Call for Papers and Sessions: “Beyond Exceptionalism II, c.500-1500” 12-14 July 2022, deadline: 1 February 2022

We are delighted to announce the Beyond Exceptionalism II conference which will take place on 12-14 July 2022 at John Rylands Library in Manchester, UK. The conference will adopt a hybrid format that simultaneously offers sessions both in-person and via Zoom. 

In 2015, Beyond Exceptionalism I addressed the troubling situation that after over fifty years of intense research and publication, the study of medieval European women had not reversed the entrenched notion that elite woman with the authority and ability to influence their families, communities, and realms were somehow all exceptions to the normal situation of female powerlessness and passivity. The conference centered on a rhetorical question: how many ‘exceptional’ women in positions of authority does it take before active females become the rule? Hosted by Heather Tanner at the Ohio State University, the ‘Beyond Exceptionalism’ conference resulted in new avenues of research, fresh approaches to medieval women’s experiences and an edited volume: Medieval Elite Women and the Exercise of Power, 1100–1400: Moving beyond the Exceptionalist Debate (Palgrave 2018). 

Six years and one global pandemic later, the question still resonates. The assumption that medieval women were marginalized remains at the center of medieval studies. Beyond Exceptionalism II will be an interdisciplinary conference that continues to address this misapprehension by fostering new avenues and interpretations of medieval women– elite and non-elite, secular and religious – and exploring new methodologies. We encourage papers that draw upon material culture, network analysis, gender, and space. Presentations that address a non-European perspective are most welcome. Papers that utilize items in the JRL collection are especially welcome. We also welcome submissions from scholars at all levels, from doctoral students to senior scholars. 

Keynote Speakers:
Valerie Garver, History Department Chair, Northern Illinois University
Amy Livingstone, Head of School of History and Heritage, University of Lincoln
Talia Zajac, Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow at Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies.

Abstracts & Panels: 

Possible topics include but are not limited to: lordship, manorialism, monasticism,  crusades, literacy, monarchy, guilds, pilgrimage, warfare, towns, castles & manors,  networks and alliances, medicine, patronage, lay religious life, law and custom 

Those wishing to participate should please submit an abstract of approximately 250  words to and 

Types of sessions: traditional (3 speakers & chair), roundtable, “flash” presentations by  graduate students (5-10 minute presentation & informal discussion after) 

Please attach your abstract to your email as a Microsoft Word or PDF file. Included with  250-word abstracts or session proposals (including individual abstracts) should be the  following information: 

          •name of presenter(s)
          •participant category (faculty, graduate student, or independent scholar)
          •college/university affiliation
          •mailing address
          •email address
          •audio/visual requirements and any other special requests

Abstract deadline: 1 February 2022. Session chairs and individual presenters will be  informed of acceptance no later than 1 March 2022.


Published by Blair Apgar

Blair (they/them) recently completed their PhD in History of Art at the University of York with Hanna Vorholt and Amanda Lillie. Their thesis focused on the role of Matilda of Canossa in the sociopolitical development of the Investiture Controversy, and its relationship to Matilda’s material patronage. As an early career researcher, their work aims to unpack the historiographic construction of powerful medieval women’s legacies. They are also interested in the representation of the Middle Ages in modern media.

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