Medieval specialist Catherine Clarke to lead new IHR research centre

Catherine Clarke, Professor of English at the University of Southampton, has been named Chair in the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR). She takes up her new role in February 2019.

Professor Catherine Clarke
Professor Catherine Clarke, has been named Chair in the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research; effective February 2019.

She will head up a new research centre that will draw on the expertise and interests of the IHR’s staff and its flagship projects within the Centre for Metropolitan History and Victoria County History. Its role is to develop research, training and public engagement activities that demonstrate the scholarly value of the history of people, place and community. The centre is part of a major transformation at the institute that will culminate in its 2021 centenary celebrations. 

The IHR, part of the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, is a world-renowned resource and meeting place for researchers. Its mission is to provide leadership among the historical community and promote the study of history and an appreciation of the importance of the past to academics and the public. 

The new professorship will be critical in its plans to create a dynamic and innovative research centre to shape the discipline more broadly and rethink existing methodologies. In collaboration with colleagues at IHR Digital, there will be scope to generate new and unique digital history resources that will support the IHR’s digital publishing and research innovation plans.

Professor Clarke, a specialist in medieval literature and culture, said: 'I'm so excited to take up this new chair, and to join the community of brilliant researchers at the IHR. Our new Centre for the History of People, Place and Community will be a unique opportunity to shape innovative, transformative scholarship in the field, and also to reach out beyond the academy to forge connections and drive transformations in places and communities today.'

Much of her research explores intersections between place, power and identity in the medieval period, as well as uses of the medieval past in later centuries, and she has led several major AHRC-funded projects on medieval places and their interpretation today. Her most recent is developing ‘The St Thomas Way’: a new heritage route from Swansea to Hereford – research inspired by a real medieval pilgrimage.

Her research takes her to all kinds of fascinating places: from hunting for Norman relics in Winchester for Channel 4’s Britain’s Most Historic Towns, to exploring devotional practices in Ethiopia, to getting muddy in the Welsh Marches walking medieval pilgrim routes. She is currently academic director of CARMEN: The Worldwide Medieval Network and programme coordinator for Anglo-Saxon Studies at the annual Leeds International Medieval Congress.
Much of Professor Clarke’s work is collaborative and interdisciplinary, and involves digital methodologies and creative practice, as well as partnerships beyond academia. Her latest book (forthcoming 2019) is on Medieval Cityscapes Today, and she is editor of Places and Spaces: Medieval to Modern, a series of publications exploring the material and imagined landscapes, environments and locales through which people in the Middle Ages engaged with each other and their surroundings.

'I am thrilled that Catherine is joining the IHR as Chair in the History of People, Place and Community,’ said IHR Director, Professor Jo Fox:  

Catherine has exciting ideas and is especially eloquent on how to bring our long-standing expertise in urban environments and local history together. She is dynamic and creative, and we are very much looking forward to working with her as the IHR sets out on a new strategy taking us to our centenary in 2021 and beyond.