Online Conference: ‘Until Death do us Part: Historical Perspectives on Death and those Left Behind, c.1300-c.1900’, Royal Holloway, 15-16 April 2021

Royal Holloway, University of London, will host an online conference on the theme of historical perspectives on the impact death and dying had on those left behind. The keynote speakers for ‘Until Death’ are Professor Julie Marie-Strange (Durham University) and Dr Jessica Barker (Courtauld Institute of Art). The conference will take place on MS Teams on 15-16 April 2021.

The subject of death and commemoration has been well-treated in the historiography of all periods, but its social and psychological impact on individuals close to the deceased has been much less studied. As such, this conference aims to take a multi-disciplinary and cross-period approach to this topic, examining the ways in which the role of death and grief in society have changed over time. Broadly defined, this includes the reactions and responses to death (however it was expressed or experienced) of widows and widowers, orphans, friends, relatives, and wider communities, as well as its social and cultural impact and the sources and material culture which emanated from death.

Registration is free but essential– to register, please follow this link. Follow on Twitter: @RHULdeathconf

Conference Schedule

Thursday 15 April

9:30-9:45 – Introductions

9:45-10:55 – Panel 1: Performing death

  • Dr Dan O’Brien (University of Bath) ‘Like a nightmare that haunts a murderer’s brain’: Imagining funeral workers’ feigned sorrow in eighteenth-century England 
  • Megan Shaw (University of Auckland) ‘Either really or in show’: Performance in the mourning portraits and commissions of Katherine Villiers, Duchess of Buckingham 
  • Dr Antonio Chemotti (Villa I Tatti – The Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies) Music and Emotion in post-Tridentine Liturgies for the Dead 

10:55-11:15 – Break

11:15-12:35 – Panel 2: The materiality of death

  • Rachel Wilson (Cardiff University) ‘All Dublin is as black as black can be’: the material culture of Irish mourning for the Stuarts and Hanoverians, 1694-1801 
  • Frederick Lloyd Williams (University of Nottingham) Beyond the Material: The pilgrim badges of King Henry VI 
  • Dr Clodagh Tait (Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick) ‘Ailliliu child, I’m perished with the cold’: Clothing the dead in Irish tradition 

12:35-13:45 – Lunch break

13:45-14:55 – Panel 3: Belief and regulation

  • Dr Polina Ignatova (Lancaster University) The (Un)dead and the Reformation: Change and continuity in the medieval and early modern perceptions of life after death 
  • Professor Helen Parish (University of Reading) Ars Moriendi?: Pandemics and the art of life and death 
  • Dr Andrew Vidali (University of Graz) Laying Down the Mourning Robes? Patrician families, ruling class, and the politics of grief in Renaissance Venice 

14:55-15:20 – Break

15:20-16:40 – Panel 4: Death and the family: children, inheritance, and heirs

  • Dr Eyal Levinson (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) ‘My beloved daughter Minne of blessed memory has brought me very low’: Paternal grief in Europe during the high and late middle ages 
  • Chris Woodyard (Independent) ‘Putting the nursery into mourning’: Children in crape 
  • Professor Laura Ugolini (University of Wolverhampton) Death, Loss and Inheritance: Middle-class fathers and sons in late Victorian England 

16:40-17:00 – Break

17:00-18:00 – Keynote lecture

  • Dr Jessica Barker (Courtauld Institute of Art) Love after Death in the Middle Ages 

Friday 16 April

9:40-9:45 – Introductions

9:45-10:55 – Panel 1: Death in communities

  • Nat Cutter (University of Melbourne) Death, Succession, and Community in the English House at Ottoman Tunis, 1695-1711 
  • Dr Miriam Wendling (KU Leuven) The Benefits of Death: endowments for students at the old university of Leuven 
  • Catriona Byers (KCL) ‘The gathering place of sin and death’: Social order and public perception at the Paris morgue 

10:55-11:15 – Break

11:15-12:35 – Panel 2: The body after death: burial and physical responses

  • Dr Billie-Gina Thomason (Liverpool John Moores) James Allen, Gender Passing, and the Body after Death 
  • Dr Taline Garibian (Oxford Centre for the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology) Dealing with Corpses after Mass Violence from the French Revolution to the First World War 
  • Dr Aoife Bhreatnach (Independent) Inclusion and Exile: Burying the destitute in Cork city, 1830-1880 

12:35-13:35 – Lunch break

13:35-14:55 – Panel 3: The gendered experience of mourning: widows and widowhood

  • Karolina Morawska (University of Warsaw) Death as a New Beginning: Position and perception of widows in late medieval Poland 
  • Andreia Fontenete Louro (Centre for the Humanities, NOVA University Lisbon) Life after husband’s death: Manorial management and widowhood of Infanta Isabel (1511/12-1576) 
  • Dr Amanda Bohne (University of Illinois) Mourning and Responsibility in Fourteenth-Century Deportment Books and The Wife of Bath’s Prologue 

14:55-15:14 – Break

15:15-16:35 – Panel 4: Death and portraiture

  • Dr Emily Knight (V&A) Portraiture as ‘melancholy consolation’: The case of Princess Charlotte 
  • Jean Marie Christensen (Southern Methodist University, Dallas) The king is dead: Transformation of the royal body and the dynastic portraiture of Charles I’s execution 
  • Holly Marsden (University of Winchester and Historic Royal Palaces) ‘We are the wound’: Studying the relationship between sickness and celebrity in the death of Queen Mary II 

16:35-17:00 – Break

17:00-18:00 – Keynote lecture

  • Professor Julie Marie-Strange (Durham University) Loved, mourned & missed’: The emotional cosmos of pet death and grief in the long nineteenth century

All times in GMT; this schedule may be subject to change.


Published by Lydia McCutcheon

Lydia McCutcheon graduated from the University of Kent with a First Class Honours in History in 2019. She also holds an MSt in Medieval Studies from the University of Oxford. Her dissertation on the twelfth-century miracle collections for St Thomas Becket and the stained-glass 'miracle windows' at Canterbury Cathedral explored the presentation of children and familial relationships in textual and visual narratives. Her research interests include the visual and material cultures of saints and sanctity, pilgrimage, and childhood and the family.

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