Discovering the fascinating world of medieval history at Bristol

Have you ever heard someone say ‘history is boring’? Those people probably also think that studying history is just remembering dates and famous battles. But here, at the University of Bristol, we want to challenge that view and show how fascinating history can be!

Read on to find out about some of the wonderful discoveries that have been uncovered by Bristol’s academics and archivists over the last couple of years…


February 2021

Accounts uncovered about weird weather in Bristol 400 years ago.

The chronicle entries, seemingly written by a Jacobean weather enthusiast, describe how Bristol and its wider region was affected by crop failures, famines, great freezes, floods, unseasonal blizzards, tempests and droughts. It was even possible to walk over frozen rivers for months on end in those ‘strangely altered’ times.

September 2020

Beautiful page of an 800 year old ‘Glastonbury Bible’ is acquired by the University’s Special Collections.

Students on the University’s popular MA in Medieval Studies make extensive use of manuscripts in the Library’s Special Collections throughout their master’s. The high quality of the acquired leaf and its local provenance make it an inspirational asset in the teaching of medieval book production and culture and will help our students learn to decipher medieval handwriting!

October 2019

13th century, 22,000 line love poem with one of medieval Europe’s best known sex scenes identified by a Bristol academic.

Professor Ailes called Le Roman de la Rose ‘the blockbuster of its day’ and it gives us an intriguing insight into sex, love, and romance in these times. The pages found were particularly interesting, as they related to the conclusion of the story which describes a sexual encounter between the two main characters. It is thought that these had been removed by someone who was offended by the perceived vulgarity of the encounter!

January 2019

Lost manuscripts from the 16th century found hidden away in the Bristol Central Library relating to Merlin the magician, one of the most famous characters from Arthurian legend.

The manuscripts were discovered by Michael Richardson from the Special Collections Library, whilst looking for materials for students studying MA Medieval Studies. One of the most exciting elements of this particular find is that the Bristol fragments contain evidence of subtle, but significant, differences from the traditional narrative of the stories that we know and love.

Have these stories peaked your interest in Medieval History and the potential for making exciting historical discoveries yourself? Come along to our upcoming virtual event all about MA Medieval Studies on 7 May. The event will be hosted by our academics and you’ll get the opportunity to ask them your questions.