lunch will be provided. The workshop is free of charge for all participants.
This will take place as an in-person workshop (unless government regulations change). Unfortunately we are unable to live-stream the event, but we are hoping to make recordings of some talks available online after the event (subject to speaker approval).

Speakers include Alastair Minnis, Andrew Kraebel, Edit Lukacs, Audrey Southgate, Elizabeth Doherty, Malena Ratzke, Zachary Guiliano, Bond West, Rachel Cresswell, and others. The full conference programme will be available at by the end of July.

We recognise that the current situation brings with it a great deal of uncertainty regarding travel; if you find you are no longer able to attend, please let us know as soon as possible.

Please email with any questions and for further information.

CALL FOR PAPERS (archived version; CfP now closed)

Manuscript journeys: from German lands to digital libraries

About the event

This event marks the completion of a three-year digitization project delivered by the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford and the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbuttel. The ‘Manuscripts from German-Speaking Lands’ project, funded by The Polonsky Foundation, has digitized hundreds of medieval manuscripts from collections at The Herzog August Bibliothek and the Bodleian and made these freely available online to scholars and the public.

The panel discussion will explore the journey of these manuscript collections from their origins in the religious houses of medieval Germany, their acquisition by the libraries in Wolfenbüttel and Oxford and their digitization and publication online.


Richard Ovenden OBE, Bodley’s Librarian

Julia Gross, Chargé d’ Affaires a.i. of the German Embassy London

Marc Polonsky, The Polonsky Foundation

Peter Burschel, Herzog August Bibliothek

Henrike Lähnemann, University of Oxford

Joanna Story, University of Leicester

Booking information

When you have booked your place, the ticketing system will send you an automated confirmation.

A link to access the online event will be sent by the morning of the event to the email address associated with your booking.

See our project website for more information about the project and to see the digitized collections.

Oxford Medieval Studies Pilgrimage Day 2019

On Saturday the 9th of March, thirty-one pilgrims (and one canine pilgrim companion) met at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon, ready to walk the twelve miles to Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. Much like the Canterbury Tales, our party was diverse; there were students from across the UK and across disciplines and stages, porters, academics from far and wide and members of the public (one of which who had run a half marathon the very same morning). As a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beliefs) pilgrimage, there were also a range of reasons for pilgrimaging present among our group. This was the start of the Oxford Medieval Studies Pilgrimage Day 2019, a day that would engage with the practice, literature, history and revitalisation of medieval pilgrimage.

At St Helen’s we handed out pilgrim badge replicas, kindly funded by the Oxford Pilgrimage Studies Network, to each of our pilgrims. Beautifully recreated in pewter by Lionheart Replicas, the original badge dated from the fifteenth century and depicted two pilgrims, one male and one female, ready to set out on their walk. After some quick ground rules, some advice for how to make the most of a pilgrimage and a rousing reading of the opening lines to the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from Rebecca, we set off on our journey.

 Although the preceding week had been plagued with rain and wind, the day was miraculously sunny with only the occasional gusty spell, the perfect walking weather. Our next stopping point was only five minutes away: the Abingdon Abbey buildings. The curator of the buildings, Tim Miller, led us around the surviving buildings of the Benedictine Abbey, including Unicorn Theatre, the Long Gallery and the Chequer. Tim was an excellent guide for us, bringing the stories of the abbey and its uses to life and showing us the most impressive parts of the building, such as the beautifully painted remains of a Tudor room partition decorated with roses and pomegranates.

After leaving Tim, we then had a long walk ahead of us. We walked through the grounds of Radley College and across the countryside until we reached the picture-perfect village of Sunningwell and its church, St Leonard’s, at just past midday. This was our lunch stop, many of the pilgrims pausing to eat their packed lunch in the sunny grounds of the church or enjoying some hot chips and a pint at the local pub. This church is now mostly fifteenth century, but the village and its association with Abingdon abbey traces back far further. It also features a stunning seven-sided porch at its entrance, the victorian stained glass of which was designed by J.P. Seddon.

We then moved off again, quickly looking at the well after which the village took its name. The landscape was a little steeper as we climbed Boar’s Hill, but the view on the descent of Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ was worth it, and we then arrived at St Lawrence’s Church in South Hinksey. Father Ben Drury kindly gave us an history of the church and pointed out the distinctive minstrel’s gallery and the little private window for viewing mass.

