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Professor John H. Arnold

Professor John H.  Arnold

Professor of Medieval History

King's College
Cambridge CB2 1ST
Office Phone: 01223 331482


John Arnold studied at the University of York, gaining a BA in History, and a D.Phil. in Medieval Studies. He worked at the University of East Anglia, then moved to Birkbeck, University of London, in 2001, until his election to the professorship of medieval history at Cambridge in 2016. He has been lead editor of the journal Cultural and Social History, is on the editorial board of the journal Past & Present, and co-edits several publication series: Genders and Sexualities in History (Palgrave Macmillan), Heresy and Inquisition in the Middle Ages (York Medieval Press), and Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (OUP). 

Subject groups/Research projects

Ancient and Medieval History:

Departments and Institutes

King's College:

Research Interests

Medieval religion and culture, particularly the religious culture of the many rather than the few. Heresy and inquisition. Popular politics in the pre-modern era. Gender and sexuality. Modern historiography and theory. 

I am currently working on a monograph on the making of lay religion in southern France, c. 1000-1350

Research Supervision

I am happy to consider requests to supervise doctoral theses on various areas of medieval history post-1000, having particular archival expertise for southern France and England, but with interests in religious, social and cultural history that cover all of medieval Europe. 


I lecture mainly for paper 14 (Europe c.950 -1450) and for History and Practice. I offer a Special Subject on heresy, inquisition and society in southern France (c. 1150-1320). I also teach across the M.Phil. Medieval History, and will be pleased to hear from prospective applicants to that programme.

Other Professional Activities

Video of inaugural lecture (2 February 2018) 'Believing in Medieval Belief: Gibbon, Latour and What We Do With Religion' at

Key Publications


History after Hobsbawm: Writing the Past for the Twenty-First Century, co-edited with Matthew Hilton and Jan Rüger (Oxford University Press, 2018)

Heresy and Inquisition in France, c. 1200-c. 1300, co-edited with Peter Biller; Manchester Medieval Sources series (Manchester University Press, February 2015)

Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity, edited volume (OUP, 2014)

What is Masculinity? Historical Perspectives and Arguments, co-edited with Sean Brady (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

What is Medieval History? (Polity, 2008)

Belief and Unbelief in the Middle Ages (Bloomsbury, 2005)

A Companion to the Book of Margery Kempe, co-ed. with K. J. Lewis (D. S. Brewer, 2004)

Inquisition and Power: Catharism and the Confessing Subject in Medieval Languedoc (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)

History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2000)

History and Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture, co-edited with Kate Davies and Simon Ditchfield (Donhead, 1998)

Other Publications

Articles and Chapters

'Voicing Dissent: Heresy Trials in Later Medieval England', Past & Present (Nov 2019), 1-36

'Dissent and Orthodoxy', in I. Johnson, ed., Geoffrey Chaucer in Context (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2019)

 'Sexualité et déshonneur dans le Midi (XIIIe-XIVe siecles): Les péchés de la chair et l’opinion collective', in J. Théry-Astruc, ed., L'Eglise et la chair (XII-XVe siècles), Cahiers de Fanjeaux 52 (Privat, forthcoming 2019)

'Benedict of Alignan's Tractatus fidei contra diversos errores: A Neglected anti-Heresy Treatise', Journal of Medieval History 45 (2019): 20-54

'Problems of Sensory History and the Medieval Laity', in R. MacDonald, E. K. M. Murphy and E. L. Swann, eds, Sensing the Sacred in Medieval and Early Modern Culture (Routledge, 2018), pp. 19-38

'Belief and the Senses for the Medieval Laity', in E. Palazzo, ed., Les cinq sens au Moyen Age (CERF,  2016)

 'The Cathar Middle Ages as a Methodological and Historiographical Problem', in A. Sennis, ed., Cathars in Question (York Medieval Press/Boydell,  2016)

 'Introduction: A History of Christianity', and 'Histories and Historiographies of Medieval Christianity', in J. H. Arnold, ed., Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity (OUP, 2014), 1-41

'Gender and Heresy', in J. M. Bennett and R. M. Karras, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Women and Gender (OUP, 2013), 496-509

'Catholic Reformations: A Medieval Perspective', in A. Bamji, G. Janssen and M. Laven, eds, The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter Reformation (Ashgate, 2013), 419-34

'Resounding Community: The History and Meaning of Medieval Church Bells', Viator 43 (2012) (co-authored with Caroline Goodson), 99-130

'The Materiality of Unbelief in Late Medieval England’, in Sophie Page, ed., The Unorthodox Imagination in Medieval England (Manchester University Press, 2010), 65-95

‘Archivi Franci’, ‘Archivi Inghilterra’, ‘Inquisizione medievale’, ‘Storiografia’ and various other contributions, to Dizionario storico dell’Inquisizione, ed. Adriano Prosperi and John Tedeschi (Edizioni della Normale di Pisa, 2010)

‘Inside and Outside the Medieval Laity; Reflections on the History of Emotions’, in Miri Rubin, ed., European Religious Cultures: Essays offered to Christopher Brooke (IHR, 2009), 107-30

‘Repression and Power’, in Miri Rubin and Walter Simons, eds, Christianity in Western Europe c. 1100-c. 1500, Cambridge History of Christianity vol. 4 (Cambridge University Press, 2009), 355-71

‘Gender and Sexuality’, in Carol Lansing and Ed English, eds, The Blackwell Companion to Medieval Europe (Blackwell, 2009), 161-84

‘Religion and Popular Rebellion, from the Capuciati (1182/3) to Niklashausen (1476)’, Cultural and Social History 6 (2009), 149-69

'Doomed or Disinterested? Did all medieval people believe in God?', BBC History Magazine (January 2009), 38-43

'Responses to the Postmodern Challenge; or, What Might History Become?', European History Quarterly 37 (2007), 109-32

'"What's Past is Prologue": Historical Causation and Agency in Ken MacLeod's The Star Fraction and The Stone Canal', Foundation 93 (2005), 132-41

'The Labour of Continence: Masculinity and Clerical Virginity', in A. Bernau, R. Evans and S. Salih, eds, Medieval Virginities (University of Wales Press, 2003), 102-118

'"A man takes an ox by the horn and a peasant by the tongue": Literacy, Orality and Inquisition in Medieval Languedoc', in S. Rees-Jones, ed., Literacy and Learning in Medieval England and Abroad (Brepols, 2003), 31-47

'"Nothing is Written": Politics, Ideology and the Burden of History in the Fall Revolution Quartet', in A. M. Butler and F. Mendlesohn, eds, The True Knowledge of Ken MacLeod (SF Foundation, 2003), co-authored with Andy Wood

'Inquisition, Texts and Discourse', in P. Biller and C. Bruschi, eds, Texts and the Repression of Medieval Heresy (York Medieval Press/Boydell, 2003), 63-80

'Lollard Trials and Inquisitorial Discourse', Fourteenth-Century England II (2002), 81-94

'Nasty Histories: Medievalism and Horror', in J. Arnold, K. Davies and S. Ditchfield, eds, History and Heritage: Consuming the Past in Contemporary Culture (Donhead, 1998), pp. 39-48

'The Preaching of the Cathars', in C. Muessig, ed., Medieval Monastic Preaching (Brill, 1998), 183-205

'The Historian as Inquisitor: The Ethics of Interrogating Subaltern Voices', Rethinking History 2 (1998), 379-86