Professor Carl Watkins

Professor of British History
Dr Carl Watkins

Carl Watkins carries out research into religious culture in the central and later middle ages and is especially interested in beliefs about, and conceptualisations of, the supernatural in this period. His work encompasses the methodological problems of studying medieval religion,'high' theological change and 'popular' beliefs about the afterlife and ghosts, angels and demons, miracles and divine signs. He has written about concepts of sinfulness and the emergence of purgatory, has completed a book for Cambridge University Press which explores beliefs about the supernatural in a medieval English context and has, more recently, explored beliefs about the dead during the middle ages and beyond in a wider-ranging book published by Bodley Head. He is a fellow of Magdalene College where he directs studies in history.

Carl Watkins supervises M.Phil and PhD students in British and western European religious and political history of the central and later middle ages.

Teaching interests span British political, religious and social history from c.1000 to c.1500 and European history from c.900-1250.


Tags & Themes


Magdalene College
Cambridge CB3 0AG


Key Publications

  • Sin, Penance and Purgatory in the Anglo-Norman Realm: the evidence of visions and ghost stories', Past and Present (2002).
  • History and the Supernatural in Medieval England, Cambridge University Press (2007).
  • ‘Fascination and Anxiety in Medieval Wonder Stories’, in The Unorthodox Imagination in Late Medieval Britain, ed. S. Page (2010), 45-65.
  • ‘Religion and Belief’ in A Social History of England, 900-1200, ed. Elisabeth van Houts and Julia Crick, Cambridge University Press (2011).
  • ‘Providence, Experience and Doubt in the Middle Ages’, in Fictions of Knowledge: Fact, Evidence, Doubt, ed. S. Mukherji, Y. Batsaki and J.-M. Schramm, Palgrave (2011).
  • 'Landscape and Belief in Anglo-Norman England', Anglo-Norman Studies 35 (2013).
  • The Undiscovered Country: journeys among the dead, Bodley Head (2013).
  • King Stephen, Penguin Monarchs (2015)
  • 'Saints and Martyrs', in The Medieval World, ed. P. Linehan, J. Nelson and M. Costambeys (second edition, 2017).
  • Thirteenth-Century England XVI: Proceedings of the Cambridge Conference 2015, Boydell (2017) (with Andrew Spencer).
  • 'Otherworld Journeys of the Central Middle Ages', in Imagining the Medieval Afterlife, ed. R. Pollard, Cambridge University Press (2020).
  • Thirteenth-Century England XVII: Proceedings of the Cambridge Conference 2017, Boydell (2021) (with Andrew Spencer).