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In 1941, Lucien Febvre called on scholars to place emotions at the very centre of their work; until they did so, he famously insisted, ‘there will be no real history possible’. Today, the history of emotions proceeds at a lightning pace, sustained by the establishment of dedicated journals, book series, societies, and research centres. This ‘affective turn’ has seen the emergence of new methodologies and the destruction of old ones; attempts to chart emotional continuities and changes over the longue durée; and a widening of geographic scope beyond western Europe. Medievalists have played a crucial role in these developments, with Gerd Althoff, Barbara Rosenwein, Piroska Nagy, Damien Bouquet, Stephen White, and Sarah McNamer, among many others, making important methodological interventions.

Nevertheless, the field now finds itself at a crucial juncture: scholars need to decide upon the most pressing research questions to be addressed, and thus the contours along which the field should develop. Launched in 2022, the Society for the Study of Medieval Emotions (SSME) provides a framework to do this work and already has nearly 200 members. It is open to researchers from all disciplines, working on any geographic area, for a foundational belief behind SSME is that the history of emotions has a more diverse and prominent role to play in medieval studies, beyond the dominant focus on recovering past emotional experiences or values (which, of course, remains an important line of enquiry). By bringing together postgraduates, early career scholars, and established academics from around the world, SSME organises a series of events in a bid to showcase new research in the field, pave the way for its development, and provide a network of communication for those interested in medieval emotions.




Dr Hailey O'Harrow obtained a BA in English Literature from Portland State University (2013). Under the exceptional tutelage of the University’s sole medieval history professor, she acquired both a minor in Medieval Studies, as well as an enthusiasm for analysing the emotions present in medieval sources. Indeed, her analysis of the terrifically violent and profoundly passionate tale of Raoul de Cambrai is largely to praise – or to blame – for Hailey’s interest in the History of Emotions field. This interest led her to the University of York, where she completed her MA (2015) on the display of emotional expression in chanson de geste and romance literatures of the High Middle Ages; and then onward to the University of St Andrews, where she completed her PhD in 2023 on the shared networks of affectivity and emotional patterns found in chanson de geste and monastic sources of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. 


Hailey is currently working on two projects: one of these examines the interconnectivity of the emotional and liturgical language found in monastic death rituals and chanson de geste sources; the second involves analysing a variety of medieval literatures to answer the question of whether genre can determine the presence and extent of emotional language within texts.


Dr Stephen J. Spencer holds a BA in History and MA in Islam and the West from Queen Mary University of London, where he also completed his PhD. Stephen is currently an Assistant Professor in Medieval History at Northeastern University London, having previously held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2019–23) at King’s College London and a Past & Present Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017–19) at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London. His first book, Emotions in a Crusading Context, 1095–1291, appeared with Oxford University Press in 2019 (paperback 2023) and won the Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East’s Ronnie Ellenblum Best First Book Award 2022. He has also published several shorter pieces on that theme, including an article on representations of Richard the Lionheart’s anger in The English Historical Review (2017), another on the emotional content of Odo of Deuil’s De profectione Ludovici VII in Orientem in Historical Research (2019), and a forthcoming article in Viator, entitled ‘“Intimate Scripts” in the Chanson de Jérusalem: Another Approach to Crusader Motivation’.

Stephen Spencer.JPG


Dr Ana del Campo obtained her BA and MA at the University of Saragossa (Spain), where she also completed her PhD in 2010 on the topic of the lived experiences of death in the second half of the fourteenth century. She defines herself as a cultural historian with a keen interest in the history of emotions. Said interest was sparked by her very own thesis, as she understood then the potential of studying the emotions related to death. This took her to Yale University, where she worked on a project on mourning as a postdoctoral Fullbright researcher for two years (2012-2013). In 2014 Ana became a lecturer at the University of St Andrews (Scotland, United Kingdom). There she teaches one of the very few dedicated courses to the history of emotions worldwide, Senses and Feelings in the Later Middle Ages.

Broadly speaking, Ana’s research gravitates around the emotions of sorrow, anger and joy. She is particularly interested in the cultural meanings of emotion-loaded rituals and ceremonies, as well as their social and political roles. Her research focuses on the Iberian Peninsula, particularly the Crown of Aragon, between the thirteenth and the fifteenth century.


Membership of SSME is free! To become a member, please fill out a membership form. You will be added to our email distribution list. 

For any society related queries, please contact




May 31 - June 1 2022 - University of St Andrews

Call for Papers



Emotions & Law

Call for Papers


The Emotions of Medieval Crises

Call for Papers

Confirmed Sessions

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