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Dr Mark Philpott

Fellow by Special Election

Senior College Lecturer in History


Welcome to my webpage. At Keble I teach a wide variety of courses in British and European medieval history, and in historiography and historical method. I am also Tutor in Church History at St Stephen's House in Oxford. My research interests centre on the medieval church and especially the effect its teachings (in particular its law) had on people’s lives.

Research Interests

Current Projects

Bearded Women Saints

For some time, I have been working on the cult of a number of bearded women saints. The most famous is St Wilgefortis or Uncumber. She is said to have been a princess in pagan Portugal, who on being converted to Christianity promised to serve God as a virgin. Her still pagan father, however, could not be dissuaded from the marriage he had arranged for her, so Wilgefortis prayed for miraculous deliverance and grew a long beard overnight. Furious with frustration, her father ordered her crucified. This cult of a bearded, crucified woman was widely spread from late medieval times, surviving into living memory although rapid rural change and church reforms seem now to have killed it. At least since Thomas Moore scholars have made great efforts to explain and/or dismiss the myth – as feminine superstition, pagan survival, medieval credulity, iconographical mistake, anorexic case-study, or proto-feminist heroics. None of these explanations seems wholly satisfactory and many have extremely shallow scholarly roots, so I have been trying to clear away misconceptions and provide more valid suggestions.

Lanfranc and Canon Law

I hope soon to prepare an article for the press re-evaluating the current orthodoxy of how the Normans treated the English Church after their conquest of 1066, by exploring the policies and legal authorities of Lanfranc (†1089) the first archbishop of Canterbury after the Conquest. I argue that his contribution has been both underestimated and misunderstood, and attempt to place him firmly back at the centre of affairs.

The Strange Death of William Rufus

In May 2001 I had the privilege of delivering a lecture on this most famous of medieval English royal deaths at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster. I am hoping to publish on this soon.

Recent Publications

  • 'Eadmer, his Archbishops and the English State' in The English State: Essays Presented to James Campbell, ed. J.R. Maddicott and D.M. Palliser (London: Hambledon, 2000)
  • 'Haunting the Middle Ages' in Writing and Fantasy, ed. C. Sullivan and B. White (Harlow: Addison, Wesley and Longman, Crosscurrents, 1999)
  • 'Some Interactions between the English and Irish Churches' in Anglo-Norman Studies, 20 (1998), 187-204
  • '"In primis... omnis humanae prudentiae inscius et expers putaretur": St Anselm's Knowledge of Canon Law' in Anselm, Aosta, Bec and Canterbury, ed. D.E. Luscombe and G.R. Evans (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996)
  • 'Bibliography of F.W. Maitland' in The History of English Law: Centenary Essays on ‘Pollock and Maitland' (Proceedings of the British Academy, 89), ed. J.G. Hudson (Oxford: Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1996)
  • '"De Iniusta Vexacione Willelmi Episcopi" and Canon Law in Anglo-Norman Durham' in Anglo-Norman Durham 1093-1193, ed. D. Rollason, M. Harvey and M. Prestwich (Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 1994)
  • 'Lanfranc’s Canonical Collection and the "Law of the Church"' in Lanfranco di Pavia e l'Europa del Secolo XI, ed. G. D’Onofrio (Rome: Herder, Italia Sacra, 51, 1993)
  • 'Review-article: The History of a Soul: R.W. Southern's "Saint Anselm. A Portrait in a Landscape" (1990)' in Nottingham Medieval Studies, 37 (1993), 127-131

Academic Biography

  • Tutor in Church History, St Stephen's House (2014 - present)
  • Stipendiary Lecturer in History, Worcester College, Oxford (2006 - 2007)
  • Director of Studies in History, Keble College (2003)
  • Fellow by Special Election, Keble College (2000 - present)
  • Senior Tutor, Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, Oxford (1999 - 2013)
  • Senior Lecturer in History, Keble College (1998 - present)
  • Lecturer in Medieval History, Keble College (1997 - 1998)
  • Lecturer in Medieval History, School of Modern History, Queen's University of Belfast (1994)
  • Lecturer in Modern or Medieval History at Worcester, St John's and Brasenose Colleges, Oxford (1994 - 1999)
  • Teaching Lecturer in Modern History, Christ Church, Oxford (1993 - 1994)
  • Part-time Lecturer in Medieval History, Birkbeck College, University of London (1990 - 1991)