Skip to main content

Nicola McNeil

Landscape and Gender in Seventh to Tenth-Century England

Landscape and Gender in Seventh to Tenth-Century England in the Department of History


Academic Biography

BA(Hons) English Literature (First Class), University of Manchester (2015)

MA Medieval Studies (Distinction), University of York (2017)

Project Overview

My project explores the relationship between landscape and gender in seventh to tenth-century England. Specifically, it studies how landscape was implicated in the construction, maintenance and subversion of early English gender relations and the impact that these relations had on shaping the landscape through gendered practices such as burial and the formation of religious houses.

The seventh to tenth century was a formative period in the development of medieval England. It witnessed several social shifts, including conversion to Christianity and the transition from a tribal society to the emergence of a united, English kingdom in the face of Scandinavian invasion and settlement. These changes transformed the early English landscape. The building of monasteries followed conversion, whilst Scandinavian invasion divided lowland Britain in two, spurring the development of defensive settlements and, later, the establishment of the parishes and manors that characterise the later English landscape.

Though scholars acknowledge that landscapes are bound up with social structure, and its relation to social identities such as status and ethnicity has been the subject of several studies, the early English landscape’s interaction with gender has been overlooked. Since gender is central to social organisation, however, understanding its interplay with this landscape is vital if we are to understand the dramatic social change that took place during this period.

To this end, my project employs an innovative interdisciplinary approach. It combines both spatial and intertextual analyses to contextualise gendered material culture in the early English landscape and explain patterns revealed between the two. In this way, my project will shed much-needed light on this key dimension of early English society and enable us to understand the social change that characterised it. 

  • 2020 AHRC (Northern Bridge DTP) studentship
  • 2015 De Quincey Prize, awarded for the best English Literature dissertation (University of Manchester)
  • 2014/15 G.L. Brooks Prize, awarded to the highest performing student specialising in medieval literature and languages (University of Manchester)
  • 2013/2014 Shakespeare Scholarship, awarded to the highest peforming, second-year, English Literature student (University of Manchester)
  • (2019). Buckle Up! Buckle Use in Burials and Shifting Gender Relations in Seventh-century England – a Contextual Analysis. In H. Christie and M. Kasten (Eds.). Current Approaches to People, Places and Things in the Early Medieval Period. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports. 
Conference papers
  • 2018 ‘Buckled Up: Buckle Use in Burials and Shifting Gender Relations in Seventh-century England,’ Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium (University of Glasgow, 19th-21st April).
  • 2017 ‘Buckled Up: Buckles and the Material Construction of Gender in Seventh-Century England’, Society for Medieval Archaeology Student Colloquium (University of Newcastle, 2nd December).
Professional Activities
  • Editor-in-Chief, Durham University History department's Symeon Magazine 
  • Peer reviewer, MEMSA Journal
  • External reviewer, Past Tense Journal