Dr Sophie Therese AmblerReader in Medieval History
I am Reader in Medieval History, Deputy Director of the Centre for War and Diplomacy, and a Research Fellow at The Ruskin. My research explores political ethics and war in the central and later Middle Ages. This includes books on bishops in the political community of thirteenth-century England and on Simon de Montfort (d.1265), who led a campaign to seize power from the king and establish conciliar government. My new research, supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, explores the experiences, cultures and responsibilities of low-status combatants. I enjoy writing for and speaking to a broad public audience, whether through talks or TV, radio and print. In Michaelmas Term 2022, I was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford.
My interest spans the central and later Middle Ages in the Atlantic Archipelago and across Christendom, with my research focusing on political ethics and war. My early work explored the role of bishops in rebellion and revolution in thirteenth-century England, looking at the interaction of political thought and action in the age of Magna Carta and the Montfortian revolution. My first monograph, Bishops in the Political Community of England, 1213–1272, was published with OUP in January 2017. My second book was about Simon de Montfort earl of Leicester (d.1265), who seized power from King Henry III and established a council to govern with the help of parliament: England's first revolution. Simon amassed a vast popular following, many of whom died with him at the Battle of Evesham fighting as avowed crusaders. The Song of Simon de Montfort: England's First Revolutionary and the Death of Chivalry was published by Picador in May 2019 in the UK and Commonwealth, with publication in the USA following with OUP in September 2019. My new research, supported by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, uses a diverse source base to explore the experiences and cultures of low-status combatants in the later Middle Ages, as well as the shifting patterns of thought concerned with their responsibilities in conflict. More broadly, and through the Centre for War and Diplomacy at Lancaster, I am interested in combining insights and approaches from work on other historical periods and from other disciplines in the study of war and warfare. In 2022-23, I co-edited (with Dr Thomas Mills at Lancaster) a special issue of the International Journal of Military History and Historigraphy on 'New Perspectives on the Falklands War.'
I joined Lancaster in 2017; previously I was at the University of East Anglia, where I was a researcher on the AHRC's Magna Carta Project, and from 2012-13 I was a researcher on the People of Northern England databse 1216-1286, part of the AHRC's Breaking of Britain project, which explored the period leading up to the Scottish Wars of Independence. I undertook my PhD at King's College London with joint supervision at University College London, and was Thornley Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. I'm a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and secretary of the Pipe Roll Society, and enjoy writing for and speaking to a broader public audience, whether through talks or TV, radio and print.
I am currently working on four projects.
- My major ongoing project investigates the experiences of low-status combatants in the later Middle Ages, and shifting patterns of thought concerning personal responsibility in conflict. Funded by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, it incorporates extensive new archival research and investigation of conflict landscapes. It will lead to a new book, with preliminary articles and chapters appearing in 2023-24 (see 'Current Research', below).
- Lowther Medieval Castle and Village is an archaeological and archival investigation of the origins and biography of the medieval castle and attached settlement at Lowther in Cumbria, which potentially date to the eleventh or twelfth century – a transformative but little-documented era in Cumbria's past. The project is funded by the Castle Studies Trust and brings together Lancaster University, Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust, UCLan, and Allen Archaeology.
- Archives of the Borderlands, with Prof Fiona Edmonds at Lancaster, investigates the extensive medieval archives of three houses on the Anglo-Scottish border: Alnwick, Howard and Lowther. It is funded by the Friends of the Cumbria Archive Service.
- 'The Records of the Medieval Duchy of Lancaster' investigates the medieval origins of the Duchy of Lancaster, and is a collaboration involving the University of Lincoln, Lancaster University (including its Regional Heritage Centre), the University of Cambridge and The National Archives (UK). It incorporates two projects at Lancaster (with Fiona Edmonds): ‘The Duchy of Lancaster’s Lancashire Records, 1267-1348’, funded by the Society of Antiquaries of London, and ‘Settlement and Landscape in Medieval Lancashire: The Records of the Forest Justice’, funded by the Medieval Settlement Research Group.
Publications forthcoming in 2023-24 include:
- S.T. Ambler, 'The Dark Trophies of Evesham, the Northumbrian Cult of Simon de Montfort, and the War of the Welsh Marches (1264-5)', accepted by English Historical Review, for publication in 2023-24.
- S.T. Ambler, 'The Common Law and Civil War in Fourteenth-Century England: The Prosecution of Treason and Rebellion under Edward II, 1322-1326', accepted by The Journal of Legal History, for publication in 2024.
- S.T. Ambler, 'Latin Christendom in the Later Middle Ages, c.1000-1500' in Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Beatrice Heuser (eds.), The Cambridge History of Strategy Volume I, for publication in 2023-24.
Channel 4: Bone Detectives: Britain's Buried Secrets (S1E3: A Hampshire Cemetery)
History Hit: Rebellion in the North (Ep1, 'The Harrying of the North')
Channel 4: Walking Through History (S4E5, 'King John's Ruin')
BBC Radio 4's In Our Time: The Second Barons' War
BBC History Extra podcast: 'Simon de Montfort's Medieval Revolution'
Cabinet Office podcast with Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, 'Why Parliament Works'
BBC History Weekend: 'Simon de Montfort and England's First Revolution'
Rex Factor podcast (extended discussion): Simon de Montfort
Herstory Club: Interview (June 2021)
- Co-convenor of the Late Medieval Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research.
- Secretary of the Pipe Roll Society.
- Trustee of Lowther Castle and Gardens Trust.
- Member of the AHRC-funded research network Noblesse Oblige? 'Barons' and the Public Good in Medieval Afro-Eurasia.
- Member of Steering Committee, Northern Network for the Study of the Crusades.
I am not teaching 2021-24, whilst on research leave. Modules 'From Rebellion to Revolution: The War for the Throne, 1199-1265' (HIST316) and 'Warfare in the Medieval World, 1100-1500' (HIST444) will, however, still be offered in the Department of History during this period.
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
PhD Supervision Interests
I would welcome enquiries from students interested in military, political and intellectual history in the central and later Middle Ages, and specifically in the area of political thought and action, war and warfare, and the Church, including topics that cut across these topics, such as the role of religion and ethics in war.
The Duchy of Lancaster’s Lancashire records, 1267-1348
01/11/2021 → 31/12/2021
A social and cultural history of low status combatants in western Europe, c.1200-1400
01/09/2021 → 01/09/2024
Settlement and Landscape in Medieval Lancashire: the Records of the Forest Justice
01/07/2021 → 30/04/2023
- Centre for War and Diplomacy