We then set off on the last part of our walk, trekking over the train lines and the river, then through the outskirts of the city to Christ Church Cathedral – our pilgrims had made it home! We rounded off the walk with Rebecca reading from the Book of Margery Kempe, a moving passage describing how she reaches the English shore after a stormy passage, before our pilgrims dispersed for a well-earned rest.

The last order of the day was a talk from Dr Guy Hayward, co-founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust, at St John’s College. Guy talked about his experience of pilgrimage, its history and how he is working to revive the practice in the UK – the perfect reflective end to the day with the lasting message that we should all work to bring pilgrimage back. If you would like to walk a pilgrimage to Oxford, we encourage you to check out the BPT website and let us know how you get on!

Some feedback from our pilgrims:

‘Talking with people about their different life experiences was enlightening’

‘I think it was great. The highlight for me was doing a journey together with people from different walks of life.’

‘Well co-ordinated, well supported, very friendly. Had a lovely day. One to remember.’

‘Really enjoyed it, would love to do more’

We would like to say thank you to the OMS Small Grant at TORCH for their support, and that of the Oxford Studies Pilgrimage Network. We would also like to say a special thank you to Guy Hayward, Tim Miller, Fr Ben Drury and Robert Culshaw for helping the smooth running of the day, and, of course, our brilliant pilgrims.

By Eleanor Baker (1st year DPhil Medieval Literature and Rebecca Menmuir (2nd year DPhil Medieval Literature

Image gallery:


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Mortimer History Society Essay Prize 2021

The Mortimer History Society is proud to announce in 2021 the sixth round of its annual essay prize

With the continued difficult circumstances, the scope of the prize has once again been extended. This year, essays will be accepted on:

✓ Any aspect relating to the history, geopolitics, topography, laws, economy, society and culture of medieval borderlands, including comparative studies, between 1066-1542, or:

✓ Any aspect of the medieval Mortimer family of Wigmore including its cadet branches and its impact on the history and culture of the British Isles

The prize

✓ first prize £750, runner-up prize £300, third-place £200

The conditions

✓ the essay must contain original research not published previously elsewhere and the prize is open to everyone who can meet the assessment criteria

The chair of the judging panel

✓ Emeritus Professor Chris Given-Wilson, University of St. Andrews

The closing date

✓ essays must be submitted by 1st March 2022


✓ prizewinning essays will be published in The Mortimer History Society Journal as may other commended entries

Click here for more details about the prize
Click here to see the rules of the competition
Click here for full details & conditions

Invitation to research staff to write a blog for the University Bulletin

The Public Affairs Directorate (PAD) would like to hear from research staff who would be interested in writing a blog for publication with the University Bulletin. This is a fabulous opportunity for research staff to give insight into their area from their perspective.

Those interested in writing a blog should contact Rakiya Farah, PAD. Rakiya will need a one-line description of the subject of the proposed blog and an indicative time line that would work for the researcher.

About the blog: We send out a weekly blog with University Bulletin, usually written by a senior member of staff. Several hundred staff read it every week and we are now keen to ensure that our colleagues hear from a broader range of staff at Oxford.

We’d particularly like to profile more Early Career Researchers in the blog to give more visibility to their work, and because research stories are consistently among the most popular articles we share in the Bulletin.

With this in mind, we would like to invite you to write one of our blogs. This would be a platform to describe your work to a (predominantly) uninitiated audience, to reflect on your experiences as a researcher, your motivations, and to share your perspective on research at Oxford.

The brief: • Informal, personal style and tone 
• A reflective piece that gives staff some insight into your area – we tend not to use the blog as a place for formal announcements 
• Content: a guiding question, when writing your blog, might be good to think about what staff across the University would find most interesting about your work and experiences 
• Around 250 words, but can be longer – they can be up to 450 
• Deadline: end of Thursday preceding the Monday edition – unless you are drafting a blog not for inclusion on a set date 
• We are finding that staff are really responding to this style and have been asking to hear from a wider range of staff.

Examples are available online, including these from July 2020 and October 2020 respectively.

Timing: We would welcome a blog that you draft at your leisure, which we can slot in as appropriate. But if you had a particular week in mind, we could also pencil this in provisionally. All of our blogs are subject to final approval by the Vice-Chancellor.

A great example for a suitable blog post is this short article about anchorites by Godelinde Gertrude Perk